Peter has enjoined us to not dispute today how we make war on our enemies but he has also advised us that our proper anger be directed into trying to prevent a recurrence of an attack such as that we suffered on 9/11. It seems to me that there is an opening between the injunction and the advice and I will pass through it to post the following.
Eric Claeys recommends below that we read both Podhoretz and Codevilla to understand the war on terrorism. He should add Helprin, also in the Claremont Review, to the list because all three authors agree on the same fundamental and mistaken point. All three believe that states are at the core of the war on terrorism.
The attack on 9/11 did not require state support. In the future, if not already, devastating attacks on the United States with weapons of mass destruction will be possible without state support. Donations, the principle way al Qaeda financed itself, or the drug trade, which finances many terrorist groups, supply more than enough financial resources. The principal arguments and advice offered by Podhoretz, Codevilla and Helprin are irrelevant to the real fight. They are the rhetorical equivalent of ceremonial cannon fire.
To a degree that neither Codevilla nor Helprin will admit, the Bush administration’s strategy also assumes that destroying states will destroy terrorism. The Bush administration’s approach makes sense only to the degree that destroying regimes leads to democracy and democracy leads to an end to terrorism. The connections here are so uncertain in general and with regard to Islamist terrorism in particular that the administration’s strategy must be considered a gamble of historic proportions. To say the least, it is not the only way the war could be fought.