Ed Driscoll

The Isms Aren't Wasms Yet

There’s a saying that’s been attributed to historian John Lukacs as he watched the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s: “The isms have all become wasms.”

Not quite.

Writing on the connections between fascism and pacifism 50 years prior, George Orwell remarked:

Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’. The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle, while living on food which British sailors have to risk their lives to bring you, is a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security. Mr Savage remarks that ‘according to this type of reasoning, a German or Japanese pacifist would be “objectively pro-British”.’ But of course he would be! That is why pacifist activities are not permitted in those countries (in both of them the penalty is, or can be, beheading) while both the Germans and the Japanese do all they can to encourage the spread of pacifism in British and American territories. The Germans even run a spurious ‘freedom’ station which serves out pacifist propaganda indistinguishable from that of the P.P.U. They would stimulate pacifism in Russia as well if they could, but in that case they have tougher babies to deal with. In so far as it takes effect at all, pacifist propaganda can only be effective against those countries where a certain amount of freedom of speech is still permitted; in other words it is helpful to totalitarianism.

Flashforward back to the present. Michael Totten looks at “The Logic of Pacifism“, as it relates to a more modern form of totalitarianism, Islamofascism:

It isn’t possible to steer clear of Al Qaeda’s wrath by fighting them in some places but not in other places. If British troops withdraw from Iraq, Britain will still be a target for retaliation or revenge because of the troops on the ground in Afghanistan. Redress only one of the grievances which enrage the suicide bombers and they’ll get something for nothing.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that appeasing some of Al Qaeda’s demands (those precious few that are actually appeasable) will at least put a given country lower down the hit list if not actually all the way off it. Okay then. Why not go as far as possible? If it’s worth doing something to mollify Al Qaeda, then it’s worth doing another thing to mollify them even more. If the whole point is to keep your head down, then keep your head down. Lowering your chin but not your forehead is not going to cut it.

It’s real simple. If invading Iraq was a bad idea because it enraged Al Qaeda and handed them fodder for recruitment propaganda, then invading Afghanistan was likewise a bad idea because that, too, enraged Al Qaeda and handed them fodder for recruitment propaganda. If military action provokes retaliation, and retaliation must be avoided, then any and all military action must be avoided always and everywhere. Fighting the enemy anywhere at all will produce exactly the same result: they won’t like it and will want to fight back. That always happens in war. Otherwise it wouldn’t be war.

And we’re still assuming (solely for the sake of argument) that Islamists only commit terrorism in retaliation, which is demonstrably false. Islamist terrorism has also exploded in Turkey, Argentina, Morocco, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Tunisia. Not only did none of those countries invade Afghanistan or Iraq, half of them are Muslim countries themselves.

Anyway, the logic that Britain or any other country should stay out of Iraq in order to duck Al Qaeda’s crosshairs is the logic of pacifism. It makes no sense to use this logic selectively when picking and choosing which battleground is acceptable and which is not (Afghanistan yes, Iraq no) unless you’re against fighting back categorically. No military action is acceptable to Al Qaeda. Any and all can provoke retaliation.

Those who argue this line of reasoning are going to have to go all the way with it or drop it entirely. They’re either pacifists or they aren’t. Military strikes against terrorists and their enablers should be eschewed in order to avoid retaliation or they should not be. Al Qaeda is not going to take any country off its enemy’s list if it only withdraws from one of two combat fronts in the Terror War.

Those who think invading Afghanistan was wise and invading Iraq was a mistake can and will have pacifist logic thrown at them by others (like British MP George Galloway) who also opposed removing the Taliban. If you know how to argue with pacifist opponents of regime-change in Afghanistan, then you know how to argue with pacifist opponents of regime-change in Iraq.

Would that Orwell have lived to observe firsthand the pretzel logic of the modern left. On the other hand, Christopher Hitchens (arguably Orwell’s British successor) sure is having lots of fun untwisting it.