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Pessimistic, but Not Defeatist

By David Warren

When people speak of a pundit's "take" on a situation, they conflate two things. The first is, what the pundit thinks is happening. The second is, what the pundit wants to happen. At least, that is the case for this pundit, who tries hard to distinguish when he is describing a reality, from when he is prescribing for it, but still leaves readers wondering which end is up.

So it seems now -- five years and counting into the mysterious world war that became visible with the Al Qaeda terror attacks on New York and Washington, but into which the whole modern history of the Middle East, and 14 centuries of relations between Islam and (former) Christendom, is woven -- forming a wonderfully complex pattern, with both spatial and temporal layering effects. It is beyond the capacity of any human being, even a President of the United States, to grasp everything that is in play. (And the West has other enemies, than the "Islamists" -- China, and North Korea, for instance; potentially Russia again.)

I never wanted to be a pundit, incidentally. I always wanted to be a lumberjack. (Little joke there.) There are people who, it is said, try to solve every problem with a hammer. I would rather do it with an axe.

It is a common human propensity, to split down the big log into workable chunks, for carving. To propose solutions to parts of a problem, hoping the rest will go away. It is a tendency that is killing us, in our encounter with the contemporary enemy in the field, who offers no "separate peaces" (the way traditional Islam did).

I rebel instinctively against nearly all of the punditry that has come from the Left, because, for the sake of easy thinking and sloganeering, they try to separate things that are attached. They pretend, for instance, that the enemy President Bush and company went to fight in Iraq, had nothing to do with the enemy who hijacked the airplanes on 9/11, and moreover, nothing to do with any other Western security interest.

But look at Iraq. The U.S. and allies invaded to remove Saddam Hussein, and with any luck, install a functioning democracy, as a light to lighten the Arab world. What they found, only a little beneath the surface of the nominal secular Baathism they displaced, was an enemy motivated by religious fanaticism, willing to cooperate with any devil who offers himself against the "Great Satan" -- in this case, the very Sunni "Al Qaeda in Iraq" with the very Shia ayatollahs of Iran, to foment a civil war against their fellow-Iraqi Shia, whom the ayatollahs are also supplying. With whom do we make peace?

"With the ayatollahs!" -- comes the quick response from the old school of diplomacy, whose principle of analysis might be caricatured: "First find your enemy, and then charm him to death." But Iran is only vying for leadership of the international jihad. The allies knocked down Saddam, and Zarkawi popped up. Neutralize the ayatollahs, and other aspirants will take their place.

In the moments just before the Congressional mid-term election, the New York Times did a big splash excoriating the Bush administration for having published captured Iraqi nuclear documents, that could be useful for Iran's development of nuclear weapons. This was of course designed to hurt the Republicans in the election, as much as possible. Since the paper had previously given much play to the argument, "Bush lied about Iraq's development of WMD, as a pretext for invasion," the breach of logic was exceptionally sharp. Yet understandable, because the irrational begets the irrational. They think, "Get rid of Bush and all our problems are over."

I have two views here, that must be subtly distinguished. One is my view of the reality: that we are facing an enemy who is Protean, who cannot be bought off or appeased, and who is against the West and the modern world, not just against Bush or Blair or some other politician whom our media also despise.

The other is on what to do about it. Make the enemy lose hope before we do. And the formula for that is to fight him everywhere he appears, with increasing rather than decreasing resolution.

My biggest hope now, is that the Democrats rising to power in the U.S. will begin to see the reality, out of the responsibility that comes with power; begin to see that Bush is not the problem, and fanatical Islam is. That the enemy we are facing will long survive Bush. That there is no silver bullet against that vampire. That we will grind him into extinction, or he will grind us, over the next several decades. Observe: I am pessimistic about our prospects, but I am not defeatist. Do not conflate those two things.

And I don't just support Bush. I support anyone who will carry on the fight, with enthusiasm.

© Ottawa Citizen

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