Victor Davis Hanson writes in NRO, with thanks to TR.
The three-year-plus war that began on September 11 is the strangest conflict in our history. It is not just that the first day saw the worst attack on American soil since our creation, or that we are publicly pledged to fighting a method “” “terror” “” rather than the concrete enemy of Islamic fascism that employs it.
Our dilemma is that we have not sought to defeat and humiliate the enemy as much as wean a people from the thrall of Islamic autocracy. That is our challenge, and explains our exasperating strategy of half-measures and apologies “” and the inability to articulate exactly whom we are fighting and why.
Hello Victor, and welcome to the discussion. We’ve missed your input.
Imagine that a weak Hitler in the mid-1930s never planned conventional war with the democracies. Instead, he stealthily would fund and train thousands of SS fanatics on neutral ground to permeate European society, convinced of its decadence and the need to return to a mythical time when a purer Aryan Volk reigned supreme. Such terrorists would bomb, assassinate, promulgate fascistic hatred in the media, and whine about Versailles, hoping insidiously to gain concessions from wearied liberal societies that would make ever more excuses as they looked inward and blamed themselves for the presence of such inexplicable evil. All the while, Nazi Germany would deny any connections to these “indigenous movements” and “deplore” such “terrorism,” even as the German people got a certain buzz from seeing the victors of World War I squirm in their discomfort. A triangulating Mussolini or Franco would use their good graces to “bridge the gap,” and seek a “peaceful resolution,” while we sought to “liberate” rather than defeat the German nation.
An interesting analogy, but not really applicable here because the “ideology” supposedly being introduced is, in this case, simply the religion-in-action of well-nigh 100% of the inhabitants of Muslim lands. It doesn’t need an introduction.
So to recap: The real enemy is an Islamic fascist ideology that is promulgated by a few thousand. They wear no uniforms and are deeply embedded within and protected by Muslim society.
Oh, a tiny minority of extremists, is it? I’m so relieved. Let’s see now, by Daniel Pipes’ estimate, 10-15% of a billion is…100-150 million. Oops, that’s a lot more than “a few thousand,” eh, Victor?
Beyond the terrorists, a larger percentage of Middle Easterners, if it cost them little, gain psychological satisfaction when fellow defiant Muslims (terrorists or not) “stand up” to Westerners, who enjoy power, status, and wealth undreamed of in the Middle East.
“wealth undreamed of in the Middle East”?? Victor, are you insane? Some of these people have more money than God. Osama bin Laden once bankrolled the entire public debt of Sudan!
Even if they would hate living under Taliban-like theocrats, millions at least see the jihadists as about the only way of “getting back” at the Western world that has left them so far behind. This passive-aggressive sense of inferiority explains why millions of Muslims flock to Europe to enjoy its freedom and prosperity, even as they recreate there an Islamist identity to reconcile their longing and desire for what they profess to hate.
Oh, come on, Victor. This old “they hate us because they envy us” is starting to wear pretty thin. It’s another grasping at straws approach we see in all commentators who profess to understand the conflict without understanding Islam. Give it up.
Still, most in the Middle East wish simply to embrace the human desire for prosperity, freedom, and security within the umbrella of traditional Muslim society “” and will support American efforts if (a) these initiatives seem to be successful, and (b) are not seen as American.
Here’s another one: We can figure out a way to make our initiatives in the Middle East look like they are not our initiatives, but ones coming from the natives instead. Good luck with that.
Consequently, the United States has not been able to bring its full arsenal of military assets to the fray. It is nearly impossible to extract the killers from the midst of civilian society. Too much force causes collateral damage and incites religious and nationalist anti-American fervor. Too little power emboldens the fascists and suggests America (e.g., Nixon’s “pitiful, helpless giant”) cannot or will not win the war…
Let me offer another suggestion here, our problem is not extracting “the killers from the midst of civilian society,” our real problem lies with the religio-social system that produces those killers-for-Allah in the first place. Your analysis has not correctly identified either the jihadists’ motivation or their inspiration. Hint: it has nothing to do a)poverty, b)envy or c)feeling politically powerless because they live under dictatorships. Identifying the motivation and goals of the enemy is paramount, and yep, you’re going to have to study Islam in order to understand it. Grade: C minus – you will have to study harder to pass this test.