Our Sorta, Kinda War on Terror
President Obama has not signed up for a serious effort against radical Islam.


Victor Davis Hanson

After Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Great Britain and France sorta, kinda declared war on Germany. The formal declaration of war was real enough, but the allies’ initial responses were laughable.
Two days after Germany started to slaughter the Poles, Britain began conducting “truth raids,” which were to drop 6 million leaflets over Germany. These milk runs were supposedly aimed at “showing” the Germans that Britain someday might be able to bomb them, “enlightening” them about the sins of the then widely popular and victorious Adolf Hitler, and demonstrating the Brits’ desire for peace and quiet rather than another Somme or Verdun.

For much of that autumn of 1939 and the winter of 1940, the enormous French army stayed put — except occasionally to “push” a mile or two into German territory, and then retreat back, all to prove the country’s supposed fighting ability. Somehow during the nine-month-long “phony war,” the pre-Churchillian allies managed to convey a sense of weakness and timidity, while being bellicose sounding enough to offend their enemies.

Hitler, in contrast, smiled and pressed on, invading Denmark and Norway, launching unrestricted submarine attacks, rounding up Jews in the east, bombing Britain, and preparing for a massive invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.

We are back in a such a sorta, kinda war against radical Islam — whose name we almost never reference. We send more troops into Afghanistan, but only on the condition that we announce deadlines when they will start leaving. We damn the now-successful Iraq War as ill-conceived and not worth the effort, even as we stay in Iraq and consider the present calm and enduring democracy a (quiet) success.

The president has libeled tribunals, renditions, the Patriot Act, Predator attacks, wiretaps, and intercepts as either shredding the Constitution or unfairly persecuting Muslims — only to keep all these protocols intact. Obama loudly promised the whiny Europeans and the angry Islamic world that he would close the supposed gulag at Guantanamo within a year — and then found he could not do without its apparent utility.

Deadlines are a favorite of our president. But does anyone believe that Guantanamo will be closed on January 21? Iran was to desist from its efforts to obtain the bomb before the U.N. summit in New York, and then before the G-20 summit, and then before the face-to-face negotiations in October, and then by the first of the year.

Sometimes we “reach out” to the unhinged Ahmadinejad and ignore his brave opponents who are risking their lives in the streets; at other times, we lecture the theocracy about its bad behavior in sponsoring terror and violating nuclear non-proliferation agreements. We both damn and praise Israel for its “settlements” — appointing its enemies to the Obama administration, while assuring its friends that U.S. policy remains unchanged.

When Mr. Abdulmutallab tried to blow himself up, along with 300 other passengers, Obama’s initial, though belated, reactions were that the terrorist had “allegedly” tried to commit mass murder, and that he was an “isolated extremist,” despite clear ties to Yemeni terrorists. Our Homeland Security head proclaimed that the system had “worked” — for about 24 hours, until she was politely disabused of that lunatic notion. Abdulmutallab was promised a civilian trial, apparently on the grounds that this non-uniformed enemy combatant was caught on American soil — although his intent was instead to float down upon it as human ash.