A conservative news and views blog.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Monday, March 20, 2006

Fighting to Win

I have been saying for a long time that this whole ``winning hearts and minds`` strategy being employed in the war on terror is a recipe for defeat, and it looks like Jed Babbin agrees with me.

For example:

The only goal of this war, which Lowry and the others lost track of, is to end the threat of radical Islam and the terrorism that is its chosen weapon against us.

We mean to win this war by destroying the regimes that provide terrorists with weapons, funds, people, and sanctuary. We mean to defeat the radical Islamist ideology (for that is what it is, not a religion) as we defeated the Soviet communist ideology. I and those who agree with me aren't "to hell with them hawks": we are Endgame Conservatives.

We understand that Islamic terrorism cannot threaten us significantly without the support of nations. We are impatient with Mr. Bush's neo-Wilsonianism because it allows the enemy and its apologists to control the pace and direction of the war. We are unwilling to allow the prosecution of this war against the terrorist nations to be delayed for however long it takes for Iraqis to sort themselves out. It is impossible for them to do so while neighboring nations -- Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia -- actively interfere. Endgame conservatives don't want to caught in the web of failed nostrums of Vietnam. We won't wait for Islam to be reformed or to win the hearts and minds of the mullahs in Tehran. We don't consider Islam unreformable; but we understand that it is unreformable by non-Muslims. And we understand that the only way to spur Muslims to accomplish that reformation is to break the hold radical Islam has over a growing number of nations.

Lowry says that the global war on terror is most like a counterinsurgency, and that it can only be won by persuading radical Islamists to either lay down their arms or not take them up at all. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the war we're in, and what our goals must be to defeat the enemy. Like Vietnam, this war is not only a counterinsurgency. First, it is a war against nations that has to be fought both diplomatically and on the battlefields, both conventionally and otherwise. Second, it is an ideological war that can't be won with soft words and euphemisms. And third -- in Iraq, the Philippines, and much of the Horn of Africa -- it is both a counterinsurgency and war for ascendancy among tribes and religious sects.

We don't, like Lowry, completely mistake Vietnam. Lowry accuses us of missing the point that we only began to win in Vietnam when we "started to fashion a true counterinsurgency strategy focusing on hearts and minds, on holding territory and on training Vietnamese security forces." Endgame conservatives understand the principal lesson of Vietnam is something else entirely: if you fail to prosecute a war in the manner that will produce victory decisively, you will lose it inevitably. Iraq, by the President's and Lowry's formulation, is a self-imposed quagmire. They believe that unless and until we establish democracy there we cannot prosecute the war against the other national sponsors of terrorism.

Americans have always been naive as to the differences between themselves and others. We frequently see other peoples as Americans with funny accents, and we always want to believe the best about them. The sad fact is that not all peoples think the same way; there are, for example, people who want war, who love war and battle. (The idea that everyone wants peace stems from OUR desire for peace, which is derived from our Biblical, Christian roots. Throughout history most cultures have revered warriors.) Islam produces such a culture, and the concepts of strength (as opposed to power) and will are very important to that society. What we see as ``winning hearts and minds``, as charity and kindness, they often perceive as weakness and cowardice. We have to win first, make them know we have won, then we can go about winning those hearts and minds.

Our current efforts at kindness appear, I believe, as Dhimmitude and bribery for peace to the Islamic world, and do not have the intended effect. If we continue on this course we will face more and more enemies as a weak and vacillating America engenders their contempt. Babbin is right.

It`s the endgame that`s important. We need to start fighting to win!

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