Who Goes There?
The reactions of Stephen Hadley and Frances Townsend to the London bombings in a New York Times signed article entitled "What We Saw in London" (hat tip: DL) emphasizes the ideological aspect of the War on Terror to such a degree that it is doubtful whether the traditional meaning of the word "war" can cover the case.
Muslims are the prize the terrorists hope to claim. They are also the victims of the terrorists, for suicide attacks have likely killed and wounded more Muslims than people of any other faith. ...
We have waged such wars before, and we know how to win them. Of course, every ideological war is different, and each presents new challenges. ...
First and most important, we must have a clear understanding of the ideology espoused by the enemy. ... The second important lesson flows directly from the first. An ideological contest can be a long and difficult one. Even bankrupt ideas have attracted followers for a time. And in making our case, we must overcome America's mixed record on supporting freedom in the Middle East. For too long we accepted a false bargain that promised stability if we looked the other way when democracy was denied. ... The third lesson is that the struggle against terrorism requires force of arms, but will not be won through force of arms alone. The victory in World War II was not complete until the Marshall Plan secured Germany's democratic political future. In the fight against Communism, our armed forces deterred the enemy. ...
Of course, Hadley and Townsend don't think so -- "we have waged such wars before, and we know how to win them". They are certainly correct about the Civil War, the Great War and the Second War being ideological struggles in historical hindsight. But only in hindsight. The issues of those wars were presented to their participants in stark racial or national terms; it was helpful but not absolutely essential to "have a clear understanding of the ideology espoused by the enemy" to fight Hitler. The Second World War soldier donned a uniform expecting to fight the enemy and counted on being sent home after he had done it. Only the Cold War required the ambiguity inherent in the present struggle against terror. When Douglas MacArthur declared "In war there is no substitute for victory" after being sacked by Truman, who feared he would too aggressively fight the Red Chinese, it was a cry of astonishment rather than a statement of fact. His chiefs had found a substitute for victory and it was called stability. When William Westmoreland died on July 18, newspaper obituaries remarked that he "never admitted the US military had lost the longest war in its history", probably because he never understood that his concept of war, as well as defeat and victory, had been altered by the political culture of the 50s and 60s. You were not allowed to win but you were allowed to lose. Ronald Reagan's achievement was that he reintroduced the concept of victory into the Cold War, from which, or so the Left believes, all the present evils of the world descend, including Islamism.
But OK. Hadley and Townsend are correct: America has waged ideological war before, and courtesy of Ronald Reagan, learned how to win them. This time things may be a little harder. One of the "new challenges" facing the Global War on Terror is asserting it exists. The Daily Telegraph describes how:
British diplomats are putting heavy pressure on the United Nations finally to make good its promise to devise an unequivocal definition and condemnation of terrorism. ... International efforts to write a global anti-terror treaty have been at an impasse since 1996, bogged down in the UN's legal committee as member states wrangle over the definition of terrorism. The legal committee will hold a fresh round of informal negotiations this week to move the pact forward.
Even though Mr Annan had pledged that the reforms, due to emerge from a UN summit this autumn, would include a "no-excuses" definition of terrorism, new doubts arose after delegates from Middle Eastern and Islamic countries began to demand compromises. ... recent debate has stalled on the classification of Palestinian suicide bombers and Israeli action in the West Bank and Gaza, with some countries questioning whether the definition would apply to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. ... Mr Annan said that he had "not given up hope" that the UN would be able to define terrorism. "I think a clear, simple definition that gets across the message that the killing of innocent civilians or non-combatants, regardless of one's cause, is terrorism pure and simple, will suffice," he said.
If MacArthur and Westmoreland had difficulty getting authorization to "win" in some military sense, current commanders face a more basic problem: getting recognition that their nation and much of the world is at war against an enemy which cannot -- witness Mr. Annan's difficulties -- actually be named. If the key to winning the Cold War proved to be Reagan's willingness to entertain the hope of victory, the key to winning the Global War on Terror may simply be a willingness to identify the foe. It's a start anyway.