Saturday, September 25, 2004

Norman Podhoretz's plea to "stay the course."

In "World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win", Commentary magazine editor Norman Podhoretz presents his reasons for why America must "stay the course" in its current war on terror, or what he prefers to label as "World War IV."

Surveying terrorist attacks on Americans from the 1970's to the present and the varying responses by the Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations, Podhoretz concludes:

In the end the commission agreed that no American President and no American policy could be held responsible in any degree for the aggression against the United States unleashed on 9/11.

Amen to that. For the plain truth is that the sole and entire responsibility rests with al Qaeda, along with the regimes that provided it with protection and support. Furthermore, to the extent that American passivity and inaction opened the door to 9/11, neither Democrats nor Republicans, and neither liberals nor conservatives, are in a position to derive any partisan or ideological advantage. The reason, quite simply, is that much the same methods for dealing with terrorism were employed by the administrations of both parties, stretching as far back as Richard Nixon in 1970 and proceeding through Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan (yes, Ronald Reagan), George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and right up to the pre-9/11 George W. Bush. . . .

The sheer audacity of what bin Laden went on to do on September 11 was unquestionably a product of his contempt for American power. Our persistent refusal for so long to use that power against him and his terrorist brethren -- or to do so effectively whenever we tried -- reinforced his conviction that we were a nation on the way down, destined to be defeated by the resurgence of the same Islamic militancy that had once conquered and converted large parts of the world by the sword.

Podhoretz drives home the point that, from 1970-present, an ineffectual policy on terrorism marked by the continued reluctance of the U.S. to use military force cultivated the impression that the U.S. was weak and impotent, and emboldened Osama Bin Ladin and other militant Islamic fundamentalists in their ongoing war against Western civilization.

Podhoretz then presents with great clarity the four pillars of "The Bush Doctrine," marking a distinct change in U.S. foreign policy initially launched with President Bush's speech to Congress on September 20, 2001:

  1. A distinctly moral attitude, as opposed to the morally-neutral "realism" of times past. According to President Bush himself:

    Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities. Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place. . . . We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name.

  2. A new understanding of terrorism as motivated by political oppression rather than the product of economic factors, perpetrated not by individual psychotics but agents of terrorist organizations that were dependant on government sponsorship for their survival.

    "No longer would we treat the members of these groups as criminals to be arrested by the police, read their Miranda rights, and brought to trial. From now on, they were to be regarded as the irregular troops of a military alliance at war with the United States, and indeed the civilized world as a whole."

  3. The assertion of the right to premption and to "pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism" -- as opposed to policies of deterrence, containment, or retaliation. (With respect to this website, it is on this particular point that the guidelines of Catholic Just War theory would be focused).

  4. The repositioning of the Israel-Palestine issue (and the question of a Palestinian state) in the broader context of the war on terrorism. Citing President Bush:

    "Today, Palestinian authorities are encouraging, not opposing terrorism. This is unacceptable. And the United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure."

    In so doing, calling Palestinians, and Muslims everywhere, to a position of moral responsibility by renouncing support of terrorist organizations like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hizbullah.

Podhoretz follows this with a critical examination of the many varieties of anti-Americanism at home and abroad, citing numerous examples from the press, academia and publishing worlds engaging in what he dubs the "anti-American olympics". Here he makes the observation that "the hatred of Israel was in large part a surrogate for anti-Americanism, rather than the reverse. Israel was seen as the spearhead of the American drive for domination over the Middle East").

Finally, he reviews and rebuts some of the arguments against the establishment of democracy in the Middle East (by Fareed Zakaria, for instance), the charges that the Bush administration "misled" Congress on the war in Iraq (as made by Senator Kerry' Democratic campaign and Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911). He issues a plea to the Democrats specifically not to abandon the policies of our current president in the event that Kerry should win the election in November:

If John Kerry should become our next President, and he may, it would be a great calamity if he were to abandon the Bush Doctrine in favor of the law-enforcement approach through which we dealt so ineffectually with terrorism before 9/11, while leaving the rest to those weakest of reeds, the UN and the Europeans. No matter how he might dress up such a shift, it would -- rightly -- be interpreted by our enemies as a craven retreat, and dire consequences would ensue. Once again the despotisms of the Middle East would feel free to offer sanctuary and launching pads to Islamic terrorists; once again these terrorists would have the confidence to attack us—and this time on an infinitely greater scale than before.

If, however, the victorious Democrats were quietly to recognize that our salvation will come neither from the Europeans nor from the UN, and if they were to accept that the Bush Doctrine represents the only adequate response to the great threat that was literally brought home to us on 9/11, then our enemies would no longer be emboldened -- certainly not to the extent they have recently been -- by "our national discord over the war."

A very good and highly educational article, and worth taking the time to read.