December in Western Culture is always an appropriate time of year for reflection– remembering that all-important point in history when God invaded our world in human form. This particular December, however, is especially appropriate for reflection on what has variously been termed “The Long War” or, “World War IV,” or, by this Administration as, “Overseas Contingency Operations” as the President has unilaterally declared that the Iraq War is over and the books are closed.
It is my intention, then, to offer up over the next weeks what I consider to be the lessons we have learned in the 30-plus years since the re-birth and rise of Militant Islam in 1979. I wish I could preface this series with optimism and confidence of victory. I wish I could write that the West is winning, however slowly, the great struggle against this latest fascist incarnation, but reality will not permit.
It is time to face this awful situation squarely, not with fatalism or despair but with determination. It is impossible to ignore the steady drumbeat of politically correct programs that hamstrings our efforts, or another miserable candidate who garners applause with 1920’s style isolationist rhetoric. American leaders seem all too adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and mistaking our friends and enemies.
Barring the advent of national leadership which is nowhere evident, or a miracle of some kind– of which history is not replete— we must bravely conclude that, for now, the American public at large will not rouse itself to effective action. We are caught in yet another national whirlpool of apathy, denial, distraction and delusion— just as we were in the 1930’s and the 1990’s– from which the only escape is a national trauma on the scale of a Pearl Harbor or September 11th calamity. We have pushed our luck far too many times and refuse to get serious about taking the fight to the enemy– indeed, a president is applauded when he promises to “bring the troops home” without regard for consequences. Ear-pleasing platitudes are what the Public demands, so it is no wonder that the politicians serve it up by the plateful.
If there is any ground for optimism in this Long War, it may be found in the capacity of our enemy to bouts of incredible stupidity. To be sure, the U.S. is no less prone to such lapses, so in this respect the Long War is like a game of football in which the side committing the fewer mistakes will win. I take from this a grim hope that the inevitable attack against the U.S. by the Islamists will be limited to a similar scope and scale of the 9-11 attacks. Is it too ironic to pray that the Islamists be so stupid again?
As terrible as such an attack would be, American history suggests that we are only roused to great and decisive action by such, limited attacks. If the Japanese had not attacked Pearl Harbor, it is difficult to say when the U.S. would have openly entered World War II against the Nazis. Without an American entry in December 1941, it is doubtful that Normandy is invaded in 1944. Without an invasion of Normandy in 1944, it is possible that Hitler’s scientists finish development of an atomic bomb.
To reference more recent history, it is clear that the U.S. would not have invaded Afghanistan nor deposed Saddam Hussein without the September 11 attacks. It is perhaps a sign of our timidity and half-hearted approach that we have failed to achieve any, definitive victory in the War even 10 years later. Nonetheless, it is clear that the September 11th attacks stirred America to a unity of action and purpose (albeit squandered and now cooled) that has not been seen since 1945.
To be clear: I do not wish any, such attack against the homeland. I do believe, however, that such an attack is increasingly inevitable. It is only right, therefore, that we consider all of the lessons learned in the 10-plus years since September 11, 2001 in the hopes that we not repeat those mistakes. With the frightening prospect of an attack lingering on the horizon, I offer the first of at least nine lessons from this Long War:
Lesson #1: Clearly identify those responsible and what they represent.
Regular readers will know that I detest the moniker, “War on Terror.”
As many pundits and writers have pointed out, “terror” is a tactic. It is not something we can fight and defeat. And to the extent that we refuse or avoid recognizing the Enemy and calling it by the proper name, we splinter our efforts, lessening the odds of prevailing. In this season of presidential campaigns, Americans should insist that the Republican candidates at the very least make a clean break from political correctness and honestly name the enemy. Militant Islam, Radical Islam, Islamofascism. The point is that all Americans and the world must understand that these attacks originate from an ideology and not simply from a criminal enterprise or a fringe group of shadowy “terrorists.”
The 9-11 attackers were trained and motivated, at the very least, by an interpretation of the Koran and Islam that joyfully and obediently embraces a violent and decisive confrontation with anyone, muslim or not, who does not adhere to their doctrine. It is a seething belief that the entire world must be conquered and subdued to the will of their god, Allah. It is not an ideology that can be appeased or reasoned with any more than other, authoritarian doctrines. The West should have learned from its experiences with the Nazis and Communists that an ideology embraced with religious fanaticism cannot be appeased or mollified but must be defeated and discredited.
Militant Islam may very well prove to be the most virulent of the authoritarian ideologies to manifest itself since the rise of the Ottoman Empire. We are fighting against a body of believers numbered in the tens of millions, even if they only consist of a minority of muslims. This is not a fringe group. Islamists are spread across continents and ethnicities. Compounding this danger is the apparent surge of power and influence of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East.
Since 9-11, the U.S. has been rightly pursuing the militants, not only in Afghanistan but literally across the globe. But while the U.S. military has worked wonders in places like Fallujah, Ramadi, Marjah and the Philippines, the larger U.S. government has acted like an adolescent who cannot walk and chew gum at the same time. Too often the focus on military operations has resulted in a complete failure to engage in the larger war of ideas in places that are not hot zones but are no less critical. Worse still, the U.S. State Department has often worked at cross-purposes with the military.
Consider Lebanon. The U.S. invasion of Iraq, despite all the hand-wringing and wailing of the Left Wing Media, created a powerful opportunity for the rise of a non-Islamist coalition. We forget that the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon came on the heels of the capture of Saddam Hussein and even anti-U.S. figures such as Walid Jumblatt were reluctantly praising the elections in Iraq:
The January 2005 vote in Iraq also appeared to play a role since it supported the notion that Arabs craved democracy. (Lebanese Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt gave credence to the importance of these developments when he said, “It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. . . . When I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.”)
But the U.S. simply could not summon the will to support democratic groups in any, meaningful fashion. The U.S. foreign policy establishment preferred to coddle and reach out to thugs like Bashir Assad in Syria. And so Lebanon has slipped ever more deeply into the control of Hezbollah, funded and controlled by Iran through Syria.
Recently we have seen Egypt, Tunisia and Libya sliding into the Islamists’ camp. The U.S. seems not only oblivious to this developing disaster but actively supportive. Whether this folly is generated by a fear of offending muslim sensibilities or an arrogance that the U.S. can co-opt or mold the Islamists once they are in power, the net result is the same. Ironically, the Obama Administration does not want to be seen as meddling in the internal affairs of Egypt or Iran, but has no such qualms with interfering with formerly pro-American allies like Honduras and Colombia.
This refusal to acknowledge the enemy will forever cripple our war efforts and will enable the enemy. A muslim who does not subscribe to the Wahhabist version and rejects militant Islam should be no more offended when we target the Islamists than a 1940’s German would be offended by our targeting of Nazis. In fact, our refusal to clearly identify the enemy in this case creates a dangerous confusion in the minds of non-muslims and muslims alike. Muslims need to clearly and unequivocally choose sides in this War. Are they with us or with the Islamists?
The current taboo allows and encourages a shadowy world where loyalties remain unknown and ambiguous. It is no interference with freedom of religion to ask whether a mosque is preaching Militant Islam. No one has ever asserted that freedom of religion includes a right to advocate for the subversion and overthrow of our Constitution and nation. It is incumbent on members of any congregation, muslim, christian, jewish, or mormon, to report and, if necessary, testify against leadership that advocates violence against others in society. Personal knowledge of violent plots combined with a refusal to report them constitutes at least passive participation in a criminal conspiracy. In time of war, however, the failure to expose the efforts of the enemy to recruit for and advance attacks is treasonous.
For some mysterious reason, however, no Administration has ever dared to clearly identify militant Islam as the enemy. Instead, we have tried to fight Islamists as a criminal enterprise (Reagan, Bush I and Clinton); as nameless, religionless “terrorists” (Bush II); and now as a “specific network” consisting only of Al-Qaeda (Obama). We cannot defeat an enemy we dare not name.