War half-won in Iraq, half-lost in Wash­ing­ton

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - VIC­TOR DAVIS HAN­SON

The gloomy elec­tion-year re­frain is that Amer­ica is mired in Iraq, took its eye off Afghanistan, em­pow­ered Iran and is los­ing the war on ter­ror. But how ac­cu­rate is that pes­simistic di­ag­no­sis?

First, the good news. For all the talk of a re­cent Tet-like of­fen­sive in Basra, the Mahdi Army of rad­i­cal Shi’ite cleric Muq­tada al-Sadr suf­fered an ig­no­min­ious set­back when his gun­men were routed from their en­claves.

This rout helped the con­sti­tu­tional — and Shi’ite-dom­i­nated — gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki re­new its author­ity, and has en­cour­aged Sun­nis to re-en­ter gov­ern­ment. Two great threats to Iraqi au­ton­omy — Ira­nian-backed Shi’ite mili­ti­a­men and Sun­nisup­ported al-Qaeda ter­ror­ists — have both now been re­pulsed by an elected gov­ern­ment and its sup­port­ers.

Our armed forces are stretched, but Gen. David Pe­traeus, the top U.S. com­man­der in Iraq, and his colonels are qui­etly trans­form­ing a topheavy con­ven­tional colos­sus into more mo­bile coun­terin­sur­gency forces.

Gen. Pe­traeus’ re­cent nom­i­na­tion to CentCom com­man­der sug­gests that, like the grow­ing in­flu­ence of Gens. U.S. Grant and William Te­cum­seh Sher­man in 1863, or of Ge­orge Mar­shall when he re­con­fig­ured the Army in 1940, we at last are be­gin­ning to get the right of­fi­cers in the right places at the right time.

The de­spair­ing en­emy seems to sense this as well. The more al Qaeda mouth­piece Ay­man al-Zawahri threat­ens the West, the more he sounds like Adolf Hitler’s shrill pro­pa­gan­dist Joseph Goebbels in his bunker as the Third Re­ich was crum­bling.

In his latest des­per­ate rant, a sud­denly “green” al-Zawahri was re­duced to ap­peal­ing to en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious Mus­lims to fault the United States for our sup­posed cul­pa­bil­ity for global warm­ing. No won­der polls across the Mid­dle East show a sharp de­cline in sup­port for his boss, Osama bin Laden.

We haven’t been at­tacked in more than six years since Sept. 11, 2001, while the FBI has ar- rested dozens of ji­hadist plot­ters. Our elected of­fi­cials squab­ble over the Pa­triot Act, Guan­tanamo and the loss of con­sti­tu­tional lib­er­ties. Yet, the odd thing is not the na­ture of such a nec­es­sary de­bate, but the in­abil­ity of crit­ics to muster enough sup­port to re­peal postSept. 11 leg­is­la­tion and poli­cies — a tacit ad­mis­sion that th­ese mea­sures have worked and saved thou­sands of Amer­i­can lives. But is the war then nearly won? Hardly.

And that brings us to the bad news. We still cen­sor our­selves in fear of ter­ror­ist threats, mort­gag­ing the En­light­en­ment tra­di­tion of free and un­fet­tered speech. In Europe, car­toon­ists, nov­el­ists, opera pro­duc­ers, film­mak­ers and even the pope are choos­ing their words very care­fully about Is­lam — in fear they will be­come the ob­jects of ri­ots and death threats.

Here at home, our State De­part­ment is ad­vis­ing its of­fi­cials to avoid per­fectly de­scrip­tive terms for our en­e­mies like “ji­hadist” and “Is­lam­o­fas­cist” in fa­vor of vague terms like “vi­o­lent ex­trem­ist” or “ter­ror­ist” — as if we could just as eas­ily be fight­ing Basque sep­a­ratists.

Even more wor­ry­ing, Amer­i­cans can­not find a sub­sti­tute for im­ported oil. The re­sult is that $110-a-bar­rel pe­tro­leum is slow­ing our econ­omy, weak­en­ing our in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial clout — and send­ing bil­lions in cap­i­tal into the hands of our oth­er­wise un­pro­duc­tive en­e­mies.

The way to shut down Iran’s re­ac­tor or its sub­si­dies for Hezbol­lah is not nec­es­sar­ily through bomb­ing but by get­ting oil back down be­low $50 a bar­rel, which would cut the value of Ira­nian pro­duc­tion by nearly $100 bil­lion a year and weaken an al­ready weak econ­omy.

Saudi Ara­bia largely ig­nores our pleas to help re­build Iraq and cease its money flow­ing into the hands of rad­i­cal Is­lamists. And why should they lis­ten to us? Af­ter all, at present as­tro­nom­i­cal prices, their oil pro­duc­tion is worth nearly half-a-tril­lion dol­lars a year — with Chi­nese, Euro­peans and In­di­ans wait­ing in line to pay even more.

In all our ma­jor wars — ex­cept the present one — Amer­i­cans have won through a combi- na­tion of mil­i­tary prow­ess, cor­rectly iden­ti­fy­ing the en­emy and eco­nomic savvy. In the Civil War, the South was block­aded, an ef­fort that proved ev­ery bit as im­por­tant as Get­tys­burg and Sher­man’s “March to the Sea.” Ger­many was block­aded in both World Wars and cut off from pre­cious met­als, oil and food. The Soviet econ­omy col­lapsed be­fore its mil­i­tary could. Only in this war has our own profli­gacy em­pow­ered our en­e­mies.

Af­ter years of learn­ing how to fight an unfamiliar war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to pro­tect us at home, we are fi­nally get­ting most things right. But if our sol­diers and intelligence agen­cies have learned how to win, our po­lit­i­cally cor­rect diplo­mats and the Amer­i­can con­sumer haven’t — and are do­ing as much at home to em­power rad­i­cal Is­lam as those on the front lines are to de­feat it.

Vic­tor Davis Han­son is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist, a se­nior fel­low at Stan­ford Univer­sity’s Hoover In­sti­tu­tion and a re­cip­i­ent of the 2007 Na­tional Hu­man­i­ties Medal.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.