Sunday, September 07, 2008

Twilight of the West

Exhausted from working all night, one morning seven years ago, I crawled into bed. Just as I was slipping into sleep, the telephone rang. I groaned.

"Turn on the TV," my friend said. "America is under attack."

Like most Americans, I didn't get much sleep that day.

I fell into a deep funk, perhaps even a depression, in the weeks following September 11, 2001. To me we were in a war we did not have the will to win.

My reasoning went like this: In World War II we faced a totalitarian ideology that wanted to destroy the west. We went toe to toe with fascism and destroyed it instead. In the Cold War we faced another totalitarian ideology that wanted to destroy the west: communism. Although we were undermined by pragmatism on the right and anti-Americanism on the left, we managed to win in the long run because of the weakness of communism.

Now we face yet another totalitarian ideology that wants to destroy the west, Islam -- or Islamofascism, militant Islam, Islamicism, whatever (the fact that we still have not settled on a name for the enemy is symbolic of the mess we are in). Unlike fascism and communism, which are based on the idiotic economic fantasies of Karl Marx, Islam is more dangerous because it is based on religious fantasies that cannot be easily disproved in this world -- at least, not to those who place faith above reason. Our enemies are willing to blow themselves up to get to heaven.

The rise of the New Left, specifically of multiculturalism, has weakened, if not destroyed, our ability to fight and win. We cannot fight the Islamic threat because our intellectuals no longer believe America deserves to win. These were my thoughts in 2001, and seven years later I still think so.

We should have wiped all terrorist states off the face of the Earth within days of September 11, 2001. Every dictator in the Middle East should have been urinating in his bed at night, wondering if the next bomb would fall on him.

We didn't do that. If we had, we would have been asserting America's national self-interest. Altruism will not let us do that. Altruism demands that America sacrifice its self-interest for the rest of the world. Instead we bent over backward to form a coalition and to get the UN to support us in our fight against totalitarians who want to destroy us. We most timidly ensured the world that we will not strike out on our own in our self-defense. Absurdly, the left to this day criticizes Bush for going it alone, not using diplomacy and losing the world's respect. No amount of sacrifice and appeasement will satisfy the anti-American left.

Take the Iraq War, setting aside the fact that Iraq was the wrong country to attack and we should have gone after Iran. For years the Bush administration has undergone constant criticism because their reason for attacking Iraq was weapons of mass destruction -- stockpiles of which were never found.

But why did the Bush administration make weapons of mass destruction their cassus belli? Because they wanted the UN to support the invasion and that was the only possible pretext they could use to get UN backing. Bush could not say what he should have said, "We have the right to destroy any dictatorship that threatens us," because the UN is filled with dictatorships. Such an assertion of America's national self-interest is impossible in a world ruled by altruism.

Since then, the left has been using the failure to find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to weaken America's will to wage further war. At this point, any widening of the war is probably impossible -- until we suffer another atrocity like September 11.

Because we have not fought the war seriously, as we did in WWII, our enemy still believes they can win. All they have to do is last long enough while our anti-American left destroys from within our will to wage war. It worked in Vietnam and Somalia; why shouldn't it work now?

According to Long War Journal,

Al Qaeda has reformed the notorious 055 Brigade, the Arab legion of al Qaeda fighters that was destroyed during the initial US assault in Afghanistan in late 2001.

The enemy is right: if they stick it out long enough, they will win. America no longer has the will to fight.

Tragically, we are waging a half-battle, and though our troops are doing a superb job, they are undermined by their leaders in Washington, D.C. When our warriors have to check with lawyers on the battlefield to get permission to escalate the level of force, that is not a serious war. When troops must stop at the Pakistan border and watch the enemy get away, that is not serious war. (Can you imagine Patton stopping at the border of, say, Yugoslavia because some State Department hand-wringers don't want to upset the rest of the world?)

The pragmatists, appeasers and anti-American leftists in Washington, D.C. would rather sacrifice American troops on the battlefield than anger the French.

Since 2001, the west's appeasement of Islam has made me more certain I am right in my pessimism. Bush refused to name the enemy. He called Islam a "religion of peace," a term that has become a joke on the internet. The cartoon controversy and the restrictions on free speech in Europe and Canada only show too well that the New Leftist west will commit suicide before it fights back seriously against Islam.

In the long-long run, I am more optimistic. A culture-wide change in philosophy -- a renaissance of reason -- will roll back the anti-industrial revolution on the left and the mysticism on the right. Once we regain the will to fight, the war will be easily won.

But until then, things will get worse before they get better.

(This post was written by request of Nick Provenzo, who wants this week's Objectivist Carnival to center around the theme of September 11.)


mike18xx said...

The British and the Spaniards knew what to do when you encounter a psychopathic death-cult religion: You slaughter the priests and raze their temples.

Doing so generally results in such good will among the relieved populace that they adopt your language and still think well of you centuries later even if, in many other respect, your presence in their country was completely predatory.

Galileo Blogs said...

Thank you for your elegant summary of where we stand, seven years after 9/11.

Gordon said...

Excellent post!

I'm afraid we will have to imagine Patton stopping at the border, not of Yugoslavia, but of Czechoslovakia (and we know how well that worked out):
'While Third Army soldiers were headed relentlessly towards Prague, Bradley attempted to relay Eisenhower's halt orders to Patton. He finally reached Patton by phone after the latter returned from Sunday church services. "The halt line through Pilsen is mandatory, George, for V and XII Corps," Bradley informed him. He also ordered Patton not to send recon patrols any farther than five miles north-east of Plzen. Patton's objections were vigorous but futile.'

I think that the palpable excitement caused by Sarah Palin's nomination reflects the underlying belief in America's founding principles and spirit held by many of us; we who are increasingly uncomfortable and chaffing under the postmodern altruistic sludge that's been dumped onto us by the New Left, its predecessors, and the so-called Religious Right -- just about immobilizing us all in its sticky goo.

Her persona harkens back to our almost vestigial pioneer spirit; back when we had to tame nature or wither; create or starve; build or freeze; defend or die. One gets the hint that, of all the current crop of mostly equivocating candidates, she alone would have given serious consideration to "wiping all terrorist states off the face of the Earth within days of September 11, 2001." More than giving it serious thought; we get a sense that she would have done it. Maybe that's just what we'd like to believe, with scanty concrete evidence, but at this late date, even just the glimmer is exhilarating. Talk about yer hope'n'change.

Grant said...

I was nineteen years old when I first read Atlas Shrugged. I didn't know what to think. No one had spoken so clearly and eloquently about such weighty and broad topics. I had never considered the idea of Western Civilization falling apart. I had taken it's existence for granted. Even in history class, or in "social studies" where we picked over the pickings of Third World tribesmen, these four walls, this formica countertop, this air conditioned room, it was all treated as inexorable. So I was thinking about what to think about all of this that Ayn Rand had said to me; and then 9/11 happened. In a strange sort of desensitized, teenaged way, I was relieved. It answered a question for me.

It took me another five years for the impact of such a set of ideas, and what they said about such an event, to fully sink in. It told me that yes, it is real. This was not the last chapter of the book; this was the first chapter of my adult life. Unspeakable acts of evil can and do occur. Our lives are not guaranteed. They are not a blessing from God. They are the result of our thoughts and our efforts. Myrhaf, I can now say, with a reluctant pride, that I am able to feel that "funk" that you felt. Great post.

Jim May said...

Something I noticed in your triad of the West's enemies: of fascism, communism and Islam, only the latter is not a creature of the Left.

Myrhaf said...

I think it was Mises who said the left/right distinction has never been meaningful. As I see it, there are those who understand that freedom means laissez-faire capitalism and then there are the other 99% of people.