Thursday, January 04, 2007

I Will Fight Some More Forever

(apologies to Chief Joseph…)

The blogger Attaturk, substituting for Atrios, took Victor Davis Hanson to task this morning: Hanson got all in a snit because someone had the audacity to actually criticize him in his learned genius concerning all things military in general and the Iraq war in particular.

Between Hanson and Tom Friedman, it’s hard to determine who is the more soulless, deceitful shill of a columnist.

Well, I had planned to say something about a Hanson column from a couple of days ago, so this gives me the opportunity to follow up on Attaturk’s post with these observations (based on this).

Read any newspaper or turn on any news broadcast and you're bound to encounter stories of Islamic radicals fighting, killing and threatening each other — and just about everyone else.
And you’ll also likely read stories of how, by launching our Iraq war, we created a vacuum in that country that was filled by the Islamic fundamentalists supported by Iran and Syria who are doing exactly that.

In Somalia, jihadists, with the support of al Qaeda, have clashed with troops loyal to the country's internationally recognized interim government and now threaten neighboring Ethiopia with all-out war.

Nearby in Darfur, Muslim militiamen called janjaweed are waging genocide against black Christian and animist villagers — apparently with the consent of the Sudanese government.
And also with the consent of our government, which refuses to exert influence over the government of Sudan and the janjaweed under the bogus pretext that that government is assisting us in the Never Ending You Godless Commie Liburul Even Though The Heathen Democrat Party Now Runs Congress War On Terror.

Shiite and Sunni militias, each claiming to represent true Islam, keep slaughtering each other in Iraq.

Hezbollah ("Party of God") seeks to destroy democracy in Lebanon by provoking Israel, which it is sworn to eliminate.

On the West Bank, Hamas and Fatah have taken a timeout from their attacks on Israel to murder each other and innocent bystanders.

The Iranian Shiite theocracy — when not hosting Holocaust deniers or sending terrorists into Iraq — issues serial pledges to finish off Israel.

The shaky Pakistani leadership pleads that it can neither target Osama bin Laden nor stop Taliban jihadists hiding out in the remote regions of Pakistan from streaming back into Afghanistan.
It’s perversely funny to read a sentence like that from Hanson and realize that he’s given Dubya a complete pass on the fact the he above all else intentionally botched the search for bin Laden because he's protected by the Saudis.

In Europe, opera producers, novelists, cartoonists and filmmakers are increasingly circumspect out of fear of death threats from Islamists.
OK, enough already.

Like a typical propagandist long on theory but short on actual fact, Hanson tries to paint a picture of a highly sophisticated and coordinated worldwide terrorist insurgency that is quickly adaptable to any given location, much like the army of an actual nation-state (hence the frequent use of phrases like “islamofascism” to imply an association with the Axis powers in World War II or global communism, which truly WAS global for its time, funded and supported primarily by China and the Soviet Union).

The problem is that, though there definitely is a global component to the legitimate war on terrorism, what really is driving the fighting is regional, ethnic and religious strife particular to that area more than not. In other words, does anyone think Somali jihadists give a damn whether or not Hezbollah attacks Israel? Given a choice, which side would an Islamist opposed by the janjaweed fight for if forced to join the civil war in Iraq between the Sunnis and the Shi’ites?

Instead of conjuring fears of terrorists tightening a metaphorical noose around our necks more and more with each passing day, he might actually try to look at each of these scenarios he’s mentioned and treat them as unique unto themselves requiring different approaches and different solutions (though he does issue some feeble mea culpa to that effect in the next sentence after he spends much of his column trying to create his imaginary worldwide linkage).

While each conflict is unique and rooted in its own history, the common thread — radical Islam — is obvious. It's thus worth asking why this violent, intolerant strain of Islam has taken hold in so many unstable places — and at this particular time.
And what is not obvious is how much our support of unpopular dictators, such as our installation of the Shah of Iran in the ‘50s and the decision to let the CIA help Saddam Hussein murder Shi’ites in an effort to take over Iraq at about that same time, has hastened the development of radical Islam, to say nothing of our relationship with the Saudis.

The ascent of radical Islam is, perhaps, the natural culmination of a century's worth of failed political systems in Muslim countries that were driven by morally bankrupt ideologies, led by cruel dictators, or both.
Again, aided in no small part by us (and I defer to Chomsky on this here).

“…these groups (the Taliban and bin Laden’s network) were organized by the CIA, Pakistani and Egyptian intelligence and other U.S. allies. They were organized recruited, trained, and armed to fight a holy war against the Russians, which they did. But they also started right away carrying out terrorist acts. 20 years ago they assassinated the president of Egypt and they’ve been carrying out terror ever since. The groups that the CIA organized were drawn from extremist radical Islamic groups and they have been pursuing their own agenda. They did what the CIA wanted them to, but they have been pursuing their own agenda. There is no doubt that from the start they were murderous terrorist organizations. I don’t know if the word fascist is exactly correct, they don’t have that kind of ideology. But they’re extremely dangerous and have been for 20 years.

They know, even if we choose not to, that the United States has been devastating the civilian society of Iraq while strengthening Sadam Hussein (in the ‘80s and as a result of the note), and it’s been supporting a very harsh military occupation that is now in its 35th year in Israel, over the Palestinians. The U.S. has been pretty much alone in the world in imposing that very cruel domination with economic and military and diplomatic assistance. That’s quite well known there and even the most pro-American wealthy Muslim businessmen bankers have the same feelings others do. When Bin Laden talks about these things there is a resonance. They may hate him. Most of them do hate him because they overwhelmingly oppose his terrorist violence and his Islamic fanaticism, but a good part of the message does reflect what people believe and with justification.”
Back to Hanson...

In the 1930s, German-style fascism appealed to Arabs in Palestine and Egypt. Soviet-style communism had sympathetic governments in Afghanistan, Algeria and Yemen. Baathism took hold in Syria and Iraq. The secular Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser promised a new pan-Arabism that would do away with colonial borders that divided the "the Arab nation." Then there is the more pragmatic authoritarianism that survives in Muammar el-Qaddafi's Libya or in the petrol-monarchies in the Gulf.
“More pragmatic authoritarianism” in Libya? Is Hanson serious?

As I’ve said before, at least Saddam Hussein never blew up any of our planes or sentenced medical personnel to death on the bogus charge of infecting children with HIV.

Radical Islam may be as totalitarian and as morally bankrupt as any of these past or mostly defunct "isms," but its current appeal isn't hard to figure out. Unlike fascism or communism, radical Islam is locally grown, and not plagued by charges of foreign contamination. Indeed, Islamists claim to wage jihad against the modernism and globalization of the outside, mostly Westernized world. Such a message resonates in stagnant, impoverished Muslim countries.
But again, Hanson is lumping all “Islamists” together to imply some worldwide conspiracy. Though the threat is real of course, it is too fragmented to be categorized so easily.

Of course, while the people of the region may be poor, the Islamist movement isn't. Huge oil profits filter throughout the Muslim world, allowing Islamists to act on their rhetoric.
Not considering our support of regimes that allow that to happen for a minute, I should say that that’s a pretty good argument for us to work towards energy self-sufficiency (Hanson does mention that later, to be fair, but not now, perhaps so we don’t realize who above all else allowed the radical Islamist movement to get rich in the first place).

In today's world, militias can easily acquire everything from shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles to rocket-propelled grenades. With such weapons, and on their own turf, Islamists can nullify billion-dollar Western jets and tanks.
And should we ask where these militias would get these weapons?

There is still another reason for the rise of Islamists: They sense a new hesitation in the West.
Oh, here we go now...

We appear to them paralyzed over oil prices and supplies and fears of terrorism. And so they have also waged a brilliant propaganda war, adopting the role of victims of Western colonialism, imperialism and racism. In turn, much of the world seems to tolerate their ruthlessness in stifling freedom, oppressing women and killing nonbelievers.
Welcome to the Victor Davis Hanson Generalities Festival, ladies and gentlemen! And I grudgingly have to acknowledge that the terrorists have been winning “the information war” (there was a great New Yorker article on that a few weeks ago that I’m trying to post on – I’ll keep trying), partly because of the stupefying idiocy behind why we waged the Iraq war to begin with and continue to do so.

So how, aside from killing jihadist terrorists, can we defend ourselves against the insidious spread of radical Islam? Here are a few starting suggestions:

Bluntly identify radical Islam as fascistic — without worrying whether some Muslims take offense when we will talk honestly about the extremists in their midst.
No. Fascism is a political doctrine held by nation-states. Islam is a religion. We should do the opposite and destroy that linkage so we truly understand what we’re talking about and, thus, who we’re fighting (and why).

At the same time, keep encouraging consensual governments in the Middle East and beyond that could offer people security and prosperity, while distancing ourselves from illegitimate dictators, especially in Syria and Iran, that promote terrorists.
We should have been doing that anyway. There should not be a need to point that out.

Establish that no more autocracies in the Middle East and Asia will be allowed to get the bomb.
And just how can we legitimately enforce that when we don’t abide by treaties ourselves, or ignore countries that do the same thing?

Seek energy independence that would collapse the world price of oil, curbing petrodollar subsidies for terrorists and our own appeasement of their benefactors.
“Our own appeasement of their benefactors” is the real issue here, but somehow I don’t think Hanson wants to touch that with the proverbial ten foot pole.

Appreciate the history and traditions of a unique Western civilization to remind the world that we have nothing to apologize for but rather much good to offer to others.
I agree, including such traditions as respecting habeas corpus and not illegally spying on phone conversations of its citizens or selectively spying on our mail (a new one).

Update: Andrew at Pixel Monkey just left me this great comment to an earlier post; somehow, I don't think Hanson will be discussing any of these "traditions" anytime soon...

The thing is, I don't think we ever can redeem ourselves. America hasn't been a saint throughout its military and political history, but as many leftist columnists are now pointing out, we have dropped our bar so far below the one we set at Nuremberg that it's hard to see how the world can forgive us, never mind we, the people, forgiving the US Government. Saddam, a dictator we helped create and helped carry out his war crimes, was executed in an (instant), in the most inhumane way. A member of the military I recently interviewed told me that "every military officer knew full well that Saddam would be executed the (instant) he was turned over to the 'Iraqi Government'," and those quotes are his, not mine. In his mind, and he has been in West Baghdad for the last year fighting on the front lines, the "Iraqi Government" is nothing more than a a few corrupt politicians and a few importantly-placed American agents. "We've turned over detainees who weren't even proven guilty of their crimes in Iraq, and the 'Iraqi Government' murdered them with a shot in the head before we were even out the door. We've all come to understand that 'handing someone over to the Iraqis' is doublespeak for 'send that person to die'. Who physically pulls the trigger is really an irrelevant detail." So I don't want US Government officials telling us this is "their [the Iraqi's] system, their method of justice." It's ours, the blood is all over our hands. The fact that we torture should come as no surprise. And the case of Donald Vance (note: an American contractor who blew the whistle on his employer in Baghdad and was held and tortured by our military) just shows that no one is safe, that we don't reserve our techniques for those we consider "evil", but that it has just become a routine process for our military operations.
Ugh - back to Hanson...

Finally, keep confident in a war in which our will and morale are every bit as important as our overwhelming military strength. The jihadists claim that we are weak spiritually, but our past global ideological enemies — Nazism, fascism, militarism and communism — all failed. And so will they.
I also believe we can be strong when our press reports on critical matters in an intelligent and unbiased manner with actual reporting to let us make up our own minds, instead of trying to shackle us with half-baked theories from academics eager for someone else to fight and die in wars they encourage so they don’t have to.

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