Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Losing a War We Cannot Afford to Lose

Iran has been at war with America since November 4, 1979, when Iran seized the U.S. diplomatic mission in Tehran. Since then Iran has been behind numerous terrorist attacks, including the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 American servicemen, 220 of whom were Marines.

This was the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima (2,500 in one day) of World War II and the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the 243 killed on 31st January 1968 — the first day of the Tet offensive in the Vietnam war. The attack remains the deadliest post-World War II attack on Americans overseas.

Reagan's response was in effect the same as Carter's response to the hostage crisis: nothing. America continued its pragmatic policy of hoping to appease Iran and avoid war.

The war has continued to this day. In Iraq Americans are being killed by weapons provided by Iran. And yet, we continue to respond with the same pragmatic appeasement as we always have. Currently, our state department is hoping for a "diplomatic" solution with Iran. It seems that as long as Iran keeps the killing of Americans to an acceptably low number our government will continue to appease on a day-to-day basis.

Iran is the fountainhead of totalitarian, militant Islamic fundamentalism. As Leonard Peikoff put it in "End States Who Sponsor Terrorism,"

If one were under a Nazi aerial bombardment, it would be senseless to restrict oneself to combatting Nazi satellites while ignoring Germany and the ideological plague it was working to spread. What Germany was to Nazism in the 1940s, Iran is to terrorism today. Whatever else it does, therefore, the U.S. can put an end to the Jihad-mongers only by taking out Iran.

Only by ending decades of being a "paper tiger" by destroying Iran's regime of the mullahs will Islamic fundamentalists understand that we are serious about fighting back in the war they started against us.

When America invaded Afghanistan and Iraq after September 11, 2001, I supported those actions. Not only were the Taliban and Saddam Hussein dangerous, anti-American dictatorships, but by gaining Afghanistan and Iraq we would have Iran surrounded. We are now in an excellent strategic position to finish off Iran.

I knew that Bush's justification for attacking Iraq was a confused mixed bag. As Elan Journo of the Ayn Rand Institute puts it,

U.S. troops were sent, not to crush an enemy threatening America, but (as Bush explained) to "sacrifice for the liberty of strangers," putting the lives of Iraqis above their own.

Unlike Mr. Journo, who holds that invading Iraq was worse than doing nothing, I held out hope that Bush would go on to attack Iran. That hope has now been crushed:

A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, contradicting judgment two years ago that Tehran was working relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb.

As Peter Baker and Robin Wright put it in the Washington Post, the NIE report is "A Blow to Bush's Tehran Policy."

The new intelligence report released yesterday not only undercut the administration's alarming rhetoric over Iran's nuclear ambitions but could also throttle Bush's effort to ratchet up international sanctions and take off the table the possibility of preemptive military action before the end of his presidency.

Norman Podhoretz notes that the report's conclusion is the opposite of what they concluded just two years ago. He thinks the intelligence community is being too safe in light of their embarrassing mistakes regarding Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. And worse:

But I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations.

This report comes at a moment when the idea of attacking Iran was beginning to gain some momentum. As Robert Tracinski wrote on September 23, 2007,

For more than a year now, I have been arguing that war with Iran is inevitable, that our only choice is how long we wait to fight it, and that the only question is what cost we will suffer for putting off the necessary confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

Now, finally, there is evidence that some of our leaders are beginning to recognize the necessity of this war and are preparing to fight it. And so for past few weeks, as I have been documenting in TIA Daily, the newspapers have been filled with rumors and speculation about an American air war against Iran.

How is it that the greatest state sponsor of terrorism remains untouched by the "war on terrorism?" It is because America lacks clarity of thought about the war and is guided by faulty philosophical premises. This philosophic failure is not primarily the fault of the anti-American left -- if the right thought clearly and well about the war the left would be ignored and forgotten -- no, the problem lies with the Republicans who claim to be fighting terrorism.

60 years ago we soundly defeated fascism and left Germany and Japan free countries in four short years. That was before the rise of the New Left, altruism and multiculturalism. You could think of WWII as the last gasp of America's Enlightenment heritage of individualism and rational self-interest. Today we're incapable of fighting a serious war and doing what it takes to destroy the enemy.

This latest NIE report effectively stops our war effort as a result of our confusion of purpose. Imagine that Bush had said, "Saddam is a dictator who threatens America and we have right to destroy all dictators who threaten us. We will use Iraq as a base from which to destroy all states that sponsor terrorism." Everything would be different today. The UN would have squawked, as it is full of dictatorships that hate America, but who would care?

Instead, the Bush administration unwisely fomented WMD's as a cause of war in Iraq because it deferred to "world opinion" and wanted the UN to endorse the invasion. Bush set the precedent in Iraq: America would not pursue its self-interest, but would let the UN set the terms of the war. Since WMD's seem to be the UN-approved justification for war, a report that says Iran has halted its nuclear bomb program means the world would shriek if America now attacked Iran. Never mind that our intelligence is uncertain or that Iran might restart its program tomorrow.

What does this mean for the future? The enemy lives on to attack us another day. Sooner or later he will attack. As Andrew McCarthy writes,

Khamenei has reaffirmed that "Death to America" is Iran's motto, Ahmadinejad says a world without America is achievable, we have 30 years of evidence of the Iranian regime acting on those assumptions...

Iran is ideologically committed to destroying the Great Satan, America.

A liberal once told me that America must learn to live with terrorism as Israel has. To this altruistic liberal America seriously asserting itself and destroying our enemy was inconceivable. To the left our only conceivable future is one of long-term terrorism appeased by American sacrifice to the rest of the world.

I worry about what "learning to live with terrorism" would do to the American character. Cynicism and defeatism would spread through our culture as it did in the Hellenic Age and in the Roman Empire. I fear that mysticism would spread as Americans react to hopelessness in this world the way Augustine reacted to the sack of Rome.

[Augustine's The City of God] was written soon after Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410. This event left Romans in a deep state of shock, and many saw it as punishment for abandoning their pagan religion. It was in this atmosphere that Augustine set out to provide a consolation of Christianity, writing that it was the City of God that would ultimately triumph — symbolically, Augustine's eyes were fixed on heaven, a theme repeated in many Late Antiquity Christian art forms.

Hopelessness and cynicism would be good for the worst elements of the right and the left. They would increase mysticism and religion; and they would play into the New Left's project of replacing America's heritage of individualism with collectivism and statism.

When you think of the long-term stakes in this war, it really would be better for us to take it seriously and win the damn thing. We cannot afford to "learn to live with it." Such a lesson would cost America its soul.

(NOTE: This was my 600th post.)


Anonymous said...

Well, was the NIE report accurate or not? Isn't that what matters? Shouldn't we base our foreign policy on factual reality.

Gideon said...

Minor correction. You wrote: "When America invaded Afghanistan and Iran after September 11, 2001". I wish! Unfortunately, it was only Iraq.

By the way in response to anonymous. The issue to the exact stage of Iran's progress toward nuclear weapons may be in some doubt but Iran's enmity and acts of war are not. Myrhaf lists some examples but you can also take a look at Thomas Jocelyns report for details.

Myrhaf said...

Gideon, thank you for catching the typo; I have corrected it. And thanks for the link to Jocelyn's report. I've put it in my favorites so I can return to it and read the whole thing when I have time.

Anonymous, my point is that whether the NIE report is accurate or not, we should destroy the regime of the mullahs because it is the number one state sponsor of terrorism.

madmax said...

My reading on this subject since 9/11 has lead me down the direction that victory in this war goes beyond bombing Iran or any other Muslim country. The enemy is *not* totalitarian Islam or radical Islam or fundamentalist Islam. I wish Objectivists would stop using these redundant terms. The enemy is Islam. Period.

I am a hard-liner on this. The solution I have come to believe lies in not reforming the Islamic world as the Neo-cons want to do and even as some Objectivists want to do such as both Tracinski and BiDinotto. The solution is to *quarantine* the Islamic world and I feel that will entail the extreme limitation if not outright cessation of Muslim immigration.

Terrorism is just one of the weapons Muslims use to harm infidels. They have other weapons. One of their most powerful weapon is demographic conquest. They will take advantage of Western welfare-states and Western Multiculturalism. This will not stop even if we bomb the crap out of Iran (which we should do anyway).

Islam has waged a 14 century campaign of warfare to conquer the world. There is no culture that it has come into contact with that it has not tried to conquer. It is the most warlike religion in history. It is a religious Nazism or religious Communism. It needs to be bitch-slapped and then isolated in its own historic lands and thoroughly demoralized. Isolate the Muslims and let them kill each other. Leave tactical bases all over the place to bomb what we have to and to kill what we have to. Confiscate some of the oil fields and place them in a protective bubble to preserve our standard of living. These are the strategies that we should be hearing.

To really win this war, it would take an Objectivist Machiavelli combined with and Objectivist Von Klauswitz. Nothing less will do IMO.

With the exception of Yaron Brook, I have been very disappointed with Objectivist commentary on this subject. Too many of us are infected with NeoCon premises. In short, we are not ruthless enough. We need to be.

Myrhaf said...

Considering that multiculturalism is now taught in government schools as an unquestioned moral ideal, Madmax, your solution is impossible short of a philosophic revolution in our culture. Most people would rather that the West bled a slow death than do what you advocate.

I'm not convinced that Islam is hopeless. I think that if the influence of socialism and modern philosophy waned and freedom spread that Islamic countries could find a nice hypocritical moderation as Christians have. When people have wealth and freedom they will find justifications to keep them.

Anonymous said...

Myrhaf, you seem to regard the NIE report as an inconvenient truth that should have been repressed.
Whatever we need do about Iran, it should be based on realistic assessments and foreign policy judgments, however politically unpleasant they may be.

Myrhaf said...

Anonymous, I'm saying we know all we need to know from Iran's 30-year war against us that we need to destroy the regime of the mullahs. The NIE report will be used by those who want us to continue appeasement, when really it's beside the point.

madmax said...

"I'm not convinced that Islam is hopeless. I think that if the influence of socialism and modern philosophy waned and freedom spread that Islamic countries could find a nice hypocritical moderation as Christians have. When people have wealth and freedom they will find justifications to keep them."

The anti-Islam conservatives would dispute this (Bostom, Spencer, Fitzgeral, etc). They would tell you that Islam has existed for 14 centuries and never been reformed and that wealth and freedom are not things that the mass of Muslims want. They would argue that Islam is beyond redemption in any kind of reasonable time frame.

Now they are conservatives and part of what they say is motivated by a tribalistic desire to protect Christianity from competitors. So you may be right although I don't think so. Also, from the perspective of Objectivist intellectual advocacy what should we be doing? Should we be advocating reforming the Islamic world? I have shown liberal friends of mine columns written by Tracinski and they have responded with one word: "neoCon", which is what liberals accuse everyone of (well almost). But I have shown these same liberals essays and videos by Yaron Brook and the liberals responded with a different word: "warmonger". Now that to me is the response a liberal should give to an Objectivist because it shows how Objectivists totally reject (or should reject) altruism.

So, to me, when Objectivists lament that we haven't destroyed Iran without similarly lamenting that we haven't waged war on *Islam* it suggests to me a sort of denial. But as I say, I may be wrong.

Myrhaf said...

Madmax, I understand what you are saying. I still have this gnawing suspicion that we underestimate the power of capitalism and the power of American leadership in the world. Look at how quickly Germany and Japan became free countries. And Japan had no history of freedom. The "Asian tigers," India and Eastern Europe all indicate that people who have never had freedom can take to it in a short time.

Is Islam different? Maybe. If so, woe unto them.

madmax said...

"I still have this gnawing suspicion that we underestimate the power of capitalism and the power of American leadership in the world."

You have a point here. Even deeper than capitalism, the power of rational philosophy even if only in smaller increments may be enough.

"Is Islam different? Maybe. If so, woe unto them."

Vae Victi! As the old saying goes.

Anonymous said...

Ironically, the Iranian people seem to be the most liberal of all the Islamic states. They have a large number of young people and they are trying to adopt Western values much to the chagrin of the mullahs. I think that of all the Islamic states, Iran is the most likely to go through the cultural enlightenment that the Arab world missed out on a few hundred years ago. With the mess we are in in Iraq, I don't think the American people will stomach another military adventure in that part of the world. If the NIE report is accurate, then that's good news. It means we don't have to worry about Iran going nuclear anytime soon.

Rick "Doc" MacDonald said...

With regard to the accuracy of the NEI, these are the same people who said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Remember that? They were also saying as recently as a few months ago that Iran was still pursuing nuclear weapons. Now they say Iran is not pursuing WMD and gave that up in 2003 (the same period in which we kicked ass in Afghanistan and Iraq and got Libya to give up its WMD programs. Funny how the initial attack caused quite a panic isn't it? Too bad we didn't simply go all out then and end it). If people believe the NEI was cherry picking info on Iraq, why would people believe they are dealing straight from the deck now? The only possible answer is that they want to believe it. Well, trust the Iranians at your peril. One day, the country will wake up to reality. I just hope its not on a day when our ship of state is nearly sunk.

Anonymous said...

"With regard to the accuracy of the NEI, these are the same people who said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction."

Exactly. From what I understand, the NEI is composed of hard core leftists. The conclusion that I'm drawing is that our intelligence agencies are so corrupted by leftism that they are potentially irredeemably incompetent.

"Well, trust the Iranians at your peril."

Again, spot on. Dr. Peikoff described it this way, he said that Bush had a gun with only a few bullets and he wasted them by firing them into the ground. By wasting those "bullets" on trying to democratize Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush has discredited war and in all probability it would take something catastrophic to reawaken the American fighting spirit - if it even exists after decades of public (progressive) education and culturally reinforced altruism.

We may be in deep shit.

John Kim

Rick "Doc" MacDonald said...

Congrats on 600!

Myrhaf said...

Thanks, Rick! And counting...