With all due respect.
Being a conservative, and a member of the Republican Underground in the State Department, I frequently find myself at odds with my colleagues when it comes to the President and the policies of his two administrations. I am not, however, beholden to every idea that the President has. Now, I am nowhere near the President when it comes to my chain of command, but I would hope that he would agree with Samuel Goldwyn who once famously said "I don't want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their job." I seriously doubt that this post would cost me my job- but I am about to disagree with President Bush.
Last week the President gave an extremely well received speech at the National Endowment for Democracy
in which he repeatedly compared the current struggle against Islamofascism to that against communism, presumably in the Cold War, although he never used that phrase. While I was heartened to hear the words "Islamic radicalism... militant Jihadism... Islamo-fascism" from the President, and also the idea that the struggle against these enemies may last a long time, I think the implied comparison to the Cold War is flawed. My preferred historical comparison is the battle against Imperial Japan.
Soon after the speech several readers wrote in to express their opinions, and I replied along the lines of the above paragraph. One of these e-mail exchanges developed into a rather long string of back and forth as we wrestled with the idea of the appropriate historical metaphor. The reader/author of these e-mails has kindly agreed to allow me use them in this post, but has asked to be left un-named, in the following exchanges I will denote hime simply as "Reader"
(some of the exchanges are truncated to include the most relevant points):Dr. D:
What did you think of the multiple comparisons of the fight against Islamofascists to the Cold War? I am not so sure I agree with this one. I liken it more to Imperial Japan, I don't really think we can go decades trying to deter OBL, Inc.
Reader: The 1933-45 war between Imperial Japan and China, USSR (1940 and 1945), France (French Indochina), the Netherlands (Dutch East Indies), UK, Australia, New Zealand, and USA was a war based on the belief of racial superiority of the Japanese over all others. In their belief, their racial superiority permitted them to dominate all others and their Shinto religion (a religion specific to the racially pure Japanese). The war begin with the 1933 invasion of China.
W.W.II in Asia was a racial war or a war of nationalism not a war of ideology. It was much like the wars of the 18th to early 20th centuries.The war against Islamofacists is a WAR OF IDEOLOGY and that ideology happens to be called a religion. Most people do not call Marxism a religion, but it is best understood as a religion because it serves the same functions and has the same impact on the true believers in Marxism.
The key areas of comparison between the Cold War (Marxism attempting to conquer the world) and the War against Islamofacists are:
1. The GREAT importance of the ideology to those waging the war against us.
2. The ideology is MUCH more important in determining which side one is on that race, color, citizenship, and such. Please remember the white fellow from Marin County (we once lived there) just north of San Francisco, CA who was one of the al Qaeda warriors of Osama bin Ladden. Remember the shoe bomber on the airliner. Remember the first British citizens to die fighting in Afghanistan were fighting AGAINST our side. Remember that there are several thousand British citizens/subjects and European citizens who have been through al Qaeda training. Remember the very mixed racial/nationality mix of the terrorists who killed lots of children in the Russian high school. Remember the Filipino Muslims who just two blocks from my office in the American Embassy in Manila who were hard at work preparing to blow us up to advance their religious beliefs in the service of al Qaeda, but who by accident set fire to their apartment and were caught. Remember all of those reports of black Muslims fighting for al Qaeda far from their homelands in the Sudan/etc.
The religious wars of the 15th to the 17th centuries were also wars of ideology and one's religion determined which side they were on, not where they were born or their skin color. The wars of the 18th, 19th and early 20th century were largely wars of nationalism, of nations that viewed themselves as entitled to someone else's land or capable of ruling it better (the case for most of the UK's expansion to end slavery in Africa and the Middle East during the second half of the 19th century).
To defeat al Qaeda we must do four things:
1. We must NOT give up and go home, as almost all of the Democrat leaders want.
2. We must kill most of the leadership of al Qaeda and a large percent of their warriors.
3. We must defeat them militarily where we fight them: currently in Afghanistan and Iraq, a loss by ourside would MASSIVELY enhance their standing and power in the Muslim world.
4. We must defeat their ideology and remove or minimize the appeal of their version of Islam on the minds of young Muslim males and on the minds of rich older Muslim males, in particular rich Saudi Muslim males who provided much of the funding.
Dr. D: You don't find the Japanese racism and belief in the superiority of Shintoism to be an ideology? There is of course the rather large difference between the Islamofascists and the Japanese in that our submission to Islam will equal victory for our current enemies, whereas one could not submit and "convert" to being Japanese- but this is not what I was referring to. I meant that our current battle more resembles that of the Asian theater in WWII than the Cold War in that we have been attacked, and that containment is not an option. Your four steps to defeat Islamofascism are exactly what we did against the Japanese- and not at all what we did against the Soviets (of course we tried to fight their "ideology" in Korea and Vietnam, but never took the battle to the USSR).
Reader: To the first question, is not racism and Shintoism an ideology?, not in my view of ideologies. Rather I would call it nationalism and an extreme sense of racial superiority. To me an ideology is an idea (or system of ideas) that are not specific to one people, rather international. The Japanese expected us to submit to their rule, as the French did in Indo-China in 1940 and as the Thais did in 1941. The Chinese did this in Mancuho in the late 1930s.
As for the War against Islamofacism vs. W.W.II in the Pacific & Asia, we (UK, Australia, the Netherlands, and USA) experienced major defeats and we all concluded that the war against Japan was very secondary to the war against Germany. However, we concluded that all of the Axis countries had to be defeated before there could be peace, and the most important country to be defeated was Germany. W.W.II was not a war by sleight of hand, rather clear and obvious to all. Plus, we were fighting on the side of the USSR, we were fighting in effect to save Communism from the Nazis and that pleased the American and British Left such that after the invasion of the USSR in June 1941 orders went out from Moscow to all Communist Parties of the world to demand an IMMEDIATE second front by the "evil capitalist" countries, the UK/Canada/Australia/New Zealand/South Africa. Soon after June 1941 the British began to run convoys to the USSR to provide them with assistance. Even in the USA before 12/7/1941 (before we entered WWII), the American Communists were demanding that the USA help the USSR.
The USSR learned the lesson in W.W. II to not fight a direct war with the USA and its allies, rather to attack by remote, via various "national movements." The PRC learned the same lesion in the Korean War, do not fight directly with the USA. So all future conflicts were very confused as to the roles of the USSR and PRC so as to confuse the elite intellectuals of the UK/USA/Europe etc into thinking that the real issue was not an effort of world domination by USSR/PRC/Marixism, rather that it was just a people's liberation movement to fix long term wrongs (and other BS).
Added to this, the USSR acquired nuclear weapons in the early 1950s (thanks to some of the elite intellectuals of the USA's Manhattan Project who believed that it was "only fair" for the USSR to have nuclear weapons). The MASSIVE fear about al Qaeda is that they will get operational nuclear weapons and that would greatly impact how we deal with them.
I believe that the best comparison of what we are trying to accomplish against al Qaeda were the efforts of the Allies to defeat Communism in 1918-21. We had USA, Canadian, and Japanese troops a couple thousand miles into Russia (coming from the east) and we had troops in the north. We finally gave up and soon after the Red Army defeated the White Army (the anti Communists) and the liqudations began and continued until about 90,000,000 people had been put down and about 1/3rd of the world was under Communist rule. It took from 1921 until 1990 for the end of Communism in the USSR and for Communism to massively change in the PRC.
This reader makes several good points, and it may well be that ideologically we can compare OBL, Inc and Communism- both ideologies are driven by a system of beliefs that are not racially motivated. One may elect to join these ideologies in a way one could not "join" the Japanese. I maintain, however, that the actual battle, the struggle for ultimate victory, resembles that if the war with Japan more than the Cold War.
We suffered a stunning surprise attack at the hands of the Japanese in 1941, just as we have from al Qaeda. The Japanese believed that their religion (a divine Emperor) would provide the ultimate victory, and their kamikaze bombers destroyed themselves in attacking us in their emperor's name. Sound familiar? When we finally mobilized we took the war directly to the enemy. No surrogates, no waiting them out. We had to island hop to get to them, to be sure-there was no immediate direct frontal assault on the homeland- much as we have been forced to hunt down al Qaeda leadership and rank and file away from their "home" of Mecca. Military leaders and strategists predicted massive bloodshed when finally our troops would reach Japan- just as such predictions are made now if we declare all of Islam to be the enemy, or invade Mecca. Only the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan spared the horror of an invasion of the home islands. Will anything spare the world the horror of taking the war against Islamofacsim to it's nest- or worse, the horror of not doing so in favor of a "wait them out" Cold War mentality?
There will be no easy, quick and clean victory over the Islamofascists. We have to face up to that. Our fathers and grandfathers knew that there would be no easy defeat of the Japanese. As our Reader says- we cannot give up. We have to hunt down their leaders and warriors in military defeat when possible. We have to remove the appeal of their ideology. All of this we did in the Pacific sixty years ago. In facing al Qaeda there can be no mutually assured destruction, because that is fine with them. There can be no spending them into the ground, they are already in, or below the ground. Containment is not a possibility- as our Reader notes, the enemy is already everywhere. We cannot afford to wait fifty years for them simply collapse under the weight of their ideology- because they wont.
I am not a warmonger, or a Chairborne Ranger- I am a realist. This is not an enemy that will simply collapse. Islamofascism is an ideology that demands our attention- and are response. Not long after America's second day of infamy President Bush said:
"When I take action," he said, "I'm not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It's going to be decisive."
Last week he said:
Our enemy is utterly committed. As Zarqawi has vowed, "We will either achieve victory over the human race or we will pass to the eternal life." And the civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history, from Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot, consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history. Evil men, obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience, must be taken very seriously -- and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.
It is good to remind the American people that the struggle we face will be long, difficult and fraught with peril and pain- but let us be careful of the metaphors we choose, and let us speak directly of the path ahead. Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto, who planned and commanded the attack on Pearl Harbor is said to have remarked "I'm afraid we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled it with terrible resolve." OBL actively sought to re-awaken the sleeping giant- let us, and them, not forget the terrible resolve with which are once again filled.