Whenever I feel my resolve or sense of clarity wavering regarding the war on terror – and it happens to most of us with near daily casualties in Iraq, continued conflict in Afghanistan, not unreasonable concerns over costs and priorities – a little Victor Davis Hanson is the ideal tonic:
- If we are still in a state of war after the attack on 9/11/01, then the past two years have proven remarkable in our efforts to put al Qaeda on the run, avoid another disaster on the scale of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, and rid the world of the Taliban and Hussein tyrannies.
But if we feel the fighting is, or should be, over and we have arrived at peace, then the loss each week of Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq appears intolerable. That crude dichotomy of perception sums up the current conundrum over the daily news from Baghdad: encouraging amid a long and continuing war, but depressing and abnormal in a time of peace. [National Review Online]
And that is the essence of the matter: we ARE at war, and have been since 9/11 whether we choose to recognize it or not. We didn’t start the war, but we have to finish it – pay now or pay much more dearly later. And it isn’t as though VDH doesn’t understand the opposing perspective:
- The more-extreme critics of this war would further add that rather than envisioning a conflict between civilization and fundamentalist and autocratic Middle East barbarism, we should look inward – asking ourselves why the bin Ladens and Saddam Husseins of the world hate us so. Their obvious solution to preclude the anger of the “oppressed” would then be to learn to be more sensitive to the feelings of others and to listen rather than shoot.
While this perspective may have some wishful appeal, it is also suicidal. The reality:
- we are in a real war consisting of various theaters against several belligerents, all united by their terrorist methods, shared hatred of the West, and desire to trump the killing of September 11 and thus eventually to emasculate the United States.
Consequently, claiming that Saddam Hussein did not like bin Laden or vice versa is about as useful as proving that Tojo’s Japanese militarism was not akin to Hitler’s Nazism, on the grounds that their ideologies were different and their anti-American strategies uncoordinated. True perhaps – but again a meaningless distinction given the realities of World War II.
This is a direct answer to the incredulity of some who can’t understand why a sizable portion of the nation believe there is a connecton between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. While there may not be a direct cause and effect relation between the two – i.e. there is no evidence so far that Saddam was involved with the planning or implementation of 9/11 – according to the poll cited here, 70% of the nation aren’t “insane,” they recognize that 9/11 and Iraq are part of the same war. That isn’t insanity, that’s perspicacity.
- we are in a war with the latest face of an age-old enemy of civilization who hates the freedom of the individual, tolerance of diverse thoughts and practices, human rights, democracy, and modernism itself. Just as Stalinism, Nazism, fascism, and militarism hijacked the good peoples of Russia, Germany, Italy, and Japan, so too radical Islamic fundamentalism, working hand-in-glove with Middle East tyrannies, turns frustrations over indigenous failures into hatred of a prosperous and successful United States. And like past challenges to civilization, such barbarism thrives on Western appeasement and considers enlightened deference as weakness, if not decadence. Thus enemies like al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Baathists can only be militarily defeated, and the victims of their nihilism aided and abetted by our own efforts at reconstruction and forgiveness – but in that order only.
….in such a postmodern war without clearly defined borders or fronts, the American people must habitually be reminded of our ultimate aims. Militarily we must reestablish both the ability and willingness to punish immediately any cadre or state that kills or plans to kill Americans. Politically we seek, both by arms and diplomacy, to end the present pathology in the Middle East where autocratic governments create venomous hatred toward the United States among their starving and frenzied to deflect their own catastrophic failures onto us. Morally we are trying to convey the message that the United States is a proven and reliable friend of international commerce, a guarantor of freedom of the seas and skies, a protector of nations that support consensual government and human rights – and a terrible and totally unpredictable enemy of any one or state that seeks to kill Americans or their friends or to threaten the norms of civilization itself.
So if we keep all that in mind – the sheer extent of our dire challenges and the successes of our first two years – then we are doing very well in Iraq at the very nexus of this global war.
I hope the president can convey this to the American people and the world tonight.