Politics & Policy

The Thirties All Over Again?

Nobody knows how this will proceed.

Certainly there is lots of bad news, most of which confirms what we already knew: The Western world hates Israel; the taboo on anti-Semitism is off; the Western world has been P.C.’ed to the edge of death; there is no stomach for fighting the war against Islamic fascism.

Sounds like the Thirties to me.

I always have my doubts about “trends.” The history of 20th-century America is largely about a country that never prepared for war, and was always compelled — by our enemies — to conduct enormous crusades. It was seemingly all or nothing for us. The history of America in war, like that of most others, is largely about making enormous blunders at the beginning, and then sorting it out. Our great strength is not so much avoiding error, but the ability to recover quickly, change tactics and even strategy, and get it done. I think that applies to the three world wars in the last century.

The scary thing about our current jam is that 9/11 was supposed to have been the wakeup call, but we are again asleep. For this I blame our leaders — both the administration and the Dems. The administration is constitutionally unable to explain itself, and the Dems have no qualms about losing all present battles so long as they can elect their candidates and bring down this president.

The greatest failure of our leaders, with rare exceptions, is their refusal to see the war plain, which means Iran and Syria (might as well call them “Syran,” since they operate in tandem, with Tehran pushing most of the buttons). It was never possible to “win in Iraq” so long as we insisted on fighting in Iraq alone. You can not win a regional war by playing defense in one country. It was, and remains, a sucker’s game. Syran pays no price at all for killing our kids and our allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now in Gaza and Lebanon/Israel.

Syran reasonably concluded that there was no price to pay for killing us, and so they predictably expanded the scope of the war. Our leaders do not see this whole; they see each component as a separate issue. They see that Hezbollah is an Iranian entity. They see Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers at work in Lebanon and Iraq. They know the best weapons in the war come through Syran and in many cases are manufactured by Syran. Any logical person has to conclude that you cannot win this war without defeating Syran.

But not a single voice comes from the White House to explain this, let alone to craft a strategy to accomplish it. The best foreign-policy speech in a long time — a lucid analysis of the threat of Islamic fascism and several excellent suggestions of how to combat it — was made two weeks ago by Senator Santorum, and yet his relatively modest bill to support freedom for the Iranian people has been vigorously contested and systematically blocked by Secretary of State Rice and Senator Richard Lugar.

Meanwhile, a collection of frauds, writing in places like Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Mother Jones, continuously recycles a story saying that a neocon (code for “Jewish”) conspiracy duped Bush into going to war in Iraq, and is now arranging the invasion of Iran. Documented lies, like those peddled by Joe Wilson to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, are treated as reliable. Fantasies about American armed forces operating covertly in Iran, like those written by Seymour Hirsh, get taken seriously. And people like me are accused of masterminding the whole thing, even though I oppose a military campaign against Iran.

No one can doubt that this is a willful disinformation campaign, aimed at paralyzing and then destroying the president. I do not think people in the White House have ever fully appreciated their peril. I think that lack of understanding goes hand-in-hand with the failure in strategic vision that underlies our unwillingness to fight the regional war that is being waged against us.

It is the Thirties again. Many of the statements above apply to Franklin Roosevelt’s first two administrations, and to the political atmosphere of those dreadful years. Then, too, the mounting power of what became the Axis was ignored. As my father often reminded me, a few months before Pearl Harbor, at a time when Nazi armies were long since on the march, the draft passed by a single vote. Apologists for Hitler and Mussolini were legion, and some of our leading intellectuals were saying that American democratic capitalism was a failure, and we would do well to emulate the European totalitarians.

 

So I don’t see this moment as something unique, the result of some inner rot, or a moment on a greased skid leading to the abyss. It’s one of the many things we are. But we are many things, and we are not like the Europeans, many of whom are reviving their anti-Semitic fantasies in an effort to cope with their weakness and irrelevance.

 

I think, as I recently wrote, that we have been given an extraordinary opportunity by our enemies. I am disturbed at the lack of appropriate response, which in my opinion involves taking the war to Syran, mostly by political means. About a week ago a surprising number of Arab leaders said as much. I took it as a public plea to Washington to act vigorously, and an expression of the unspoken assumption that Israel would quickly destroy Hezbollah. Neither has happened, and so they are once again appeasing their own worst enemies, as are various Iraqi officials.

What did you expect? They have Syran on their borders, and we have not demonstrated the capacity to win the war.

Perhaps that will change without yet another Pearl Harbor. It looks to me like the American people would support it. I don’t yet see the necessary vision and will from our leaders.

 Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.

 

Michael LedeenMichael Ledeen is an American historian, philosopher, foreign-policy analyst, and writer. He is a former consultant to the National Security Council, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. ...

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