Reflections on the War on Terror, a century into it.
By John F. Di Leo -
There are as many truisms in war as there are in peace. Favorites include “The generals are always fighting the last war,” “There is nothing new under the sun,” “An army marches on its stomach.”
All are true, to an extent, and can be applied to the study of any war, including the current one.
But it’s also worth considering one of the great lies of all time, always cited, rarely true: “But This Time Is Different!”
We say it to our parents when we hope for an exception at home; we say it to our bosses when we miss a deadline at work. And politicians certainly say it every time a policy fails. But is this time really, truly different? Or are we just focusing on the slightest bit of variance and stretching it, in hope of making essentially the very same thing look different enough to evade blame for indecision or error?
The War on Terror
The United States of America have been wholly committed to the War on Terror for over a dozen years now… ever since Al Qaeda cells attacked New York and Washington, killing some 3000 innocent people in a violation of every law of God and man, an unannounced fatal attack on human lives and property by non-uniformed men, in complete and intentional contradiction of the Geneva Convention (remember, islamofascist terrorists are not signatories to Geneva; its protections don’t apply to terrorists at all. In fact, that’s rather the whole point of it…).
But 9-11-2001 wasn’t the start of the war, anyway. The war was already in place during the prior decade, when Al Qaeda attacked the USS Cole, the US embassies at Kenya and Tanzania, and the World Trade Center for the first time. And the war was in force before Al Qaeda even existed; during the decade before that, islamofascists tried to kill Pope John Paul II, and succeeded in killing Israeli politician Meir Kahane.
The islamofascists – call them what you will: radicalized islamists, jihadists, fundamentalist muslims, whatever – lost interest in their respective geographical national boundaries decades ago, if indeed they ever respected such things. The arabs are a Bedouin people; what’s the point of drawing great lines in the sand, when windstorms can cover them up in a flash?
Most of these groups have been headquartered in a discernible place; Al Qaeda and the Taliban were in Afghanistan... The PLO, Fatah and Hamas have been associated with the arab-dominated portions of Israel, such as Gaza, Judea and Samaria... Hezbollah has been in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
We knew what to do when there were formal geographic ties – we could attack Afghanistan and Iraq because their governments had clearly, formally supported the terrorists (remember Saddam Hussein’s ghastly death bonus, in which he paid $25,000 bounties to the families of islamofascist suicide bombers as thanks for “raising their sons right”?). But once we overturned those two respective governments, we lost interest in the fight, and we left the mosques and madrassahs in place, free to continue to radicalize ever more such attackers with impunity.
So here we find ourselves, left in a world breeding enemies by the hour, in Paris and London and Detroit, utterly lost in the search for a solution, our leaders pleading understanding because it’s such a new problem that we face.
The More Things Change…
We say we don’t know what to do now, because this is such a new fight. We are asked to consider our past challenges, so easy and obvious by comparison: We fought the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War… North Koreans in the Korean War… Spain in the Spanish American War… Mexico in the Mexican War… Great Britain in the Wars of Independence and of 1812.
Our past experience with war, don’t you see, has always been clearly geographical, we are told. It’s no wonder that we’re thrown by the War on Terror; this nationless enemy, with killers embedded among us and "lone wolf" attacks everywhere, is an utterly new experience to us.
…the More They Remain The Same.
But is any of that really true? Is the shapelessness, the pan-geographic nature of the War on Terror, truly so new to us?
Our entire Cold War, of which Korea and Vietnam were but a part, along with actions in Grenada and Nicaragua and many more, was actually a stateless fight against the ideology of communism. Originally bred in England or Germany or Cuba or Russia, perhaps, but the internationalist communism of the Soviets was a stateless ideology that aimed to conquer the world. The individual “advisors” who poured out of Havana into the jungles of Africa and Central America, with the Castros’ whip and Brezhnev’s cash behind them, didn’t do it for the greater glory of Cuba, but for the death cult of Marxist-Leninism. The killers who poured into the jungles of Angola and the fields of Mozambique served Karl Marx and the devil, not the Castro brothers or that decrepit politburo way up north in Moscow.
Just as, centuries before that, islam in its beginnings was first a stateless Bedouin movement in search of a state. Mohammed wasn’t born into a royal family, ruling a kingdom that then developed a land lust and began to expand. No, islam started with the conquest of a town, then a province, and only then could grasp at whole countries, coasts, peninsulas, and ever so slowly, whole continents.
During the Middle Ages, when islam was spreading across North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula at the point of a blade, another stateless movement was spreading outward from the North Sea. The Vikings, the criminal class of Denmark, Scandinavia, and the Baltics, were hardly welcome in their homelands of farming and fishing communities; these stateless robbers attacked a monastery at Lindisfarne, raided merchants at London and York, conquered castles for their gold and silos for their food… in Britain, in France, all up and down the Baltic Sea, as far west as Iceland and Greenland, as far south as the Mediterranean.
When Charlemagne for the Franks, or Alfred for the English, had the courage to oppose these Vikings, they couldn’t attack Denmark, or Norway or Sweden for that matter; the Viking raiders usually weren’t state-sanctioned, especially not at the beginning.
The Franks and the Anglo-Saxons had to adjust to the situation at hand, and wipe out the enemy entirely, or beat them enough to behave, or – sometimes, when all else failed – officially recognize the enemy’s conquest of a nearby province, and hope to bring them into the community of nations, peacefully teaching them how decent folk live. And sometimes that worked.
Usually, it was a matter of eternal vigilence: whenever there was a report of the enemy, whether massing across a river, or landing in a bay, or hiding in a forest awaiting their opportunity, the forces of right knew they needed to wipe them out. It's as simple as that. Eternal vigilence and obliteration of the cancer.
But even these stateless islamists and Vikings of the Middle Ages weren’t anything so new, under the sun. Before the Western Roman Empire fell, it was attacked and overwhelmed by wave after wave of eastern barbarians. The Huns, the Ostrogoths, the Visigoths… all these landless barbarians came from central Europe or Asia to get a piece of these Roman riches of which they’d heard so much.
The landless barbarians built empires of their own – shortlived perhaps, in comparison to the glory that was Rome, but still – from a landless mob to the rulers of provinces, that’s something to respect.
Combined with the fundamental weakness that had been gnawing away at the foundations of Rome for centuries, these barbarians delivered the death blow, and mighty Rome fell at last in 476 A.D. Rome found that it could defeat any enemy on the battlefield, but it couldn’t resist the inherent crumbling of the mortar that had held the bricks of their society together.
Rome learned, too late, that a war against barbarians must be fought in many ways – yes, on the battlefield, but in the schools and churches and homes and town squares as well.
Today’s War on Terror
It is said that we are opposed – and when we say “we,” we mean all non-muslims, and even the muslims whom the islamofascists define as "insufficiently muslim" too – by only the radical branch of a 1.3 billion strong population. If that radical branch is only 10% of them, as is commonly alleged, well, that’s still an army of 130 million. And if it’s a much higher percentage, as appears more likely by the general lack of opposition within the muslim community… well, you do the math.
Calculating the enemy’s strength is admittedly difficult. Consider:
- An extreme Christian is one who lives in a monastery and prays all day, or lives in a convent and teaches children math and history, or stands at a pulpit and exhorts his congregation to live decent lives. Such monks, nuns, and ministers are a tiny percentage of the Christian population, but the rest support them, in well wishes if not always in cash. The non-extreme Christians, known as the laymen, recognize and honor the choice of their more devout minority to live the religious life.
- But an extreme islamist is one who bombs pizzerias and malls, one who teaches children to strap bombs to their backs and board buses full of commuters, one who beheads western journalists, or one’s own child for listening to music, or one’s own wife for going out in public without a head scarf. The extreme islamist teaches at mosques and madrassahs that all this is right, that all this is religious, that all this is the only way to be truly Islamic. So where does that leave the non-extreme muslims, those we call the “moderate muslims” (the number that we hope to be 90%)? Where do they stand, and are they a similarly homogenous group? Do they really oppose the beliefs, activities, and teachings of the more devout, as we hope and pray? Or do the non-extreme just not choose it for themselves, but recognize and honor the choice of their more devout minority to live what they consider to be the religious life?
This question is at the heart of the challenge of our time, and Egypt’s courageous commander, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, delivered a notable speech on January 1, 2015, calling for imams worldwide to settle this issue, the right way: to thoroughly reform the religion of islam and drive violence out of its doctrine once and for all.
But such calls are rare, and their prognosis dim, leaving the rest of the world in its ongoing quandary.
The Myth of the Lone Wolf
Another of the common complaints of those in power is that we just can't call it a real war, with so many lone wolf attacks, like the Ft Hood shooter and the Oklahoma meat-packing plant beheader. But these are just another aspect of the army of the nationless enemy, and are both trackable and stoppable if we commit to it.
We need to reconsider the use of this overused term.
- When a military commander tells an army to attack, it's obviously war... no matter whether he says "Front line, Fire, then, Second Line, Fire, then Front Line again, then Second Line again," etc. etc... or if he just says "Fire at will!" Either way, his troops are following orders.
- On the other hand, when an unconnected nut, without ideology or movement ties, thinks of attacking on his own, without orders or encouragement, that's a true lone wolf.
So when 100,000 imams all tell their congregations, all over the world, to attack on their own... which is essentially what jihadist islam is all about...
Well, that's just a general saying "Fire at will." It's not a lone wolf at all. It's just the way that orders are transmitted in the rank and file of this particular enemy. Regardless of law, regardless of national origin, regardless of status as citizen or visa-holder, layman or soldier, those who follow the jihadi philosophy are under permanent orders from their commanders to "Fire at Will." And it's time we acknowledged the fact.
Ending the Denial
So, here we are, challenged by a huge, homicidal, and truly global band of attackers whose goal is not merely to conquer and rule some land, but to kill all those who will not submit to the permanent imposition of the barbarian legal code known as sharia.
There are challenges, no doubt. It’s not as easy a war to fight as the usual war in which you can concentrate on enemy forts, fleets and amassed divisions on the ground or on the march. In a war against a stateless enemy, we must recognize that jihadis are being raised and trained in potentially every other madrassah on earth, congregations are being radicalized in potentially every other mosque on earth, individuals in allied nations – and even our own country – are receiving their marching orders on their computers at home, right under our noses.
But to claim that it’s “a totally new war” is disingenuous. There are differences, yes. Today’s enemies have the internet, chemical weaponry, the outrageous (and, frankly, blasphemous) pretense of being religious. But today’s enemies have much in common with their barbarian predecessors. Today’s islamofascists behead their victims; the Vikings practiced the blood eagle, and the Aztecs ripped out their victims’ hearts in “religious ceremonies.” This demonic horror IS horrible, but it is not new.
Governments have had to protect their borders from barbarians since the dawn of time. Some have succeeded, some have failed, but there’s plenty of precedent in human history from which to learn. It’s time to stop allowing politicians to say “this is a really new war, a really hard war; we just don’t know what to do.” It’s time for our statesmen to say “We know exactly what needs to be done, and so to save the United States and in fact, Western Civilization, we shall do it.”
Copyright 2015 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based international trade lecturer and compliance trainer. His columns are regularly found in Illinois Review.
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