Senior Tehran officials are recommending a preemptive strike against Israel to prevent an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear reactors, a senior Islamic Republic official told foreign diplomats two weeks ago in London. — from this news article
But “pre-emptive wars never ever work.” Just ask H.D.S. Greenway, who continues to be a bow-tied contributor, even in his anecdotage, to the Boston Globe, now on its uppers. And for more on Greenway, see my article “A Tribute to H.D. S. Greenway.”
The other day Greenway reported on a talk by Andrew Bacevich, who has recently (and far later than the JW articles on Iraq) understood that both McCain and Obama misunderstand the Jihad and what must be done about it. McCain shows this with his complete misunderstanding of what would constitute victory in Iraq (because McCain refuses to think through what outcome would divide, demoralize, and hence weaken the Camp of Islam and Jihad), and Obama does so with his belief, real or feigned, that he can only get out of Iraq if he shows just how rough-tough he intends to be in Afghanistan (and with Pakistan), who says, equally incorrectly, that Afghanistan is “the central front” in the “war on terror.”
There is no “central front” in the “war on terror,” and it is not even a “war on terror.” It is a war, not yet recognized, and therefore clumsily and ineffectively fought, and fought with a tremendous waste, a quite-unnecessary squandering of men, money, and materiel.
Greenway quotes Bacevich quoting Rumsfeld and Feith, with their naive and sentimental love of American might, and their incomprehension — shared by Greenway, of course, who spent years at the Jerusalem bureau of The Globe, sending back dispatches so unsympathetic, and so tendentious, and so cruel, about Israel and the Jihad being waged against it. No one believed more devoutly in the “national liberation” business than bow-tied H.D.S. Greenway. No one was so utterly convinced that he understood things correctly, though it was just two or three years ago, in a single column, that he began to demonstrate a glimmer of understanding, even, that the Copts in Egypt were subject to Muslim discrimination and humiliation and physical attack, because they were Copts.
Bacevich rightly notes the idiocy of Bush administration policies, but because he has not studied Islam, or not studied it enough, draws the wrong conclusion — at least if we are to believe Greenway, who claims that “in Bacevich’s view, it is the entire doctrine of preventive war that has proved a failure.” No, that is not what has been proved a failure. What has been proven a failure is the notion that “freedom” in the sense of Western, advanced democracies, with guarantees for the rights of the individual, and equality before the law of non-Muslims and women, could ever be brought to the “ordinary moms and dads” whom Bush liked to wax sentimental about.
The failure to understand that Islam locates political legitimacy not in the will expressed by the people, but in the will expressed by Allah in the Qur’an, as glossed by the Sunnah (written down in Hadith and Sira) can be seen, as Bacevich so tellingly quotes, in such remarks as Rumsfeld’s naive, and false polarities (there are many other possibilities) — “We have a choice”¦Either we change the way we live, which is unacceptable, or we change the way they [the Muslims] live, and we chose the latter.” It can also be seen in Feith’s suggestion that America’s purpose in Iraq was “to transform the Middle East and the broader world of Islam generally.”
From this, H.D.S. Greenway, who so impressed his working-class colleagues with his bow-tie, and the Chinese vases back in Needham, and the presume but baseless pretense of brahminhood, concluded, as noted above, that Bacevich says that preemptive war “has proved a failure.” And therefore we are not to use it again — that would be the obvious conclusion.
But did Bacevich say this? It is justified to mock those free-market fundamentalists who think that American power is limitless, and who thought the Americans should stay in Iraq to “bring freedom…to ordinary moms and dads.” These people knew nothing about Islam. Instead of taking the time to read and study and learn about it, they frenetically ran around in hectic vacancy. Once one reaches the dizzying heights of the power empyrean, study and learning becomes very difficult, but it must be done. It cannot be farmed out to aides — “as for understanding Islam, our aides will do that for us, and give us power-point presentations.”
The real failure of intelligence in Iraq (see my article, “The biggest failure of the Iraq War was and remains a failure of intelligence“) was to not realize that the collapse of the regime of Saddam Hussein, a disguised Sunni despotism, would inevitably lead to a transfer of power from the Sunni Arabs, who constitute 19% of the population, to the Shi’a Arabs, who constitute at least 65% of the same population, and that that transfer of power would never be accepted by the Sunnis, and never be yielded on by the Shi’a. For Islam inculcates not the spirit of sweet reason and compromise, but of seeing outcomes as consisting of two possibilities only: Victor and Vanquished. And the Kurds would never be willing to surrender the autonomy they had achieved. They would insist upon maintaining that nearly complete autonomy, and very likely seize the chance, the only chance that they may ever have, to declare an independent Kurdistan, which, if properly handled, could be a threat to Syria and Iran (but not necessarily Turkey). And what’s more, this could inspire non-Arab Muslims (Berbers, Malays, black Africans) to come to recognize that Islam is a vehicle for Arab supremacism and imperialism, and that the Arab yoke could be thrown off.
The failure in Iraq was a failure to identify the real nature of a victory, or the proper definition of victory, over the Camp of Islam. The battlefield of self-defense against Jihad (the “struggle” to remove all obstacles to the spread, and then the dominance, of Islam) is not Iraq, not Afghanistan, not any one place. It is the world. But if there is one place more important than the others, right now, it is in the countries of Western Europe (and its slightly geographically off-center honorary member and, in some ways, founder — Israel), the historic heart, the fons et origo, of Western civilization, without which America can continue to exist only with great difficulty. It is not acts of terrorism (regarded by Muslims as merely an updated form of qitaal or combat, and justified in their eyes because the military contest is otherwise so unequal, and therefore, to Muslims, simply “unfair”) that constitute the main instrument of Jihad, but the Money Weapon, campaigns of Da’wa, and demographic conquest, all over Western Europe, in the Bilad al-kufr.
Bow-tied H.D.S. Greenway, he of the Chinese vases in Needham, may not recognize this, and may have tendentiously ascribed to Bacevich a conclusion that Bacevich in truth never reached. This is likely, because the point he attributes to Bacevich (that “preemptive war never works”) does not logically follow from all the sensible things Bacevich does say in indicting the Bush Administration, and previous administrations, for their o’erweening and ludicrous sense of American power and American uniqueness. The title used for a study of Marlowe, “The Overreacher,” could be re-cycled for a book describing American policies and spendthrift ways and general heedlessness over the past few decades. And such a conclusion — that all preemptive wars always and everywhere are to be avoided — not only does not logically follow, from the sobriety and caution that informs Bacevich’s indictment of American policy, but also, in its very lack of sobriety and caution, would vitiate that indictment, or at least make its reception more difficult.