Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Do I cheer or weep?

Victor Davis Hanson is kind of an odd duck. A Californian, a farmer, a Hoover fellow, an expert in military history - I look to him from time to time when I need a historical perspective on war (for instance, when I've seen too many "War is not the answer" bumper stickers in one day). He's often breathtakingly brilliant, I think. But I was dismayed by an article of his I just read.

Called "The Same Old, Same Old," the article concerns the circumstances that made the London bombings possible: in particular the feelgood political correctness that declares any suggestion of a gigantic common link between the London bombings, the Egyptian bombing last weekend, Madrid last year, 9/11, the USS Cole, the Marine barracks in Lebanon back in the '80s, and so on, and so forth, ad in-bloody-finitum - a violent and fundamentalist interpretation of Islam - racist and unacceptable. We are so afraid to be insensitive to the cultural imperatives of others, Hanson says, that we shelter the asp in our bosom, trumpeting free speech as young Muslims in London (and not just London) are taught to hate the system that feeds, clothes, shelters, and permits them to hate it.

That's not the part I'm dismayed about. All that is common knowledge among those paying attention. Look, I've got no beef with Islam; as I might say about Christianity if I knew as little about Christ as I know about Mohammed, any religion that can retain the belief of a billion people can't be all bad. (Yes, I know some call Islam the "one-way religion"; I have no personal knowledge of how easy, difficult, or acceptable it is to become an apostate Muslim, so I can't comment.) I have a huge problem with the fact that the Muslim "mainstream" is not more vehement in its denunciations... and this is the part of Hanson's article that I hated. He says this:

...a madrassa that indoctrinates directionless youth, or an imam who shouts hatred to his audience, must always simultaneously when called upon “condemn” terrorism, and then seek victimhood when the rare scrutiny of an outraged public nears.

And even more to my dismay:

Bin Laden has so far only made one mistake: He took down the entire World Trade Center rather than the top floors, and had the misfortune of having George Bush as president. Thus he lost Afghanistan and ended up with democratic reform from Iraq and Lebanon to the Gulf and Egypt. Train bombings in Madrid and bus explosions in London, like the carnage in Iraq, are preferable, since they are enough to terrify and demoralize the Westerner but not quite enough to knock sense into him that only military resistance and victory will save his civilization.

In other words, the goal of terror attacks (brace yourselves, this is self-evident but I forgot it) is terror, not necessarily the infliction of mass casualties and certainly not military supremacy. Hanson suggests that the scale of terror attacks since 9/11 has been deliberate - deliberately small: just enough to sap our will for this fight, without being enough to galvanize our resolve. So far they've failed, because of Bush, Blair, and Howard and the stubborn will of the Anglosphere (not being culturalist here; can anyone believe that if we went home to sulk within our own borders, Romania would fight on?). What happens in 2008?

On the good side, it's not clear on which side the terrorists have been erring: have the attacks been too small to sap our will effectively, or too large such that they have bolstered our cojones? And, too, I confess to a sense that even Hanson can overestimate our opponents: are they - and by "they" I mean the midlevel people who must be in charge of planning and executing attacks such as the London bombings - as subtle as all that? Or would they in fact aim for the most blood, the most torn metal, the most horror they could gin up?

In any event, their second try in London is clearly a loss for them, a win for us. In no way was London "terrorized" by the second, failed bombing attempts. I've heard a few commenters suggest that the failure will act in the terrorists' favor in that they'll garner grossly misplaced sympathy on their account - but really, people. And, too, I've heard some commenters make the point that we tend to ascribe to our enemy almost supernatural powers - their numbers grow magically and geometrically, like the undead fighters in Alexander's Black Cauldron (LOVE those books), while we can't always make our recruitment numbers (but our reinstatement numbers are exceeding goals) even with increasing enlistment bonuses, etc.

All right then. I've cheered myself up to some extent. Kids crying to go to the pool - off I go to brave the chlorine, the ultraviolet, the Lyme disease...

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