On the next page, you’ll find the most cogent analysis of what fueled the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and why we now find ourselves facing a new iteration of the same enemy. Elan Journo, fellow and director of policy research at the Ayn Rand Institute, talks with interviewer Steve Simpson about the confused foreign policy which has led to the longest war in American history.
Journo begins by accurately identifying the enemy, an essential prerequisite to engaging and defeating them. He tells Simpson:
ISIS originated as one of the insurgent groups in Iraq. And they, like a lot of the insurgent groups – the ones that survived were the ones that were better at killing Americans and better at doing savagery. They went into Syria and they became stronger. They are basically now marching to the beat of the Islamist goal, which is to create a regime based on Allah’s laws on Earth, which is what the Taliban did, which is what the Iranians see themselves as doing. So, in that sense, [ISIS is] not unique. They’re basically part of the same enemy.
Indeed, in failing to accurately identify and destroy the enemy which attacked us on 9/11, we merely “scattered them,” as Journo puts it. That’s why we find ourselves facing ISIS today.
The question becomes: why have we failed? How has the most powerful military force on Earth been unable to defeat the relatively ragtag practitioners of Islamic totalitarianism? Journo attributes the failure to our self-crippling morality:
The conventional morality that people take for granted is that you should be selfless.
Now, that sounds crazy in the context of war, because obviously – most people’s healthy reaction is, if [enemies] come after you, you have to defend yourself. [Most people] have self-respect enough to believe in that. But when push comes to shove, [most people] are conflicted, because a lot of people accept the ideas of altruism, of self-sacrifice as a moral idea. Now, put that [idea of altruism] in the context of trying to defend yourself. In fact, that is the doctrine that colors the [conventional] views of how to conduct war…
So take Iraq. The goal there was not to eliminate whatever threat Saddam Hussein posed… It was to rebuild Iraq so that the Iraqis would be lifted out of poverty and would get elections and so-called freedom. That was to serve the Iraqis. That did not serve American interests. Our interests are served by eliminating those who want to kill us.
… People don’t realize that the rules under which the [American] soldiers operate are so restrictive that sometimes they cannot defend themselves, let along eliminate the threat. And so, we put our soldiers in harm’s way. We tie their hands. And then we’re surprised that there’s an insurgency that grows fiercer and more bold, and that Iraq is a mess. Well, you have to look at the ideas that shape the policy.
Since World War II, the West has pursued a policy of restraint in the face of aggression, fueled by various altruistic notions. One of those notions is that we need to free populations under oppression and teach them the virtues of democracy.
That, in essence, was the Bush doctrine. It proceeds from the presumption that, given the opportunity to vote in free and fair elections, people will elect a state dedicated to liberty and justice. Journo swats that presumption down with ease:
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a small-scale version of the West versus the Islamist movement… Under the Bush doctrine of bring democracy all over the place, the Palestinian territories were subject to that. The Bush administration pushed for Hamas to be allowed to run in elections. And Hamas in fact won by a significant margin, enough for it to be unequivocal. And it was a free and fair election… So, in effect, the Bush doctrine here is illustrated in its failure, in ushering Islamists [our enemies] into power.
Simpson responds, “So much for the wonders of democracy.” Indeed, democracy provides only that a voting majority gets their way. It does not ensure that the way they pick will be just.
Check out the whole video, plus my podcast commentary, on the next page.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 18:27 minutes long; 17.77 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)