Loose Canons

June SGO

Churchill was the greatest man of the first half of the 20th century, and Ronald Reagan was the greatest of the second. Alas, this is the 21st century.

By 6.7.04

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Winston Churchill was the greatest man of the first half of the 20th Century, and Ronald Wilson Reagan was the greatest of the second. His face belongs on Mount Rushmore, alongside those of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. It was Reagan whose cheerful faith in America, and steadfast opposition of the Soviets, brought the Cold War to its end. He knew that the economic might of America, even coupled with its military might, was not enough to defeat the Soviet Gulag masters. The Gipper saw that what made American victory possible was also what made us different from both friend and foe. He -- like all our greatest wartime presidents -- knew that America's strengths were in its uniqueness. Our devotion to freedom, the stability of our Constitution, and the innate goodness of Americans were the facts that enabled us to defeat those who threaten our freedom.

He was right, when so many in Europe, the UN, and here in America were so wrong. Then, as now, the EUnuchs and the UN wanted to appease. Reagan pushed the deployment of American nuclear missiles in Europe, started the process to create a defense against Soviet missiles, and brought us victory in the Cold War. He proved -- resoundingly, for a generation -- that American decisiveness was right, and European appeasement was wrong. Now Dubya is proving it for his generation, against the same tides of opinion.

It's fascinating: the convergence of the whackos of the left and right in their hatred of George W. Bush. The American Conservative features a piece by Taki Theodoracopulos that could have been written by Michael Moore. His thesis -- to the extent he has one -- is that America should return to our ostrich-like posture of the Clinton days: "I guarantee you that resurgent Islam will also vanish into the dustbin of history as long as Uncle Sam minds his own business and stays out of the backyards of people who wear towels on their heads." Righto. It's all our fault, and 9-11 would never have happened if we hadn't been meddling in the Arabs' home districts. Such as Kuwait after Saddam conquered it in 1990?

Taki -- and the other neos and paleos and other hyphenated conservatives who are awash in defeatism -- need to wake up and smell the coffee. The Islamist terror regimes of the 21st century are following an ideology that requires the eradication of our freedom, and which cannot be ignored or contained. Isolationism is not an option. Islamism must be defeated decisively and with sufficient finality that the regimes that support it cease to exist, and are not succeeded by others of their ilk. I think I'd rather have Madeleine the Short back to run our foreign and defense policy than naifs such as Taki. Fortunately, we have better minds running things right now, and one of them came up with the question of the year.

Speaking in Singapore, Big Dog Don Rumsfeld asked whether the zealots and extremists who are bent on destroying our way of life are producing new terrorists faster than we are killing them. He said, "It's quite clear to me that we do not have a coherent approach to this." It's worth parsing Rumsfeld's statement because it goes to the heart of the central question of our time: what is our goal in this war? Until we define where we want to go, we can't get there.

The "we" Mr. Rumsfeld referred to is America and those few nations willing to fight terrorism rather than appease it. The "this" he referred to is the ideology that creates terrorism against the West. Killing terrorists and even their leaders doesn't solve the problem. When we get OBL, the war will not be even half won. We have to defeat those "zealots and extremists" who produce terrorists, which means we have to defeat their ideology just as we defeated Soviet communism.

To do that, we will have to do what we're doing in Iraq -- and improved versions of it -- again and again. Removing terrorist regimes will do more to defeat the threat than anything else. A distant second, but still important, is a new kind of diplomacy. American diplomacy -- such as it is -- lacks a religious component. We need to focus both the State Department and the CIA on cultivating and supporting Islamic religious reformers. Those who resist religious reform should be our target; those who support it -- and by so doing weaken the terrorist support system -- are our friends. Until we recognize and adopt this approach, little will change in the Islamic world, and this war will go on for decades to come.

Now -- with the imminent departure of George Tenet from the CIA -- we have the chance to change the CIA enough to do its job. Tenet had to go, and should have gone long before. On his watch we had the 1998 al Qaeda bombings of embassies in Africa, 9-11, and his famous assertion that the Iraqi WMD were a "slam dunk." His departure comes before the reports of the 9-11 Commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee, which both will shred what little remains of the CIA's reputation. Tenet was allowed to leave gracefully, before Mr. Bush would have had to fire him.

Tenet's departure (in one of those wonderful non-coincidences) is accompanied by the supposedly unconnected resignation of James Pavitt, the CIA's deputy director for operations -- i.e., America's chief spy. Both of these men were part of the embedded CIA culture. Replacing them with people who aren't is absolutely essential to reforming the CIA. As I've written before, the CIA, DIA, NSA and FBI need to be reformed along the lines of the Pentagon. All of them should be mandated to operate jointly, and one of the men who have led Pentagon transformation into "jointness" should be tagged to reform the intelligence community. Legislation will be needed. Time's a'wasting, Mr. President.

With all these serious things going on, we can all be thankful for the comic relief provided, again, by our pals at the Transportation Security Administration. Having seen what al-Q did on the Madrid trains, they're now testing a screening system for checked bags on trains. According to last Friday's Washington Post, "The screening will occur from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and will affect only the five train lines that begin at Union Station and allow checked bags: the Carolinian, Silver Star, Capital Limited, Cardinal and Palmetto." Didja get that, OBL? If you want to bomb some trains, we wouldn't want you to have to guess which ones are protected, and which ones aren't.

TAS Contributing Editor Jed Babbin is the author of, Inside the Asylum: Why the U.N. and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think.

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. You can follow him on Twitter @jedbabbin.