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Tuesday, March 20

The Greatest War

Dan Riehl has a way of saying in a few words what many people think. In Knowing Your Enemy he remarks:
It's important to know one's enemy in any struggle or conflict. Unfortunately for America, her greatest enemy may be America itself. Irresponsible political Liberalism, a mostly unaccountable media and an educated but unenlightened academia, they are the real forces against which the best of America must struggle, simply to be herself
I think many Americans who closely follow editorial opinion must feel sadness and anger at the number of fellow citizens who make a name for themselves by attacking American motives and goals.

I enjoin you to read the rest of Dan's essay. Yet I take issue with one of his observations: "Neither Iraq nor al-Qaeda represent the most important war in America's present [...]"

It can be said that the fight against slavery was only a narrative for America's war between Northern industrialists and Southern agrarians. And one can argue that the Nazi actions to create a master race were a fig leaf for what was simply a land grab. Yet there is no question that the Civil War and World War Two became battlefields for a clash of beliefs deeply held on both sides.

In the same manner, one can argue that al Qaeda is simply a mercenary army that will serve the highest bidder. And yet the rationale invoked by al Qaeda leaders strikes a deep chord in many Muslim hearts. At root, al Qaeda's narrative is a fight for the supremacy of tradition over the individual's right to doubt and dissent.

With regard to Iraq, I believed in 2003 and believe now that Saddam Hussein transferred the bulk of his WMD development program to Libya a few years before the US invasion. So, whether or not ongoing investigation turns up the existence of WMD in Iraq at the time of the invasion, I think it's splitting hairs to argue that Hussein had abandoned the quest for a WMD program in Iraq by the time the US invaded. I believe that Hussein's regime needed to be ended because he would not have been content to only challenge Israel and Iran with the possession of a nuclear weapon.

Then, the toppling of the Iraq Baathist government exposed situations in the country that dwarf US defense concerns. Everyone outside Iraq knew that things were bad in the country before the government toppled. Yet what we found behind the mask of a 1950s-style socialist government was a horror so great that it is difficult to encompass in words. A relative handful of men were holding millions in bondage to an ancient way of life that was inexorably killing off the Iraqi people.

So there was Paul Bremer, who was shrewd enough to know that his role in Iraq was nothing more than flotsam churned up by the war between the Pentagon and State. He had no real authority and yet he was expected to preside over chaos and somehow keep a lid on while Iraq was allowed to split into three warring regions.

What do you do when it occurs to you that everyone in authority around you is barking mad? Bremer decided that come hell and high water, by gum the Iraqi people were going to have a democratic Constitution. From that decision, the fig leaf of "freeing the Iraqi people" transformed into a narrative that vaulted an invasion about defense concerns into the greatest war of our generation.

Why do we fight? We fight because civilization collapses when large numbers of people are lulled into believing that the safety of tradition, and the rule of a few guardians of tradition, will save them from annihilation in the face of vast changes set to destroy them. We fight because the imperfections of democracy allow room for dissent with the status quo and the directives of a few.
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