Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Establishing a Deterrent

Neither political party has offered a vision of America’s involvement in the world. The debate has degenerated into a case-by-case analysis of isolated actions—events of the day—with no guiding principles or coherent policy. Symptomatic of this impoverished debate is a total lack of discussion on establishing a deterrent against foreign attacks. One of the most important roles of military policy is not only to fight wars but to maintain a posture to insure our safety via a powerful deterrent.

Establishing a deterrent takes more than creating a strong military. A military is worthless if our enemy doesn’t believe we will use it in retaliation to destroy all that our enemy values. Few fear America’s might today because we are afraid to use it. The Paper Tiger image emboldened jihadists after they attacked us for a decade with little more than a half-hearted response. After the Islamic attack of September 11th, Americans demanded a response. But to respond effectively one has to identify the enemy, expose their aims, and understand their motivation; something both political parties failed to do.

The prevailing view is that the enemy can’t be stopped with a deterrent because they are willing to die. This, of course, is enemy propaganda meant to project an image of invincibility and demoralize our efforts. Islam is not a spiritual religion in origin; it is a land-grabbing imperialist warrior religion that appended a spiritual component to strengthen its fighting capacity. The obsession with land is apparent today and dramatized by the fury over losing a sliver of real estate in the West Bank from land that stretches from Morocco to the Pacific Rim broken mainly by India. But India, too, is seen as lost territory from past Islamic rule.

The strength of the Islamic religion comes from without not within. Winning battles, extending the domain of Islamic rule, and humiliating the infidel invigorate the religion. After the Islamic attack of September 11th, bin Laden remained one of the top three admired Islamic figures by the vast majority of Muslims for years according to the Pew Research Center. But losing control of Afghanistan and Iraq was a major blow to the Islamic psyche. Islam, remember, is about land control and domination. Successfully waging war and conquering others are signs from Allah. Moses never made it to the Promised Land and Jesus never ruled. Mohammad slaughtered and conquered.

The euphoria after September 11th didn’t last. The Pew polls show that bin Laden is losing his popularity. His plan backfired after we easily gained control of two nations and surrounded a third poised to attack. Today it is common to hear Arabs talk about how 9/11 was a Zionist plot and an excuse to steal Muslim land. This is an admission that 9/11 was a failure resulting in the loss of control to a foreign power of what was once the heart of the Caliphate: Baghdad.

While the battles of Afghanistan and Iraq help to re-establish a deterrent, many Muslims rightly believe our resolve won’t last. While they boast of their willingness to die for their cause, it is their ability to kill for their cause that creates the threat to our civilization. Our problem isn’t a willingness to risk our lives but a difficulty risking their lives. Unlike them we have a hard time killing our foes. Instead we hold back and append each military action with a humanitarian nations-building campaign. It took less than 200 fatalities to remove Saddam from power but over 2000 to try to create a better society for those who we hope will someday thank us. Let’s remember that Israel has been waiting for 60 years to be accepted by her neighbors.

During the last 50 years we too have sought to win the “hearts and minds” of the Islamic world by taking Nasser’s side in the Suez Crises, helping Egypt get back the Sinai from Israel, coming to the rescue of Muslims in the Balkans, helping the Afghans fight the Soviets, coming to the aid of Kuwaitis, protecting Saudi Arabia from Saddam, etc. We so much wish to avoid killing our enemy that we dropped food behind enemy lines during the first few weeks of the Afghan war. And we’ve supported the Palestinians for 50 years directly or through the United Nations. Even today we are searching for loopholes to send aid to the supporters of Hamas in the West Bank.

Hasn’t anyone noticed our generosity has backfired? In a warrior culture, generosity is seen as a weakness. If anything, appeasement isn’t a deterrent but an inflammatory accelerant. A deterrent isn’t established by our willingness to help our enemies but our willingness to kill our enemies. The reason we are at war today is because we have failed to establish a deterrent. To do so now requires a prompt show of force to deal with today's threats. Credibility requires a clear policy and a certain response. Unfortunately, our clarity has dissipated and our resolve has eroded.

“We must be better than them” seems to be the cliché heard on the left and too often on the right. War isn’t about “being better”—it’s about survival. Although the notion of "better" divorced from survival is suspect on the face of it. It’s not how you play the game—it isn’t a game—it’s about winning. This war won’t be won until the enemy fears losing their family, village, tribe, and, above all, their land. It won’t be won until they are asking how they can win our “hearts and minds.” But not only are we afraid to kill, we are guilt ridden if they suffer or die of their own failure. The “humanitarian” aid to the Palestinians is a case in point as is the left’s call to come to the rescue of those in Darfur. We can’t kick the altruist habit.

It is important that we do not help in Darfur. If they are to understand the contempt we have, or should have, we need to make it clear by our refusal to help them long before we have to fight them. But there is another reason. If we are to reform our foreign policy to a defensive posture, we not only need to fight the threats we face today but we must reframe from involvements when there is no perceived threat. If we are to embody the policy “we will fight you if you threaten us” we have to also embody the policy “we will leave you alone if you don’t.” Both are required to establish a policy of deterrence. Yet, today we are in Haiti, Serbia, Liberia, Columbia, and soon the Sudan. President Clinton sent our military into 34 conflicts—more than any previous President. We have lost our focus and purpose long before the current administration.

Muslims aren't going to abandon Islam—at least any time soon. They will continue to embrace the principle of jihad. However, they may decide that it isn’t prudent to act on that principle. That is part of establishing a deterrent. In the long-run they may question their religion and marginalize it as the Turks did in the 1920s. However, there will be no long-run for civilization if we do not insure our security today. We must fight today's battles if we are to discourage tomorrow's. But with every act of appeasement, with every act of groveling to win their "hearts and minds," and every time we hold back from vanquishing the enemy, we undercut every brave man and woman who has fought the enemy on the battle field. We can win the battles but we will lose the war without the proper leadership that can define a proper course, champion our righteousness, and demonstrate our resolve.

These are my current thoughts on defense. The floor is open for discussion!

Flemming Rose On Europe's Problems

Flemming Rose, the Danish publisher, talks about Europe’s relativist multi-cultural self-loathing. As a young man, Rose shared the leftist self-hatred of Europe’s liberal order but a few months in Russia cured him of his delusional romanticism. He now addresses Europe’s cultural malaise and looks to this side of the Atlantic for inspiration.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Adieu, Jean-François Revel

“Jean-François Revel, who died on Saturday aged 82, was almost unique among French philosophers in being a champion of economic liberalism and an outspoken critic of the anti-Americanism of European intellectuals - particularly French ones.” Read the rest for the many insights of France's greatest social commentator.

Fighting the Good Fight

Prof. Schweikart explains that our military strength comes from our tradition of the voluntary citizen soldiers, a military policy of delegating decision-making down the ranks, an embrace of technology, cooperative inter-service camaraderie, and a determination to avoid the repeat of fatal mistakes. The last is missing in Arab culture where “it is a shame to make an error, but a double shame to admit it.”

He is right, of course. However, while we can’t lose a war over there, we can lose it at home. Prof. Rummel reminds us of the greater danger within:

“For people my age, we have the Vietnam War to which we can compare the liberal media's treatment of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of my bitter memories is of the 1968 Tet offensive by the North Vietnamese controlled Vietcong that failed. South Vietnamese and American forces not only held, but in many parts of the country they so badly mauled the Vietcong that their ability to launch another offensive was set back many years. Yet, the Media played up the Vietcong's momentary successes in Saigon and Hue, and subsequently treated the offensive as a Vietcong victory. This began to sour American public opinion on the war and especially the intellectual class, which turned against it.

The liberal media are trying to do the same thing about American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. This can be seen in their treatment of the latest Taliban offensive, which if you read or listen to the major media, appears to be a Taliban victory. But, today, with multiple sources of information, especially over the Internet, the usual liberal sources of such propaganda cannot get traction.”

The War Within

Perhaps I’ve focused too much on the nature of the external enemy, Islam. However, when I started this blog there were too few venues explaining the Islamic threat and many people I respect didn’t understand the full danger of this supremacist religious ideology. Feedback from many readers, including many academics, showed that there was a need to focus on the Islamic threat as well as our inability to face that threat.

Now, however, many are writing on the topic and often in greater depth. For daily news and comments Jihad Watch and Islamic Evil can keep you reading for hours. Additional items appear on Little Green Football and Front Page Magazine. Group blogs like Sixth Column and Infidel Blogger’s Alliance have insightful essays and comments. Other individuals worth reading, too numerous to list, write for these websites. In the future, most of my comments on Islam will be relegated to the Infidel Blogger’s Alliance.

On Liberty and Culture, I had intended to focus on the trends in our culture that undermine our resolve to celebrate, sustain, and fight for the values that made our nation great. But in times of war, the strength or weakness of a culture becomes apparent. While the corruption and decay in our universities is growing, we still have a strong tradition that is capable of resisting this insidious influence, but not without a vigorous fight. How do we stop the decay? What are our core values and how do we fight for them effectively?

The first step is always education. The internet gives us a tool to counter the influence of the MSM and universities just as the printing press gave people the power to bypass the Church. The power of a vibrant community of writers engaged in debate should not be underestimated. As we talk with our fellow citizens across our great land, and with sympathetic individuals through out the world, we can forge a renewed awareness of the values that made America, and our sister nations of the Anglo-sphere, civilization’s bulwark against tyranny and barbarism over the last 200 years.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Did Ayaan Hirsi Ali lie?

Of course, but so what? A few weeks ago, we had a rather lively debate on Kant’s categorical imperative that lying is always wrong even if a killer threatens to use force. Prof. Khawaja notices the same absurd categorical imperative at work in Holland … as he notes here.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Time To Act

Barbara Lerner has an excellent article on Iraq and Iran on National Review Online.

“A nuclear-armed Iran would change the balance of power in the world against us, and we cannot allow it to happen. It's time to stop pretending that a corrupt U.N. or an already half-dhimmified EU will prevent it. … Only America has both the courage and the military might … we must ignore the Chamberlains among us and rally behind our Churchills, and we must act.

“…. We need to get ready as quickly as possible to mount a major air assault, not just to take out as many of Iran's nuclear sites as we can find, but to defeat the rising evil behind them by aiming our bombs and missiles at Iran's leaders, its Revolutionary Guards, and the bully boys of the Basij too.

“But we cannot stop there; we also need to bomb Hezbollahland in Lebanon, and to close our own borders immediately in order to lessen the odds that Iranian proxies will succeed in carrying out the attacks on our soil that they are already planning. And of course, our Navy must be fully prepared to do what it takes to keep the Straits of Hormuz open, and to protect vital shipping lanes in the Gulf. The longer we wait, the costlier all of this will be to accomplish. Even now, Putin’s Russia is busily upgrading Iran's air defenses. A coalition of the willing can help a bit, but striking suddenly, before our enemies expect it and are fully prepared, will help more.

Conventional wisdom tells us that history will judge George W. Bush by what happens in Iraq. It's not true. He will be judged by what he does about Iran, and so will we, for centuries to come. It is past time for him to focus the nation on the severity of the Iranian threat, and to mobilize and unify us to confront and defeat it.”

Lerner is not the only voice warning us of the danger. See my comments on IBA about Iran’s declaration of war and my post below.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Whose Fault?

When you start with the wrong premise you never learn. This is the problem with David Frum, the former administration advisor. In a recent article he tries to explain the difficulties with creating a liberal democracy in Iraq. The problem, he says, is Tommy Franks. That’s right, it’s not Arab culture; it’s not Islam’s incompatibility with individual liberty; it’s not the dysfunctional need for Arabs to blame everyone else for their inability to creating functioning and civil societies. It’s Tommy Franks.

This is the David Frum, who in a C-Span promotion of his last book, said that if Muslims won’t create a moderate and tolerant Islam in their countries, we’ll have to create one for them. He suggested we create a progressive variant of this barbaric religious ideology right here in the USA to help transform their religion for the challenges of the 21st century. Right, David, and maybe they’ll also enjoy a few cartoons drawn by my Danish friends ….

Frum joins the blame-America left because he can’t face the inherent deficiencies within Islam and Arab cultures. And he joins Arabs whose reliance on scapegoats is a perennial way of evading of self-responsibility.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Our Resolve

Last year I wrote about the Islamic Revival. This phrase is used by critics and supporters—often as the preferred terminology instead of Islamism, militant Islam, radical Islam, fundamentalist Islam and other Western neologisms. The reason it is rarely used in the West is that it implies that what we are seeing today is just Islam—full undiluted original Islam. Sometimes this is called Salafist Islam, as if this was a sect within a larger religion. But the term just means the Islam of Mohammad and the first four rightly guided caliphs, i.e. original Islam.

Resent elections through out the Islamic world show a renewed enthusiasm for the original Islam, as the mythology describes it. Secular dictators have retooled to cash-in on the revival. Saddam was undergoing a image change prior to his fall. In a recent speech, James Woolsey explains:

“Today, however, the ideology of our enemies is vibrant, strong, and religiously rooted. It presents a very difficult problem for us, because the Islamist-Salafist ideology, in the Middle East particularly and some other parts of the Muslim world, it is attracting some of the more talented and able young men and occasionally young women of those societies. There is, in the Salafist world, fire in the minds of men. …”

“We’ve only fought one enemy in modern times whose totalitarianism had an important religious component, and that was the Japanese empire during World War II, with its distortion of Shintoism. But these enemies that I’ve described in this long war we’re in now have roots that are I think far deeper and far more involved in the history of Islam than the Japanese distortions about Shintoism.”

However, even Woolsey doesn’t understand the depth of the problem. He says, “These enemies and their totalitarianism are rooted in a distorted version of a minority view of their religions.” How is the Salafist practice, returning to the example of Mohammad, a distortion of the religion? Was Mohammad an extremist who hijacked Islam? Nevertheless, Woolsey realizes the danger and need to act: “With respect to ideology, I am of the view that we are going to need to treat the Wahhabi or the theocratic Shi’ite form of Islam somewhat the way we treated Communism during the Cold War.”

He continues the article with a discussion of oil and alternatives. But that has little to do with fighting the war. The enemy has a valuable weapon in its oil productions, not because they sell oil to us, but because they sell oil. No matter who buys the oil they will have the resources to implement the spread of Islam. If they lost their oil producing capacities, necessity would be “the mother of invention” that spurs our creation of alternatives. But the American public wouldn't accept the interim hardship unless they understood the danger of Islam. Thus, the first order of business is education. Once people understand the danger they’ll gain the will to act. We are still in the educational phase.

It took 30 years, from 1917 to Churchill’s Iron Curtin Speech in 1947, before the American people fully realized the threat of communism. Some understood in the 1920s but the 1930s was called the Red Decade because of the widespread enthusiasm for totalitarianism. It was in the 1950s that the right and moderate left fully faced the threat. Still, some on the left tried to distinguish between moderate communism (i.e. socialism) and its fundamentalist implementation in the Soviet Union. Today, we see a similar attempt to salvage Islam from the Salafists--only it is widespread and undercutting our effort to fully understand the threat.

The educational effort is still in its beginning stages. The public’s doubt is growing but there is no articulated leadership to solidify that doubt into a vocal opposition. I understand now what those early critics of communism felt as they saw the world in denial. But they didn’t give up; and neither shall we.