This essay is the last installment in a series published in successive issues of The American Spectator under the general title, “The Pursuit of Liberty: Can the Ideals That Made America Great Provide a Model for the World?”
(Also in The American Spectator‘s Pursuit of Liberty series: Victor Davis Hanson’s “Armies for Democracy,” Daniel Johnson’s “The Storks Are Landing,” Fouad Ajami’s “Liberty for Strangers,” Natan Sharansky and Rod Dermer’s “The Case for Freedom,” and Michael Novak’s “The Ebb and Flow of Global Liberty.” To read the first five essays in the series, please click here.)
America’s defense of liberty against the forces of a new Dark Age will require a return to the friendships and commitments that allowed her to prevail in every civilizational showdown since 1900.
“CAN THE IDEALS THAT MADE AMERICA GREAT Provide a Model for the World?” That was the question that The American Spectator and the John Templeton Foundation have posed to ten of the most sagacious thinkers of the Western world over the past ten months, under the overall title: “The Pursuit of Liberty.” The ten answers have been wise, thought-provoking, and essential reading for anybody concerned with this most fundamental issue of our time.
For will the ideals of 1776 — those that have so far actuated the most powerful nation in the history of mankind — survive and prosper in the next stage of our global story, or might we be truly heading for a new Dark Age? Could it be that today the combined forces of Islamic fundamentalist totalitarianism, Chinese neo-Communism, European anti-Americanism, rogue state nihilism, neutral state indifference, and — by far the most dangerous of all — our own doubts and disbelief in what we stand for, mean the slow eclipse of Western civilization? Might Barbarism finally triumph over Learning, Law, and Light?
In 1940 Winston Churchill warned of the way that the world would “sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age” if the Axis powers won the Second World War. The danger is no less great today should the ideals that inspire the English-speaking peoples and their allies be defeated in the present War on Terror. The American Spectator and the estimable John Templeton Foundation deserve credit for their foresight in bringing together ten of our most distinguished commentators to discuss this central question of our age.
The left regularly denounces its opponents for being “knee-jerk,” “unthinking,” even “Neanderthal” right-wingers, thus assuming an intellectual superiority that on closer examination is utterly baseless. What better response than to publish the views of ten intellectuals who — although by no means are all on the political right — certainly do not conform to the left’s prescription for the future of the West, the politics of the pre-emptive cringe. Instead, this essay series is the written equivalent of the kind of lecture program that one would have loved to have attended at university, and at which there would have been standing room only.
IT BEGAN BACK IN SEPTEMBER 2006 with “American Exceptionalism” by James Q. Wilson, the Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University. Charting the ways in which the United States was profoundly historically different from any other country in the world, Wilson was nonetheless highly cautious about the extent to which her values could be successfully exported to the rest of the world, largely because she also exported, “to no collective applause, blue jeans, Big Macs, rock and hip-hop music, web-based pornography, and motion pictures that often celebrate violence and a shallow adolescent culture.” It was a thoughtful and sobering start to the series.
Next came “America’s Democratization Projects Abroad” by James Kurth, a senior fellow at Philadelphia’s renowned Foreign Policy Research Institute and the editor of its excellent journal, Orbis. Looking back over the century since Woodrow Wilson tried “to make the world safe for democracy,” Kurth saw some fine successes — Germany, Italy, and Japan post-WWII foremost among them — but foresaw serious danger were democratic elections in the Middle East and the Muslim world to bring Islamofascist governments to power. He also wondered whether democracy in China might not unleash centrifugal tendencies and secessionism, rather than enlightenment and liberty.
Norman Podhoretz hailed President George W. Bush’s Second Inaugural Address as “A Masterpiece of American Oratory” in the November issue, describing it as a speech that was “wildly misunderstood.” Likening it to inaugural addresses from Truman, Kennedy, and even Lincoln, Podhoretz made a powerful case for Bush’s central argument, that American “vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one,” and that advancing the ideals that “created our nation” is “the calling of our time.”
Lawrence E. Harrison of Tufts University then addressed the cultural dimension of political, social, and economic development, which he argued persuasively, had been too long ignored because of its necessarily subjective nature. Because culture cannot be quantified in the precise way that electoral votes, troop movements, welfare budgets, and cash transfers can be, it has tended to have been left out of the equation, yet the cultural aspect of the present struggle was vital for the success of liberty.
February 2007 saw a characteristically forthright and stimulating contribution from the English philosopher (and American Spectator columnist) Roger Scruton, who perceptively argued that nationhood is a precondition of democracy and that the nation-state emerged in Europe as a solution to the religious strife of the Thirty Years War and was still the answer to many of the world’s problems. Because Europe’s belief in the nation-state was vanishing, he argued, “it would be better for America to build alliances with genuine and emerging nation-states — Japan, South Korea, Australia, India — than with the European powers.”
Daniel Johnson, one of Britain’s foremost conservative intellectuals, went one stage further. In perhaps the most passionate of all the essays, he argued that Europe ignored the increasing Islamicization of its large immigrant Muslim communities at its peril. Noting that the anti-American “rot set in” during the Cold War, when Europe for the first time failed to finance its own arms expenditure, Johnson also pointed out how post-imperial “disenchantment lies at the heart of Europe’s self-absorption.” America’s hopes and fears should be Europe’s too, he contended, and if Europeans refuse to support President Bush in his attempt “to halt the Islamo-Nazis in their tracks, then Europeans will have proved themselves unworthy of their ancestors at Thermopylae and Marathon.” In this powerful essay as in much else of his writing, Johnson laid claim to his father Paul’s mantle as being a modern-day seer.
Johnson’s philippic was followed in the April edition by “Liberty for Strangers: American Power and the Predicament for Arabs,” an equally sagacious contribution from Fouad Ajami of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He approached the issue from the Arab perspective, pointing out how popular were Fascist and Nazi ideas in the Middle East in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He also highlighted the central paradox that American liberals, who for so long had stood for liberty, now felt “it was a fool’s errand to take liberty to strangers,” whereas it fell to a conservative Republican president to try to do the right thing by the Middle East.
Natan Sharansky and Ron Dermer, who in 2004 co-authored the hugely influential book The Case for Democracy, emphasized the horrors that lie ahead were the United States simply to turn its back on Iraq, and thereby “hand the enemies of freedom a great victory.” Of course, all non-democratic states in the world actively want the U.S. to be defeated in Iraq, because the days of their own repression will be numbered if she is victorious and democracy prospers there and subsequently elsewhere too. “Democracy in Iraq is possible,” the authors stated with commendable faith, “because so many Iraqis want to be free and because the leader of the free world has not abandoned them to face the enemies of freedom alone.”
Michael Novak agreed in the June issue, arguing, “Against tremendous ridicule, abuse, and sheer visceral hatred from his political foes and significant elements in the press, the President had to remain as hard and firm as a diamond-tipped drill.” This leading intellectual light of the American Enterprise Institute was certain that “America’s effort to promote freedom in the world and protect her own security from Islamic extremism are ultimately dependent on success in Iraq.” Although Novak feared that the 21,500 extra U.S. troops deployed in the spring and summer 2007 surge might be “too little, too late,” nonetheless he believes that the success or failure of the democratic experiment in Iraq is of world-historical importance.
The tenth and final one of these fascinating, thought-provoking, and valuable essays appeared in the last issue, where Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, wrote about the past, present, and future “Armies for Democracy.” His profoundly depressing, but possibly accurate thesis is that the United States had simply “lost the confidence to enact positive reform abroad at a price in blood and treasure deemed worth the effort.”
Although, as Hanson persuasively argues, that price is a mere fraction of the price that America has been willing to pay several times before in her recent history, he points out that today it is American willpower that is lacking, rather than any other commodity. (Certainly as a Briton, I only wish your 1776 Congress had contained as many Murthas, Obamas, and Pelosis as your present one does: George Washington would not have stood a chance in his long, drawn-out, and desperate struggle against my countrymen.)
THE ESSAY SERIES THUS ENDED on a sobering note, after contributions from ten of the most acute thinkers of our day, each of them passionately committed to the defense of Western civilization. As a coda to their thoughts, I would like to present my own contribution to the debate, and try to encourage Americans to see their present world-historical War on Terror through the prism of the three earlier struggles of the English-speaking peoples and their allies since 1900.
Less than two weeks before he died, Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Rudyard Kipling, saying that “I have always insisted that the really good understanding the British Empire and the United States would not come except insofar as we developed a thoroughly American type, separate from every European type and free alike from mean antipathy and mean cringing.” He denied the claims of “the [Woodrow] Wilson adherents and the Sinn Feiners and pro-Germans and Socialists and Pacifists” that he was a craven Anglophile. However, he did add: “Because of the almost identity of the written (as opposed to the spoken) language and from other reasons I think that on the whole, and when there isn’t too much gush and effusion and too much effort to bring them together, the people of our two countries are naturally closer than those of any others.”
Roosevelt intensely deprecated the “good, mushy, well-meaning creatures who are always striving to bring masses of Englishmen and Americans together,” and likened them to a philanthropist he once knew who was saddened by the historic antipathy between New York’s police and fire departments. In order for them to “get together,” this rich man had hired Yankee Stadium for a friendly game of baseball. The moment the umpire’s decision was disputed in the opening innings, Roosevelt recalled, both sides did indeed “get together,” in a vast brawl with hundreds of “stalwart men in uniform” exchanging blows with each other.
If relations between the United States and Great Britain have managed on the whole to avoid Roosevelt’s Yankee Stadium metaphor, it has largely been because of the threats that they have faced together and the comity between successive pairs of presidents and premiers who have together fought against them. Although they never met, Lord Salisbury and Theodore Roosevelt established a fine working relationship that saw both countries through the potential strains of the Spanish-American and Boer Wars. Similarly, the warm personal relationships between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, and George W. Bush and Tony Blair have reminded us of what the English-speaking peoples can together achieve for civilization. (Equally, their two great 20th-century defeats of Suez and Vietnam both took place when Britain and America were not “standing shoulder to shoulder.”)
THE WORLD TODAY is facing the fourth great Fascist threat since 1900, one that can only be defeated if Anglo-American amity is kept in as good repair as it was by those earlier statesman-paladins. The proto-Fascist threat posed by Prussian militarism in 1914-18 was ended in part by the eruption onto the Western Front of General Pershing’s million-man “doughboy” army, just as it was most needed to help turn back Hindenburg and Ludendorff’s great Spring Offensive of 1918. Similarly, Axis Fascism was destroyed in great part by carrying through the masterly “Germany First” decision arrived at in the Anglo-American Arcadia Conference in Washington of December 1941-January 1942. So also did Soviet “Red Fascism” meet its end after the economic life-blood was squeezed out of it during the Glorious Eighties. These were not quick or easy victories, and neither will the next one be in the latest mutation of Fascism that we presently face. Although victory is not yet in sight, knowing what we do of the fundamentalist fanaticism that drives Islamofascism, such a victory is utterly indispensable.
The Great War took four years to win, World War II six, the Cold War forty-four. At this exponential rate, the War on Terror might take much longer. Liberal sneers that President Bush misnamed the war “because you can’t fight against an abstract noun” are misapplied; “[Wilhelmine] militarism,” “[Axis] aggression,” and “[Soviet] Communism” are all grammatically abstract, yet were all brought to heel in their time. Pentagon officials are right to be calling this one “The Long War.” As a recent New York Times article was headlined: “Blair, in Kabul, Warns That Fight Against the Taliban Will Take Decades.” In his speech Blair pointed out how: “Here, in this extraordinary piece of desert, is where the future of world security in the early 21st century is going to be played out.” As so very often in his foreign policy pronouncements since 9/11, the prime minister was tough, forthright, brave, and — most importantly — right.
When one surveys the forces serving in Afghanistan, beyond the steadily improving Afghan army itself, one sees 15,500 Americans, 5,500 Britons, 3,500 Canadians, 550 Australians, and important special forces contingents from New Zealand. Meanwhile, one sees Germany confining its troops to the quiet north, France to guard duty on the Khyber Pass, and other NATO nations refusing to contribute more reinforcements to what is surely the most morally justifiable war in recent history — fought against the movement that hosted and protected al Qaeda up to 9/11. Once again, therefore, it is the English-speaking peoples who find themselves in the forefront of protecting civilization. As NATO approaches the beginning of the end of its natural life, torn apart by European refusals to play a big enough military, political, financial, or moral role in the War on Terror, the USA should be increasingly looking to the English-speaking peoples for camaraderie, mutual support, and shared ideals.
For it is not simply Britain and America that deserve plaudits for defeating the great Fascist threats of the past and standing up doughtily against the present danger. The contributions of the rest of the English-speaking peoples — except sadly Ireland — have also been considerable over the 107 years since 1900. The statistics are astonishing, and in some cases make the pure Anglo-American ones pall by comparison. For example, over 100,000 New Zealanders served during the Great War, from a country with a total population of only 1.1 million in 1914.
A young and numerically tiny country, with a 1914 population of only 4 million, Australia lost no fewer than 58,961 killed in the Great War and 166,811 wounded, an enormous and terrible contribution to victory. In all, 416,809 Australians enlisted for service in the First World War, representing 38.7 percent of the total male population aged between 18 and 44.
Canada’s contribution to victory in the Second World War was incredible considering her population of only 11 million. In the spring of 1939 there were 10,000 men in her armed forces; by the end of the war, over one million had served in them. In the meantime they had been, in Professor David Dilks’s words, “the only properly organized, trained and equipped military strength in the southern part of England in the perilous summer of autumn of 1940”; had fought in Hong Kong in Christmas 1941, as well as at Dieppe, Sicily, Italy, France, and the Low Countries. The Royal Canadian Navy had 500 ships in service by 1943, and was the third-largest navy in the world by 1945. No fewer than 125,000 Commonwealth aircrew were trained in Canada, and of the RAF’s 487 squadrons in 1944, 100 came from the Dominions.
Nor was this an Anglo-Saxon racial phenomenon. By November 1918 no fewer than 15,204 Caribbean men had served in the 11 battalions of the British West Indies Regiment, which saw service in Palestine, Egypt, Mesopotamia, East Africa, India, France, Italy, Belgium, and England. “They were subjected to enemy artillery bombardment, sniper fire, exploding ammunition dumps and aerial attacks,” records their historian. “In France, life was also made uncomfortable by the prevalence of fleas, lice and rats, while in Egypt there were problems with scorpions, lizards, snakes and especially flies. Nevertheless, in every theater the West Indians consistently displayed courage and discipline.” Their decorations included no fewer than 19 Military Crosses, 11 Military Crosses with bar, 37 Military Medals, 11 Military Medals with Bar, 49 mentions in dispatches, 11 Medailles d’Honneur, and 14 Royal Human Society’s Medals, a proud total for any unit.
THE CRITICISM DIRECTED by the left-liberal media on both sides of the Atlantic against Messrs. Bush and Blair is of course nothing new in the conflicts of the English-speaking peoples. “There is a cowardly imbecile at the head of the government,” warned one newspaper. “I am heartsick,” cried one member of Congress, “at the mismanagement of the Army.” And, “disgust with our government is universal,” said another critic. That quote comes from historian Jay Winik’s excellent recent book April 1865, recording some of the very-modern-sounding criticisms leveled against Abraham Lincoln during the latter stages of the American Civil War.
The determined opposition of the left-liberal intelligentsia to the War on Terror, which due to its cultural hegemony has sadly seeped into the consciousness of the English-speaking peoples, has somehow led to a situation in which perhaps a majority of the electorates of every constituent nation (except doughty Australia) is willing to consider “defeat as an option” in Iraq. Of course, if we allow the notion to be bruited abroad that the only wars the English-speaking peoples could ever fight are those that have had a priori approval of NBC, CBS, CNN, the BBC, the Washington Post, New York Times, Guardian, and Independent, then their World Hegemon status might as well just be turned over to China right now, all wrapped up with big red satin bows decorating it.
Furthermore, defeat in the War on Terror means that the Iraqis and Afghans who are presently putting their trust in the English-speaking peoples will be massacred. They will therefore join a long line of people, including the South Vietnamese, Kurds, and Iraqi Marsh Arabs who were first encouraged by the West, only to be left to their own defenses afterwards. Americans need only visit Degas’s monumental painting “The Execution of Maximilian” in New York’s Museum of Modern Art to see the fate awaiting premier al-Maliki and his colleagues once the West withdraws its troops — as Napoleon III withdrew his from the protection of the hapless Emperor of Mexico — and they try to struggle on against the revolutionaries. The U.S. Congress has let down so many of America’s friends and clients since the humiliating scenes on the roof of the Saigon embassy in 1975. We must not see any repeat of that.
ALTHOUGH EACH INDIVIDUAL DEATH of Coalition servicemen in the War on Terror is a tragedy for their loved ones, the numbers must be seen in an overall military, historical, and demographic context. At the time of writing, the United States has lost just 3,555 killed and Great Britain has lost 153. In 2006, the United States topped 300 million in total population, so the numbers killed fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda represent 0.1 percent of her population. Put another way, as many U.S. Marines died taking the single Japanese-held island of Tarawa in three weeks than U.S. soldiers in all the services have died in more than four years fighting in the Middle East, against fanatics who loathe America just as much as any kamikaze pilot.
Once one strips away the friendly fire incidents and other accidents, the number of British servicemen dying per year since 2003 has not been wildly out of kilter with the annual numbers of those murdered by the IRA. Furthermore, 153 killed represents the death toll of a very quiet weekend during the Western Front in the Great War. If one takes into account the vast numbers of U.S. servicemen who have served in Iraq over the past four years, multiplying the number of men by the number of missions they have undertaken, the death toll is astonishing low and a tribute to the troops’ professionalism and their officers’ leadership. This is not something any politician can point out, but by historical terms the Bush administration has overthrown a tyrant and installed a democracy at relatively low cost in American lives. Furthermore, there have been no terrorist outrages on the American homeland in the nearly six years since 9/11, something few would have foreseen that terrible day.
Similarly, once one dismisses with contumely the absurd figures bandied about by people such as the (anti-war) editor of the Lancet as to the number of Iraqis killed, the likely number of fewer than 150,000 pales into near-insignificance beside the death tolls of at least a dozen post-1945 conflicts in Africa and Asia, where over one million people have perished. In world history, context is all. Only by putting our losses — heart-wrenchingly sad though each individual one of course is — into a proper overall historical perspective, can one appreciate that this war is simply not “another Vietnam,” where total U.S. losses exceeded 58,000 killed, or another Korea.
(Of course Iraq is not “another Vietnam” for any number of other reasons also, including type of terrain, status of enemy, support from Great Powers, and possibility of final negotiated settlement. The Viet Cong were supported by the majority of the North Vietnamese in a way that is simply not the case with the Iraqis and the jihadists today. Were Hanoi capable of unleashing a dirty bomb in downtown Manhattan, it is doubtful it would have done so; with al Qaeda there can be no question that it would. The similarity between the conflicts instead lies with us, not our enemy, specifically in the U.S. Congress’s willingness to quit the struggle once the network evening news programs started doling out a nightly diet of negative stories about the conflict.)
TO HAVE PURSUED a War on Terror in which the English-speaking peoples’ most outspoken foe — and Terrorism’s most active friend — was allowed to walk free would have been a political, military, and diplomatic absurdity. There was a superb case to be made for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein that mentioned neither the United Nations Resolutions, nor Weapons of Mass Destruction, nor even his despicable human rights record, and it is a shame that in the cacophony over WMDs it was not considered more thoroughly, for it is one that is largely immune from left-liberal criticism.
Saddam was responsible for many attempts to shoot down RAF and USAF planes over the no-fly zones; he profited from the Oil-for-Food scandal while Iraqi children starved to death; he paid $25,000 to the families of each Palestinian suicide-murderer; he threatened his peaceful pro-Western Arab neighbors; he summarily expelled UN weapons inspectors in 1998; the Iraqi Intelligence Service attempted to assassinate President George Bush Sr. and the emir of Kuwait with a powerful car bomb in 1993. Furthermore, Iraq sheltered the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (which had killed U.S. soldiers and civilians), the Palestine Liberation Front, Abu Abbas (who murdered the U.S. citizen Leon Klinghoffer on the cruise ship Achille Lauro), the Abu Nidal organization (responsible for the deaths or wounding of 900 people in 20 countries), Abdul Rahman Yassin (who mixed the chemicals for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing), and several others. Nor did the future look bright post-Saddam; he had two vicious, sadistic, sons, one of whom — Uday — was a rapist and mass murderer.
Yet due to the incessant, strident, and often unjustified criticism from the left-liberal media, today only some 20 percent of the English-speaking peoples support their governments’ actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. (One wonders who these fabulously stalwart one-in-five actually are who are so impervious to the endless left-liberal bias? Perhaps there is a sturdy irreducible minimum number of people who believe in attacking enemies rather than appeasing them, whomsoever those enemies may be, come what may? If so, the future hope of the English-speaking peoples lies with them, American Spectator readers to the forefront one imagines.)
It is in the off-mainstream media, especially blogs — and of course on Fox News — that one hears of the many and multifarious victories that go virtually unreported elsewhere, but which in earlier wars would have been trumpeted to the skies. A skirmish between British paratroopers and the Taliban in Helmand province in Afghanistan in September 2006 that left nearly 200 Taliban fighters dead at the cost of two Britons wounded, was reported in a British newspaper under the headline “Two Paras Wounded in Clash With Resurgent Taliban.” Nor is that an isolated incident of media bias. Neither Lloyd George nor Wilson nor Churchill nor Roosevelt could have won a war faced with that species of headline-writing. It seems to be politically incorrect to record the large numbers of enemy fighters who tend to die when they tangle with our forces in Helmand, whereas the death of a single British infantry soldier there makes the front page of national newspapers here. The numbers of enemy fighters killed — often ten times our troops’ numbers or (as in the above case) sometimes many more — are virtually never reported to the English-speaking peoples, who thus understandably feel themselves starved of good news.
SOME OF THE CONTRADICTIONS of the left-liberal approach have gone all but unnoticed by their opponents on the right, with very unfortunate consequences. The BBC criticism of the death penalty imposed on Saddam sat ill with their arguments that Iraq needed to have full political sovereignty; the mantra that many more troops should have been sent to Iraq in 2003 contradicts contemporaneous complaints about “a heavy boot-print on the ground”; the left-liberal glorification of Colin Powell (in order to compare him favorably with Donald Rumsfeld) clashes with the fact that it was he who produced the vial of white powder at the United Nations Security Council to illustrate WMDs; their criticism of de-Ba’athification contradicts their demands at the time for complete and immediate de-Ba’athification; their claims that the Coalition Authority should have kept the Iraqi army intact contradicts their contemporaneous reports that it had disappeared back to its villages; furthermore, do they really think power should have been handed over more quickly by the Garner and Bremer pro-consular authorities to Iraqis (such as Ahmed Chalabi) whom they later denounced as corrupt? Above all, their complaints about the squabbling and in-fighting of the Iraqi parliament completely contradicts their statements that the war was fought for oil, or contracts, or revenge, or imperialism, or anything rather than to impose democracy and destroy a foul dictatorship. Democracy engenders debate (i.e., arguments).
The wars of the English-speaking peoples almost always start out badly, but that should not invalidate them. Today, the rest of the English-speaking peoples have a right to expect leadership from the United States in this great struggle against a bitter, murderous, unappeasable foe of truly dreadful and evil intent. Yet in their midterm elections, Americans effectively cashiered their commander-in-chief after no major defeats on the ground and plenty of (under-reported) victories.
Of course, the 2006 midterms saw a smaller swing against a second-term president than were registered against either Eisenhower or Nixon, yet what solace the hard-pressed but PR-savvy Taliban, Ba’athist, Hamas, Fatah, Hizbollah, and al Qaeda fighters must have taken from the President’s loss of both the House and the Senate. The message it sends is obvious; continue this struggle for a little time longer and the Great Satan will withdraw first from Iraq, then Afghanistan, then from the rest of the Middle East, allowing you to massacre its clients and erect a Caliphate, prior to establishing a great nuclear reckoning with it one day in the future. It might not be an accurate prediction of future events, but that is immaterial since it is undoubtedly the encouragement they have gleaned from the pro-withdrawal stances of people like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
For all the criticisms of the Bush administration, and some of the most damaging have also come from Republicans such as Sen. John McCain, it ought to be recalled that in no major war of the English-speaking peoples — by which I exclude operations such as the liberation of Grenada in 1983 — has everything gone well right from the start. Taken chronologically, a pattern emerges about the way we as a political culture go about the business of warfare that says much about our morality, decency, democracy, and essentially non-militaristic way of life. It is only later on in conflicts that a bitter ruthlessness enters our souls, which is a pre-condition to victory.
If we truly wish for victory in the War on Terror — which it seems only that splendid 20 percent of us really do — it will need to be fought in an altogether tougher way, one from which the liberal consciences of people like Nancy Pelosi shrink. Yet the alternative, of course, is successive humiliations, retreats, and surrenders at the hands of Islamist Fundamentalist Totalitarian Fascism, which we must surmise from the opinion polls is possibly now the American public’s preferred route. Having seen what the Khmer Rouge did to ordinary Cambodians after the Americans withdrew from Indo-China in 1975, is the United States seriously proposing to leave millions of Iraqi democrats to the mercy of the jihadists?
UNLIKE IN MANY EARLIER CONFLICTS, there will be no way to tell when al Qaeda and its successors really ever accept defeat in the War on Terror. The only criteria worth considering will be whether coordinated acts of Islamofascist terror continue to be carried out against the English-speaking peoples. In a world in which weapons are likely to become ever more lethal, hard to detect, and easy to deliver, we must consider a world in our children and grandchildren’s time in which large parts of central London, New York, Sydney, and Chicago are rendered uninhabitable for decades as a result of makeshift “dirty” nuclear bombs, with unimaginable social and economic consequences. Such is the true “option of defeat.”
Fortunately, as Theodore Roosevelt told Rudyard Kipling, the constituent parts of the English-speaking peoples “are naturally closer than those of any others.” With Europe turning towards full-scale appeasement, in them lies the only true prospect for victory.
Andrew Roberts is most recently the author of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 (HarperCollins). This essay is the last in a series published in successive issues of The American Spectator since September 2006 under the general title, “The Pursuit of Liberty: Can the Ideals That Made America Great Provide a Model for the World?” The series is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this series are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.
This article appears in the September 2007 issue of The American Spectator. To subscribe to our monthly print edition, click here.