What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Only Jingoes Can Bring Peace?

When Richard Nixon promised an "honorable end" to the Vietnam war it had specific resonance because of Nixon's record as an anti-Communist hawk. Anti-Communists trusted that Nixon understood the real threat of Communism. Hillary may have — until recently — burnished her hawkish credentials, but she's hardly a Democratic Nixon. And her supporters are hardly the war-on-terror equivalent of raging anti-Communists. Does anyone think that Hillary is particularly passionate about the Islamist threat? Is there anything like a Nixon-to-China move she could pull off? And the rest of the Democratic field is far more dovish than Hillary. ~Jonah Goldberg

Against this, Ross makes the important point that the Iraq war is far more unpopular than Vietnam, which may make this “only Nixon could go to China” logic irrelevant. It is true that Iraq is more unpopular in May 2007 than Vietnam was in July 1967. One reason for this greater unpopularity of the Iraq war may be that July 1967 was relatively earlier in the escalation of American involvement in South Vietnam than May 2007 is for the deployment to Iraq. 1967 and 2007 are useful points of comparison as years before presidential elections, but otherwise comparing poll results from these years may be misleading. From the first large-scale American deployment in March 1965 to the time of that poll was obviously a little over two years (even though there had been some level of involvement in South Vietnam going back to before the 1960 election), while we are beyond the four-year mark and, as things are going right now, the war seems likely to continue well beyond Inauguration Day 2009. 2007 for Iraq is actually more directly comparable to 1969, and you will find that a fairly similar percentage of Americans (58%) believed the Vietnam War to be a mistake by October 1969 as now believe the Iraq war to be a mistake (61%). Update: Ross has taken this objection into account in a later post.

This similarity is interesting because, for one thing, it casts doubt upon the claims that opposition to the Iraq war has been significantly different from opposition to past American wars in terms of how early that opposition started. This seems wrong. Americans seem to grow tired of aimless and unsuccessful wars at a pretty constant rate. They steadily, increasingly conclude that these aimless, unsuccessful wars are mistakes. That does not necessarily translate into stark pro-withdrawal opposition, and that may be where opposition to the Iraq war is different: recognising a policy as a mistake and concluding that we should end the mistaken policy in fairly short order seem to go together much more today than they did forty years ago. It is for that reason that the relative hawkishness of the candidate proposing an end to the Iraq war may not be as relevant as it once undoubtedly was. (Of course, even with Vietnam, it was perfectly possible to be ardently, profoundly anticommunist and to have never endorsed the folly of the Vietnam War at any time–see Kennan and Rothbard as two examples.)

It is debatable whether one could describe the foreign policy espoused by Nixon at any time could have been described as “raging anti-Communist,” as Goldberg seems to imply. There were raging foreign policy anticommunists on the Right, but Nixon wasn’t really one of them. In any case, in the 1960 election, Kennedy positioned himself as the more raging anticommunist of the two (declaring that we should go to war for Quemoy and Matsu if need be), and he and his successor pursued a policy in Southeast Asia consistent with that. (In 1964, it was still necessary for Johnson to portray Goldwater as the more dangerous, aggressive candidate to provide cover for his own fairly aggressive foreign policy views.) By 1968 the public might have concluded that less rage and more intelligence might have been in order. If that is the standard by which the public was judging candidates in 1968 and it is the same standard by which they will be judging next year’s candidates, the leaders of the ‘08 GOP field are pretty much out of luck. They are very good at expressing their rage against jihadis, but they seem to take pride in their lack of understanding (or they think their constituents will punish them for demonstrating anything like a subtle or intelligent understanding of the problem), whether we are talking about Mitt “It’s About Shia and Sunni” Romney or Rudy “What Blowback?” Giuliani or any of the other pro-war jokers.

Comparisons with Nixonian hawkishness prompt a couple questions: what defines hawkishness, and how is someone significantly less hawkish than Nixon if he, like Nixon, objects to the conduct and seemingly interminable nature of a pointless war? Nixon’s “hawkishness” towards communism, his “credibility” on opposing communism, was tied up with his legacy as a domestic commie-hunter. Nobody could confuse Nixon with a “com-symp,” because he actively pursued communists when he was in the House and was part of the campaign running against the corrupt and commie-compromised Truman Administration. Therefore, if he said that new leadership was needed to bring Vietnam to an end, people could trust that he wasn’t doing it out of any sympathy for communism. This was a kind of trust that left-liberals, for good or ill, could no longer inspire, whether or not they were ardently anticommunist: liberal hawks were perceived as incompetent, and so-called liberal “doves” were seen by Middle America as inherently too friendly towards communism because they tended to be from the far left side of the spectrum. This dynamic does not really exist today, or to the extent that it does exist at all it is the Republicans playing the role of the 1968 Democrats and vice versa.

Essentially nobody in the Western world actively sympathises with or shares the goals of Al Qaeda. Virtually everyone is in agreement that Al Qaeda and jihadism more broadly pose real threats that must be countered. In this sense, almost everyone in America is “hawkish” on jihadism in a way that was not necessarily true with respect to attitudes towards communism during the Cold War. Virtually no one in the West, and certainly no one of any consequence, expects or hopes for the triumph of jihadis, and both parties measure the merit of policies based on the degree to which they are perceived to help or hurt Al Qaeda and jihadis in general. If left-liberals do not use idiotic words such as “Islamofascism” when they talk about these matters, it is all the more to their credit.

That does not necessarily mean that left-liberals are the logical or more desirable choice for leaders when it comes to combating jihadis (for instance, there are very real problems with past liberal interventionist support for Islamic terrorist groups during the ‘90s), but it should mean that left-liberals can inspire rather more confidence that they are actually against jihadism even if they are also against continuing the Iraq war. They can inspire this confidence, for one thing, because the Iraq war is only incidentally connected to fighting jihadis and more and more of the public agrees with this distinction. They can also inspire this confidence because there is reason to believe that perpetuating the Iraq war actually aids the cause of jihadis more than it hurts them. Thus, a credible anti-jihadist case can be made for ending the Iraq war, while it was relatively more difficult to make the credible anticommunist case for ending the war in Vietnam. To do the latter, you needed someone who had strong anticommunist credentials without the foreign policy baggage of vocal and loud support for foolish, diversionary or counterproductive military campaigns, and Nixon had those credentials. Opposition to Vietnam seemed to be more of a test of one’s anticommunist bona fides, so only someone who already had them could call for an end to the war; opposition to Iraq has little to do with anti-jihadist bona fides, because Iraq has little or nothing to do with fighting jihadis. Democrats do not need to have a Nixon, because the relationship between the war they oppose and the broader global threat virtually everyone agrees is a threat is entirely different (though, like Iraq’s significance for the “war on terror,” Vietnam ultimately had no real significance for the outcome of the Cold War).

Voters will, of course, make some judgement about whether they think left-liberal candidates seem to have the best policies for combating jihadism, but these liberals do not suffer from such a lack of credibility with the majority of Americans that both liberal “hawks” and liberal “doves” had in 1968 and 1972. On the other hand, Republicans and most conservatives do suffer from this lack of credibility, because as much as they are “raging anti-jihadists” they are also tarred with support for a bungled military campaign (and one that is, despite their constant claims to the contrary, only tangentially related to fighting jihadis). To go to the other unsuccessful war of the Cold War period, Korea, we can see that Democrats in 1952 did not lack for a reputation for hawkishness. Democrats had been great ones for blundering into wars over the decades, and if the public judged “hawkishness” towards communism and “credibility” on national security by the proclivity to stumble into and not be able to get out of foreign wars the Democrats should have won in 1952 going away. Happily for America, the public did not judge in this way. It is also somewhat telling that the Republicans during the 1950s campaigned as the more aggressive anticommunist party, but actually governed as more or less rational realists who refused to get into wars out of some false pride in their anticommunist zeal or out of the mistaken belief that maximal aggressiveness is the same thing as smart opposition. It was possible to be hawkish without being irresponsible. The way that some people talk about attitudes towards the Iraq war (with supporters being “hawks” against jihadis and opponents “doves”) suggests that this is not fully understood by all. Zeal combined with ignorance and incompetence did not usually win elections in the past, and there is reason to believe that this combination will not win next year.

Another interesting thing about the Nixon ad is that it was being broadcast in 1968, which would be the equivalent of the Democrats having run on an “end the war” platform in 2006. Despite the mistakenly great expectations of antiwar activists about the meaning of the Democratic victory last year, the Democrats did not run on such a platform, yet the precedent of Nixon suggests that they might have won even more convincingly had they taken a unified, clear stand that they would work to bring the war to an end if they recaptured Congress. Failing to run on anything except national disillusionment with Iraq and GOP incompetence and corruption, they could claim no mandate and were thus always vulnerable to Mr. Bush’s efforts to interpret the election results in a way favourable to whatever policies he wanted to pursue. As usual with Democrats during the Bush Era, it has been their timidity and self-doubt rather than their overreaching that have weakened them politically. Their “defeat” over the war funding legislation had already been assured by the decision to run in 2006 on a platform of “we’re not Republicans.”

Comments (7)

"Essentially nobody in the Western world actively sympathises with or shares the goals of Al Qaeda. Virtually everyone is in agreement that Al Qaeda and jihadism more broadly pose real threats that must be countered. In this sense, almost everyone in America is “hawkish” on jihadism in a way that was not necessarily true with respect to attitudes towards communism during the Cold War. Virtually no one in the West, and certainly no one of any consequence, expects or hopes for the triumph of jihadis, and both parties measure the merit of policies based on the degree to which they are perceived to help or hurt Al Qaeda and jihadis in general. If left-liberals do not use idiotic words such as “Islamofascism” when they talk about these matters, it is all the more to their credit."

This is the paragraph I'm inclined to pick on the most. I don't think it really gets anywhere on the question of what it would mean to be "anti-jihadi" on the domestic front as someone might have been "anti-communist" within our own borders during the Cold War.

I think we should all know, and acknowledge loudly and clearly, that our country is full of those who empower the jihadis with moral equivalence talk and all the incredibly angering playing around of the MSM. Do you know they called the evil Hamas Mickey Mouse "Resistance Mickey" in MSM headlines? That should practically make people throw up. Open terrorist sympathizers are spoken of as "controversial." A woman who edited a student newspaper glorifying Al Qaeda was being showcased on TV as a "moderate muslim." (I read about her "outing" as the editor of that paper, and that over a period of some years. She has tried to lie about it.) The MSM reports _routinely_ conceal for as long as possible the Muslim identity and motivations of individuals who gun down people, including those who explicitly do so for religious reasons, as in the case of the gunman in Washington at the Jewish Center.

Matters are even worse in other Western countries but may provide a clue to where we are heading. In England, the police are holding meetings with Muslim leaders _before_ carrying out terror ops to show their "sensitivity." In Australia, the cat's-meat sheikh has been portrayed in the media as "controversial" as have other open terrorist supporters.

And in our own U.S., CAIR gets tours of our screening procedures at airports to assure them that we aren't engaging in "profiling." (And why the dickens not?)

The Republicans in our country are bad about this sort of nonsense, but the left is the worst. Sympathy for suicide bombers and the like, as well as some of the vilest anti-Semitism (that always seems to get pulled in here) are easily found on leftist blogs and, in more suave forms, in publications. (Think Ward Churchill.) The PC jargon of "oppression," "colonialism," and all the rest of it is being used to excuse Islamic horror.

So, yes, we do have jihadi sympathizers on our soil. And we need to excoriate and root them out. And if they are not citizens, they should be deported. There is definitely a fifth column issue here, and it's only getting bigger. And, no, there is nowhere _near_ sufficient awareness of the threat posed by jihadism and the strong measures that should be taken to counteract it. Saying, "Hey, everybody opposes Al Qaeda" simply doesn't reckon with any of this.

I am having some trouble with that same paragraph. If one takes an expansive view of jihadist aims, assuming that they seek to spread Islam everywhere by force, and to crush the whole world, it is true they have few sympathizers in the US or Europe. Most of us paleocons reject such an interpretation, though, or think it somewhat irrelevant so long as we keep the jihadis at arms length. If we assume that the jihadis primarily want a free hand in their own lands, you'll find a great deal of, not sympathy, but rather, tolerance for the achievement of that end on both sides of the Atlantic by people who don't think democracy in Iraq is worth the bones of one Peorian grenadier.

Actual terrorist fellow travelers and conspirators (almost inevitably imported) excepted, Daniel is correct that there are fairly few outright sympathizers in the US with the cause of jihad per se as compared to the vast number of people who thought, and often still do think, that communism was a noble experiment. What there are instead, and this may be a distinction without much of a difference, are many, often marxist-inspired, despisers of whatever they think the west or America is. They would not dream of spying for jihadis the way that so many Americans and British did for the Soviets, but aren't particularly motivated to perceive a threat from them, either.

I think it goes a lot farther than just not being motivated to perceive a threat. There is plenty of excuse making, too: The whole "why do they hate us" stuff, stuff about being driven by desperation and having no other options to suicide bombing. There are also very _deliberate_ attempts to downplay the significance of Islam in domestic crimes. I suppose an analogy in the case of communism would be if a business owner were murdered by workers deeply influenced by Marxist thought and the media deliberately said, "His motives are unknown." That sort of thing happens _constantly_ in American media to the point that it amounts to a form of deliberate deception. There is the attempt to punish people who do see a threat, as in the non-flying imams case. There is the highly deliberate attempt to brainwash people into closing their eyes to threats. Consider the TSA's nonsense on the Flight 327 case *even after* the recent report that confirms Annie Jacobsen's concerns. The TSA continues to portray her as "stereotyping" and unreliable. Consider that the young man who reported the Ft. Dix video felt that he was confronted with a "moral dilemma" because saying something might be "racist." Where did he learn that? Not just from people who felt passively disinclined to see a threat of jihad here in this country but from people who _actively_ taught him that there was something "racist" about worries about a video showing gunmen yelling "Allahu Akbar"! Our security personnel are receiving sensitivity training from CAIR. That's going a lot farther than just failing to perceive a threat.

So I think we have a major problem here at home with people who are either making excuses for jihadis, making overt jihadi-sympathizers acceptable in American thinking, hiding the truth about jihadi sympathizers (as in the case of the editor of the school newspaper), covering up Muslim, and muslim _motivated_, criminal activity in the U.S., making strenuous efforts to _stop_ people from confronting the threat of jihadism here at home by punishment, by PC brainwashing, or (in the case of Dinesh D'Souza) by spouting nonsense to their political allies. These problems come in very roughly decreasing order of disgustingness, but they are all real, and they are all very active, not just passive stupidity.

One final thought: I'm not at all sure it's true that there are relatively few outright sympathizers in the U.S. for the cause of jihad per se, if we include the Muslim immigrant communities. How many outright supporters are there for Hezbollah in Dearborn, Michigan? How about supporters of the blind sheikh? And, no, I don't accept that you can be an outright Hezbollah supporter and not be a supporter of jihad per se. To me, _that_'s a distinction without a difference.

Here's just one of all-too-many pieces of evidence that support in the U.S. for outright jihad is not all that rare...

in mosques, that is.


Yes, in mosques, among preposterous left-wing professors (the substance of whose claims very, very few people in this country endorse) and the like you can find people who actually do sympathise with jihadis or who praise their violent acts by casting them in terms of a discourse of "resistance" and so forth. You will find a tactical alliance of far-left and communist groups with Islamists in various places throughout the West, which tells us that morally repugnant birds of a feather flock together. Yes, that's true. But what is the significance of these relatively very few sympathisers? I think they are not very significant, and they are not terribly relevant to the main debates over foreign policy and anti-jihadism. That is why I tried to make sure to qualify my statements by emphasising the marginal and exceptional nature of any such sympathisers. Hence the line about "no one of any consequence," by which I meant, "no one of any consequence in the political process, the media, the academy or the general population." It seems to me that Ward Churchill has been excoriated and denounced by many and abandoned by everyone else--the Ward Churchill fan club is a very small one. This is a bit like saying, "Virtually no one sympathises with the Third Reich," and then having someone object, "Well what about white Aryan separatists in Idaho?" Yes, there are such people, but how relevant are they when we are speaking about the broad sweep of American society?

On media distortions and galloping political correctness, I agree entirely that this is a horrible malady and a corrupting influence on our entire society. We have this excuse-making and tremendous efforts to not "profile" Muslims because of absurd liberal sensibilities, and not because of widespread journalistic sympathy with jihadis. You can, and I would, argue that liberalism tends to inculcate an obliviousness to some of the dangers of jihadis. I think that it is a measure of how oblivious many Republicans are that they insist on treating this as a political, secular, ideological problem and ignore the religious dimension almost entirely.

To the extent that newspapers and magazines want to "engage" or cover positively a Muslim figure, they must tie themselves in knots to make clear just how un-jihadi they think their subject is. They may be wrong, they may be wearing blinders and they may be lazy journalists who take "moderate Muslims" at face value, but there really is no romanticisation of jihadism nor are there cases where journalists actively deny and cover up the atrocities of Islamic fundamentalists in the way that true believers did for Stalin in the '30s and afterwards.

The terrorist-tied CAIR is training TSA people in "sensitivity" on Mr. Bush's watch, because his administration has bought into the very same PC nonsense that infects large numbers of people in our country and throughout the West. I agree that this is disastrous and crazy, but it is a policy being carried out by an allegedly "hawkish" administration that, in the estimation of many anti-jihadists, "gets it." I don't assume, and do not claim, that a Democratic administration would do any better on this, and I assume that they would be even more clueless about CAIR, but what I was trying to insist on is that, besides for truly far-left fringe types and Muslims, there are simply not really any groups in this country similarly inclined to sympathy with jihadis in the way that was true of open admirers of communism in the Cold War.

Part of the point of my post was to argue that what many people conventionally think of as "hawkish" vis-a-vis jihadism may simply be reckless or foolish and not necessarily the best way to combat it. Specifically, on the question of the relationship between jihadism and Iraq, I obviously believe the administration doesn't "get it" at all.

I didn't get into the enervating, destructive effects of this liberal claptrap because I was trying to address the immediate questions of "hawkishness," foreign policy views and the presidential race.

I certainly agree that the Iraq war is not the best way to fight against jihadism. We might even agree as to many of the things that _would_ be the best way.

But as regards the analogue between Muslims and Neo-Aryans in Idaho, I think part of the problem is just that there are an awful lot more of the former than of the latter in this country, and that the non-negligible support for evil actions among the former make their existence a force to be reckoned with. If you say, "Essentially nobody in the Western world actively sympathises with or shares the goals of Al Qaeda" and then add, "except for a disturbing number of the Muslims now living in the Western world," that latter qualification makes a huge difference. After all, some of those Muslims who thus sympathize are getting elected to local office in their towns and cities, and Keith Ellison just got elected to Congress and appeared to his followers afterwards to cries of "Allahu Akbar."

One other qualification is in order. I could try to dig up the links, but I'm actually quite sure just from memory that there have been MSM stories published in the west that do to an unpleasant extent whitewash and romanticize suicide bombing in Israel. When it comes to sympathy for Palestinian suicide bombers, I'm afraid the parallels to sympathy for communist actions abroad are all-too-telling. There's something about the Palestinian situation that seems to bring this out in the media.

You're no doubt right that the Democrats would have done better to speak more directly to the question of whether and how they could be "tough on terrorism" while opposing the war. But that would have required them to be something other than what they are, ideologically. I don't expect to see it happening.

Did I hear someone say "romanticization of jihadism"?

"'If I were a Muslim, I'd probably be a jihadist. The thing that drives these guys -- a sense of adventure, wanting to be part of the moment, wanting to be in the big movement of history that's happening now -- that's the same thing that drives me, you know?' No. I don't know. And I sorely wish I could tell him so -- "him" being David Kilcullen, senior counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, senior commander in Iraq."


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