The Corner

RE: YOUR PLACE

Kathryn, I’m glad you referenced that excellent Jeff Jacoby column with which I heartily agree. But that emailer is wrong for another reason.

There is a war of arms. And there is a war of ideas.

They are not just inter-related, they are interdependent. They are equally consequential. When we get the ideas wrong, when we misunderstand the problem, we end up with the wrong solution and all that follows from that.

Let’s take just one example: In the 1930s, Churchill fought a war of ideas. He tried to warn the world about Hitler; tried to warn Europe and America that Hitler’s hatred and ambition had to be checked. But most people did not listen. Churchill’s ideas did not prevail. They called Churchill a “war monger.” 

People were persuaded by other ideas, by an alternative narrative: that Herr Hitler had some legitimate grievances; that those grievances could be addressed politically and diplomatically. So they did nothing to stop Hitler and nothing to prepare to fight Hitler.

This defeat in the war of ideas led to a conflagration unlike any before, in which tens of millions were killed.

So yes, Kathryn, you are fighting a war. And your e-mailer is ignorant about how wars are fought, about how wars are won and lost, and about the way the world actually works.  

Clifford D. MayClifford D. May is an American journalist and editor. He is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative policy institute created shortly after the 9/11 attacks, ...

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