The War on Terrorism Will Sort Out Our Leaders

The Terror War is longer than the Gulf War or the average

Arab-Israeli war. It’s longer than the doodlebug bombing of Sudanese

pharmaceutical plants. It has lived long enough, though, to breed colonies of

misconceptions.

Should we wage war during Ramadan? Ah, the pious scruples of

murderers. You can torch and crush 6,000 unwarned and innocent civilians and go

to paradise for it, but don’t look cross-eyed at the calendar. The Muslim world

has never observed such a prohibition. The Prophet Muhammad himself waged war

during Ramadan. The 1973 Arab attack on Israel

during Yom Kippur also coincided with Ramadan. One of Iran’s

offensives against Iraq

during their 80’s blood bath was called “the Ramadan offensive.” The Taliban will no doubt try to compound our offense by

stuffing their ordinance into mosques. Some might call that desecration. We

should end the scandal of using religious buildings for violent purposes by

eliminating the occasions for the offense.

British television, and foreign TV

generally, is wall-to-wall dead Afghan civilians. A Turkish friend, inclined to

be pro-American, tells me this is all his family back home sees on the tube.

Everyone, from crazed Indian novelists to wailing mullahs, laments the

casualties and accuses us of terrorism. No doubt we have killed civilians. Air

war always does, even the most technologically sophisticated. But let us

remember how this began. The civilian

casualties caused by our air campaign have been accidental. The only accidents

involved in the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade towers were that

thousands of infidels managed to survive (none of the passengers of the four hijacked

airplanes were so lucky). We have killed some innocents through inadvertence.

Our enemies have killed as many innocents as they possibly could. The Muslim

world is intoxicated with the theatrics of martyrdom; they swig it down at the

first gunshot. Never again will I imagine that liberalism, and post-Christian

civilization generally, is fixated on what Kenneth Minogue

called “suffering situations.” Compared to the homicidal crybabies of Islam, we

are tough, manly fellows.

Watchman, tell us of the Northern Alliance,

what the signs of promise are. I actually know someone who knew Abdul Haq, the anti-Taliban leader who

was captured and executed after making a freelance foray into enemy territory

last month. Charles Bork, a son of Judge Robert Bork, went into Afghanistan

during the Soviet occupation (his battlefield photographs were published in National Review and The New Republic ). Through an intermediary, he asked Haq for an interview. The first answer that came back was

that Haq would not waste time with the son of “that

hashish-smoking judge.” Haq evidently confused Judge Bork with Douglas Ginsburg, the

Supreme Court nominee who went down in flames because of youthful pot use. Not

bad for someone who probably wasn’t getting very good reception for Washington Week in Review . Once young

Mr. Bork straightened out his lineage, the interview

went fine.

A wild life, a dramatic death. We should

expect many more such betrayals and surprises, before and after our ultimate

victory. The Encyclopædia Britannica (11th edition) has this to

say about our new allies, and our new enemies: “The first impression made by

the Afghan is favorable. The European … is charmed by their apparently frank,

open-hearted, hospitable and many manners; but the charm is not of long

duration, and he finds that the Afghan is as cruel and crafty as he is

independent.” For a faint European analogue of Afghan hardiness and lying,

think of the old Scottish Highlanders and the Glencoe Massacre.

We will not impose a temporary calm on Afghanistan

until we have smashed the Taliban in significant

action. That will mean ground troops, which means the struggle will probably

not be joined until spring. President Bush warned us this would be a long war,

and Afghanistan

is only the first phase. (Over the horizon loom Iraq

and Saudi Arabia;

the first is a target, the second is … an

opportunity.) Let it last as long as it takes, so long as we do the job.

While we fight, we must

reflect that not everything will break against us. Iran, one of the largest nations of the region, is

experiencing slippage in unanticipated directions. Iranians chafing at the rule

of fanatics have taken to rioting after soccer games; when the regime recently

unveiled the former American embassy in Tehran as a revolutionary park, the crowds stayed away.

V.S. Naipaul, in a recent talk in New York, discounted the possibility of change in Iran. The recent stirrings, he said, were the work of

a tiny middle class, which could easily be suppressed. Then he added the

supremely dark thought, “We must never get between people and their happiness;

they have earned their revolutions.” Mr. Naipaul

speaks with the authority of a traveler, and a keen observer, but even he has

revised severely negative views of Third World

countries. The Iranians may be rerouting their pursuit of happiness.

Most long wars involve a

sorting out of leaders. Think of the bewhiskered failures, indistinguishable to

all but Civil War buffs, whom Lincoln had to sort through before he finally hit upon

Ulysses Grant. George Washington commanded the army throughout the

Revolutionary War, but several of his highest-ranking subordinates fell by the

wayside through incompetence, insubordination or treason. The higher ranks of

the military have come off 10 years of fundamental peace, draining resources,

fraying military culture and pussyfoot actions in

non-places for non-reasons. We have cared more about diet in Somalia, poll-watching in Kosovo

and sexual harassment at Navy blowouts than about how well our soldiers fight

and how keenly their officers think. That’s always the way it is in peacetime

in Anglo-Saxon countries. Then a hoedown begins, and screw-ups, paper-shufflers

and rank civilians discover that they are military geniuses, while some of the

spit-and-polish types at the top wash out. The Commander in Chief has to know

what he wants, and sack those who cannot get it for him. What we want is the

death and confusion of our enemies.

The War on Terrorism Will Sort Out Our Leaders