WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Re: Jed Babbin’s Endgame Conservatives:
Jed Babbin says he’s an “end-game conservative” whose objective is to win the war against terrorism on both the military and ideological fronts. Well and good. Just how does he plan to do it? I’d like some specifics out of him, for a change, and not just reboiled Simon de Montfort (“Kill them all. God will know His own”). It’s easy to spout strategic platitudes, much more difficult to actually devise and enact a policy. And, while we’re at it, it is a maxim of war that “A bad plan executed in a timely and energetic manner is better than a good plan executed too late.” I fear Babbin seeks to implement a perfect plan some time in the distant future, when we’ll all be facing Mecca five times a day.
— Stuart Koehl
Falls Church, Virginia
I don’t usually write letters to the editor simply to cheer on a great article, but Jed Babbin’s “Endgame Conservatives” deserves enormous praise for its tough, clear-headed analysis of how the United States should be dealing with the problem of international Islamic terrorism. I believe Babbin’s article captures the views of most Republicans and patriots on this issue. Of course, I think we need a catchier moniker than “Endgame Conservatives,” but Babbin’s arguments and perspective are spot on. Thank you, Jed, for expressing so effectively the frustration that many of us feel over the President’s shifting strategy from killing terrorists and preventing rogue states from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (the original Bush Doctrine) to a quixotic, feel-good belief in defeating terrorism by spreading democracy and “wining the hearts and minds” of Muslims across the globe. The sooner we return to the original strategy, the better.
— Steven M. Warshawsky
New York, New York
If Rich Lowry thinks this war against terrorism is most like a counterinsurgency, he understands neither the Vietnam War to which he refers, nor the current war against terrorism of which he now speaks, nor what a counterinsurgency is.
And if he doesn’t understand Mr. Babbin’s declaration that “What we (Endgame conservatives) want to do is prosecute this war decisively to its conclusion, which Mr. Bush isn’t doing,” then Mr. Lowry fails to grasp at least five essential things.
One, that the true, single-minded goal must be to defeat terrorists and destroy their ideology. Period.
Two, that President Bush’s espoused goal democratizing Iraq and other such terrorist-infested places is genuinely misleading and naive.
Three, that radical Islamists and other terrorists or bullies will not be persuaded to lay down their arms. History does not bear out that such tactic has ever worked with such enemies. Chamberlain nor Clinton nor the U.N. could make it work. And it’s not working now with Iran and North Korea.
Four, that this is simultaneously a religious war, Islam versus Judeo-Christianity, and a war of civilizations, Islam versus the West.
Five, that failing to understand the first four points mortally threatens us all, now and in the future.
Lowry should know better.
— C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia
Excellent column, Mr. Babbin! If this country was really serious about dealing with terror supporting regimes in the Middle East, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia would all be much more aware of the consequences of incurring the wrath of Uncle Sam.
In the case of Syria and Iran, I don’t think a full scale invasion should be necessary to change the hearts and minds of the leaders of the country. Full application of strategic fires on selected targets should get the message across. Bashar al Assad should have been told he must stop all meddling in Iraq about two years ago, or suffer the consequences. I agree his regime should now be history.
Keep the pressure on the Wilsonians. They never negotiate from a position of strength, preferring to throw it away. Remember, Wilson was an academic before he became president. To academics such as he was, it’s enough to talk about a solution, never mind whether or not the conversation makes sense.
— R. Goodson
Vero Beach, Florida
I’m pretty much with Jed on this except for one point: he says, “We mean to defeat the radical Islamist ideology (for that is what it is, not a religion) as we defeated the Soviet communist ideology.”
The radical Islamist ideology is orthodox Islam. Historically and from their documents. We must get over this fear of offending “moderate” Muslims about their *religion*. Their *religion* clearly and unequivocally teaches unending jihad until the entire world is in subjugation to the *religion*. Just because their religion acts like an ideology doesn’t mean it isn’t a religion.
The problem with this sort of thinking is that it makes people say “Oh, good, I don’t have to worry about the religion, it’s just a few crazies using it for their own purposes”. No, we do in fact have to worry about the religion of Islam. And since it is a religion, it can be defeated or held in check only with the help of another religion, not an ideology. As a purely secular entity I do not think the West can defeat Islam, especially not Europe. The reason why there is hope in America is because there are still remnants of a very robust, muscular Christianity, Catholic and Evangelical.
— Lucy Tucker
I think a larger question than the infighting within the conservative movement over the “end game” might be better served if the body politic understood what we can and can not accomplish with the small military force we have. The biggest gains in political terms resulting from our invasion of Iraq came relatively soon after the 21 day campaign to topple Saddam’s government. With what amounts to a very small force, made smaller by our “allies” in Turkey, we accomplished what many thought could not be done. When Libya renounced its Iraq-led nuclear program it wasn’t from fear of becoming a democracy. Likewise when Syrian forces withdrew out of Lebanon it wasn’t from a fear of becoming a democracy. That point should not be lost on those interested in the long-term stability of the Middle East region and our own security.
Many commentators have suggested that we don’t have enough forces in Iraq. I would suggest that we wouldn’t have enough if the entire U.S. ground force were stationed there given the size of the country and nature of the borders. This nation put the equivalent of 130 combat divisions under arms in WWII on a population base of less that half of what we have now. When we occupied Germany and Japan, it wasn’t done with a shoestring force. The enemy was also defeated, unconditionally. We got the results we got with Korean and Vietnam because we threw out the book on warfare and how to win. More importantly we forgot why it is important to “win” in military terms. Imagine what Iraq would look like today if we had launched our seven divisions into Iraq proper after we crushed their forces in Kuwait in the first Gulf War. We had at least three times the combat forces and the ability to actually “shock and awe” our foe. Not today.
While I understand the frustration with our “guns and butter” strategy today and seemly strategic defensive posture I also understand that 48 percent of this country’s voters are more interested in their entitlements, homosexuality, legalized murder of the unborn, free health care and giving illegal aliens and criminals the right to vote than lifting a finger to stop fanatics in the middle east from developing nuclear weapons and pitching one into Israel or even at us. For too long the loudest voices have been coming from the minority on the left because the leadership of this Nation has lost its will to deal with both the enemy at home and aboard. Both Democrats and Republicans understood what was at stake after December 7, 1941. Can that honestly be said today?
In my humble opinion this nation has lost its will to do what is necessary in its own defense because we have become “too civilized”. There isn’t a day that goes by that someone in the media or some politician looking for votes isn’t complaining about our forces and their conduct or lack of measurable results. Most of this is pure non-sense and deserving of the strongest rebuke. There is a point where being a “nice guy” is a liability. Lincoln learned this the hard way with his Commanding General choices.
If we are going to stay this “civilized” in the conduct of our “conflicts less than war” we had better get used to the idea of less than tangible results and long wars of attrition. We have the sharpest spear in town but also the smallest collection of them on a population basis. The down side to this is that our enemy knows they can’t defeat us one on one so they run away to fight another day. Because we don’t have the forces to decisively defeat them in quick order, our efforts sometimes just have the effect of chasing the vermin to someone else’s house. Iraq is a good example of that. If we really want to win this we had better stop giving our enemies aboard and at home a free pass out of jail every time we get them on the ropes. If we aren’t in this to win in military terms, we don’t really need the military we have as all we use it for is a heavily armed international police force. It is a bit expensive for that role.
Come this November, the people in charge of our war efforts will either retain control or lose it. If they lose it, the burden of that loss will be felt not only by the military personnel who have made the material sacrifice but by a generation of Americans who have lost their will to finish what they start. The seeds of our current situation were planted when we started gutting our military forces 15 years ago in order to balance the budget. Even with the significant increase in the Defense budget, we are still cutting back force levels, weapons programs etc, while domestic spending on entitlements is out of control. Does this picture denote a serious attitude on our part when it comes to winning this War on Terror? I think not.
Serious people don’t question their motives or actions in the face of mortal danger. We are not serious and our enemies know this.
— Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia
Forget the B.S. American troops have their lives on the line. Constant criticism is not the means to achieve victory. I support our troops, our President, and our country. The plan is not perfect, but it is succeeding.
What we need now is the same patience, courage and fortitude that our brave soldiers display everyday in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The carping, ankle-biting criticism from pundits who claim all is lost unless we do things their way is disgusting.
— Doug Santo
I read your article and I come away confused. For if our aim is not to spread representative government in the SW Asian theater, then what? If our goal is not to reform Islam and destroy its underpinning of Sharia law then my friend you have it in spades. And here lies the result, a man persecuted. Or here, women brutalized while the 2nd generation households of the assailants seem puzzled that this is not the societal norm.
It is becoming increasing clear, at least to me, that Sharia IS the problem. There is no means by which we will moderate the views of those practicing this religion. So long as Sharia, is tightly linked to the religion and those laws defy the norms of Western Liberalism then our efforts are for naught. We need to alter our views of the situation for we are not in a geopolitical fight here. We are engaging an enemy whose mindset is georeligious, no more, no less. There will be only one victor in this battle, and so far our side seems to be losing.
Time to wake up.
— John McGinnis
Another excellent article by Mr. Babbin. He sums the war on terror up nicely. Iraq is, indeed, a working model for the ongoing war on terror. It is the preview of the near future for the entire world and must be viewed as such.
There are a couple of things that I feel Mr. Babbin may have left out of his explanation. First, as he notes, the Bush administration rightly perceived that the greatest threat to this country was not the terrorists themselves, but rather nations that supported and used terrorist organizations to further their own nationalistic ambitions. If you put a bullet through the head or the heart, the fingers and toes will die. This is not usually practical or desirable, however. Sometimes, it is just as effective to convince an antagonist that you are prepared to do just that if necessary. This was the basis for the invasion of Iraq. It was an object lesson to the rest of the world, especially those that would seek to do us harm, that threats against the U.S. would not be tolerated. Iraq was chosen, not because it was run by a ruthless, sub-human dictator, but rather, because that dictator was not living up to the terms of the ceasefire negotiated at the end of the first Gulf War. These violations included, but were not limited to firing upon our pilots patrolling the no fly zones. The second benefit to the invasion of Iraq was the anticipation of securing military bases just across the border from a potentially greater antagonist, the Islamic Republic of Iran. There were two unanticipated benefits to this action. One was the seeming willingness of the Iraqi people to embrace democracy. A form of government that seems to find favor with most peoples in the world, when they have a choice. The other was the pilgrimage of every non-Palestinian jihadist in the Middle East to Iraq. This produced the global equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel, they being the fish.
The original intent was always to provide for the security of the U.S. by convincing nations potentially hostile to us that it is not in their best interest to pursue such a course. This goal has been lost. Either because of a change in our public policy, or because of a seeming loss of will to continue the process, potential adversaries have become emboldened.
As Mr. Babbin states, this administration has lost sight of the original goals in this war and has wandered into the arena of social activism. The Iraqi people will develop their own form of democracy and they will pursue their own economic goals without the fatherly direction of the U.S. Reforming Islam is also unnecessary. Followers of Islam will either join the global community in a non-violent way or they will be destroyed. It is the terrorists, who utilize violence to further goals who are our enemies, not peaceful practitioners of any religion. If we do not get back on track, we will be forced to repeat this process all over again, only, this time, it will be much more costly.
— Michael Tobias
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
To Jed Babbin and the rest of the endgamers: Please do not take your eyes off the ball by confusing the wishful rhetoric of promoting democracy in the Middle East as a substitute for a clear cut and achievable near term strategy for winning the War on Terror. I think conservatives can agree that our effort in Iraq cannot be abandoned until it is both governable in accordance with international norms and strong enough to withstand the internal assaults of the terrorist insurgency. Also, I think we can all agree that the War on Terror will inevitably lead us to any country that offers aid and comfort to the Islamic Terrorists. I believe that is what President Bush meant when he said “You are either with us or against us.” The focus of the War on Terror is where it should be – victory over the terrorists in Iraq and confrontation to any government that would assist them. We are just creating needless controversy by expanding the focus of the WOT to bringing about democracy in the Middle East. That is nothing but a long term vision of what will someday hopefully evolve in that area.
— Jerome Brick
Beaver Dam, Arizona
While I agree with much of Mr. Babbin’s argument in the sense I wish to attack all of these problems now because we could win if we wanted to do so.
I think the main point he doesn’t take into account is that the President doesn’t have enough goodwill of the people behind him to go into Iran or Syria. This is mostly seen not in the polls but in the lack of leadership in the Congress. This almost no willingness to support action in the Democratic Party and there not enough with the Republican congress either.
A President cannot do this on his own. He also can not make these turkeys who only see to the next election and not to the next 9/11.
I believe that some of this lack of leadership in Congress does come from those like you who while providing criticism of the current policy allow the mindset to settle in that this policy has flaws and why should we stick our necks out when it is flawed. I don’t believe criticism by itself is unuseful but it goes along with the constant complaints by the MSM and the Dems. This just settles in after a time and helps to create the mindset that Bush’s direction should be changed.
You may believe the President’s policy should be stronger but your actions just make it weaker. Thank you for your time and your adding to the public discussion.
— Bruce Caldwell
After reading Jed Babbin’s article, I’m not really sure what he is proposing as a strategy for the “endgame” but it seems that he is recommending that old chestnut about “bombing them back into the Stone Age,” a tried and failed method.
— Tom McGonnell