The Wars: Big Ideas II

by JOHN C. WOHLSTETTER October 17, 2013

More Big Picture viewpoints:

Churchill's memorable twin cautions about the Middle East.  In 1929, after the victorious powers had carved up the region, WC explained:

The whole of the Middle East is intimately related. Beneath the smooth surface of British rule and the slender garrisons which normally sustain it are smouldering the antagonisms of centuries. There are always feuds and animosities. There are always scores to be settled and fanatical thirsts to be slaked. Any appearance of lack of will-power on the part of the British Government or of lack of confidence in its mission in these countries blows like a draught of air on the dull, fierce embers.       

In 1958, after the debacle at Suez doomed Britain's continued status as a full-fledged global superpower, WC said:

The Middle East is one of the hardest-hearted areas in the world.  It has always been fought over, and peace has only reigned when a major power has established firm influence and shown that it will maintain its will.  Your friends must be supported with every vigour and if necessary they must be avenged.  Force, or perhaps force and bribery, are the only things that will be respected.  It is very sad, but we had all better recognize it.  At present our friendship is not valued, and our enmity is not feared.

Michael Ledeen ("It's War, You Idiots!") explains the war Team Obama does not understand:

[T]here's a global war, we're the main target of the aggressors, and our leaders don't see it and therefore have no idea how to win it.

Any serious attempt to understand what's going on has to begin by banning the word "stability," much beloved of diplomats and self-proclaimed strategists. If anything is fairly certain about our world, it's that there is no stability, and there isn't going to be any.  Right now, the driving forces are those aimed at destroying the old order, and their targets (the old regimes, very much including the United States) have until recently showed little taste to engage as if their survival depended on it.  But things are changing, as always.

The war is easily described:  there is a global alliance of radical leftists and radical Islamists, supported by a group of countries that includes Russia, at least some Chinese leaders, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.  The radicals include the Sunni and Shi'ite terrorist organizations and leftist groups, and they all work seamlessly with the narcotics mafias.  Their objective is the destruction of the West, above all, of the United States.

What if they win?  Some of them want to create a  (Sunni or Shi'ite) caliphate, others want Castro- or Kim-style communist dictatorships.  Like the five Mafia families in The Godfather, they have made their war plan, but, as with the Corleones and the Barzinis, they are riven by disagreements, some of which are fundamental.

War is foggy, and alliances are often very unstable, especially at moments when the whole world is up for grabs....

After charting the mess in Egypt, where a military regime is in a fight to the finish with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, with compromise not realistically possible, Ledeen charts the various shifting intra-Islamist alliances, country by country, as the Arab Spring utterly unravels:

Let's get outside these little boxes and look at the big board.  There's an alliance plotting against us, bound together by two radical views of the world that share a profound, fundamental hatred of us.  If they win, it's hell to pay, because then we will be attacked directly and often, and we will be faced with only two options, winning or losing.

That's the bad news.  The good news is that they're divided, and slaughtering each other.  And it's not always possible for us to sort out what "each other" even means.  But one thing is quite clear, and I know it's an unpopular idea, but it's a true fact:  they're not an awesome force.  The radical left has failed everywhere, and so have the radical Islamists.  Both claim to have history (and/or the Almighty) on their side, but they go right on failing.  The left is now pretty much in the garbage bin of history (you can hire Gorbachev for your next annual meeting if you can afford his speaking fee), and the "Muslim world"-sorry to be so blunt-is a fossilized remnant of a failed civilization.  Look at the shambles in Iran, look at the colossal mess the Brothers unleashed on a once-great nation.

ML calls for helping the oppressed inside Iran overthrow their Islamist tryant-masters.

Bottom Line.  Whoever succeeds Team Obama come January 1917 needs to grasp the Big Ideas that have eluded too many of our leaders.

Mr. Wohlstetter is the author of "Sleepwalking With the Bomb" (Discovery Institute Press, 2012). Follow John on twitter at @JohnWohlstetter 


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