Tuesday, October 12, 2004

"Not yet at war"

The subject of this posting is excerpted from a posting at the Belmont Club, in which Wretchard praises Mark Steyn's analysis of the proper attitude to the Islamic killers we are facing. Toward the end of Wretchard's essay he writes:

Radical Islam is self-evidently at war with the West because their efforts are limited only by their capability. And the West is just as clearly not yet at war with radical Islam because its actions are still limited by its intent. Zarqawi sawed off Bigley's head simply because he could; America spares Fallujah from choice. [bold characters in original]

Thus Wretchard joins Objectivists such as Dr. Leonard Peikoff and Ayn Rand Institute director Dr. Yaron Brook in their criticism of the less than serious response that the West and the US in particular has so far given the endless provocations of the Islamic militants.

Some readers may wonder how this can be. Haven't we fought two wars against the enemy already? Yes and no. Both Afghanistan and Iraq were enemies but arguably in neither case was there a total war against either country. In the case of Afghanistan the US fought to support the overthrow of the Taliban. In the case of Iraq we fought to liberate the Iraqi people from the Saddam Hussein. In neither case was war declared and in both cases the enemy government (the people of either country were not considered hostile) was given ample opportunity to repent and thus avoid war altogether. In both cases the Bush administration followed the principles of "just war:" Despite rhetoric to the contrary, both wars were heavily altruistic in justification as well as execution, both wars were done as much as possible under the sanction of world bodies and in the context of coalitions, and finally, both wars placed local civilians above the lives of American military personnel and ultimately American civilians.

Since our government refuses to name the obvious enemy (militant Islam), we claim to be engaged in a so-called "War on Terrorism." With respect to this war the ultimate enemy is really quite clear. For some time now, the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world has been Iran. Iran also happens to be the ideological center of Islamic fundamentalism along with its Sunni rival Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia is still regarded as an ally, while the US administration is attempting to make a diplomatic deal with Iran and thus talk it out of its nuclear program.

Therefore while we are and have certainly been fighting, we have not been at war. If we were at war the country would be in far different mood. Our political and military leadership would be fully clear and open on who our enemies are and comitted to total war and victory over them to the point of restoring what's is referred to in latin as the status quo ante -- the state of affairs that existed previously. That means a return to the days when, to take one obvious example, we did not have to take off our shoes at the airports. But that would require a complete destruction of the enemy to the point that its spirit is broken, its resources exhausted and its ideology utterly discredited. One hopes that one day the US will have the political and military leadership to assert our right to destroy our enemies with the moral certainty that such a battle will require.

Some people think the US will have to be hit again and harder for it to come to its senses. I don't know if that's true. I could site the example of Israel which was certainly faced with an endless series of provocations over the last few years, only to have its current leadership settle for building a wall and withdrawing from part of its land. It is hoped that the American people will ultimately decide better than that.

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