Doom, Gloom, and War


Diamond Member
Nov 22, 2003
I guess I'm not alone...

Hawkish Gloom
Unfortunately, you’ll be joining me one of these days.

By Stanley Kurtz

Call me a gloomy hawk. It’s not just that I’m a hawk who’s disappointed with the course of fighting in the Middle East. My concern is that our underlying foreign-policy dilemma calls for both hawkishness and gloom — and will for some time. The two worst-case scenarios are world-war abroad and nuclear terror at home. I fear we’re on a slow-motion track to both.

No, I don’t think our venture in Iraq has gotten us into this mess. I think this mess has gotten us into Iraq. And the mess will not go away, whatever we do. Our Islamist enemy has proven himself implacable — unwilling to relent in the face of either dovish or hawkish policies. That means we’re facing years — maybe decades — of inconclusive, on/off (mostly on) hot war, unless and until a nuclear terror strike, a major case of nuclear blackmail, or a nuclear clash among Middle Eastern states ushers in a radical new phase.

Let’s take a moment to think about Castro. Castro is the master and pioneer of ornery third-world defiance. We need to appreciate the immensity of Castro’s achievement in preserving Cuba’s Communist dictatorship for 17 years after the collapse of his chief patron, the Soviet Union. It’s remarkable that, absent any great-power protection, and even after becoming, without Soviet subsidies, a permanent economic basket-case, Castro’s regime has not collapsed.

Let that be a lesson to those who wait for the collapse of regimes in Iran, North Korea, or Palestine because of long-term economic failure and/or economic sanctions. Yes, popular uprisings happen (as in Iran against the Shah). Yet it’s also clear that a posture of anti-Western defiance, combined with nationalism, ideology, and dictatorial rule is perfectly capable of sustaining a miserable, poverty-stricken, failed system far, far beyond the point that Westerners would consider tolerable or believable.

If you are willing to kill yourself — if you are willing even to impoverish, immiserate, and let die much of your country, you can accomplish a great deal. Hezbollah’s gains in its war with Israel stem from its ability to define success as mere survival, even as the country around it is destroyed. This is no mere clever public-relations spin, but the reflection of a profound reality: the growing independence of terrorist organizations from states, and the willingness of Islamist terrorists to sacrifice all in pursuit of fundamentally non-material goals. With military success (accurately) framed as the near-complete destruction of terrorist forces, decisive military victory is virtually defined out of existence.

This is why the United States has turned to democratization. The stick of military force combined with the carrot of democracy was supposed to have provided a way out. Unfortunately, democratization of fundamentally illiberal societies cannot happen quickly. Real democratization requires a great deal of time and deep, painful, expensive underlying cultural change, almost impossible to bring about without an effectively permanent military occupation.

Even a long-term military occupation cannot promote democratization in the absence of social peace. The Iraqi resistance’s greatest victory came with the very start of their campaign. By creating sufficient insecurity to bar Western civilians from Iraq, the real key to democratic change was blocked from the start. If advising an Iraqi bureaucrat, working with an Iraqi entrepreneur, or teaching at an Iraqi college had become career-making occupations for an ambitious generation of young American civilians, we might have had a chance to build genuine democracy in Iraq. Once the rebellion made that sort of cultural exchange impossible, the democratization project was cut off before it could begin.

I’ve made these points about the problems of democratization since before the invasion of Iraq (See my “After the War” and “Democratic Imperialism.”) In those pieces, I even “predicted” the sort of trouble we’re seeing now. Yet, despite that gloom, I was, and remain, a hawk. I am hawk because I believe that the danger of nuclear terror and nuclear blackmail remain real, and because I am convinced that negotiations from weakness, grand bargains, and unilateral retreats are powerless to defuse these threats. In short, I am a gloomy hawk because I believe that neither hawks nor doves have any viable near-term solutions to the problem we now face.

Globalization, economic advance, and technology are at the root of our dilemma. It is remarkable that 9/11 meant more civilian casualties from a foreign foe than this country had ever experienced at a blow. Without the movement of Middle Easterners to Europe (to learn our languages, take our classes, etc.), without our modern mastery of building technology and air travel, 9/11 could not have happened. Recall that the plan of the first, failed blast in 1993 was to topple one World Trade Center tower into the other, bringing both down on surrounding buildings for a possible total of 200,000 dead. This was the approximate combined total of dead at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The 1993 terrorists were consciously focused on that precedent, wanting to inflict nuclear-level damage on the United States.

The destruction of the World Trade Center raised the possibility that a rogue state might supply terrorists with a nuclear bomb, or enough material to make such a bomb. Already, there was an alliance between a state (Afghanistan) and a terrorist organization. But in the war between Israel and Hezbollah, we’ve seen a further step toward the feared pattern. Hezbollah rockets have already inflicted far more damage and disruption on Israeli civilians than attacks in any previous Middle Eastern war. That is because military technology is getting ever cheaper, more advanced, and more available, and because of a military alliance between a supplying state (Iran) and a terrorist organization.

So we are already seeing a terrorist-executed proxy war against the West using advanced technology supplied by a rogue state. It only remains for a nuclear device to replace the cheap rockets. Iran is working on that. This is why Europe, led by France, is moving into the American corner. The internal Islamist terror Europe had hoped to avoid by distancing itself from the United States is happening anyway. And Europe fears that a terrorist-supplied Iranian bomb, a nuclear-armed Iranian missile, or an Iranian attempt to corner the world’s oil supply through nuclear blackmail, pose direct threats to the continent itself.

Our attack on Saddam was the easiest way to create a credible threat of force against Iran and North Korea, while also cutting out Saddam’s own capacity to build or buy (from Korea and/or the A. Q. Kahn network) his own nuclear weapons. For this reason, it needed doing. Given the immense dangers faced by the West, and compared to our sacrifices in World War II and Korea, 3,000 casualties is not an excessive cost (tragic as these losses are). Yet our domestic divisions, and our inability to pacify Iraq have largely (although not, I believe, entirely) canceled out the deterrent message of the invasion.

Without a credible threat of force (and maybe even with a credible threat), there is simply no way that negotiations, “grand bargains,” or unilateral withdrawals will accomplish anything. Israel had about as credible a threat as anyone could. Given its foes’ rejection of a reasonable American-brokered deal, Israel tried unilateral withdrawal instead. Now look what’s happened. The depth of the Moslem world’s failure to adjust to modernity, the profundity of its need for scapegoats, the seeming boundlessness of its willingness to accept the death and destruction of its own in exchange for the “honor” of “revenge,” are difficult for Americans to acknowledge. Read “A Middle Way” (by David Warren in the Ottawa Citizen) and you will see that the Western public is systematically sheltered from the sort of news that turns people into gloomy hawks.

Wishful Thinking
At Newsday, typically dovish Middle East Studies professor Fawaz Gerges says, “Hezbollah has risen to fill a social need.” I find Gerges’s vision of a solution in the Middle East utterly naive. He pretends that Hezbollah is not standing as a proxy for Iran, and acts as though a little bit of forceful negotiating can prod Hezbollah into disarming, and Israel and its Arab foes into a comprehensive settlement. But Israel has already made the sort of gestures that ought to have created momentum for peace. Instead, it’s gotten more attacks, and the persistent calls for its destruction so chillingly described by David Warren.

On one critical point, however, Gerges is right. If liberals are lost in wishful thinking about the prospects of negotiated settlements and nuclear containment, conservatives are naive about the possibility of ending terror by a decisive military blow. Gerges is right that Hezbollah is not some finite terror force, but the expression of the will and aspirations of a massive portion of the Lebanese people. As such, it is unlikely to be bombed out of existence.

Gerges makes the doves’ favorite point: bombing and war only breed more terrorists. True enough, but only because the underlying cultural dilemma of Muslim modernity has created a need for scapegoats. War ought to produce the realization that peaceful compromise is the way out. Instead it produces the opposite. Gestures for peace fare no better. Withdraw or attack, the results are the same: more hatred, more terror, more war. Compromise and settlement have been ruled out from the start by a pervasive ideology, an ideology that is a product of the underlying inability to reconcile Islam with modernity.

New Israel
This means that the entire Western world now stands in a position roughly analogous to that of Israel: locked in an essentially permanent struggle with a foe it is impossible either to placate, or to entirely destroy — a foe who demands our own destruction, and whose problems are so deep they would not be solved even by victory.

We can leave Iraq, as the Israelis left Lebanon. But we’ll likely be back, there or somewhere else, before long. Some say our army should wait among the Kurds, striking selectively in the rest of Iraq, only when al Qaeda returns. That’s a plan. Yet its likely to end up where Israel is in Lebanon, especially if al Qaeda starts kidnapping American soldiers with cross-border raids into the “Kurdish entity.”

Meanwhile, short of a preemptive war, Iran is bound to get the bomb. No grand bargain or set of economic sanctions can deter it — especially now that Iran is convinced of its success in creating havoc for the West, and in consolidating popular support through its proxy attacks on Western interests. As Ian Bremmer reports in “What the Israeli-Hezbollah War Means for Iran,”

Iran is convinced it’s winning, while America and Europe are increasingly convinced that a nuclear-armed Iran would be an intolerable danger to their interests. “ much more dangerous the war in Lebanon would be if Iran had a nuclear weapon.”

Collision Course
The West is on a collision course with Iran. There will either be a preemptive war against Iran’s nuclear program, or an endless series of hot-and-cold war crises following Iran’s acquisition of a bomb. And an Iranian bomb means further nuclear proliferation to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as a balancing move by the big Sunni states. With all those Islamic bombs floating around, what are the chances the U.S. will avoid a nuclear terrorist strike over the long-term?

You don’t believe that dovishness and negotiations will fail? Just wait till President Hillary tries to buy off the Iranians with a “grand bargain.” Just wait till a nuclear Iran is unleashed to make further mischief. A seemingly futile and endless occupation of Lebanon once split Israel down the middle, breeding an entire generation of Israeli doves. Now Israel is a united nation of gloomy hawks, transformed by the repeated failure of every gesture of peace, and by the reality of their implacable foe. (See “Praying for Hummus, Getting Hamas.”) I’m betting that someday we’ll all be gloomy hawks, too. As for me, I’m already there.
This is a good review of the state of and future of US foreign relations with the Middle East. Although, I have to disagree with the part about it being inevitable that Iran will get a nuke. We can't think that way at all. Iran cannot and will not get a nuke. I really don't want to watch the future of the human race go down the toilet like that.
Not at all alone:

A Hinge of History
August 9th, 2006

As I recline in my virtual hammock this lovely Midwestern midsummer’s day, feeling the warm, gentle breezes as they waft across my face (“God’s air conditioning” we call it out here), my thoughts turn to the currents and eddies of history that are churning just below the placid surface of the mundane, the day to day happenings in the world. Another war here. Some kind of dust-up in Africa. Is there no end to Asian “economic miracles”? And Old Man Europe, grown senile and oblivious to all but his ever growing number of pensioners, waits patiently, almost willingly, for the sword of Allah.

But behind history’s curtain what actually matters is visible in outline. Demographers call the outlines “trends.” Historians might refer to them as “underlying forces.” Judging by what these trends or forces are telling us, there is absolutely no reason for an American living at this time in history to be optimistic about much of anything.

It could be that my “black dog” has ahold of me today and that tomorrow I’ll wake up and take a deep breath, ready to go out and face the dragons again with a sneer and a smile. Or it could be the melancholy thought that summer is nearly over and the prospect of facing another Chicago winter depresses me. (I used to wonder why older people in the Midwest moved to Florida and Arizona when they retired. No longer.)

But upon reflection, I think not. This is more than a passing wave of unease, more than a troubling flutter in the pit of my stomach. The world is changing in ways we can barely grasp. We are unable to discern the true nature of our discontent because, in a way, it is hard to believe that things could change so quickly that our perceptions about events have become either obsolete or laughably false.

When in doubt, blame Bush. But truthfully, what is happening below history’s radar has been in motion since before the Berlin Wall fell. Some decisions we’ve made in the last decade and a half have exacerbated our dilemma. Others have simply put off the inevitable. All told, where we are today is the result of many things beyond our control – birthrates, political changes in other countries, an aging population in the West, and a flexing of political and military muscle by an emerging reaction to modernity itself.

The world in the 21st century is moving too fast, leaving too many behind. And the rush to catch up is going to get very bloody indeed.

We are not just facing Islamic fundamentalism as a foe. We are also fighting the unrealized expectations of most of the planet’s inhabitants. Those expectations have been raised to stratospheric heights largely as a result of the accomplishments of the West in creating and maintaining a way to live life with more opportunity for people to thrive than at any other time in the history of human civilization. Two reactions predominate:

1. In some quarters, this visible possibility has bred resentment, a belief that our success has come at the expense of others who are more worthy, more deserving in the eyes of Allah.

2. In other quarters, these expectations have fueled dreams of freedom and a belief that anything is possible if you are brave, work hard, and have faith in the future.​

I regret to say there are many, many more of the former than there are of the latter. As I write this, it has becoming enormously hazardous for the freedom-seekers to preach their gospel of change and hope.

In Lebanon, the Cedar Revolution is becoming a distant memory. The well-meaning but ultimately weak politicians were unable to face the prospect of confronting the evil in their midst. They thought that they had all the time in the world to deal with Hizb’allah, to try and fit them someplace into their crazy quilt patchwork of a confessional society – not realizing that somewhere a clock was ticking and that their ever-vigilant and determined neighbor to the north could only allow so much provocation before taking matters into its own hands.Now, as they survey the wreckage of their country and of their revolution, dark hints from Hizb’allah leader Hassan Nasrallah point to a post-war Lebanon where opposition to the terrorists means signing you own death warrant. How that drama will play out is anyone’s guess.

In Iraq, hope has turned to despair as a bloody cycle of revenge killings is spiraling out of control, aided and abetted by the anti-American, pro-Iranian zealot Muqtada al-Sadr. The agony of the Iraqi people has been made worse by a strange paralysis that has gripped the government which seems unable and unwilling to disarm the militias and stop the killing.

Both Nasrallah and al-Sadr are being goaded on by the Iranians and their crazed but canny leader President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Caught with his hand in the nuclear cookie jar more than once, the world still seems unwilling to take the steps necessary to keep the most powerful weapon in the world out of the hands of the most irresponsible leader in the world. If ever a recipe for unmitigated disaster were staring us right in the face, it is a nuclear-capable Ahmadinejad and his unhinged hatred for Israel and the United States.

In Somalia, where a group calling themselves the Islamic Courts is systematically turning that forlorn and war torn land into a future base for jihad to Darfur where the slaughter continues unmercifully, to Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, – good and decent men everywhere seem to be in the grip of some horrible debilitating disease that saps their strength and steals their hope.

Then there are the deliberately self-deluded who are either too stupid or too cowardly to recognize the evil in the first place. With a cognitive dissonance that would be laughable in less serious times, they blame the violence on those who are responding to the violence. Perhaps the apogee of this phenomenon occurred when the Secretary General of the United Nations opined that it appears that the State of Israel had committed a war crime by accidentally bombing a building in Qana, Lebanon killing 28 civilians, while not mentioning that Israel’s enemy gleefully launches barrage after barrage of murderous rockets at Israeli cities deliberately trying to kill as many innocents as possible.

Hizb’allah and other terrorists are actually being cheered on by people all over the world who view both Israel and the United States through the same darkened prism of hate and envy. Thanks to the wonders of modern media, the terrorists see how those who practice the secular religion of western freedom and tolerance live apparently without want, without cares. Their own desperate poverty and hopelessness seems to them a product of a conspiracy carried out by those much better off. Their own wretched political and economic choices, sanctioned by their theology, by definition cannot be to blame, for they are based on Allah’s perfect word.

In an almost childish way, they seek to graft 21st century Western miracles onto the back of their 7th century desert rulebook. The inevitable disappointment when the graft doesn’t take only enrages them further.Just about half of the United States wishes to confront this evil head on. The numbers are much smaller elsewhere. And we are finding in Iraq and everywhere else that our military sophistication alone isn’t enough to bring victory. We can vanquish armies. But we can’t snap our fingers and rid the world of hopelessness and envy. It seems the more we do to protect ourselves and try to help others face the threat, the forces arrayed against us gain strength and influence.

The war in the Middle East could be a hinge of history that opens a door to reveal an entirely different world than the one in which we are living now. It could be that the confluence of a perceived Israeli defeat at the hands of Hizb’allah and the defeat of Republicans in November (thanks in no small part to what is happening in Iraq) could presage a much more cautious approach to dealing with our enemies.

I can think of nothing more disastrous. Our foe will not vouchsafe us breathing room to try and figure out what to do next. He will in fact redouble his efforts in Iraq and elsewhere, going for the kill, believing quite rightly that he has us on the ropes. What we will congratulate ourselves for – our forbearance and “understanding” – will be seen as weakness and a lack of resolve by the enemy. It will do nothing to deter him and will in fact embolden him in ways we can only dimly perceive.

The crisis in the Middle East has shown us that the enemy is playing for keeps. And if we are to safely cross the threshold of this doorway to a new world, we are going to have to remember that one salient fact. Otherwise, our enemy will remind us of it in ways that are too horrible to contemplate.

Rick Moran is a frequent contributor and is proprietor of the blog Right Wing Nuthouse.
What I got out of reading this article is that we are fighting a war more against ignorance than anything else. Our military is designed to fight other organized militaries, not to police nations. Maybe the War on Terror should shape-shift into more of a culture war to inject Islamic culture with a vaccine of Western ideals. Instead of bombs, send Wal-Mart and Starbucks over there to colonize the place. Ya get me?

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