By Lawrence Kudlow and Sam Munson
Norman Podhoretz, longtime editor-in-chief of Commentary and one of the founding fathers of neoconservatism, has penned an important essay titled, “World War IV and How to Win It.” It is must reading for anyone concerned with the direction America takes in the battle against radical Islamists. Along the way, it also makes a trenchant case for George W. Bush as wartime visionary.
You might be asking, Why World War IV? Have we already fought World War III? In fact we have. Podhoretz effectively argues that the Cold War was WWIII. It was certainly a global conflict of unimaginable importance, albeit one that was fought with intelligence, counterintelligence, and clandestine military operations rather than national armies. It follows then that the war on terror, a global battle of similar magnitude being waged to preserve liberty, is properly labeled WWIV.
In his essay, Podhoretz argues that Bush is the right man for this war; the right president at this juncture in history. He paints him as a courageous politician with a clear vision for America, one that rests on the four “pillars” of the new Bush Doctrine.
The first pillar is a repudiation of moral relativism in political life, and an acceptance of a moral clarity that asserts the right to call evil regimes evil. The second pillar states that terrorists and the regimes that sponsor them are not legal matters for criminal courts. Instead they are members of an “irregular” army that must be dealt with through a war strategy of regime change. The third pillar is our right not merely to respond when attacked, but to preempt those who would attack us. This means bypassing arms-control treaties, taking the battle to the enemy, “draining the swamps” of terrorist training and shelter, and ultimately moving toward democratization. The fourth pillar is the commitment to help nations friendly to us (particularly Israel) and to oppose the unfriendly.
On this last point, Bush asserts that “nations are either with us or against us in the war on terror.” Hence, those countries aiding, abetting, or sheltering Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, or other terrorist networks are clearly enemies of the United States.
Podhoretz argues that prior to Bush, U.S. presidents were “paper tigers” in their failure to effectively respond to terrorist attacks overseas or at home. He opines that this collective U.S. failure emboldened Osama bin Laden and set the stage for 9/11. Fortunately, President Bush has changed all this.
In making the case for the president, Podhoretz connects the dots all the way back to Harry Truman. In 1947 it was Truman who said that “it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressure.” In 2004 it was Bush who said that “America has always been less secure when freedom is in retreat; America is always more secure when freedom is on the march.”
Just as Truman instituted the policy of containment to fight Soviet Communism — the policy structure within which WWIII was fought — Bush launched his own war doctrine of regime change, preemption, and the spread of freedom. This is the new policy structure of WWIV.
Radical Islamists, Podhoretz argues, are descended from the major totalitarian movements of the 20th century — Hitlerian Nazism, Mussolini fascism, and Stalinist communism — the last of which we battled through WWIII. The U.S. is now fighting to preserve its freedom and liberty against the latest “ism.” In doing so, Podhoretz firmly believes that the United States has answered “history’s call,” and that we must not swerve.
Which brings us to November, 2004. Podhoretz hopes that the Democrats, if elected, will not abandon Bush’s war policy. Eisenhower, of course, did not abandon Truman’s, even though he campaigned forcefully against it. But the current crop of Democrats — a group whose most public voices hail from the hard-left of Ted Kennedy, Michael Moore, and Howard Dean — does not inspire Podhoretz with great hope.
The Democratic pseudo-vision certainly contrasts darkly with the president’s words at the Republican convention. With the world watching, Bush said, “This young century will be liberty’s century. By promoting liberty abroad, we will build a safer world. By encouraging liberty at home, we will build a more hopeful America. Like generations before us, we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom . . . Now we go forward — grateful for our freedom, faithful to our cause, and confident in the future of the greatest nation on earth.”
Indeed, this World War IV is the most important conflict of our generation. Re-electing Bush may not guarantee a victory, but a Democratic party that still hangs to its “negative faith in America the ugly” would make defeat a virtual certainty.
— Larry Kudlow, NRO’s Economics Editor, is CEO of Kudlow & Co. and host with Jim Cramer of CNBC’s Kudlow & Cramer. Sam Munson is research associate for Kudlow & Co.