The Current Administration’s Position on Iraq and Terrorism & Objections to our Thesis
As this essay has attempted to illustrate, the administration’s position on Iraq and terrorism demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and causes of these acts of violence.
The validity of any theory is shown in its predictive power. The Administration’s belief in the value of democracy is correct. But its belief in the causes of terrorism, its belief that “they hate us because we are free,” and its prescribed solutions are badly off the mark.
This administration’s theory, stripped to its essence, is that terrorists are evil and if we kill them all, and destroy those who support them, terrorism will end. But as Aslan noted above regarding the fundamentalist brand of extremism, “The more one tries to squelch it, the stronger it becomes. Counter it with cruelty, it gains adherents. Kill its leaders, and they become martyrs.” The intelligence on which we invaded Iraq was wrong, but the theory on which terrorism is being fought is equally wrong. In the long run, that may prove to be an even graver mistake.
We hear some say that we can’t leave Iraq because “Americans don’t run.” “Running” or “not running” are not the correct benchmarks. Our obligation is to understand our true objectives and to show wisdom. It is not a question of military strength or bravery. Historically, no country’s military has dominated the other countries of the world the way ours does today, and that will be just as true when we leave Iraq. George Washington, who was our greatest general, side-stepped conflict more than most. His understanding of what the true objective was and what winning truly required led him to avoid most battles — yet win the war. Leaving Iraq under the Biden-Gelb plan will be an act of intelligence, not surrender, and instances of terrorism will go down, not up.
We hear that if we leave our absence will encourage the enemy. We hear that if we give an exit date it will encourage the enemy. We hear that if we criticize our government or its strategy we will encourage the enemy. But terrorists are highly encouraged now, and our current policies in Iraq play directly into their hands. As noted with France in Algeria in 1961 and America in Vietnam in 1972, departure brought no catastrophe. The only thing that will discourage them is if we address and overcome the true causes of terrorism.
Other apologists for the war are now saying that “we would rather fight terrorism over there than have to fight it over here” and note that there has not been “another 9/11.” This view has at least three major problems. First, the trillion dollars America is spending on the war has meant that it is underfunding domestic defense. The United States recently cut spending on protecting Washington D.C. and New York City — the very cities that were attacked. Secondly, the instances of terrorism have increased since 9/11 and occurred around the world, in London, Spain, Bali and many other places. Our heightened awareness has no doubt helped thwart terrorist plans in the U.S. thus far, but our defense against domestic attacks is unrelated to the war in Iraq. Thirdly, the idea that we might have to “fight terrorists over here” misses the fact that al Qaeda’s fight is primarily an internal struggle for ascendance within Islam. They strike out against the U.S. and others to gain visibility and a higher profile within the Islamic world, and because we support their opposition. Our best defense is a change of policy, not heightened aggression.
There are some who equate our “stand against terrorism” with the stand against Hitler in the 1930s, and say that those who don’t have the stomach for the Iraqi war are like Neville Chamberlain appeasing Hitler in 1938. We are not advocating appeasing terrorists.
However, reflecting on World War II can be instructive, especially the events that led up to it. We believe that if diplomacy had been maturely applied in the summer of 1914, or in the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, World War II would never have occurred and there would not have been a radical leader of Germany to contend with. But at both those pivotal moments there were too few who possessed the world view of George Marshall and too many with the world view of our current administration’s. Clear counsel and greatly improved communications in the summer of 1914 would have prevented World War I and its 21 million casualties. If a “Marshall Plan” had been deployed in 1919 instead of the recriminating and humiliating penalties that emanated from the Paris Peace Conference of that year, as Keynes suggested, the harsh economic circumstances and bitter feelings in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s that gave rise to Hitler would have never occurred. The retribution of 1919 became the National Socialist Party of the 1930s. As we stated earlier in this essay, oppression most often results in even more terrible subsequent events.
Some assert that the war on terror will inevitably last for decades. They state that the Cold War took decades to win and therefore this war will, too. We would agree that if it is prosecuted in the current manner, it will last for decades. But it doesn't have to. There are as many differences as similarities between the current specter of terrorism and the Cold War’s specter of communism, and most of our “wars” have ended far sooner than this. It was not our military that brought the demise of the Soviet state; the Soviet Union imploded on its own. Communism was an unsustainable form of government in that it depended on the majority of the governed being willing to work for the benefit of others rather than for themselves. It therefore almost immediately yielded to totalitarianism, and totalitarian states simply cannot compete against capitalist states in the creation of wealth. The threat of communism taking over the world, so manifest in the “domino theory,” was always hollow. The communists simply couldn’t afford to take over the world.
Among the many conscientious leaders in our country today, there are unfortunately those who promote this vision of Islam as the Evil Power in order to garner votes. This ‘politics of fear’ has been shown again and again to be a powerful tactic. It happened in the McCarthy Era, and it happened in Vietnam. We must not let it happen again here. There are even those apologists for the war who, echoing the communist domino theory of the past and current radical rhetoric, actually warn that extremist Muslims will “pick off all non-Muslim nations one by one” and won’t quit until “they have re-established the caliphate in Spain.” Fortunately, these are minority views, but reflect the profound lack of understanding about this issue.
We hear those who say that our cultures are too different for us ever to get along. But cultural differences as pronounced as these have been overcome on countless occasions throughout history. As others have observed, t he first half of the twentieth century was drenched in the blood spilled by German and Japanese aggression, yet only a few decades later it is hard to think of two countries more pacific. Sweden spent the seventeenth century rampaging through Europe, yet it is now an icon of nurturing tranquility . We also hear that some of our fellow citizens support the war because, as Christians, they are against the Muslim religion. Yet our reading of the New Testament would show it to be a Christian’s responsibility to approach others, including Muslims, with respect and love.