Originally published on March 18, 2003
Whom to Fight?
The problem with fighting our Moslem enemies, as many observers have noted, is that the terrorists never identify themselves with any particular nation. Thus, each Moslem nation excepting the Saudis enjoys plausible deniability regarding its role in 911. What no one, to my knowledge, has noted, however, is that deniability cuts both ways. Just as Islam could not openly declare war on America, America cannot openly declare war on Islam. But we can fight Islamic nations, while denying that we are fighting Islam.
Were America to declare war on Islam, we would instantly have one billion unified enemies, in addition to our non-Moslem enemies, the French, the Germans, the Russians, the Chinese, the Swedes, et al. Were world Islam to declare war on America, we would immediately cut off foreign aid to all Islamic nations, and pick off one Islamic nation at a time (which we may have to do, in any event). The others would then surely find the relevant passage in the Koran telling them that they are not obliged to bring about Armageddon, and sue for peace.
In the best-possible scenario, following the war on Iraq, any Islamic nation even Saudi Arabia we asked to cooperate with us in rooting out the terrorists in their midst, would do all it could to help. As I said, that's the best-possible scenario.
Deniability regarding 911 is least plausible in the case of Saudi Arabia. It was their men, and their money, that took down the World Trade Center towers, a section of the Pentagon, and four airliners carrying Americans. Days after 911, a friend who was teaching in Saudi Arabia wrote that a local imam had argued in the newspaper, that suicide attacks were perfectly justified within Islam, as long as the suicide part was only a means to a greater end, and not an end in itself.
But Saudi Arabia is also home to Mecca, the capital of world Islam. Attacking the Saudis, while perfectly justifiable morally, would have nightmarish consequences. And yet, if all else fails, we may someday have to invade Saudi.
Many paleoconservatives suggest we do nothing, aside from eliminating all aid to Israel. (I haven't seen their calls to eliminate the billions we give to Arab states, like Egypt. I must have missed those articles.) They insist that there is no evidence of a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda; between Hussein and the anthrax attacks; no evidence that Hussein has weapons of mass destruction (WMDs); and no evidence that Hussein is a greater threat to us than say, North Korea.
There is evidence of al Qaeda activity out of Baghdad, in the person of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. And we know darned well, that Saddam Hussein has WMDs; even the UN inspectors have reported that he has not accounted for WMDs he had prior to kicking out the inspectors in 1998, including 2,641 gallons of anthrax and an indeterminate amount of vx and Sarin nerve gases. Now it seems that Hussein even has a drone aircraft for the dispersal of chemical and biological weapons.
Some of the President's critics have insisted that North Korea is a bigger danger than Iraq. The New York Times' columnist Paul Krugman, for instance, insists that the president is insane, comparing him to the deranged, fictional skipper in Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny, Captain Queeg. Insisting that Iraq poses no danger to us, Krugman demands that Bush simply jerk over 200,000 U.S. troops out of the Persian Gulf. What Bush should do with those troops, Krugman does not say.
For a genius like Krugman, military brinkmanship is as easy as picking up a misdirected restaurant order from one table, and setting it down in front of a different customer. "Need I point out that North Korea, not Iraq, is the clear and present danger?," lectures Krugman, at once blending an air of superiority with the unintended self-caricature of a superficial, tenured academic with no realistic sense of the difference between armchair pronouncements and the movements of an armada, just this side of a conflagration.
The Los Angeles Times' Robert Scheer, is a lifelong apologist for communist imperialism who is well to the left of Krugman. As David Horowitz observes, regarding a rigged "debate" co-sponsored by the University of California School of Journalism and the L.A. Times, to which no conservatives or Republicans were invited,
"According to Scheer there is no reason now for the United States not to 'wait four months' to give the inspections time to work, while implying that he would then support a U.S. military action (something he has not done in his entire life) if they failed. No one on the platform discussed the difficulties of keeping 250,000 troops in the desert, during the summer heat, and spending a billion dollars a week to do it, while Democrats are complaining about the budget, and bivouacking them in an area where they would be a prime target of terrorist attacks."
As Horowitz notes, Scheer and his comrades have called on the U.S. to "contain" Hussein, arguing that containment worked against the Soviet Union, without disclosing that they had fought tooth and nail against containment, and surely would once again.
If Krugman, Scheer, and the other Americans playing the North Korea card, left and right, were serious, they would be making concrete proposals for action. Like our "sophisticated, worldly," French enemies, whom the critics adore, they just want to divert us from attacking Saddam, who in two to five years will have nuclear bombs, at which point the issue will be moot. Then they'll blame George W. Bush, for having missed his historic opportunity.
The real issue for many of the President's domestic critics including many at the New York Times has been keeping us out of war, so that George W. Bush can lose the 2004 election. On the left, ice-cold political calculations are at work. These people are not against military adventurism, let alone a rationally defensible war. They supported Bill Clinton's military adventures, which he undertook without Congressional authorization, and now deny that George W. Bush HAS Congressional authorization to make war.
When Bill Clinton was elected, I recall how socialist Times columnist Anthony Lewis, who was opposed to all military actions by GOP presidents, immediately began chafing at the bit, for Clinton to start dropping bombs.
Note that Saddam Hussein has violated the terms of the 1991 ceasefire in every way imaginable, from kicking out weapons inspectors in 1998, to hiding WMDs, to firing hundreds of times on allied planes, and even shooting down an unmanned drone, in the no-fly zones.
Tuesday, The New York Times repeated the standard line of those who may seem to be appeasers, but who are actually using Saddam Hussein, in order to hurt America.
"This page has never wavered in the belief that Mr. Hussein must be disarmed. Our problem is with the wrongheaded way this administration has gone about it."
Similarly, when Leslie Gelb, now the president of the Council of Foreign Relations, said on the Charlie Rose show Monday night, after the President's speech, that he supports a war on Iraq, just not the way the President is doing it, what the retired Timesman was really saying, was that he wouldn't support a Republican, no matter how right he was.
A law of ethics and politics, maintained by such different thinkers as Kant and Rousseau, states that if you desire certain ends, you desire the means to attain them. A consequence of that law, is that if you think you desire a certain end, for which there is only one means, and you shun it, you really don't desire the end. There is only one means for disarming Iraq removing Saddam Hussein from power.
The Pakistan Option
Perhaps, instead of the Iraqis or the North Koreans, we should attack Pakistan. After all, Pakistani troops have fired on our troops across the border in Afghanistan, which constituted acts of war, the Pakistanis harbor al Qaeda terrorists, and the Pakistani people are in a fierce competition with the Saudis as to who loves the late Osama bin Laden more, and hates America the most.
But the Pakistanis are our "allies." What that means is that, although in a nation of 147 million people, perhaps only one person supports the U.S., that person happens to be dictator-general Parvez Musharraf. Musharraf has given us invaluable assistance, in hunting down al Qaeda leaders. Musharraf will probably meet the same fate as another pro-U.S., Islamic dictator-general, Egypt's Anwar Sadat, but at present he is useful, and usefulness is the most America can hope for from any Islamic nation.
Note, too, that the Pakistanis also have The Bomb, which complicates matters further, a complication we seek to prevent from arising in Iraq.
HomebodiesPaleoconservatives have also argued variously that America suffers from multiple domestic crises that are not being addressed, and that a war against Iraq would merely be for Israel's sake.
The notion that we must choose between addressing our domestic sovereignty issues and going to war was made by the often brilliant Paul Craig Roberts on a bad day.
The need to resolve one issue does not preclude pursuing the other. More recently, in an otherwise excellent column on the problem of U.S. corporations that engage in the pseudo-trade of "outsourcing" (Sending materials to countries where cheap labor makes products which are then "imported" to be sold to American consumers.), out of left field, Roberts suddenly expressed opposition to a war on Iraq:
"A country devoid of high productivity jobs is a poor country. Is the United States on the outsourced path to becoming a Third World country?
"The Bush administration should think about this question before it gratuitously attacks Iraq. The consequences of war in the Middle East are unknown."
Roberts sounds a little like "Osama bin Laden" on the gag videos David Letterman periodically plays on his show: "Dave, I just wanted to wish you a happy Valentine's Day." The tape seems to be over, but Osama catches himself, and adds, as an afterthought, "Oh, and death to America."
I guess we all have a lot on our minds these days.
Was 911 Our Fault?
The most enduring paleoconservative (and libertarian) argument against war, echoes the argument made by many on the Left:
'911 was a rational response to America's meddling in every corner of the world, and expressed Islamic anger at our support of Israel. We have made the world hate us. The proper thing to do is to come home from the four corners of the Earth, and not go off to war everywhere.'
The claim that America brought 911 on itself, makes perfect sense ... if you're a Moslem.
Over the past twenty-odd years, Moslem nations have accepted billions of dollars in aid from us, and let our military fight its battles in Kosovo and Kuwait.
The Moslem world may dream of the destruction of America, and cheer on attacks on America, but it also desperately desires congress with the Great Satan. It wants our oil money, our military protection (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Kosovo), our foreign aid money, our cigarettes and alcohol (albeit on the sly), and it even lusts after our women. Moslem hypocrisy is a bottomless pit; defenses of Moslem hatred of America reflect poorly on their advocates.
The Politics of Humiliation
Nine-eleven didn't happen because of America's aggression; it happened because of years of passive-aggressive behavior on America's part, and because Moslems have decided to take over the world. (I know, not all Moslems, but the rest will follow.) It followed a series of murderous attacks and humiliations of America by Moslem terrorists, most of which the U.S. simply "took," or which it permitted our Moslem "allies" (usually the Saudis) to cover up, and add insult to injury: Beirut (241 Marines killed, in 1983), Saudi Arabia (5 U.S. military advisers killed in Riyadh in 1995); Saudi again (19 serviceman killed and 500 wounded at the Khobar towers, in 1996); Kenya and Tanzania (260 dead, 5,500 wounded) and Yemen (17 sailors killed, and 39 wounded on the U.S.S. Cole, in 2000). And those are just some of the more notorious cases. Note too that almost half of the dead cited above, and the majority of the wounded were not Americans, but were nonetheless attacked, because our enemies considered it so important to murder Americans, that they considered any number of non-Americans who got in their way, collateral damage.
My historically-minded colleague, Allan Stover, dates the beginning of the Moslem war on the West to September 6, 1970. That was when "Islamic terrorists hijacked Swissair, TWA, and Pan Am airliners and blew them up. The next day, they attacked a British airliner and destroyed it." Stover continues, "That date, September 6, 1970, marked an Islamist declaration of war against Western nations. Sadly, we´ve been either too oblivious or too much in denial to realize that we´ve been in a state of war since then. The major attacks against America alone should have made that clear."
Our inability or unwillingness to properly retaliate has not only harmed us, but continually humiliated us, as well. And in addition to all the attacks on American personnel, there is the continuing humiliation of American servicewomen by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Note that while progressive, enlightened American elites may look down on old-fashioned notions of honor (except where the honor of protected affirmative action classes is concerned), much of the world still considers causing a person, group, or nation to lose face, a grievous offense.
Granted, we have no business dressing up women who are useless in combat as senior officers, and giving them authority over men who are real troops, sailors, and airmen. But with that said, if we are going to give these women officer's rank, we have to act as though they really are officers.
For all that Arabs complain, particularly regarding Israel, of being "humiliated," the practice of humiliating non-Moslems ("dhimmis") and even lower-caste Moslems, is considered sacrosanct in the Moslem, and particularly, the Arab Moslem world. The Saudis consider us their servants. Saudis have also repeatedly been guilty of kidnapping or abusing American children, and fleeing, with the help of Saudi and U.S. State Department officials, to the corrupt, Islamic monarchy.
The issues that Paul Craig Roberts considers domestic matters have doubtless contributed to our Islam/terrorism problem. People from countries that shoot down like dogs those who breach their borders laugh at a country whose officials do not respect and enforce their own borders and sovereignty. However, foreigners also learn to hold in contempt a nation that permits its citizens to be harmed with impunity. Folks like Roberts and Pat Buchanan, above all, should appreciate this point. We need to deal with our sovereignty problems domestically AND on the world stage.
But why Iraq? Is attacking Iraq a purely arbitrary call, as in, "You're Moslem, you'll do"?
As some hawks and even socialist dove, Michael Walzer have pointed out, we are already at war with Iraq, and have been since 1991. Hussein violated the ceasefire agreement from the start, and so we have been involved in a "little war," limited to bombing runs, ever since "Gulf War I" ended. (More recently, Allan Stover has written a column in which he draws a tight historical analogy between Germany's violation of the 1919 Versailles strictures against re-arming after World War I, and Saddam Hussein's violations of the 1991 Gulf War sanctions against re-arming.)
However, whereas Walzer tries to make a virtue of the "little war," I believe that Hussein and the Arab world will not admit defeat, until he is crushed. The lack of a crushing, humiliating victory over Iraq has made us look weak in the eyes of the world, hence the "heroic" opposition to us in the U.N. Security Council, and in so much "world opinion." As some observers have noted, Saddam sees his mere survival since 1991 as a victory. We must show him that he has lost, in the only way he will understand. This is not about hatred, but rather about winning, and limiting the loss of life.
The "world" i.e., socialist elites criticizes America for its "unilateralism," but it was our playing along with the U.N. in Gulf War I that caused us to stop at the Iraqi border, rather than march on to Baghdad. The sins of multilateralism have come back to haunt us.
The New York Times' Thomas Friedman supports the war, in spite of himself, yet complains that President Bush is going about it all wrong, because he has "unilaterally" set a course for war. Aside from the fact that we do have allies, Friedman has made a fetish of multilateralism, which he and many others have converted from a means to an end, into an end in itself. At its best, multilateralism means more soldiers, firepower, and money for the war, and for the peace thereafter, and less cost in blood and treasure for any one power. At its worst, multilateralism means being subject to the treachery, manipulation, and demands for war booty of dubious "allies." Friedman, et al., mistrust American sovereignty, while naively trusting international sovereignty. That way lies ... the U.N.
The State of Nature
The notion that passivity towards the Moslem world will result in peace for America is delusional. Politics hates a vacuum, and passivity by a supposed world power would open a vacuum that another player would look to fill. Just as Saddam Hussein cannot afford to be seen as weak by an Iraqi citizenry which would respond by quickly dispatching him, so too can America ill afford to be seen as weak by the nations of the world. It was such a perception that led to 911, and that if not soon dispelled, will lead to worse. Like it or not, an analogy holds between Iraq and world politics. In both cases, the state of nature holds, where as Thomas Hobbes observed in Leviathan in 1651, life is "solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short."
The philosophical basis for the paleoconservative and libertarian call for not waging war, comes from President George Washington's call, in his farewell address, for avoiding foreign entanglements. That's certainly sound advice, but I don't think the Father of Our Country meant that we should betray our allies, or let our enemies attack us without our hitting back. By all means, we should scale back our foreign commitments (say, by exiting NATO and the UN). But developing a more sober foreign policy is a long-term plan that does not contradict meeting our enemies in the short term. Washington, whose advice was based on prudence and 18th century circumstances, would not have considered ignoring the war being waged against us prudent.
And so, we must fight back, or die the death of a thousand cuts. Or maybe just a few cuts. If we batter and humiliate enough of the Moslem world, we will succeed in putting the fear of Allah back into most Moslems, who will then give up their dreams of destroying America. And the few who cling to hopes of Armageddon will be manageable.
The war against Iraq will not be a distraction from the so-called War on Terror, it will be a continuation of the War on Islam, er, Terror.