June 6, 2011
On Beyond al-Qaeda: the Long War Ten Years After
After the long-overdue death of Osama bin Laden, Barack H. Obama has chosen to reduce the war against radical Islamism -- the "long war" -- to "finishing the job" in Afghanistan; it's a monstrous caricature of synecdoche that underpins every foolish program of his foreign policy.
Afghanistan has symbolic and military significance; but truly, I'm far more concerned about radical Islamists running their own countries -- with advanced technology and deadly weapons already -- in Iran, Syria, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Turkey; or living (and plotting) within high-tech, war-torn countries such as India, Russia, Bosnia, Lebanon, and Israel; or living within extremely high-tech countries as spies and sabateurs, using the cover of poorly administered "guest worker" programs and relatively unvetted legal or illegal immigration -- in countries such as France, Australia, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Central and South America, and the United States.
Afghanistan was only centrally important for a while because it was the current address of al-Qaeda in 2001; but as near as makes no difference, al-Qaeda no longer exists. That doesn't mean the threat is gone; in the amorphous, soupy manner of this kind of long war, the threat center has simply shifted locations.
Until and unless we change the entire wartime equation -- the one where you input the current security and ideological situations at one end, and a horrifically unacceptable level of successful terrorism pops out at the other -- we will be in as much danger and more as we were ten years ago.
The major difference is that back then, the deadly peril of terrorism was largely an unknown unknown; today it's a known unknown, which is a huge leap forward -- if we can maintain that consciousness. Alas, under the second Bush term and Obama's term, I fear it's slip-sliding away.
Still, many Americans have begun to realize that the danger will only increase until we attack it at its root. We've achieved that understanding before -- in 1776, 1787, 1860, 1941, 1981, and 2001; and what Man has done, Man can aspire to do.
We must find a way to achieve two critical goals:
- We absolutely must alter how post-Cold War Americans think about security issues; we must re-learn that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," vigilance not only against enemies without (radical Islamism and Communism) but those within (Obamunism).
As Jefferson wrote, "Against us are... all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty... We are likely to preserve the liberty we have obtained only by unremitting labors and perils."
Americans used to understand this, and not so very long ago, within our own conscious memories. We persistently fall into the fatal fallacy that having defeated the enemy du jour -- the Nazis, the Soviets -- vigilance has become passé. We no longer need those scary men on the wall; let's make them get real jobs, like being a ward heeler or a community activist.
But vigilance alone is not enough; it's a strong defense, but we all know what is the best defense...
- Begin fighting just as hard to advance our ideology of liberty, free will, individualism, ethical monotheism, and Capitalism as the radical Islamists and the bloody-handed socialists fight to advance their despicable ideologies of religious and political submission and eternal servitude.
That is, as hard as Americans used to fight in decades past to advance the ideology of liberty. What Man has done... did I say that already?
Liberty always has at least some appeal in every culture; even people who like to be bossed around generally hate their own bosses. For God's sake, on today's great anniversary, let's start defending, promoting, advancing, and spreading the ideology of liberty once more.
We've done such a great job evangelizing American Borg culture and the wealth, security, and choice it provides; we must expend even more effort spreading the "good news" of that same culture's ideological foundation. That is our most urgent long-term task.
The last president who really achieved that was also the last to attempt it: Ronald Reagan -- thirty years ago. But Americans are again ripe for such a crusade; the post-Cold War moral drift is, I believe, largely driven by the lack of a higher calling. We thrive on a reach that exceeds our grasp, it is our natural state.
More than anything else, it is America's yearning for that evangelist feeling, for knowing we're not just hunkering down to preserve our own bitter-won gains but boldly advancing them across the world, that makes political superstars out of people like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the raft of small and subversive groups collectively called the tea partiers (subversive of the last three decades' political understandings). For all their flaws, they call us to a higher and distinctively American purpose in life, something beyond meaningless "hope" and "change" and "spreading the wealth around."
Vigilance and ideological evangelism: That is what will, in the end, win this particular long war. Let's hope it won't take so long to ramp up for the next grand crusade after that!
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 6, 2011, at the time of 2:11 PM
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