We discount many of our enemies’ public statements as sheer propaganda, or bravado, or just stuff “for domestic consumption,” but what if it’s what they actually believe? What if Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and the Caliphate crowd think that the Almighty is on their side, that the U.S. and Israel are on the run, and that Judgment Day is imminent? What if Vladimir Putin is dead set on restoring a Russian Empire?
In other words, what if our domestic-profit-and-loss model of foreign policy has very little to do with our enemies’ intentions and beliefs?
A remarkable quantity of the “analysis” of the current unpleasantness is devoted to explaining what is “really” going on inside the various hostile regimes and organizations around the world, the tacit assumption being that foreign policy is only understandable in the context of domestic disputes, power plays, schemes and whatnot. Thus, Putin’s maneuvers regarding Ukraine or Moldova are reflections of inner turmoil, Hamas’s attacks on Israel show us the internal divisions of the movement, and the proclamations of one or another Caliphate are the result of power struggles within the Islamist universe. Thus, Iran’s annoying refusal to come to terms with “the West” is because of an ongoing spat between Iranian reformers and hard-liners.
I think we ought to take their announced intentions more seriously, especially at the very top. I think Putin, Khamenei, Mashaal, Abbas et al. are trying to avenge what they see as historic catastrophes, and I think they are their allies are trying to dominate and destroy us. I think they despise and fear our freedom and democracy, both of which threaten their tyrannical rule.
So I think they hate us both for what we are, and for what they believe we have done in the recent and ancient past. I think these are strong convictions, and I don’t think we are likely to talk them out of them.
Swift rightly said “you can’t reason someone out of something he wasn’t reasoned into in the first place.”
In other words, there is no easy, conflict-resolution negotiation way out of the war that has been launched against us. Our enemies will wage that war until they have either won or lost.
Footnote: this means that, contrary to the multiculti dreams taught to Western students, all men are NOT the same, do NOT want the same things, and will NOT come to the same conclusions when presented with the same “information.” Lee Smith has some very good thoughts about the ways in which our foreign policy makers are more like Hollywood movie actors than serious strategists.
All of which brings me to the battlefields of Ukraine, Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon…. In each case, Iran and/or its Russian buddies are major actors. That is because they are integral parts of the global alliance–running from North Korea to Venezuela–that is waging war against us. Those are the key enemies we must thwart if we want a good outcome on each of the several battlefields.
But it is hard to find Western leaders willing to acknowledge the existence of this global conflict, let alone propose winning strategies. The urgency of a winning strategy is clear enough, and we have the crucial tools with which to conduct it: freedom and democracy.
Does anyone doubt that there would be less violence in the Middle East if the Iranian tyranny were replaced with a government freely elected by the Iranian people, whose desire for freedom and closer ties to the free world have been demonstrated so many times? So help them! Does anyone doubt that a Ukranian defeat of the Russians would advance the cause of freedom all over Europe? So help them! If you think sanctions work, then fight for tough sanctions on Putin, fight for tough sanctions on Iran and sanctions-busting countries like Turkey, China and Qatar.
But don’t throw your hands in the air and say that, because we can’t influence the political infighting in Moscow, Tehran and Gaza, we can’t win the global war. We can. Tactics vary from battlefield to battlefield, but our primary weapons are political and economic, not military.
Final thought: in one of his best essays, Eli Lake documents the limitations of Israeli intelligence. The Israelis were surprised at the scope of Iran’s covert supply of missiles to Hamas in Gaza. It doesn’t surprise me. One will get you five that we’d be flabbergasted to discover the Iranians’ program to supply, fund and train terrorists, including some now in our own country. In like manner, we’d be amazed at the positive effect of the fall of the Khamenei/Rouhani regime on the Islamists’ ability to slaughter. It wouldn’t “solve” the problem, but it would greatly advance our cause.
Instead, we’re helping enrich the Iranian regime and doing nothing to help its enemies. Did you really think Khamenei was going to agree to seriously limit his nuclear program, when he’s getting lots of goodies without doing any such thing? Do you really think that the Iranian regime will end its war against us?
I don’t. And I don’t think Putin will, either.
We can win or lose this war, but we can’t talk our way out of it.