Saturday, January 03, 2004

Discovering Belligerency

Reader MM sends a link to a Victor Davis Hanson piece Iraq’s Future—and Ours which argues that an entire social ideology, not simply an army, is our enemy.

Nor did Saddam Hussein and his sons kill without help. After traveling 7,000 miles to dispose of him, we were confronted by his legacy—a society containing tens of thousands of Baathists with blood on their hands, 100,000 felons recently released from Saddam’s prisons, and millions more who for decades took solace in a species of national pride founded on butchery and plunder. After a mere seven months, are we to be blamed for having failed magically to rehabilitate such people? Should we instead have imprisoned them en masse, tried them, shot them, exiled them?

Not shoot them, perhaps, but treat the world view they represent as a serious enemy, no less than Stalinism, which was met with nuclear deterrents, borders, counterespionage and barriers for over 50 years.

During the cold war, we accepted that so long as all of Eastern Europe lay under the thrall of Communism, the possibility of free trade, easy travel, or large-scale immigration was precluded. Similarly, so long as there is not yet a single democracy in the Arab Middle East, so long as many governments there pander to a virulent and hateful ideology of anti-Americanism, and so long as millions either ignore or abet the killers of Americans and Jews, why should our relations with these countries not lie under threat of severance by a new iron curtain? In such a policy, everything would be on the table—all foreign aid, travel, commerce, immigration.

The shocking thing about Hanson's article is that it had to be written. But it was not until 1950, after four years of continuous Soviet expansion and the acquisition of an A-Bomb, that America realized it was facing a real enemy. Even then it did not arm nor consider where the front line against Soviet aggression should be. The defense of South Korea following its invasion was almost an afterthought, and for days after the Nokors swarmed across the border, the United States could hardly bring itself to believe it. And even after 50,000 Americans had died, Korea was never accorded the status of war, merely a "police action".

Ironically, the same cast of characters who Hanson blames for the willful blindness to see the current enemy was responsible for the historical invisibility of Korea -- whose attack they helped prepare. The Left, though the British spy Don MacLean, recently glorified in a BBC "documentary", may have provided the key document, NSC 48, which encouraged Stalin to invade South Korea. And although Stalin was finally beaten back, those who made him possible were not. There is a final though unintended analogy between the Iraqi army and the Ba'athist substructure and the Stalinist legions and the Western left in Hanson's article. He asks us whether we can still recognize evil itself and concludes that he is doubtful.

In an era of the greatest affluence and security in the history of civilization, the real question before us remains whether the United States—indeed, whether any Western democracy—still possesses the moral clarity to identify evil as evil, and then the uncontested will to marshal every available resource to fight and eradicate it. In that sense, our willingness to use unremitting force to eliminate vast cadres of proven killers, in Iraq and elsewhere, is a referendum on modern democracy itself.