Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Long War

MD writes:

We have two enemies in this "Long War" against terrorism — Islamofascism on one hand; complacency on the other.

To those I would add a third: (naive) incompetency.

--As in thinking that high-tech militaries alone can defeat insurgency/guerrillas groups...e.g. US in Iraq, Israel in S.Lebanon.
--As in not having a plan or a system capable of bolstering and reconstructing states in the wake of military overthrow--notice we only have a Defense and State Department not a Reconstruction Dept.
--As in thinking that one country can fight these fights alone (again see US and Israel).
--As in not being realpolitik enough to negotiate with "bad guys" when necessary (see US using Saudi Arabia to "pressure" Syria whatever that is, instead of direct negotiations, or more importantly direct US-Iranian talks).
--As in "we will be greeted as liberators".
--As in democracy will automatically flourish, that humans everywhere want freedom (read any Maslow lately?)
--As in orange modernism is defined as having people vote instead of classical liberal rule of law, modern differentiated institutions, market economies, etc.
--As in not regularizing/legalizing/defining how to conduct ourselves in this long war....i.e. lack of Congressional oversight on wiretapping, torture, rendition, Gitmo, on and on. This ambiguity leading directly to Abu Ghraib.
--As in the Secretary of Defense, in front of Congress, saying that we were not "losing ground" in Iraq or Afghanistan because even that day we had killed a large number of insurgents: success as defined as killing a bunch of the enemy, Vietnam anyone?

To colorize it generically---that's Islamofascism (blue), incompetency (orange), and complacency (green).

Without the incomptenecy one, the argument reduces to whether we need to be honest about how brutal Islamofascism is, and whether or not liberals are becoming neo-Chamberlains vis a vis the new Hitlers. Conservatives say yeah, liberals nea (usually).

The problem with that line of thinking is that it assumes if we just get tough and honest about the enemy, we'll prevail. However, we as yet have no "plan".

Bush's greatest strategic flaw, among a nearly infinite number, is his inability to see an overall war plan: i.e. mobilizing support domestically, economically, politically, dipolomatically. It is this fact that frightens me most because by not bringing the citizenry into this effort, there is already a strong drift towards isolationism, which is an untenable position in a globalized world.

We are not "losing" in the sense of the South in the Civil War. But we are definitely not winning so far in this Long War; I think that's a fair assessment. With generic slogans like "staying the course" and "freedom marching" we have no real sense of how to judge whether we are succeeding or not.

And for all this talk about Islamofascism (which I think is really not a very helpful term), the fact is the West can never truly decide the outcome. Only the "Muslim" world can. The West has to make sure how not to get itself caught into swamps like Iraq, S.Lebanon. It has to learn how to defend itself properly, and to create a vision of something different for those on the other side as we did during the Cold War. Right now our image is one of torture and arrogance.

As I've argued before we can think of this phase of Islam like their version of the Reformation: progressive versus reactionary (vertical), Shia versus Sunni (horizontal). And just like the Western Christian one, there is a lot of blood to be spilled before this will be over. The US has to help figure out the Israeli/Palestinian issue fast and create a new policy towards the Arab world, so that all that rage can be channeled (hopefully) to the transcendent leap into orange. The negation, the painful social-communal negation of 1400 years of history. But our lunatic adventures over there are diverting that hatred to us.

The issue is the creation of market economies and stable modern institutions (right-hand). Islam within those parameters will then adjust accordingly: see US/Canadian Islam for example of this.

This world is not going to survive/move forward in the next century unless the billion plus Muslims of the world are on board. We need them as much as they need us. Otherwise with increased technological efficiency, terrorism will be capable of massive death-dealing.

And all of the talk about a Clash of Civilizations, World War IV (or III depending on how you count) often obscures the fact of our deep need for a worldcentric connection.

Check out these two posts by ThomasBarnett which say it much better than I ever could (yellow vision for an orange, global world):

On Iran
On Sheik Nasrallah


At 1:09 PM, Blogger MD said...

Hey Chris,
Good to see you back!

I'd guess I'd agree about adding incompetency to the list. My hesitance, though, has to do with the fact that a war of the size we are amidst (possibly) without periods of gross incompetence small and large hasn't been fought. "War is hell" has a profundity deeper than most want to give it credit for. Also, it is still not clear to me how colorizing things via SD actually sheds light. The kind of speculative developmentalism forwarded as SD leaves a gigantic question of "Ok, but so what?" that was there before the SD analysis, as well.

I blogged a statement by John Podhoretz that summarizes so much: "What if liberal democracies have now evolved to a point where they can no longer wage war effectively because they have achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed pursuit of their own national interests?"

One could colorize that if one wishes, but the implication is clear enough as is, wouldn't you say?

At 4:28 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...


Of course there will be errors and some things no one, however prescient can foresee.

There were numerous voices raised prior the invasion that an insurgency would start, that we did not have the sufficient number of troops necessary, and that sectarian strife would abound. All those took place, so I think to that degree it is fair that leaders who missed the boat get held responsible for their actions.

Because when those voices are out there, and you are in a position of such awesome responsibilty and decide to undertake such a difficult endeavor with so much on the line, you better damn well have thought through, as much as possible, the consequences and prepare, as much as possible for negative outcomes.

Bush did neither, I'm sorry. I'm not a liberal, that just to me is an even-handed decision, taking all sides into account.

To my mind, he doesn't have the excuse of I couldn't have known better--because roughly the exact sequence of events that has transpired were predicted, often by those who many people esteem to be knowledgable on the subject at hand.


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