The Lizards Tongue 3
Who Are We Fighting For Anyway?
I recently found occasion to quote from Major E., a frequent corresponder on Power Line... and it struck me that the question in the title above demands an answer: who are we fighting for in Iraq?
I hope those reading this will make the connection between the sacrifice of the troops and the ever-expanding freedom of the Iraqi people.... Every American deserves to know that the sacrifice made on the streets of Fallujah by US servicemembers last year is what made possible last week the jubilant dancing of Iraqis waving their ink-stained fingers after they had cast the first vote of their lives. The Iraqi people know and appreciate what we have done for them, and I hope that the American people will come to know it more and more as well.Are we fighting for good of the Iraqis? Should we demand appreciation? Do they owe us a debt they can never repay? Or are we really fighting for ourselves, our own land, our own people?
There is an old saying that America is the champion of freedom everywhere but guardian only of our own. The thought might occur to many that we seem to be guarding the freedom of an awful lot of other people lately -- should we be? Are the neocons right that it's in America's interest, or should we listen to the paleocons who want us to withdraw our troops from all these "foreign entanglements" and just defend the dadblamed country?
For a long time, George W. Bush was simply not making the case. I reckon it seemed so obvious to him that he didn't realize that lots of folks may agree that freedom is good but just plain disagree that the United States is reponsible for dispensing it. But lately, he has done a much more conscientious job of defending his position; and it's time for us to really start to listen. Even when the president's strategery is being misunderestimated, he really does make a whole lot of sense.
We have always known that security flows from stability; but we have only recently admitted that stabilty is the child of self-rule. Let me explain.
The gravest threat to the United States is the same today as it was throughout the twentieth century. It is not international terrorism; that is a tactic. Neither is it militant Islamism; that is a manifestation. The most dangerous threat is mass lawlessness. Robbing a liquor store is individual lawlessness; mass lawlessness is brutal outlawry on the scale of nations, groups of nations, or a world-spanning empire.
In the 1900s, we had two main flavors of mass lawlessness: Fascist/Nazi Socialism and Internationalist (Communist) Socialism; both virulent social diseases employed terrorism as needed, from the Bolshevist pogroms to Kristallnacht, Stalin's slave labor camps, Guernica, Auschwitz, the show trials, the Gulag, and even the attempt to assassinate the pope. Each of these was violence intended not to advance the legimate prosecution of war, but directed at civilians to terrorize, demoralize, and break the will of ordinary people.
They used other tactics as well, the classic structures of empires by conquest: the enslavement of the native populations, stripping the land of natural resources, and forcing the conquered masses to buy finished products they barely needed at inflated prices they could not possibly afford. Among civilized (lawful) nations, all this was dying out as the century began; but the lawless nations not only revived classical imperialism, they fortified it with a brutality never before seen on such a vast and mechanized scale... Tomās de Torquemada with machine-guns, tanks, and MiGs.
The chain shackling these twin brutalities together was mass lawlessness: the belief that to superior beings on a "mission" -- such as themselves -- literally anything was allowed. The only limitations were physical: how many cells could be built, how many bullets could be fired.
The Weak Link
Revolutionary or terrorist leaders are impossible to profile. They can be well-educated members of the middle or upper classes, such as Lenin or Mohammed Atta, or ignorant and uneducated thugs like Josef Stalin, Musab Zarqawi, or Muqtada Sadr. They can be brilliant political schemers (Adolf Hitler, Yassir Arafat), scientists (Josef Mengele, Rihab "Dr. Germ" Taha), engineers (Osama bin Laden), medical doctors (Ayman Zawahiri), ophthamologists (Bashar Assad), or clerics (Ayatollah Khomeini). They defy classification; all that is required is the will to absolute power and the psychopathic detachment to wade eagerly through oceans of innocent blood to arrive at the goal.
But the leaders are nothing without followers... and that is the choke point at which terrorist and imperial lawlessness can be cut off. This is Bush's great revelation: the weak point of mass lawlessness is the intersection between the leader and the led. Every despotical order must be joined to an act of self-abnegation in the followers, or else it is nothing but a hot wind of words. The followers must literally become selfless, so they can divorce their actions from all moral implication. They empty their own souls onto the floor, so that the leader can fill their husks with his own omnipotent will. Since the mob, as individuals, do nothing, they are quite beyond good and evil, like Nietzsche's "übermenschen."
But such artificial selflessness must be maintained by great force, because humans are naturally egocentric creatures. Only the power of helplessness and despair can drive such a horrific self-immolation -- or so argues the president. And such helplessness is spawned within nations where all rules and laws are imposed from without, and the citizens are literally powerless to control virtually any aspect of their own lives.
This is the only world most of humanity has ever known; and this is the same world the terrorists promise... except this time, they lie, the oppressors will be the dispossessed, and the slaves shall be the masters. Thus, the Faustian deal they offer: give me your will, and I will give you your revenge. Just watch me!
The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001, when terrorists murdered nearly 3,000 of our citizens. And since then, they've continued to kill -- in Madrid, in Istanbul, in Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Bali, Baghdad, London, Sharm el-Sheikh and elsewhere. Our enemies murder because they despise our freedom and our way of life. We believe in human rights, and the human dignity of every man, woman and child on this Earth. The terrorists believe that all human life is expendable. They share a hateful ideology that rejects tolerance and crushes all dissent. They envision a world where women are beaten, children are indoctrinated, and all who reject their ideology of violence and extremism are murdered.
It was just this powerlessness at the end of the Czarist era that led Russians to embrace the void-filling ideology of Communism, and the disempowerment of the German people after World War I that led so many to embrace the abnegation of Naziism. Both ideologies promised that after the individualist self was stripped away, the people would become the "new Soviet men" or merge into "Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer."
Similarly, while the cynical leaders of the modern, internationalist terrorist movements are uncategorizable, the jihadi-fodder are very easy to pigeonhole: poor, disaffected, alienated young males with bleak futures, no skills, and no hope in the day-to-day "paramount reality;" they believe (or can be made to believe) that their only hope lies beyond the veil, in paradise with the seventy-two sloe-eyed virgins.
Breaking the Chain
This is where the political genius of George W. Bush rivals that of Ronald Reagan: Bush understood from the very beginning that offering potential jihadis any sort of control over their own lives whatsoever will virtually innoculate them against the lure of jihadism. While Reagan found his pressure-point in the fundamental disconnect between Marxism and market economics, Bush finds his in the alienation of those who live under arbitrary and ruthless tyranny. And the solution is democracy -- the individual vote.
From the general to the specific: the Sunni in Iraq feel much more powerless than the Shia or Kurds; they are a small minority, they control no resources, and they fear reprisal for the reign of Saddam Hussein. So it is hardly a surprise that the terrorism is being carried out virtually entirely by Sunnis; Iran has had no great victories inciting the Shia into civil war against the Sunni -- for the clear reason that the Shia think that they can get most of what they want through the electoral process.
Empower the individual and you remove the alienation; remove the alienation, and the orders are no longer obeyed.
They know that the success of a free Iraq, who can be a key ally in the war on terror and a symbol of success for others, will be a crushing blow to their strategy to dominate the region, and threaten America and the free world. They know that when their hateful ideology is defeated in Iraq, the Middle East will have a clear example of freedom and prosperity and hope. And the terrorists will begin to lose their sponsors and lose their recruits and lose the sanctuaries they need to plan new attacks.
The American and European Left, desperate to find a dark cloud behind the silver lining of democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, incessantly point out that the Mideast and South Asian "democracy" looks little like ours: there is no true freedom of speech, for example, and sharia is a major source of legislation. Yet Bush long ago realized that it makes no difference, because the linchpin is not Americanism, as we define the word -- that is seen as license by much of the world -- it is democracy; it is the freedom to vote; it is control, where the individual, voting as an individual, feels "empowered," in all the hippie-dippy sense of that tired word of the seventies: I did something! I made a difference! I changed my own life!
The people of Iraq have made a choice. In spite of the threats and assassinations, eight and a half million Iraqis went to the polls in January. By casting their ballots in defiance of the terrorists, they sent a clear and unmistakable message to the world: It doesn't matter where you're born; it doesn't matter what faith you follow, embedded in every soul is the deep desire to live in freedom. I understand freedom is not America's gift to the world; freedom is an Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world.
Americans may well roll their eyes; but please, remember the context: we have lived with such empowerment for so many generations, we take it as ordained by God. And so it may be... but for those we have liberated, such power has been denied by devils in the forms of kings, caliphs, and fuhrers for as far back as genetic memory can reach. Real democracy, of any flavor, is such a joyous renaissance to Iraqis and Afghans -- and potentially to the rest of the Middle East, Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and China -- that they imbue it with a religious meaning that can only be compared in our history to the emancipation of the black slaves... this much is utterly clear by the newest act of worship in Iraq, which is to point an ink-stained finger heavenward as if offering it up to Allah. Conceived in blood, their country is born again in ink.
The Democrats are fools to dismiss this brilliant revelation (obvious only in hindsight -- like the internal rot of the Soviet Union); they should instead try to shoulder George Bush aside and pretend to lead the parade. But so long as buffoons like Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) are willing to push their party into an orgy of self-destruction, standing tall and demanding defeat and surrender at the instant of victory and accolade, Bush will let them. He will sit back, smile, and compile a sound-bite file for next year's campaigns. He knows that this meme of self-rule is infectious and will soon metastasize across the lawless part of the world, an unstoppable virus of liberation. Every time a nascent democracy, no matter how diverse, throws off the noose of tyranny, that loop becomes a snare to bind the Democratic Party to the failure of "containment" and "appeasement" as a rational foreign policy.
Thus empowered -- no matter how odd their society may seem to us -- the fertile breeding ground for martyrs will be ploughed up and replanted with patriots who love their own countries more than they hate ours. They will have self-rule, of a kind chosen by themselves... and that will bring the international stability we never quite managed to achieve through the long decades of containment and detente, from George F. Kennan through Kissinger to its death throes in the farce of Cyrus Vance.
Self-rule yields stability; and stability yields security... for us, the people of the United States. We are not fighting for Iraq or the Iraqis; the isolationists are deluded.
We're spreading the hope of freedom across the broader Middle East. In the long run, the only way to defeat the terrorists is by offering an alternative to their ideology of hatred and fear. So a key component of our strategy is to spread freedom. History has proven that free nations are peaceful nations, that democracies do not fight their neighbors. And so, by advancing the cause of liberty and freedom in the Middle East, we're bringing hope to millions, and security to our own citizens. By bringing freedom and hope to parts of the world that have lived in despair, we're laying the foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren.
And now we can finally answer the question in the title: Who are we fighting for? We are, truly, fighting for America.