Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Superpower self-flagellation

Daniel Henninger writes a downer of a column. A sample:

The leadership vacuum. The administration never rallied the nation behind the war in a concrete way. A young Marine officer recently returned from combat in Iraq told me this week he is taken aback at how disassociated the American people seem from Iraq, no matter how constantly it’s in the news. He says it’s as if the problem is not so much what is actually happening in Iraq but that the war is "annoying" to Americans, as if to say: Can’t it just go away or not be on the front page all the time? Rallying a nation at war is a president’s job.

The opposition vacuum. One reason the negative mood in politics is so disconcerting is that the opposition’s alternative vision is nonexistent. On joining the opposition recently, GOP Sen. Norm Coleman announced, "I can’t tell you what the path to success is." Joe Biden says the "primary" Iraq strategy should be to force its leaders to make the political compromises necessary to "end the violence."


As a political strategy, unremitting opposition has worked. Approval for the president and the war is low. The GOP lost sight of its ideological lodestars and so control of Congress. But the U.S. still occupies a unique position of power in the world, and we are putting that status at risk by playing politics without a net.


On the "Charlie Rose Show" this month, former Army vice chief of staff Gen. Jack Keane, who supports the counterinsurgency plan being undertaken by Gen. David Petraeus, said in exasperation: "My God, this is the United States. We are the world’s No. 1 superpower. This isn’t about arrogance. This is about capability and applying ourselves to a problem that is at its essence a human problem."

Read the whole depressing thing.

Discussions - 34 Comments

You know, I’ve been noticing a lot of this talk floating around lately, more so than there has been in a while. A lot of people are eloquently (or at least effectively) and calmly pointing out the inherent dangers that will come with failure in Iraq as well as the fact that as the world’s only super-power (or hyper-power, as you will) there is no reason America could not eventually win in Iraq. I think this is a good thing and between now and 2008 the distant rumblings we’re hearing down below are going to start to surface in a big way.

My sincere hope is that with Bush acknowledged as a lame duck, we can get past the completely nonproductive dynamic whereby all critique of Iraq is regarded as weak, treasonous "hogwash," and "support of the troops" is equivalent with staying the course.

Many organizations and societies have committed themselves historically to goals that (sooner or later) turned out to be bettr replaced with new goals. I live very near the Erie Canal, for instance, which remains today a monument, a testament to America’s ingenuity, energy, and vision. It is also completely outdated, and I am glad that someone had the foresight to give up on the Canal in lieu of new transportation technologies and goals. But, I am not sure that would have happened if the Erie Canal had been the brainchild of this Administration.

My perception is that too many loud voices still lump together (1) the consideration of alternatives with (2) defeat.

That may be how it feels to them, personally, but the rest of us don’t have to agree. I hope that it is clear (though it probably is not) that no responsible American wants us to "lose" in Iraq. Many of us predicted that Iraq was a losing proposition before it began, in addition to being wrong. But, I hope that it becomes clear that we all support a future in which America is secure and strong.

So, my hope is that the Democratic majorities in the Senate and the House will result in the allowance of the sharing of ideas, the consideration of avenues that have been previously taboo. If I am right, then then I see reason for optimism.

Fung, it would be much easier to consider "alternatives"--as you call them--if they did not always seem to be coming from people who (1) ignore the very real problem of perceived weakness by the enemy that their violent critique of the Administration has generated (2) seem not to acknowledge the existence or nature of the enemy and/or (3) do not appear to be covering their proverbial political *** or running for President.

To Fung or anyone else: I have not yet had it satisfactorily explained to me how solving the Iraq problem (Pelosi’s prescribed description) will be achieved by political changes (which will then hasten military changes). I think I understand their reasoning, but so far everyone advocating a "political solution" has not explained why the Iraqis will listen to the Maliki government if we pull out of Baghdad. I just don’t understand how anyone could possibly believe the situation will improve in our absence.

The above comment is why I, and many who share my views, are generally equating redeployment or a political soltution (such as it may be) with defeat. I truly have no problem with looking at alternatives, but I really don’t feel the Democrats’ position is an alternative to how to solve the problems in Iraq so much as it is a way to avoid them.

Julie,

First of all, if I am engaged in combat (which we are) then I don’t worry when an enemy thinks I am weak. Instead of making bad decisions to prevent my enemy’s perception of my weakness, I would take advantage of that erroneous perception, using it to predict when and where my enemy will attack, and then surprising that enemy with overwhelming force.

On the other hand, if I AM weak, then I want to guard against my enemy’s accurate perception of my weakness. One way to do this is to concentrate my dwindling resources in a last-ditch, or nearly last-ditch effort to either fool or intimidate my enemy into withdrawal. But, assuming that my weakness is real, I can only afford so many last-ditch efforts. I hope that we are not at that point.

Second, no one denies that we have enemies in Iraq. But, it seems foolish to deny that (a) Today, Iraq hosts more, and not fewer enemies of the U.S. than it did 3 years ago, (b) We have enemies elsewhere and our actions in Iraq are adding to their numbers.

Third, which members of the Iraq Study Group are covering their tails and/or running for President? What of the generals whose counsel Bush disregarded? Were they running for President? Instead of covering their tails, they stuck their necks out, and look what happened to them!

I appreciated Webb’s distinction: Regarding the War on Terror, not one step back. Regarding Iraq, it is time to be smart, instead of right.

Andrew,

Obviously, there are many elements that I know very little about, but here is my initial response:

If the Maliki government lacks perceived legitimacy among those who want the U.S. out of Iraq, and if we re-deploy to the perimeters (Not out of the country, but out of the centers), then we achieve three things:

(1) Fewer U.S. troops are getting killed, (2) Fewer innocent Iraqis are being killed in the cross-fire between the U.S. and its enemies. Perhaps our enemies will continue to kill innocents, but then (a) perhaps Iraq can intervene, (b) perhaps the nature and identities of those enemies will be clearer to the world, and (c) we can always redeploy. (3) The Maliki government gains some credibility for presiding over our redeployment, possibly carving some room for talk.

Comparing the Erie Canal to a fight for America’s long term survival seems a little facile, to say the least.

The way I see it, Bush did squander his mandate, post 9/11, by focusing too much on the return to normalcy, "go shopping" and the rest of it. Instead of seeing 9/11 as a caesura, a true turning point, too many, including Bush on his "bad" days wanted to shrug it off and go back to 9/10. We have never been on a war footing. Biden’s execrable hearing yesterday was the politics of 9/10 in full swing.

In my view, nations do not get to choose when or how they are thrust into the spotlight. They do get to chose how they spend their time in the sun. In a couple hundred years, will people look back and say that the year 2000 was the end of the American century, or the beginning of the second American century? Will World War II and the Cold War be our finest hour, or something in the next hundred years to come? All too often I see Americans willing to trade greatness and abdicate their worldwide responsibilities in return for a little temporary comfort. They want to be like Canada, only with better weather. I find that incredibly shallow and sad and it’s ultimately suicidal.

Fung: Your clever formulation above, about having no fear of demonstrating weakness to an enemy so as to use his mis-perception against him--while perhaps having some application in this and other situations, should not be regarded as the beginning and end of thought on the subject. It is our perceived weakness that precipitates attacks from this enemy--not our any showing of strength in Iraq or elsewhere. This enemy is not so foolish as to believe that they can whip us with their awesome military might or power. They believe that they can whip us with the sheer force of their will and our lack of it. In this, they may be wrong, but it is nevertheless the case that THEY believe it. They will act on it when we give evidence of our weakness--real or not. So we had better concern ourselves with their perceptions. They may not tear down the nation with their evil schemes, but 9/11 ought to demonstrate that the scale of modern terror more terrible than we can safely tolerate. This is not a matter of a few planes getting hi-jacked every couple of years. We’re talking about the lives of thousands of Americans. It will not do to ignore the perceptions, the motivations and the capacity of our enemy.

Your points about the members of the Iraq Study Group and some critical generals are fair, as far as they go. Though I think little said by anyone in those two classes has contributed to the actions of those in Congress now running for the exits. Clearly, it was these folks I was talking about in my remarks above. I think you can count on your two hands the number of people who either took seriously or meant to take seriously the recommendations of the ISG. That was a political monster from the start. As far as the generals go--yeah, but . . . there are always these kinds of disagreements among generals. And more support the effort than not. So the question boils down to "Who do you trust?"

That said, your claims about the effect our work in Iraq has had on their collective psyche mystifies me. That there are more terrorists in Iraq now is evidence of nothing you claim. My problem with your argument here is that we do not have to do anything to make these people hate us. They have been hating us for a very long time without encouragement. Further, we can do very little to make them like us. If we could, then they already would like us. The only thing that seems to be within our power to do is to make them fear us enough that they leave us alone. All this bellyaching in Congress and elsewhere does not serve to that purpose and that is where the war is being lost. Whatever their mistakes, if indeed there are any, the war is not being lost on the ground or even within the administration. It is by this rancorous and unhelpful "discourse" that we will be perceived as weak and, therefore, may in fact become weak. That is the strategy of the terrorists. They have called us a "paper tiger" and we have no reason to think that they don’t believe this.

Thank you, Phil for pointing out the shallowness of my Erie Canal example. Perhaps I should have used the rail system, or Jim Crow, or the relocation of Native Americans, or trips to the Moon, or McCarthyism.

But, most of all, I will take your "wanting-to-be-like-Canada, only-with-better-weather" observation as an example of the heights of rhetoric. I stand humbled and ashamed. As ashamed as a Canadian, only with a better sense of humor. I’m as humble as a church-mouse, only not one of those big stadium churches like the one in Houston. And not a prideful church-mouse, either, but a really, really humble one.

For what it is worth, I agree with much of what you wrote, though I think that this country would have been very responsive to a presidential appeal to sacrifice gasoline, goods, time.... you name it , if such an appeal had been made. I don’t think that American greatness is gone, it has just fallen asleep.

Phil and Fung make good points about Bush not making an appeal to the American people to "do" something or "sacrifice" something. I will not belabor it, as many (better thinkers than I), have demonstrated this before. But I will second it, or third it--as the case may be. Though I have to say that while I probably agree more often with Phil, and disagree more often with Fung, I think Fung is right in pointing out that American greatness and the goodness of its people is not dead at all--or even on a mental trip to Canada. I don’t even really think it’s asleep. It just hasn’t been invited to this ball. Someone ought to do that, without haste or hesitation. What that ought to look like, exactly, I don’t know. But it should be something that appeals to all Americans regardless of politics. It should not be a thinly veiled political agenda masquerading as a war effort. It is time for us to remember that we are all Americans and that we have something WORTH fighting for.

Julie,

I am truly perplexed by your statements.

"It is our perceived weakness that precipitates attacks from this enemy--not our any showing of strength in Iraq or elsewhere. This enemy is not so foolish as to believe that they can whip us with their awesome military might or power."

So, they attack us because we are weak, but they are not stupid, they know that we have awesome military power???

They attack us as they do because they have to. We have been learning and relearning about unconventional warfare for centuries. Everybody fights fair unless they don’t stand a chance, and then they hide behind walls, or shoot the officers, or build tunnels, or use poison gas, or use terror. And then the side that has been sinking its resources into all the armor, and the latest technology cries "foul" when the underdogs break the rules. I’m not being moralistic about it, but rather pragmatic. It is our military strength and our expansionist, capitalist reliance on it that forces our weaker enemies to resort to terror.

Then, you said this:

"Further, we can do very little to make them like us. If we could, then they already would like us." I don’t know how to respond to that one, either. I could use the same structure for my own point: There is very little that we can do to win the war in Iraq. If there was, then we would have already won.

And, I don’t care if "they like us." I just want them to stop trying to kill us, and if hatred is at all relevant to our safety (and you suggest that it is) then why don’t we look at a time in history when they weren’t hating us and trying to kill us, or why don’t we learn from other countries who are not being attacked, and learn from them?

It is just too easy and short-sighted to blame this mess on some genetic predisposition to become a suicide bomber. And the reason that the situation looks worse, instead of better, is that our "leaders" have left out a very important element of the equation: America’s responsibility.

OK, I’ll take back that gratuitous crack about Canada. The Princess Patricias are doing good work around Khandahar. Perhaps the more apt comment vis-a-vis Canada is that the many Canadians and Americans think the war is optional and would just rather not be bothered with it. And the politicians let them off the hook.

I agree with Julie that rank-and-file Americans need to be invited to the ball. They’ve seen the "experts" humbled in the past five years. "Slam dunk," the TSA security circus, etc., etc. As Mark Steyn has pointed out, the only thing that "worked" on 9/11 was a handful of non-governmental volunteers that neutered the fourth airplane. This decades-long effort is too important to leave to the experts. And a big swath of the "experts" have now decided, for reasons of their own both deep-seated and petty, to declare Iraq a failure. Given the way it’s been fought, and covered by the press as a partisan squabble, is it any wonder that the public, in Henninger’s phrase, sees it as an "annoyance," just like John Kerry’s infamous comparison of the GWOT to a prostitution bust. Hey, as long as the streetwalkers don’t hang out on my block, who cares. In a certain way, Bush is hampered by his success. Yep, you read that right. If 9/11 had been followed up by followup attacks in the States things would be very different now.

Julie,

Regarding your comment 11, I agree with you. Americans were proud of their Victory gardens, and they were proud to go without meat and metal during WWII. We car-pooled during the 70’s, and we still like to talk about when the "lights went out" in NYC. We learned to recycle, we can learn to come together to make our children safer and more secure.

Fung, Fung, Fung . . . you always make my head hurt. First you agree that we are a great nation worthy of defense and then you go looking for ways to blame us for the hatred of a people still living in the 5th century. I’m trying to be nice (really, I am) but that is pathetic. And no one (at least not me or anyone I’d support) has blamed their pre-disposition to hate us on something genetic. That is too absurd to deserve further comment and you ought to know better than to impute such opinions to me. But facts are stubborn things and the fact is that there is a large segment of the world-wide (primarily Muslim) population that despises us because we are free, we are great, and we seek to remain both. You claim not to be bothered by the fact that they hate us--I do care about that fact but I confess that I don’t care about "why." Whatever little, petty, injustice you can traipse out in an argument to prove we deserve that hatred pales in comparison to the massive great good we have done in bringing justice, freedom, and treasure to the world--in both a literal sense and by our example.

As to your feigned perplexity at the concept of being militarily strong but lacking will, should I comment? Alas, I must. You surely must understand that the two things are not incompatible. A man who owns a big gun is nothing to fear if he is not willing to use it. This enemy means to wear us down bit by bit until we are tired of resisting them. But that, you say, is our fault too. We are just so big that we force them to resort to terror--they are cornered by our imposing presence in the world. You imply that any and all people (including us?) would do the same in their situation. It is not evil, I suppose, to use children as shields and as human bombs or as fodder and targets, it’s just relative to your needs? So I suppose you think it would be cool for us to do the same? You wouldn’t object to us using those tactics? But, "NO!" you would shriek. That’s not what I meant. Of course not. But why? Because we are a just and a good people. Our cause is a good one. Theirs, on the other hand, is a perfectly awful cause. It, like their ridiculous justifications of themselves, deserves no respect.

I agree with Julie: they do know that they cannot beat us militarily/materially, but they believe that we are weak-willed and that if they keep having images of dead US soldiers and Iraqi civilians on TV we’ll decide not to fight anymore (and to prove their point we elected a Democratic Congress which is doing their best to get us to pull out of Baghdad). But all this seems redundent to conversations I’ve had before.

Back to my original point which Fung addressed . . . I can’t fathom why it is you believe a democratic government is going to work itself out in Baghdad after maybe some initial violence. That is simply ridiculous. The Shias will carve out a section supported by Iran, and the Sunnis will carve out a section supported by al-Qaeda & Co. I don’t understand how that is going to make things better. The Maliki government is mildly supported by al-Sadr and his ilk simply because they can’t kick the Americans out. With us gone, all the warlord types will try to fill the vacuum, not vote on a more legitimate government.

Come on, folks, Fung doesn’t really think Amerika is a great nation...he’s a garden-variety anti-Amerikan intellectual. I would have thought that would be clear by now.

When Bush took us into Iraq, he was gambling on Arabs, that they would embrace their freedom and Iraqi nationality and behave long enough to get their new government up and running. Staking your presidency on Arab sensibilities...well, it’s always a long-shot. Looks like Bush lost his bet...I guess we go back to the "soft bigotry" of thinking Arabs (and Muslims) incapable of democracy (which is, after all, the unspoken view of the ’foreign policy community’).

Oh, you people! why don’t you just agree with me, it would make things so much easier!

I truly have to go: one kid at a dance needs a ride, and I have to return in time to watch CSI. But, I must say this for the record: I never said that America deserves to be attacked. There is a huge difference between making a mistake and deserving the consequences of that mistake. Especially when the people who pay are not the ones making the mistake.

My country does not deserve to be attacked. My family, my children, and your children do not deserve to live in fear. But, there are choices made by our leaders that influence the likelihood that people will hate us. Is that not so? We have been mucking about in the Middle East since the birth of our country, and we have done little to help it.

I really have to go.

Well, ferry those kids around, then. But it seems to me that any President who commits troops for any reason could be accused of "deserving" the consequences. I mean, FDR lost one helluva lot of people, and we could nitpick that war effort pretty easily. What’s really going on is Bush-hatred...something I’ve never quite understood. He’s certainly not my favorite POTUS ever or anything, and I think his domestic agenda leaves a lot to be desired, but I just can’t see why people view him or Cheney as blood-soaked tyrants. Pretty much, they put a blood-soaked tyrant out-of-business. We won the war, but we’ve lost the occupation. Time to ease on out and let the Arabs create what they rate.

FUNG, you have to recall that to a muslim the accusation of "arrogance" means something quite differently than it does to an ordinary Westerner. I think that you’re taking endless muslim accusations of the United States being "arrogant" and somehow perceiving that as a flaw in our past and present foreign policy. Our foreign policy has nothing to do with us being called "arrogant" by muslims. Islam means "submission," hence ALL those who have chosen NOT to submit themselves are ipso facto "arrogant" to a muslim. That’s why they constantly chirp about American "arrogance." As the foremost power on earth, because we are the purest distillation Greece and Judeo-Christianity, islam has a particular hatred and detestation of us, of our founding ideals, of our very being. It’s got nothing to do with how we conduct ourselves in international affairs. Recall too, that too a muslim jihad means deceit. War means deceit. Thus they have no problems saying that their problem with us is one thing, when all the while their problem is that we aren’t muslim, haven’t submitted ourselves to their yoke, have refused the domination of the mullah, in short, refuse the ultimatum of submit or die.

Islam is bad news Fung. And you’re far too smart not to know it, and not to sense too the deep menace that creeps out towards us from the Mideast. It’s a political/cultural totalitarian system. We are outside that system, outside their control, and it vexes them mightily.

In a lot of the rhetoric about Iraq we’re seeing conflation of two claims, one of which is true, one of which is not. The first (the true one) is that we’re in the midst of a long-term struggle for survival against radical Islamism. The second (the dubious one)is that Iraq is THE critical front in that war, and if democracy fails there, the larger war on terror is lost. Now, when I thought that this was a war to get rid of a bloodthirsty anti-American tyrant with WMDs, I had no problem with it. But, of course, the WMDs were a hoax, and Saddam is dead, and our troops are stuck in the middle of a growing civil war. Iraq is not the place to make a stand against Al-Qaeda; let’s transfer our forces to Afghanistan, where the war against Islamism isn’t mixed up with Iraqi factionalism.

Thank you, John. I agree with all that you wrote, with the possible exception of the transfer of forces. Ultimately, that is what I would support, but I would not support (at this point) a sudden withdrawal of our troops that left our friends high & dry, as we did in Vietnam. And I don’t pretend to know HOW to achieve a withdrawal that fits the bill, but I hope that someone can figure it out.

Julie, there remains a strange disconnect (actually, there are two) in your argument. First, you write as though there is no relationship between our actions and the way we are perceived by (I presume) radical Islamists.

This seems dangerous and simplistic to me. That is why I used the "genetic" argument: If you argue that experience does not influence our enemies’ thinking, then it must be something else, and genes are the only other influence I can think of. But, then you say that "they hate us because we are free," which is silly.

Here is why it is silly: (1) No one has ever supported that statement. Instead, it is just repeated around the hall until certain people lend it the mantle of truth. (2) Generally, free people don’t hate each other. Instead, free people are hated by enslaved or repressed people. Fair enough? But the idea that oppressed people would choose to ignore their own oppressors, and instead attack the innocent USA out of sheer hatred of "free people" is just plain silly.

The second disconnect is between the war in Iraq and the battle of wills. You write as though they are separate: We can be strong militarily, but weak in the collective will. That, too, is not relevant, because the "will" that you refer to is (a) not really will, but rather the intelligence to know when we are sending resources down a rabbit hole, and (b) flagging precisely because the military, strong as it is, is not accomplishing its military goal.

Put another way, our "will" would be just fine if we were winning a winnable war, but we are not. The situation in Iraq is much worse than it was. Iraqis are dying at a faster rate than they were under Saddam. Our enemies seem to split and replicate like sex cells. This is a failing enterprise.

And so, what you refer to as a weak will is a result of the misdirected, ill-conceived war that should never have occurred in the first place. That is just the opposite of what you are suggesting: That a weak will causes defeat despite a strong military.

If Bush’s travesty has proven anything, it is that strength is not enough, all by itself. Intelligence is also important. It might also help to be right, and to have defensible goals, as we did in Afghanistan.

Finally, every time I point out the inadvisability of Bush’s choices, you retort that I am "blaming" America, or that I am suggesting that terrorism is "cool?" because it is effective. I am doing nothing of the sort.

I entered this discussion expressing my hope that 2006 might introduce a new, more open exchange of ideas. Your response is exactly the kind of problem that I referred to. Surely, you must agree that we can point out dangers to each other without somehow "supporting" or "loving" those dangers.

I have used this metaphor before, but when I warn my sons not to pet a barking dog, it does not mean that I love the dog. It doesn’t mean that I will feel good if they ignore me and get bit. And, they don’t deserve to get hurt! What is it about you (and Dain) that you cannot disagree without accusing your opponents of loving the enemy?

I don’t think I accused you of loving the enemy...I accused you of hating Amerika...which is true, of course.

Fung, you’re taking their pronouncements of why they detest this country at face value. Our country is governed by the will of the electorate, discerned through and amplified by actual elections. Such a manner of governance isn’t simply hostile to islam, but is actually at war with the message of their prophet. To them, such a manner of government prefers the judgements of various creatures, instead of the perfected word that gushes forth in his Koran. And the Koran, for them, is UNCREATED, it’s eternal, the everlasting distillation of the thought of the supreme being, the creator. To dare to claim the right to self-governance in the face of such a disclosure from God himself, is such an act of blasphemy and arrogance as to stagger the mind. Whereas in Christianity, the Holy Spirit and the Son are uncreated, but not the Bible.

You’re failing to take seriously or to fully gauge the depth of their sincerity, the depth of their conviction that the Koran is the perfect, unblemished word of God, without adulteration, without interpretation, without alteration.

Thus, you’re making the mistake of looking at our foreign policy, looking at how our policies "oppress" various peoples around the earth, {although if you notice the only people that seem to be always taking up arms are muslims, interesting fact that, don’t ya think...}, instead of making a proper judgement about their totalitarian belief system. Islam isn’t simply what some deem it, a "religion," it’s the COMPLETE regulation of one’s life, down to the most earthy and mundane details. But also, it’s also a complete prescription for how a government is to be established, run, and where it is to find its source of final and ultimate authority.

I generally agree with Dan, and I don’t know if Fung REALLY agrees with John Moser. See, the Democrats/Liberals always want to fight the enemy, just not in the way we happen to be doing it at the time. So, if we did move to Afghanistan and began kicking butt there, we’d have a new body count every night on CNN telling us how many Americans have died in "The War in Afghanistan". I think John, though he obviously disagrees with what is happening in Iraq, wants to crush Islamists wherever they may be; I think the Left would be more than happy to sign a truce with them at the earliest convenience (and not because they think they’re good, but because the Left thinks wars are just too uncivilised).

Andrew, let me corret you a bit. Liberals don’t want to end wars because they are uncivilized...they didn’t make any noise when Clinton was bombing the bejesus out of Serbia, so that’s not it. What they insist on is that our warmaking be utterly disassociated with our national interest...it has to be pure. Why? Well, because Amerika is actually a capitalist/racist/sexist/benighted place, and we simply don’t have the moral standing to make war on other people. Hence, when we do make war, it must be for the greater good, and that means (of course) that it has to be at the behest of the "international community."

Dan, Andrew, Dain, Curly, Larry.......

I am not taking terrorists’ statements at face value: I am rather taking this statement at face value:

"They hate us because we are free."

What a complex bunch you all are! Dain understands all liberals, Dan lumps all Muslims together, informed by what the Koran says. Andrew apparently understand me better than I understand myself.

Do you three get together on weekends and play Slapjack? Chutes & Ladders?

Fung, the statement that "they hate us because we are free" is insufficient. That’s a part of their hatred for us, but not the entirety.

Moreover, I don’t "lump all" muslims together. I’m quite capable of seeing the distinctions between observational and non-observational muslims. But are you. Where is the existant "moderate" islam? I see muslims that are lapsed, such as Salmon Rushdie for instance. But his islam isn’t a "moderate" islam, it’s a lapsed islam. Which is quite different.

Muslims that take their religion seriously have to take jihad seriously.

And Fung, you should recall too that the Pentagon conducted a study recently trying to get to the bottom of whether the "radicals" we were fighting were truly "radical," truly marginal, truly unorthodox. And much to their dismay they discovered that our enemies are the ORTHODOX muslims, that our enemies can’t be termed "radical" without engaging in intellectual dishonesty, that our enemies can’t be described as out of the mainstream, when they’re fully within the long history of islam/jihad.

Islam is bad news, and it’s coming to a town near you, me and all the rest of us.

I would love to project the behavior of Fouad Ajami on to the rest of islam, but that’s being intellectually dishonest. And thus it’s unworthy. The truth is certainly uncomfortable and unsettling, to be sure. But better that than falsehood.

If we don’t accurately know who our enemies are, if we don’t understand what they believe, what motivates them, then the task of destroying them becomes that much more difficult. So sure, there are various strains in islam, but the commonalities, specifically in regard to jihad, far outweigh any differences. 1,300 hundred years of jihad doesn’t deceive.

Oh, and Fung, did you watch the recent British news investigation of the various "mainstream" mosques in Britain. You can find the full video over at "Gates of Vienna" blog, {it’s in their Jan. archives}. And when you’re watching it, {it last about 45 minutes} be mindful that "radical" preachers you’re observing are in mainstream mosques, with huge audiences, and not a single voice is raised in dissent to all the evil hatred oozing from the pulpits.

That news story is a revelation. And I suggest you watch it.

This whole showdown with islam has got nothing to do with our foreign policy, has got nothing to do with their feelings of "humiliation" and "oppression." It’s all because we’re kuffirs. You, me, Steve Hayward, Adriana Lima, Kate Beckinsale, Roger Staubach and Jeff Gordan, we’re all kuffirs. And they think they’ve got a divine mandate to be the overseers of all kuffirs. And the fact that the kuffirs aren’t living a life on the muslim plantation is what "humiliates" them, "oppresses" them, vexes them. They’re supposedly the elite of humanity, yet the Jews, who are supposedly "less than apes and pigs," that means not human by the way, yet those very same Jews can kick their ass from one end of the desert to another. The dhimmi Jews have risen and thrown off their dhimmi status. Such an event throws all of the truths of islam into one vast existential drama. If God truly favours them, then why is it that the Jews and the Christians live lives so obviously superior to theirs. Islam is BOTH enormously confident and being torn from within by doubt, doubt about the message of the prophet, doubt about their entire religion. It’s really a weird situation. But there you have it.

Fung, like Dain I just have a hard time believing that the Liberal base of the Democratic Party would ever support any sort of foreign venture which did not produce altruistic ends (like intervention in Dafur).

You’ll also note that Fung isn’t exactly denying my characterization of the liberal mindset when it comes to war. While not a substitute for reasoned rebuttal, sarcasm can be a fine way to evade the truth.

Fung: I do not accuse you of loving the enemy (the barking dog, as you call it) but of dangerously underestimating how sharp are his teeth and of not doing what is necessary to keep that dog on a leash. Your metaphor is not apt because the United States is not your little boy. If anything, we are the dog catcher--though in the end, I would object to that metaphor as well. I also object strongly to your assumption that the dog is barking because we kicked him.

I grant that there is more to the argument than "they hate us because we are free" but that statement has gained currency precisely because it sums the thing up so nicely. It may not say everything in itself, but it does imply it. It is a good springboard into the larger discussion--but you prefer to jump off the dock and into the rocks (as was mentioned above) by taking the claims against us by the Islamists seriously (if not, since you protest it, at face value). While you are right to point out that "they hate us because we are free" has not received the support it deserves from Bush or others (perhaps even me), you also give no support to your claim that the statement is "silly." You will turn somersaults to understand the beefs of these Islamists but you dismiss as silly this argument coming from your president? You may, in the end, come to the conclusion that it is a silly argument but where is your effort? I think it makes all the sense in the world and if I have to explain it to you, I’ll be happy to give it a good college try.

They resent us. Freedom has made us rich--rich in every sense of the word; economically, intellectually, socially, culturally. It is fair to say that our freedom has been abused by some and one can point to examples of that in every sphere mentioned above. There are distasteful things that result from the misuse of freedom. But, on the whole, we are a richer people for our freedom. The Islamists do not have freedom. They also, therefore, lack much of the wealth we have. They are jealous of our good life and our greatness as a people but they are powerless to reproduce it in their own countries because their systems will not allow it--at least not totally. They do not really wish to give up the social systems to which they have become accustomed--both by habit and by faith. Their tyrants have no wish to or interest in allowing this freedom. Wanting but not being able to attain the fruits of freedom points to obvious flaws in the systems under which they labor. But these cannot be admitted; either by the people or by their leaders because this would mean change. This would mean that their systems are not great and are not sound and are not just. Instead, they point out the flaws in our results. Freedom is said to be a terrible thing because it allows for excess and rapaciousness. It leads to degeneracy. Freedom is the cause of our success, to their thinking, but this only proves that we are thieves and bullies. We didn’t come by anything honestly. If the game had been fair, then the Islamists would be on top. It is the "class-warfare" argument writ large on the international scene. Their failures are not their fault, but ours. We have held them down with our imperialist attitudes and our greed. So no, Fung, I cannot take this seriously. As I said above . . . whatever small kernels of truth lie within any particular point to be made along these lines are insignificant. Our long train of "abuses" on the world does not begin to compare to the massive engine of good we have been to the world. Where we have failed, we have shown our imperfection or inabilities to always live up to our highest ideals. But this does not mean our purposes in the world are, in themselves, wrong or bad. It does not mean that we should roll over and kiss up to the tyrants from the East.

That said, I am glad to see that you agree that we cannot simply pull out of Iraq and that to do so would be to commit a serious injustice by breaking faith with our friends and allies. It would lead to a terrible loss of life and treasure and hope. Further, it would weaken the perception of us in the rest of the world--endangering us in more ways than we can count. You believe that we cannot win. If I believed that, (and I don’t) I still would never say as much in public. I will be the first to admit that I am not the person to go to for a clear and concise understanding of our military capacities or our battle-readiness and certainly not of what (or where) ought to be our military priorities. I think you are about as competent as I am in that regard. People like us, who though we read what we can cannot trust our own judgments in these things, must trust someone. I do not trust those who say we cannot win for this simple reason: I believe that we cannot, that is, we must not fail.

Actually, Julie, I don’t think they envy our wealth...they envy our power, and they resent the fact that Islam has not taken over the world (as was foretold). We are an affront to their belief system, the living evidence that Allah may not exist or is powerless in the face of the Jewish/Christian God. As Bernard Lewis asserts, this is a deep ego-scar...to assuage this self-doubt, they take up jihad. Pretty straightforward.

What does "Win in Iraq" mean?

The majority of Iraqis have democratically voted for Shi’ite domination and ethnic clensing of Sunnis.

Given all the horrible years of Sunni domination, not to mention the recent arrival of religious nutcase Sunni Al Quaeda people bombing them, can you really blame the Shi’ite militias for going neighborhood by neighborhood and telling Sunnis to leave or be killed?

There is no "winning", no "military solution", and no "political solution" to peace in Iraq unless you are willing to kill every Sunni or every Shi’ite.

If you kill every Shi’ite, you will end up with a Sunni state allied with Syria and Al Quaeda.

If you kill every Sunni, you will end up with a Shi’ite state loosely allied with Iran, Hizbollah, and perhaps Syria eventually anyway.

There is no way you will ever end up with an Iraq that, for example, is not hostile to Israel.

The truth is that the Sunni insurgents will never take control of Iraq again without significant outside military support, so the latter ("kill every Sunni") will be the expected result.

The longer American troops stay there, there might be a slight reduction in the speed of ethnic clensing of Sunnis, but at the same time Sunni insurgents and Sunni Al Quaeda will take pot shots at and set IEDs for the Americans who are trying to keep their people from genocide.

By using the word "win in Iraq", President Bush is horribly misleading the US public, and his efforts have allowed the Democrats to control Congress. Which, at the end of the day, will affect Americans far more than whatever happens in Iraq.

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