Norman Podhoretz, one of the "founding fathers" of the neo-conservative movement, so to speak, has written a rather lengthy but entirely fascinating article for Commentary. (You can read it in a pdf here if you would like.)
In it, he traces both recent and long term history to explain that the current "War on Terror" is no less than World War IV. This is not the first time this phrasing has been used, and it plays directly into the idea that the Cold War was World War III. First, let's hear his premise,
...we are only in the very early stages of what promises to be a very long war, and Iraq is only the second front to have been opened in that war: the second scene, so to speak, of the first act of a five-act play. In World War II and then in World War III, we persisted in spite of impatience, discouragement, and opposition for as long as it took to win, and this is exactly what we have been called upon to do today in World War IV.
For today, no less than in those titanic conflicts, we are up against a truly malignant force in radical Islamism and in the states breeding, sheltering, or financing its terrorist armory. This new enemy has already attacked us on our own soil—a feat neither Nazi Germany nor Soviet Russia ever managed to pull off—and openly announces his intention to hit us again, only this time with weapons of infinitely greater and deadlier power than those used on 9/11. His objective is not merely to murder as many of us as possible and to conquer our land. Like the Nazis and Communists before him, he is dedicated to the destruction of everything good for which America stands. It is this, then, that (to paraphrase George W. Bush and a long string of his predecessors, Republican and Democratic alike) we in our turn, no less than the "greatest generation" of the 1940’s and its spiritual progeny of the 1950’s and after, have a responsibility to uphold and are privileged to defend.
From here, he goes on to suggest that George W. Bush was correct to follow the path of Harry Truman in announcing his own doctrine, The Bush Doctrine, in order to fight this war. In Podhoretz's mind, this doctrine consists of four basic premises:
1. Moral clarity and attitude, in that the use of terms like "evil" and "good" are both useful and powerful in the long term mindset, both at home and abroad. Consider the effectiveness of Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech.
2. Recognizing the enemy and the war at hand - primarily that of non-state actors born out of oppresion from their own circumstances rather than as victims of ours. Further, that any state actor that attempts to harbor such non-state actors will also be considered an enemy. His quote,
The campaign in Afghanistan demonstrated in the most unmistakable terms what followed from the new understanding of terrorism that formed the second pillar of the Bush Doctrine: countries that gave safe haven to terrorists and refused to clean them out were asking the United States to do it for them, and the regimes ruling these countries were also asking to be overthrown in favor of new leaders with democratic aspirations. Of course, as circumstances permitted and prudence dictated, other instruments of power, whether economic or diplomatic, would be deployed. But Afghanistan showed that the military option was open, available for use, and lethally effective.
Which leads us to,
3. The right to pre-emptive action, and Iraq can be considered a perfect example of this. Regardless of the many accusations that Bush claimed Iraq was an immenent threat, he emphatically claimed that we could not wait for such a threat to become immenent.
4. A vision that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is not simply a fight between Jews and Palestinians, but between Jews and the entire Muslim world. Again, his quote,
Even before Israel was born in 1948, the Muslim countries of the Middle East had been fighting against the establishment of a sovereign Jewish state—any Jewish state—on land they believed Allah had reserved for those faithful to his prophet Muhammad. Hence the Arab-Israeli conflict had pitted hundreds of millions of Arabs and other Muslims, in control of more than two dozen countries and vast stretches of territory, against a handful of Jews who then numbered well under three-quarters of a million and who lived on a tiny sliver of land the size of New Jersey. But then came the Six-Day war of 1967. Launched in an effort to wipe Israel off the map, it ended instead with Israel in control of the West Bank (formerly occupied by Jordan) and Gaza (which had been controlled by Egypt). This humiliating defeat, however, was eventually turned into a rhetorical and political victory by Arab propagandists, who redefined the ongoing war of the whole Muslim world against the Jewish state as, instead, a struggle merely between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Thus was Israel’s image transformed from a David to a Goliath, a move that succeeded in alienating much of the old sympathy previously enjoyed by the outnumbered and besieged Jewish state.
Bush now reversed this reversal. Not only did he reconstruct a truthful framework by telling the Palestinian people that they had been treated for decades "as pawns in the Middle East conflict." He also insisted on being open and forthright about the nations that belonged in this larger picture and about what they had been up to...
From this background, he goes on to reconstruct the history of the fight against these ideas, both on the left and the right, and to suggest why they are both unfounded and harmful to the long term cause.
His use of history is illuminating, both for the run up to the 9/11 attack and for the political history surrounding our engagement with both Communism and Islamofascism (a word I am increasingly finding not nearly enough to describe the enemy.)
What strikes me most is simply looking at the Cold War from a long term perspective and seeing how it's ebb and flow. It was a war won, but not without problems and setbacks along the way. We can see the folly of containment by looking at Korea and it's aftermath. Scared of a larger war with China, we have now relegated the Koreans into two entities, one resentful and the other brutal.
By looking at Vietnam, we can easily see the error of slow build, poor planning, fear of casualties and long-term protest at home. Podhoretz marvels at the comparison between the nearly ten years it took to acheive such a level of protest for Vietnam and the mere short months it took to see it now. I have an idea that part of that can be found in the fact that many of those protesting the old war are simply happy to be able to do it again. There is honest debate out there, no doubt, but can anyone really deny that there is also a group that hears the word "protest" and simply asks where to sign up, simply to be a part of it?
He takes us through the various dissenters, and explains why their position is unfounded. And further, does not end with the expected "we must re-elect Bush" meme, but rather suggests that we could continue the fight without him, but not without his doctrine. Of course, that means that Kerry would have to follow that advice and neither he nor myself are comfortable with the thought that he might.
And to end I will reproduce his ending section for those that will not read the entire piece, though you should:
In his first State of the Union address, President Bush affirmed that history had called America to action, and that it was both "our responsibility and our privilege to fight freedom’s fight"—a fight he also characterized as "a unique opportunity for us to seize." Only last May, he reminded us that "We did not seek this war on terror," but, having been sought out by it, we responded, and now we were trying to meet the "great demands" that "history has placed on our country."
In this language, and especially in the repeated references to history, we can hear an echo of the concluding paragraphs of George F. Kennan’s "X" essay, written at the outbreak of World War III:
The issue of Soviet-American relations is in essence a test of the overall worth of the United States as a nation among nations. To avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.
Kennan then went on to his peroration:
In the light of these circumstances, the thoughtful observer of Russian-American relations will experience a certain gratitude for a Providence which, by providing the American people with this implacable challenge, has made their entire security as a nation dependent on their pulling themselves together and accepting the responsibilities of moral and political leadership that history plainly intended them to bear.
Substitute "Islamic terrorism" for "Russian-American relations," and every other word of this magnificent statement applies to us as a nation today. In 1947, we accepted the responsibilities of moral and political leadership that history "plainly intended" us to bear, and for the next 42 years we acted on them. We may not always have acted on them wisely or well, and we often did so only after much kicking and screaming. But act on them we did. We thereby ensured our own "preservation as a great nation," while also bringing a better life to millions upon millions of people in a major region of the world.
Now "our entire security as a nation"—including, to a greater extent than in 1947, our physical security—once more depends on whether we are ready and willing to accept and act upon the responsibilities of moral and political leadership that history has yet again so squarely placed upon our shoulders. Are we ready? Are we willing? I think we are, but the jury is still out, and will not return a final verdict until well after the election of 2004.
You really must read the entire piece. For those for the war effort, it will give you a boost, as he explains away some of the fears of those that have since become worried that our effort is for naught. And for those that are against the war effort, he gives a very solid, fact based account of what we are fighting and why. If you feel he is being intellectually dishonest, please tell me where I might find the counterpoint to this that is just as well researched and layed out.
Those of you who read this blog with any regularity know how I feel about this fight. But it helps me remember that I am not alone in my thoughts, that there are others who feel as strongly and that there are others who feel that it is not just the "right thing to do," but something we MUST do. Our current and future safety is at stake. And if you don't think that's true, remember the words of Osama bin-Laden himself,
"when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse"
Do we wish to be the strong horse, or the weak one? I know which one he thinks we are. That is all.