As I try to penetrate the fog of the future, I keep reminding myself that we are in a big war, and that the big war is very similar to the Second World War and the Cold War: we are being attacked by a series of countries that support a messianic mass movement. Just as we broke the ideological spine of fascism and Nazism and Communism, we, or others, can do the same to jihadism. Since much of the appeal of such movements rests on the followers’ belief that the future belongs to them, the ideological consequences of defeat are enormous. You can see that in the case of our defeat of Iran and al-Qaeda in Iraq. It became much more difficult for bin Laden and Zawahiri to get waves of new recruits once it became evident that they had no chance to defeat us. Now they’re back, worse than ever, but that’s our fault. We didn’t — and still haven’t — come to grips with the unpleasant fact that it’s a big war, and we’ve got to win it on a big scale, not just in one place (after which we pack up and leave the future to our enemies).
If the jihadis are beaten in Syria, it will be bad news for the Brothers in Egypt. If Iran and Hezbollah are defeated in Syria, it will strengthen the anti-jihadi forces in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. And if Iran should implode, it would gravely weaken their proxies throughout the region, and their “Bolivarian”allies to our south. Etcetera, etcetera, and so forth.
We have skin in all those games, and we have numerous moves available. It may well be that, as the intel guys have been chanting for some time, “there is no good outcome in Syria.” But that’s only if you look at Syria out of the context of the big war. If I had to deliver a two-line recommendation to our strategists, it would be “the road to Damascus leads through Tehran. Support the Iranian opposition.” Without a jihadist regime in Tehran, Assad won’t survive (which is what we say we want, isn’t it?). Without this sort of regime in Tehran, the Egyptian Brothers will be trying to fly in a deflated balloon.
Meanwhile, don’t underestimate the effect of the overthrow of the Brothers in Cairo. They were faced with the biggest demonstration in human history, after all. It behooves us to take note. Very few have. The debate over whether or not it was a “coup” is unworthy of serious people, as coups do not involve upwards of fourteen million angry demonstrators. Some smart “expert” should be trying to sense its effects on the peoples and leaders of the region. I suspect they are quite substantial. For starters, the jihadis’ claim on the future of the world has received a big kick in a very sensitive part of its ideological anatomy.
Remember the 25th of July, and how surprising it was. I fully expect that the world of July 25th, 2016, will be equally surprising. I don’t envy the policy makers, but I do wish they had a better sense of the war we’re in and the urgency of winning it. I don’t expect to see many of them in high office under this commander in chief, which is yet another reason why I anticipate all manner of surprises.