Wednesday, October 31, 2007

World War IV

"Are we really at war against a deadly foe or are we fighting small bands of deluded fanatics whose probability of even minor success is pitifully low?"

- Christopher Wilcox, in the Wall Street Journal

Norman Podhoretz, the neo-conservative columnist, believes that we are currently engaged in World War IV (the Cold War being World War III). The term that cropped up in Pentagon briefings after 9/11, GWOT, or the Global War on Terrorism, has fallen into disfavor. How do you wage war on an asymmetrical strategy? The new term popular in many circles is The Long War. I'm not sure what we should call it, as long as we say we're at war. Not everyone believes that.

World War IV is another name for the worldwide struggle against an Islamist, fascist ideology that is actively at war with Western civilization and particularly the leading national representative of that set of beliefs, the United States. The war began on November 4, 1979 when some friends and cohorts of the current President of Iran assaulted the U.S Embassy in Tehran and took sixty six American citizens hostage.

Even though Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his friends declared war on the United States most of the country failed to notice. In the 1990s similar believers in their ruthless ideology tried to get our attention, killing Americans in the Marine barracks in Lebanon, in the streets of Mogadishu, in the World Trade Center attack of 1993, in the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, in Kenya, in Tanzania, and aboard the USS Cole in Yemen. The attacks on September 11 finally got our attention.

It seems, however, that some people have a short attention span.

The fact that over six years have passed without any subsequent attacks have led a number of people in our country to some widely varying conclusions. Some have concluded that maybe 9/11 was more luck than skill: Maybe we aren't at war after all. Maybe my political disdain for the current President and his inept handling of the war in Iraq means that the threat has gone away. Or better yet: never really existed.

Maybe. Maybe the ill starred war in Iraq consumed fanatics that would have traveled to the Homeland to kill Americans but didn't because there were so many nearby in the Euphrates valley. Maybe they are all nothing but a stupid bunch of ragheads who can only spell IED.

But then again what if they aren't? What if being paranoid is the appropriate reaction? What if they really are out to get us? What if we really are at war?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Good news on the war in Iraq

The good news is not that the Surge is working and the violence in Iraq has dropped dramatically. General Petraeus reported that news last month, to mixed reviews. The good news is that the Washington Post in an editorial today admitted that the General was right and his critics were wrong.

The criticism of the war will now shift from the "failed strategy" of the Surge to the failure of Iraqi politicians to resolve in a matter of days or weeks problems that were a century in the making. Calculating the interactions of the motives of all the political players and the internal and external factors that influence these players would be the equivalent of a supercomputer model that tracks the movements of a hurricane.

One can expect many commentators and talking heads in the upcoming months to provide their solutions.