Welcome to a new type of war
by Salim Mansur
In his final State of the Union address on Monday, President George W. Bush spoke again at length about the war on terror, and the strategic importance of a "free Iraq" in securing a beachhead for freedom and democracy in the Arab heart of the Middle East.
Bush reminded Americans and others that the free world is "engaged in the defining ideological struggle of the 21st century" against those – the Islamists and their supporters – opposed to "every principle of humanity and decency" that free people hold dear.
Iraq and Afghanistan liberated from the clutches of tyranny will be Bush's legacy, and history will judge him accordingly.
It was Bush's determination to take the war the Islamists brought to America's homeland back into their neighbourhood that liberated some 50 million people, while giving them an opportunity to exit from their squalid and miserable history.
Yet the struggle for "humanity and decency" in the Arab-Muslim world is far from over, and reversals in Iraq or Afghanistan cannot be discounted.
The war against the Islamists and their weapon of terror is an entirely new type of war in a new century with little resemblance to past wars.
It is a war against an ideology and its carriers that thrive on the ruins of failed states and misery of the people, for instance the Taliban in Afghanistan or Hamas thugs in Gaza. At the same time the Islamists and their apologists shift responsibility for both causes and effects onto the guilt-laden West.
Moreover, this war – requiring military force and civilian reconstruction programs – cannot be successfully waged, nor the Arab-Muslim world secured for freedom and democracy when the West remains divided over means and ends.
Such division is not new. In each major conflict of the past century the West fought and eventually prevailed, even as a segment of its population sympathized with the enemy.
In the present war the enemies of freedom are deeply entrenched in the culture of the Arab-Muslim world, and the Islamists remain determined to prevail over time, calculating that the West – the United States in particular – either abandons the struggle due to fatigue, or is disarmed by a new-found faith in multiculturalism.
Hence, the dilemma for the West arising from its own lack of resolve to defeat the Islamists means contending with them for a very long time over shifting terrains and circumstances, while the costs mount and demands rise for disengagement that elected leaders cannot discount.
A major problem in this situation is the refusal by an important segment of the West's opinion leaders – the lib-left leaning intellectuals in the mainstream media, academia and trade unions with their supporters – to recognize the enemy.
This again is not new.
Churchill was just about alone in recognizing the enemy in Hitler and Nazism, as was Truman in the urgency to contain the former Soviet Union.
In the contemporary situation Muslims speaking out against the Islamists and their terrorism – as did the murdered Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan and countless others – understand best the latest enemies of freedom.
By ignoring them the West will merely postpone, not escape, the inevitable conflict at a much higher cost for preserving its own freedom and security.