Friday, September 16, 2005


Rotten With Doubt

At the beginning of the week, James Lileks posted a Bleat that included some very important thoughts about the September 11th anniversary:
I have less to say on the fourth anniversary, because I’m not sure what needs to be said. You get it or you don’t, and if the passage of time has made the lessons indistinct, a picture of that September morning will look as remote as a screen grab from “Tora Tora Tora.” As Mark Steyn put it, we are winning the war on terrorism, but perhaps we are losing the war about the war. I’ve seen this happen for a year and a half – hell, since the first reports of Quagmire and the Brutal Afghan Winter. Between the incessant pessimism, the lack of focus, the interminable litany of sins from Abu Ghraib to Gitmo, the tepid wind-chimey spirit of the memorial culture that would rather put a vague sorrowful half-circle in a Pennsylvania field than a monument to courage and half-crazy bravery – well, the floorboards where our betters live are rotten with doubt, and they hear fatal creaks every time they dare take a step. So there’s not much point in wondering where this will go, because it’s already there – and the next time IT happens, we will not wait a month or two before the doubts and attacks begin. A London or Madrid-style attack will expose our divisions more than our solidarities, at least in the media. Anything worse will make such chatterings irrelevant, and as attractive as that sounds, you really don't want that. (Emphasis mine)
Lileks is right.

Whether it's Iraq, or Afghanistan, or the broader Global War on Terror, those who so vehemently oppose current American Foreign Policy share a terrible embarrassment and shame over the use of American Military Power. We don't deserve our pre-eminence in the world, according to such as these. We've caused more harm in the world, spread destruction and mayhem, and left injustice in our wake. The stench of self- and class superiority in such views is overpowering.
The floorboards where our betters live are rotten with doubt, and they hear fatal creaks every time they dare take a step.
That aptly describes both the arrogance of the war’s detractors – those of us who know we’re actually in one are warmongers, chicken hawks, or profiteers – and their own inherent timidity when faced with intractable evil. They respond to Radical Islamic Terrorism in the same way they responded to Communist oppression. They would begrudge the West the very defense of our liberties.

Lileks quote from Mark Steyn refers to his latest essay in the Chicago Sun-Times, in which Steyn precisely identifies the difficulty with sustaining public support and commitment to a War, quite unlike those that have defined the American experience:
On this fourth anniversary we are in a bizarre situation: The war is being won -- in Afghanistan, Iraq, the broader Middle East and many other places where America has changed the conditions on the ground in its favor. But at home the war about the war is being lost. When the media look at those Bush approval ratings -- currently hovering around 40 percent -- they carelessly assume the 60 percent is some unified Kerry-Hillary-Cindy bloc. It's not. It undoubtedly includes people who are enthusiastic for whacking America's enemies, but who don't quite get the point of this somewhat desultory listless phase. If the "war" is now a push for democratization and liberalization in Middle East dictatorships, that's a worthy cause but not one sufficiently primal to keep the attention of the American people. You'd have had the same problem in the Second World War if four years after Pearl Harbor we were postponing D-Day in order to nation-build in the Solomon Islands.
Yet our enemy is in many ways more dangerous, and less likely to surrender than our Fascist and Communist enemies of the twentieth century. If we continue down this road, and we let public attention slip much further, we will have surrendered valuable territory in the war of ideas to the Jihadist conspirators.

And it is that war of ideas – or the war about the war as Steyn puts it and Lileks laments – that is the war we really need to win. Because there is no military victory alone that spells success for us, nor is it likely possible. In that sense, those leaked comments about how we cannot win the war militarily – however ill-timed and grossly distorted by a defeatist press – is probably correct. Steyn explains:
And, as the years go by, it becomes clearer that the war aspects -- the attacks in New York, Washington, Bali, Madrid, Istanbul, London -- are really spasmodic flashes of a much more elusive enemy. Although Islamism is the first truly global terrorist insurgency, it shares more similarities with conventional terror movements -- the IRA or the Basque separatists -- than many of us thought four years ago. Terror groups persist because of a lack of confidence on the part of their targets: the IRA, for example, calculated correctly that the British had the capability to smash them totally but not the will. So they knew that while they could never win militarily, they also could never be defeated. That's what the Islamists have bet.
And that’s the strategy we need to confront full on and wage war with a full arsenal. That doesn’t mean carpet bombing or nukes, as much as it would give a significant number of Americans a disturbing satisfaction. No, it means relentlessly attacking the false premises of appeasement. It means calling out the phony arguments and branding the acolytes of a politically correct defeatism as the political opportunists they are. It means restoring the civic virtues of patriotism and reinforcing the legacy of freedom and liberty that our country foremost of all has not only given to the world, but so often shed copious amounts of American blood to defend, largely without thanks or appreciation.

Steyn dismays over our current situation:
So four years on we're winning in the Middle East and Central Asia, floundering in Europe and North America. War is hell, but a war that half the country refuses to recognize as such staggers on as a very contemporary kind of purgatory.
Lileks rightly observes that, “A London or Madrid-style attack will expose our divisions more than our solidarities, at least in the media,” but he also remarks that if we should receive anything worse (then the London or Madrid attacks), then we won’t need to worry about the immediate tendency and desire for opponents of this war to criticize and confound.

It won’t matter, because that something worse that Lileks alludes to will make everyone a hawk and eager for a merciless and immediate response. And Lileks is right, we will like neither the cause of our wrath, nor the wreckage that our wrath will exact upon our very real but currently tolerated enemies. We really don't want that, for our democracy may well not outlast our anger.

Links: Outside the Beltway, Basil's Blog, Mudville Gazette, bRight & Early

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