Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ideological warfare, 4gen, and the will to power

A general reflects on two failed wars:
Here’s a legend that’s going around these days. In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq and toppled a dictator. We botched the follow-through, and a vicious insurgency erupted. Four years later, we surged in fresh troops, adopted improved counterinsurgency tactics and won the war. And then dithering American politicians squandered the gains. It’s a compelling story. But it’s just that — a story.
The surge in Iraq did not “win” anything. It bought time. It allowed us to kill some more bad guys and feel better about ourselves. But in the end, shackled to a corrupt, sectarian government in Baghdad and hobbled by our fellow Americans’ unwillingness to commit to a fight lasting decades, the surge just forestalled today’s stalemate. Like a handful of aspirin gobbled by a fevered patient, the surge cooled the symptoms. But the underlying disease didn’t go away. The remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Sunni insurgents we battled for more than eight years simply re-emerged this year as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
Much as I despise President Obama, it's a bit rich for neocons to speak of him "losing" Iraq and Afghanistan. That presupposes that 1) we won in the first place, and 2) it was possible for us to win by any reasonable definition. In short, they live there and we don't. It would make no difference if we stayed for ten years or a hundred years, and there was no way in hell we were going to stay for a century. If anything, it might have been more effective to have simply smashed their governments and then immediately withdrawn, leaving them to their own devices from day one. There was simply no way that either the Iraqis or the Afghans would ever evolve into mild mannered Minnesota Democrats. Americans don't really do counterinsurgency because we don't really understand ideological warfare:
Americans have never really understood ideological warfare. Our gut-level assumption is that everybody in the world really wants the same comfortable material success we have. We use “extremist” as a negative epithet. Even the few fanatics and revolutionary idealists we have, whatever their political flavor, expect everybody else to behave like a bourgeois.
We don’t expect ideas to matter — or, when they do, we expect them to matter only because people have been flipped into a vulnerable mode by repression or poverty. Thus all our divagation about the “root causes” of Islamic terrorism, as if the terrorists’ very clear and very ideological account of their own theory and motivations is somehow not to be believed. 
ISIS knows what they're about, and they speak at great length about it. Presidents Bush and Obama are loathe to admit the Islamic nature of the enemy. Even if they did, we're not suited to that kind of ideological or religious warfare. Whenever anyone brings up the nature of Islam, sure enough there will be plenty of Westerners who claim that Christianity isn't all that different, which is prima facie laughable. Thirteen years after 9/11 we still welcome Islamists onto our shores and woe betide the commentator who seriously suggests that we don't.

The best solution is separationism:
I subscribe to the now tiny but, I believe, some-day-to-be prevalent Separationist School of Western-Islamic Relations. We separationists affirm the following:
  • Islam is a mortal threat to our civilization.
  • But we cannot destroy Islam.
  • Nor can we democratize Islam.
  • Nor can we assimilate Islam.
  • Therefore the only way to make ourselves safe from Islam is to separate ourselves from Islam.
I miss Auster.

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