So let me clarify a few things.
First, I do think we’re at war. But it’s not the traditional ‘mobilize the nation’ kind of war, it’s a war that will, sadly, be long-lasting, relatively low-intensity, and messy. Because it’s that kind of a war, many of the historic responses to a more intensely focused, limited in time war – like those to World War II – aren’t appropriate.
They aren’t appropriate for two reasons; because they won’t do much good, and because by themselves, they won’t help us win.We don’t need to sacrifice our economic well-being at the levels we did in WW II in order to produce at the level required, and because the boundary between war and peace is fluid we can’t treat everyone from, say, Saudi Arabia as an enemy combatant. In fact, a big part of this war will, like wars against street gangs, consist of trying to peel away the less-committed supporters from the core, and to do that will require some form of positive engagement, of ‘selling’.
As a consequence, this war will look much more like the ‘war’ between the Italian government and the Mafia in Sicily, and it’s conclusion will be equally undramatic.
Things will simply get better.
…many scholars at the time insisted that Nazism was first and foremost an ideology, not a state. Indeed, Hitler was at pains to proclaim that he was fighting for an Aryan Reich, not a German state. And if you read some of the literature on Nazism or for that matter the broader work on totalitarianism produced by the “greatest generation,” you’ll find a profound preoccupation with “winning the war of ideas” against fascism. Indeed, a good deal of money and energy was expended by our armed forces, during and after the war, to de-Nazify and de-fascify the Old World.
But the important thing is that when we smashed Hitler, Nazi ideology died along with him, and fell into the same bunker.
The same debate over “whom or what are we fighting” raged during the Cold War, when we endlessly pondered whether we were fighting Communist ideology or Russian imperialism. Some … mostly intellectuals, many of them in the CIA … saw the Cold War primarily in ideological terms, and thought we would win if and only if we wooed the world’s masses from the Communist dream. Others warned that this was an illusion, and that we’d better tend to “containment” else the Red Army would bring us and our allies to our knees.
In the end, when the Soviet Empire fell, the appeal of Communism was mortally wounded, at least for a generation.
You see where I’m going, surely. The debate is a trap, because it diverts our attention and our energies from the main thing, which is winning the war. It’s an intellectual amusement, and it gets in our way. As that great Machiavellian Vince Lombardi reminds us, winning is the only thing.
I think that Ledeen misreads history here, and in a way that is potentially very dangerous.
Nazism, by it’s nature, wasn’t a contagious meme. You were Aryan, or you weren’t. They made alliances with other ‘blut und volk’ nationalist movements in Japan and Italy, but the reality is that by it’s nature, it couldn’t spread except through conquest. Britain was in no danger of a Nazi takeover from within; Oswald Mosely was an isolated figure.
This limited the ‘infected’ areas to the core nations – Germany, Italy, Japan – and the areas they had conquered, which did not produce new energy to spread the infection, but instead demanded resources to control.
In the case of the Society Union and Cold War, the reality is that we did both. We contained the Soviet Union’s attempts to control territory through overt military means by using our own overt military actions; and we contained their efforts to grow in influence through covert and ideological means by countering their covert moves and working hard to spread our own ideological roots.
I can’t believe that Ledeen thinks that the collapse of Communist Poland – unanswered, as opposed to Hungary and Czechoslovakia – would have happened without the Pole’s ideological infection from the West? Without rock music and Catholicism?
We will win this war by changing people’s minds and making Islamist terror an unattractive option. We’ll make it unattractive by raising its cost and lowering its effectiveness (which are military and civil defense issues), as well as by giving people the option of taking on other, less destructive belief structures.
I believe that we’re seeing the beginnings of a set of waves of terrorism, caused in some part by philosophical and ideological fractures here in the West. The Islamist wave is the first, and potentially the most dangerous, because the scale of action of the terrorists is amplified because they have states that will sponsor and succor them. Conventional and unconventional military action that has the goal of changing the minds of those states is a good thing, in my view, and is the major reason why I continue to support the decision to invade Iraq.
But military victory alone is hollow and ineffective in the kind of environment we’re in now, and for that, I’ll point to another example from history – Vietnam.
UPDATE: Even by Winds’ high standards, the reader comments are excellent.