April 15, 2004

VDH

I'm hypnotized by Christian hawks, jealous of the level of self-confidence they have regarding war. Mind you, the Iraq war is something we now have to carry through, so there's no doubt there. But VDH goes a step further and says that we should've nipped Islamic fundamentalism in its 1979 cradle.

I have no such confidence concerning war. It seems resistant to formula (even the Just War theory forces you to make some rough guesses) and the unforeseen ramifications of going to war are...well..so unforeseen. And lacking order and principle. Saul Bellow wrote that part of the attraction of his friend Allan Bloom was his coherent world view. Bellow wrote that "order is charismatic".

This is a prelude to Victor David Hanson's interesting article which is nakedly pragmatic (a particularly American trait/sin). Sometimes the Christian has to be unpractical, and I wish Victor David H. had said more words from that perspective, though I realize he's arguing purely from history. (Brian Lamb once asked him if he was Christian and he said he was, although "not a very good one" (who is?). When Lamb asked how it was that he was such a hawk and Christ apparently not, Hanson answered that from the 4th century on Christianity has accepted that war can be just.)
In the article linked VDH imagines a world in which the U.S. stood up to Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic fundamentalism back when the hostages were taken, but the truth is that Iran's experiment has failed, a failure that could only have been known in the full ugly "blossoming" of that state. Iranian citizens are about the only Muslim Middle Easterners who don't blame their problems on the U.S. (they blame their cleric leaders) and that seems like it ought to be worth something.
Imagine a different November 4, 1979, in Teheran. Shortly after Iranian terrorists storm the American embassy and take some 90 American hostages, President Jimmy Carter announces that Islamic fundamentalism is not a legitimate response to the excess of the Shah but a new and dangerous fascism that threatens all that liberal society holds dear. And then he issues an ultimatum to Teheran’s leaders: Release the captives or face a devastating military response.

When that demand is not met, instead of freezing Iran’s assets, stopping the importation of its oil, or seeking support at the UN, Carter orders an immediate blockade of the country, followed by promises to bomb, first, all of its major military assets, and then its main government buildings and residences of its ruling mullocracy. The Ayatollah Khomeini may well have called his bluff; we may well have tragically lost the hostages (151 fewer American lives than the Iranian-backed Hezbollah would take four years later in a single day in Lebanon). And there may well have been the sort of chaos in Teheran that we now witness in Baghdad. But we would have seen it all in 1979—and not in 2001, after almost a quarter-century of continuous Middle East terrorism, culminating in the mass murder of 3,000 Americans and the leveling of the World Trade Center.
He whips out convincing classical allusions:
As long ago as the fourth century b.c., Demosthenes warned how complacency and self-delusion among an affluent and free Athenian people allowed a Macedonian thug like Philip II to end some four centuries of Greek liberty—and in a mere 20 years of creeping aggrandizement down the Greek peninsula. Thereafter, these historical lessons should have been clear to citizens of any liberal society: we must neither presume that comfort and security are our birthrights and are guaranteed without constant sacrifice and vigilance, nor expect that peoples outside the purview of bourgeois liberalism share our commitment to reason, tolerance, and enlightened self-interest.
Most of the left simply spout slogans, which have all the thought of a squirrel. Alternative solutions are rare. But I do recognize that for Christians "doing nothing" (other than prayer and fasting) is sometimes the valid solution. On the other hand, sometimes we must fight. Where is that line between self-defense and aggression?

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