Nelson Ascher posted a remarkably gloomy mini essay on Europundits. He basically says we are doomed.
It is absolutely, I repeat, ASOLUTELY unbelievable, but the enemies of the war are winning the peace or rather are managing to reverse a brilliant military victory. What took them years to do in Vietnam, they’re doing right now in a matter of months. Iraq was defeated in weeks, the axis of weasels was demoralized, Saddam was captured and, even before that, his sons were killed. Yet, the guys whose jobs are in jeopardy are Bush and Blair.
I support the Bush and Blair foreign policy to the hilt. But still I have to say…their jobs must be in jeopardy. We haven’t had an election since September 11, and it is right and proper that their record so far be subject to referendum.
If they both get kicked out of office over the national security question, then I will be shocked and agree it is unbelievable. As it is, we still don’t even know who will run against Bush. (I’m leaving Blair out of this discussion from here on out because I’m a little too fuzzy about how this is going to play out in Britain.)
The likely Democratic nominee looks like John Kerry today, and he is alarmingly wishy-washy about the greatest question of our time. But he’s still in a primary race which drives American politicians toward the margins. The good news is that the farthest left John Kerry will go is only a half-hearted opposition to the liberation of Iraq. He did vote for the authorization, so even if he’s a bit spineless about it, he isn’t a peacenik or a reactionary isolationist.
In the meantime Sharon freed hundreds of terrorists [and] declared that he will pull out of Gaza while Arafat, whose tactics and strategy were soundly defeated, runs no risk at all [and] may begin to consider himself a winner of sorts.
That’s a bit of a bigger problem. But I’ll add that the settlers in Gaza are going to have to pull up their stakes at some point. It’s probably best that they wait until the jihadists are defeated so it doesn’t look like a weak Israeli retreat. But do keep in mind that most Israelis don’t want to hold onto Gaza. The Israeli advantage is miniscule compared to the diplomatic and security price paid. And nothing, not even Palestinian sovereignty, will stop Israel from plunging back in to stop threats to its people.
All this points to the wiseness of those who, immediately after 9/11, wanted to strike Iraq first.
I couldn’t agree more. We waited far too long to take care of Saddam. And for what?
It’s hard to remember it now, but in those weeks after the attacks the US had carte blanche to do whatever it wanted: it could have nuked Kaboul, Baghdad, Ryadh, for instance, and nobody would have dared to complain.
Well, I would have complained. Quite loudly in fact. And so would a lot of other people. During the first week after September 11 I greatly feared an American over-reaction. And when I realized the Bush Administration wasn’t about to commit an atrocity in the Muslim world, I quickly swung around to a militant hawkish position. If we had committed atrocities, the Bush Administration would be massively, perhaps violently, resisted right here at home.
Instead, possibly convinced by Powell and Blair, Bush opted for a “rational”, gradual strategy: Afghanistan first, then the formation of a coalition, then Iraq. We’ve seen what happened: this gradualism gave the fifth columnists inside the Western camp time to regroup and forge their own, up to now quite, successfull, counterattack.
John Kerry and Howard Dean are not fifth columnists. Leave that designation for the likes of International ANSWER. Kerry and Dean are weaker than Bush and Blair, but they do not hope the enemy wins.
Now is a good time to remind ourselves exactly what a fifth columnist is.
A clandestine subversive organization working within a country to further an invading enemy’s military and political aims.
Back to Nelson Ascher:
During the run up to the Iraqi campaign I was quite worried: would the US have the nerve to go ahead? It seemed that Bush might well give the whole thing up at any moment. We’re in the same situation again: the war on terror seems, outwardly at least, to have stalled. Memories of 911 are as good as dead for most of the world and, as before the invasion of Iraq, the UK is the weak link in a problematic chain. People are saying that Blair’s mistake has to do with the 45 minutes claim, and this may well be true, but his much bigger mistake was probably to persuade Bush to postpone the Iraqi campaign in order to get the EU, the UN and who knows who else in the boat. He’ll possibly pay for this mistake. The trouble’s, however, is that he won’t be paying for it alone. Maybe Bush will pay too and, choosing for both England and the US governments unconcerned with the Islamist threat, we’ll all end up as losers.
I am very close to being a single-issue national-security voter. But most people are not. If Bush loses the 2004 election it will likely be despite, not because of, his foreign policy. Most Americans support an aggressive response to terror and dictatorship, and a lot of people are troubled with Bush’s presidency for domestic reasons. And that includes a large swath of Republicans.
If Bush loses, our enemies will almost certainly see that as a victory, which will be bad, unless the post-primary Democratic opposition matches his hawkishness with their own. But even if a weak-kneed John Kerry moves into the Oval Office, the Democrats will almost certainly grow more hawkish. They will have the burden of responsibility. It could change them as much as it changed the previously isolationist Bush. Mainstream Democrats are not instinctively pacifist. Opposition on the left to Bill Clinton’s raids over Serbia was miniscule. Much of the opposition to Bush’s foreign policy is pure partisan loathing and gamesmanship which will immediately evaporate if Bush is sent back to Texas. Dean, Kerry, and the rest of them are under a tremendous amount of political pressure to distinguish themselves from Bush. If one of them takes the White House, they’ll have a tremendous amount of pressure of a very different sort.
By the way: do the Islamists know about this? Can it be that their failure to attack Britain or the US itself was no failure at all, but a kind of tactical retreat, a way to allow their fifth columnist allies to weaken each country’s defenses from inside before a new huge terrorist onslaught?
That’s certainly possible. I hadn’t thought of it before, and it could well be true. But Al Qaeda isnt’the most sophisticated bunch around, and they seem to have all the restraint of a rabid dog. I imagine they are as likely as Westerners to engage in mirror imaging, the projection of traits from their own culture onto our own. Osama bin Laden thought Americans would think 9/11 was an American military coup, thus showing just how out of touch with our country he is.
Still, these guys aren’t stupid, and they very well may be waiting for Bush to leave before they strike us again here at home. But all that will accomplish is a ramp-up in the hawkishness of the Democratic Party, which will leave the jihadists with no viable peace movement to save them.
Are they holding their fire because they expect, in the absence of some new outrage that would re-awake the public opinion, Blair and Bush to fall? If so, they’re more dangerous than I’ve imagined, their alliance with forces inside the Western camp is deeper than I’ve imagined and, well, we are doomed.
Nelson, Al Qaeda doesn’t have an alliance with the Democratic Party. If a Stalinist goon from ANSWER were to run against Bush in the general election, then your fears would be grounded in fact. In the meantime, those on the fringe left who really are in cahoots with jihadists are marginalized. They set the tone at protests and have a corrosive effect on Democratic rhetoric and primary positioning, but so far that’s about it.
The tragedy of the liberals is that too many refuse to denounce the enemies to their left. And they often banish as heretics the moderates who do. The price they pay is that conservatives and some centrists actually fear them. But it’s easy to take this too far. The liberal left is much more than the punks in the streets and the cranks at The Nation.
If anybody can prove me that all or most of the above is wrong, I’d be quite grateful to hear about it.
I can’t prove it, and I doubt anyone can. If you want to take heart, just remember – you can’t prove your gloomy scenario either.
We are not doomed. The worst that can happen with a Democrat in the White House is we’ll have a weaker response to the threat than we currently have. Then we will get hit again. And in all probability, that weakness on the left will come to an end. It will have little chance of returning until the new war against fascism is over. The enemies of civilization will be very sorry indeed if that’s how Round Two goes down.
UPDATE: Many conservatives are giving me a shellacking in the comments section. Oddly enough, Nelson Ascher, who wrote the original piece I responded to, is not one of them.
He did respond in the comments, though, and I want to post his reponse on the main page where everyone can see it.
I’ve had no time yet to read most of the comments, but I agree with those, including Michael,who qualified my post as too gloomy. I wrote it under the immediate effect of having read Sunday’s British press (where the 45 minutes stuff isn’t going away in spite of the Hutton report and the BBC’s partial debacle)and some of Melanie Phillips’ posts too.
It surely wasn’t my intention at all to depict the Democrats as fifth columnists and, if I gave this impression, let me correct it right here: it’s not about them that I was thinking when I used the expression (though they may benefit from the work of the real fifth columnists, I wouldn’t declare them guilty by association): I had in mind ANSWER, the SWP, part of the Anglo-American media and academia, some Euro governments. That’s why I referred to a fifth column inside the Western camp, not exclusively in the USA. (I trust the worst democrats more than the average old European government.)
Actually I’m in Brazil right now and that, in a way, is worse than being in Paris because though I can ge acquainted first hand there with all their ill will, I’m also confronted day in day out by their (the French’s) growing economic, diplomatic, political and social weaknessess and isolation, something the balances a bit my gloom.
In Brazil, on the other hand, it is really as if 911 had never happened or were but a relatively “normal” kind of event.
Still, just to reaffirm somewhat my main point: I’ve never seen people so eagerly trying do reverse the result of a war won by their country as I’ve been seeing this happen in the UK. It is as if they weren’t actually reenacting the Vietnam protests, but rather beginning already from the quite developed stage where the anti-Vietnam war protests had stopped.
Habitually I’m less gloomy than that and, if you read some of my earlier posts, you’ll see that I’ve even tried to find something positive about suicide bombings in Israel, namely that they became the only way the Palestinians could hit Israel, because their earlier and favourite methods, like using booby-trapped cars or truck bombs or kidnaping airplanes weren’t working anymore. If I’m right, the suicide bombings are more a sympton of defeat than of victory.
And I also think there’s a strong case in stating that the real fifth columnists are not re-fighting the Iraqi war, but really want to stop the WoT, and that they (not the Democrats, really) root for the enemy. Oh, and the idea that the UK was the coalition’s weakest link is not mine, but David Warren’s, another of those who alternate some moderate optimism with frequent pessimistic gloom.
Thanks, Michael and everybody else, for the comments: I actually wrote that gloomy post expecting to be refuted and I do hope those who did it are absolutely right.
UPDATE: Andrew Olmsted comments.