Tuesday, August 10, 2004

World War 3

The US is rolling on three fronts. The first is against Sadr in Najaf. The BBC quotes President Bush as saying US forces are "making pretty good progress" in Najaf. The New York Times has a John Burns piece entitled U.S. Is Tightening Grasp on Rebels Encircled in Iraq. It begins with the dry assessment that "American forces besieging militiamen of a rebel cleric in a shrine and cemetery sacred to Shiite Muslims tightened their cordon on Monday, warning that the rebels had been left no way in or out." The Guardian thinks America is also looking across the border to Iran. In a story entitled Diplomacy sidelined as US targets Iran, the British newspaper editorializes that "The US charge sheet against Iran is lengthening almost by the day, presaging destabilising confrontations this autumn and maybe a pre-election October surprise." Although the Guardian's assertion rests soley on US efforts to line up sanctions against Teheran's failure to stop nuclear proliferation, it sounds, in the context of recent American successes, like something that could happen. On the third front, recent arrests of Al Qaeda leadership may have hurt it so badly as to disrupt its planned pre-election attack on America. The intelligence leads are burgeoning so quickly that it has become hard to pursue them all.

All three developments convey the huge sweep of the War on Terror and reveal both how far American efforts have come and how long the road that remains. The key theaters of conflict, evident only in outline in early 2002, are coming into clearer focus. They are:

  • stopping WMD proliferation;
  • destroying transnational terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda;
  • strongarming or toppling selected regimes like Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Two regimes, Afghanistan and Iraq, have been toppled. Intelligence and police operations are ongoing on every continent. And the Guardian fears it has only just begun. The geographical scope of the struggle is staggering: pursuit across the Arabian peninsula, North Africa, Southwest Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe and North America. The instruments of struggle are equally various. Defensive security, diplomatic pressure, covert operations, bilateral training, special operations and conventional combat. An old world is being torn down and a new one -- for better or worse -- is being created "in a fit of absentmindedness". The falure by the Left to articulate an alternative vision of a post-September 11 world except in the negative has banished what should have been the most momentous public policy debate of the last 50 years into the outer dark. By declaring discussion of the transformation of the world illegitimate and then only belatedly presenting a Presidential candidate whose countervision consists of a "secret" but unstated plan, liberals have effectively left matters in the hands of President Bush. It is a staggeringly reactionary performance and a fundamentally unhealthy one. Because the one certain thing is that the antebellum world, the universe of September 10, can never be restored. The Clinton era, like the green light at the end of Daisy's dock, has been borne into the past.

It is unlikely that a meaningful national dialogue on the future of world can occur until the Left frees itself from the taboos which have stultified its intellect. The dead hand of Vietnam and its attachment to the cultic nonsense of the 1960s lies heavy on Democratic Party. That spectral limb will grip them by the throat until they shake free. Until then, forward to wherever. We'll know where we're going when we get there.



Although it may be premature to say that the War on Terror is rising to a crescendo, recent events have imparted a distinct sense of movement, as in 'hey, this thing might actually be going somewhere'. If so, it will force those who opposed the notion of fighting fundamentalist terrorism, as distinct from negotiating with or appeasing it, to admit at least to themselves (if they have any intellectual honesty) that they were not only wrong, but deeply and fundamentally mistaken. Some ground for salvage may be found in Todd S. Purdum's New York Times article of February 2003, in which he argues that the strategy for bringing democracy to autocratic regimes in the Middle East sprang in part from impeccable liberal antecedents.

Any history of the Bush administration's march toward war with Iraq will have to take account of long years of determined advocacy by a circle of defense policy intellectuals whose view that Saddam Hussein can no longer be tolerated or contained is now ascendant. ... At the center of this group are longtime Iraq hawks, Republicans like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz; Richard Perle, a former Reagan administration defense official who now heads the Defense Policy Board, the Pentagon's advisory panel; and William Kristol, who was chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle and now edits the conservative Weekly Standard.

But the war camp also includes more recent and reluctant converts like Kenneth M. Pollack, an Iraq expert in the Clinton White House, who has become a prominent advocate for an attack on Saddam Hussein as the best way to avoid, as he calls his recent book, "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq" (Random House 2002); and Ronald D. Asmus, a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration.

The truism that victory has many fathers while defeat is an orphan may partially explain why the Democratic Party sought to rebrand itself as the War Party during its recently concluded convention in Boston. It may also lie behind the transformation of John Kerry from anti-war activist to the warrior who is "reporting for duty" about three years after September 11. If George Bush ever defeats international terrorism, many historians will endeavor to describe it as "Clinton's war" in much the same way that Vietnam is now described as "Nixon's war" though he had the least to do with starting it and the most responsibility for ending it. Winston Churchill facetiously said that "history will be kind to me for I intend to write it." Those without his literary skill need never fear. Academia will take up the slack.

But all this is mortuary makeup on an intellectual corpse. The death of public discourse over the War on Terror was at least partly the result of the self-lobotomization of the Leftist mind. That operation was necessary to prevent an admission of the obvious: the basic Leftist tenets were bankrupt and sustained only by ever more tedious extensions to the original discredited theory; a latter day replay of the downfall of geocentrism which held back the Copernican revolution only by introducing artificial and complicated epicycles. Thus was the Marx's theory of the impoverishment of the proletariat transformed into Lenin's theory of imperialism. It had the virtue of postponing the false prophecy, but even that was not enough. From there it lost all cohesion and branched into "North-South" theory, a generalized schema of victimology and finally into Said's Orientalism in which it is not only impossible for the West to understand the world; it was even impossible for it to be innocent. Every Western -- and especially American -- act became ipso facto, a crime.

I wish I could say that general understanding of the Middle East, the Arabs and Islam in the United States has improved somewhat, but alas, it really hasn't. For all kinds of reasons, the situation in Europe seems to be considerably better. In the US, the hardening of attitudes, the tightening of the grip of demeaning generalization and triumphalist cliché, the dominance of crude power allied with simplistic contempt for dissenters and "others" has found a fitting correlative in the looting and destruction of Iraq's libraries and museums. What our leaders and their intellectual lackeys seem incapable of understanding is that history cannot be swept clean like a blackboard, clean so that "we" might inscribe our own future there and impose our own forms of life for these lesser people to follow. It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar. But this has often happened with the "Orient," that semi-mythical construct which since Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in the late eighteenth century has been made and re-made countless times. In the process the uncountable sediments of history, that include innumerable histories and a dizzying variety of peoples, languages, experiences, and cultures, all these are swept aside or ignored, relegated to the sand heap along with the treasures ground into meaningless fragments that were taken out of Baghdad.

This magnificent paragraph, aside from being factually wrong (Said's reference to the looting of Baghdad's museums after Operation Iraqi Freedom) served the purpose of making it unnecessary to think. Indeed necessary not to think, lest one commit an unconscious Western crime. The Left, shackled by its epicycles, became speechless in the face of the rapid changes transforming the world, as conservatives, armed with nothing but common sense, simply acted; unless one excepts the commentary provided by Michael Moore. Yet in the end the Leftist illusions must be overthrown, just as the earth was proven round, despite all authority to the contrary. The sooner the better; a mind is a terrible thing to waste.