The Long War
Newt Gingrich in a statement before the House Subcommittee on Intelligence characterized the War on Terror as the "Long war" against the "Irreconcilable Wing of Islam". He believed this struggle could take centuries to reach a decision and would be fought largely by words in rooms and city streets.
The Long War is 90% intellectual, communications, political, economic, diplomacy, and intelligence focused. It is at most 10% military. We have not yet developed the doctrine or structure capable of thinking through and implementing a Long War (30 to 70 years if we are lucky) on a societal scale. This challenge is compounded because it is fundamentally different from waging the Cold War against the Soviet Union. The Cold War was essentially a grand siege in which a defensive alliance could contain the Soviet Union until it collapsed.
Just how different the Long War might be from the wars of the 20th century is indicated by his next paragraph, which compares it to the Reformation, a struggle which left almost no aspect of society untouched.
This is an inherently offensive war in which we have to actively defeat our opponents. Furthermore this war resembles the Reformation-era wars of religion in which fellow nationals may be traitors serving the other side (examine Elizabethan England and the origins of the English secret service as an example).
The problem in such a struggle is defining "we". Who "you" were was the essential question in the Reformation; and much depended on the answer. The bitterness with which it divided Tudor England is still remembered in the following account.
Queen Mary I of England is called Bloody Mary because she persecuted Protestants during her short reign (1554-58). Her sister, Elizabeth Tudor, persecuted Catholics during her long reign (1558-1603) and she is called Good Queen Bess. Mary is criticized because she burned Protestants whom she considered heretics, but Elizabeth is praised as shrewd for persecuting Catholics, who did not accept laws passed during her reign making her both secular and spiritual ruler. Violations of these laws were considered an act of treason punishable by hanging, drawing, and quartering.
Although US casualties in Iraq have passed the 2,000 mark, the number is small in comparison to the loss of life associated with the World Wars. The following table showing the Office of Management and Budget's estimates for the coming decade of US defense expenditure as a percentage of GNP shows America is preparing to spend proportionately less for military activity than at any time in the recent past.
|Decade||Percent of GNP|
Yet in terms of its impact of social attitudes, political institutions, cultural and religious life, the Long War's effects may already have been far-reaching. Consider the somewhat comical example of George Galloway. The tabloid British Daily Record says that George Galloway is negotiating with Hollywood to produce a story of his life.
Galloway sidekick Ron McKay is also to feature in the film,which documents their early days in Dundee through to their infamous meetings with the Iraqi dictator. ... "I have suggested Danny de Vito plays George and George Clooney plays me." [McKay said]
While some are preparing to lionize Galloway, other parts of society are moving to throw him behind bars. Another British paper reports that he is being investigated by three separate government agencies.
George Galloway, the staunchly anti-war British MP, will be investigated by the United States Department of Justice for claims he lied to the Senate over Iraq oil money, The Business can reveal.
The Charities Commission in England and Wales has also requested documents which the US Senate permanent sub-committee for investigations says prove that illegal Iraqi oil money was laundered through a charity of which Galloway was a trustee. A dossier is being sent to Sir Philip Mawer, Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, who has a far broader remit to protect the reputation of the House of Commons and is expected to look into Galloway’s conduct as an MP.
Hero to some, heel to others. That description would apply not only to Galloway but to Ward Churchill, Karl Rove, Cindy Sheehan, Johnny Walker Lindh, Pat Tillman, Paul Wolfowitz or Cat Stevens. The example can even be extended to institutions like the Department of Defense and the United Nations. Each of these names acts like litmus paper to determine who "we" are. They describe a boundary line across the cultural face of the world. One agency which would immediately agree with Gingrich's characterization of the Long War as "90% intellectual, communications, political, economic, diplomacy, and intelligence focused ... [and] at most 10% military" is Al Jazeera, which has been fighting US military power through television, print and radio.
Shameless Plug Alert
The cultural aspect of the Long War is only being belatedly recognized. One man who is going to participate in this battle of ideas and words is Bill Roggio. He will embed with troops in Iraq to continue his blog. Mr. Roggio needs support to buy items like body armor and other gear which he must provide at his own expense. Please visit his site and help if you can.
My only thoughts are that Gingrich's Long War is a consequence of a larger phenomenon, the end of the European era. The rise of America to global dominance is, from another point of view, simply the result of surviving the European crash. David Fromkin argues in Europe's Last Summer that the Cold War was the tail end of the most consequential event of the 20th century: the Great War, caused by the fact that European Powers had run out of countries to conquer and hence, fell upon themselves. America has remained functional and grown to power as a nation, but it does not, nor does it seek to dominate the world to the extent of Europe in its heyday, when Britain alone governed a quarter of the world.
What the Great War did not wreck and the Second War did not finish off, postwar socialism did. Europe is facing death spiral demographics and flat economic growth. If current trends continue, India will surpass the German economy within a few years. But nowhere have the effects of Europe's only indigenous religion, Marxism, been more pronounced than in the country that embraced it most closely: Russia. Mark Steyn in The Australian revives a term once reserved for the Ottomans when he calls Russia The Sick Man of Europe.
Russia is literally dying. From a population peak in 1992 of 148 million, it will be down to below 130 million by 2015 and thereafter dropping to perhaps 50 or 60 million by the end of the century. ... most Russian women are voting with their foetus: 70 per cent of pregnancies are aborted. ... Add to that the unprecedented strains on a ramshackle public health system. Russia is the sick man of Europe, and would still look pretty sick if you moved him to Africa. It has the fastest-growing rate of HIV infection in the world. By 2010, AIDS will be killing between 250,000 and 750,000 Russians every year. It will become a nation of babushkas, unable to muster enough young soldiers to secure its borders, enough young businessmen to secure its economy or enough young families to secure its future. True, there are parts of Russia that are exceptions to these malign trends. Can you guess which regions they are? They start with a "Mu" and end with a "slim".
The world may be reverting to the pre-European era, and Gingrich's Long War may really be the Long War for the survival of the West. Not its return to dominance, but simply its right to continued existence; to the chance of rediscovering its identity. Winston Churchill understood that even the vast conflict which engulfed him was a battle within a larger War, for the preservation of something far greater than the survival of governments.
In private, Churchill was not always so sanguine. He forced himself and others, he admitted, to be brave "because everyone realized how near death and ruin we stood. Not only individual death which is the universal experience, but incomparably more commanding the life of Britain, her message and her glory."
Islam has always been militant and the West only recently supine. In fairness, Islam's only fault may be that it retained a belief in itself long after the West embraced self-disgust. It may be that Gingrich's Long War is less about fighting Muslims than about the West rediscovering itself. While it's apparent battlefields may be in the mountains, jungles and desert fastnesses, the only frontier that matters is in its own heart.