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War Myths - http://www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson092001.shtml



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War Myths
What not to believe.

By Victor Davis Hanson, author most recently of Carnage and Culture:
Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power.
September 20, 2001 1:40 p.m.


1. We have incurred legitimate hatred from the radical Islamic states.

Nothing could be further from truth. The Taliban, the mullahs in Iran,
and other assorted fundamentalists despise the United States for its
culture and envy it for its power. The wealth, technology, and freedom
of America's global culture - from bare navels to the Internet - have
challenged fundamentalists, who are wedded to a medieval world of
perpetual stasis. That terrorists use frequent-flyer miles and cell
phones to kill us only sharpens that paradox, and accentuates their
dual sentiments of envy and inadequacy. For the record, in the last ten
years, the United States freed the Arab and Islamic state of Kuwait,
opposed Saddam Hussein and his murder of Islamic Kurds and Shiites,
prevented Muslim Afghanistan from becoming a Soviet satrapy, and saved
the Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo from extinction - as European and
"moderate" Arab states watched the carnage of their neighbors and kin.
The majority of the terrorists that surround bin Laden are from the
upper and middle classes of Arab society, are highly educated, and are
driven to murder by hatred and envy, not hunger or exploitation. They
are a world apart from the starving in South America and Africa, who do
not crash airliners into office towers. These terrorists hate us for
who we are, not what we have done.

2. The Arab and Muslim worlds are formidable.

In fact, despite being over a billion strong, they are not monolithic
and are at their weakest since the 15th or 16th century. There is not a
single Arab democracy, nor one truly free populace. Like the Ottomans
of the past, who made poor copies of Venetian cannon, so too the
fundamentalists are parasitic upon Western culture, their societies
unable to mass-produce, or even create, a single one of the weapons
they employ. The economies of the larger Muslim world - from Indonesia
and Iran to Lebanon and Palestine - are in shambles, ruined by either
autocracy or theocracy. Moreover, new coalitions are emerging that will
only further isolate Muslim states, in which even mainstream clerics
and intellectuals have not successfully reconciled the unfettered
dynamism of global capitalism and technology with the doctrines of the
Koran. In response, the United States will gradually gravitate toward
tough nuclear powers like Russia and India, whose secular democracies
have long-standing affinities with the West - and deep enmity toward
Islamic fundamentalism.

3. The moderate Arab countries are our friends.

We also need to revisit the myth of the "moderate" Arab countries. Most
are moderate in only a relative sense, the way an opportunist like
Franco was a moderate fascist in comparison to Hitler, or a wily Tito a
moderate Communist as opposed to Stalin. We must accept the bitter
truth that states like Palestine, Egypt, Syria, and others - despite
American deference and occasional aid - are not our friends, much less
our allies. Their citizens do not vote freely; their media is
controlled and censored; women are not fully liberated, if at all; and
they are growing less, not more, tolerant of religious and cultural
diversity. While the United States should not gratuitously incite
societies like Jordan (a supporter of Iraq in the Gulf War), Egypt, or
Saudi Arabia, we must reexamine our relationships with them - from
military assistance to foreign aid to travel and immigration. One of
the more frustrating facets of the American media has been their
reluctance (or inability) to show the grassroots celebration - going on
in the streets of Palestine, Pakistan, Egypt, and other countries - of
6,000 American deaths. We should pay close attention to what the
upscale parents of the terrorists now profess to European journalists:
They may well be representative of Arab "moderates" in Egypt and
Lebanon, and yet, with perfect consistency, either deny their progeny's
involvement, spin myths about CIA conspiracies, or suggest that the
attacks were warranted.

4. Fundamentalist terrorism cannot be eliminated.

This fear too is erroneous. Terrorist organizations like bin Laden's,
the Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad are not as formidable as either German
Nazism or Japanese militarism, both of which were exterminated within
five years of America going to war and have not plagued the planet
since. The Waffen SS, Gestapo, the Kamikazes, and the Japanese army at
Bataan were all more horrific than the Taliban. Terrorism is a tumor
with tentacles, but these can be excised by frequent and continued air
strikes, coupled with sudden ground incursions and ongoing
counterinsurgency. The hosts can be given a series of ongoing
ultimatums: to surrender suspects, demolish camps, and cease monetary
support - or face the month-by-month, systematic destruction of their
military assets, banks, and communications. Add in financial, economic,
and cultural ostracism, and terrorism can and will be crushed - if the
United States is willing to give treasure and lives for the greater
good and for our children's future.

5. The crisis is an international problem.

In theory, of course it is, and we should welcome assistance from our
traditional allies and enlist indigenous resistance groups in Iraq and
Afghanistan. But the United States must be prepared to act alone,
especially as casualties mount and terrorist reprisals increase. Nor
should we welcome alliances with past terrorist culprits that will
haunt us later and erode the moral high ground.

The United Nations is not only as impotent as the old League of
Nations, but lacks the former's idealism and has become ever more
morally bankrupt. Once the fighting starts, despite initial pledges of
support, the Europeans will probably extend words of encouragement but
lend no real material or military assistance of any value. We cannot
expect the French to remember Normandy Beach or the Germans the Berlin
airlift. Indeed, most Europeans have already forgotten American
intervention on their doorstep to stop the recent holocaust in the
Balkans. We should neither lament nor be angered by their hypocrisy,
but rather expect it, and realize what a different country America is
and always has been compared to its European allies. We must be ready
to be lectured by the Swedes who passed on World War II, ignored by the
Swiss who profited from it, and hectored by the French who nearly lost
it. America needs and welcomes friends, but the absence of such should
not deter our response to avenge our own dead and protect our innocent.


6. War has never solved anything.

Quite the contrary. The three greatest scourges of the 20th century -
Nazism, Japanese militarism, and Soviet Communism - were defeated
through war or continued military resistance. More were killed by
Hitler, Stalin, and Mao outside of combat than died in World Wars I and
II. War, as Sherman said, is all hell, but as Heraclitus admitted it is
also "the father of us all." Wickedness - whether chattel slavery, the
gas chambers, or concentration camps - has rarely passed quietly into
the night on its own. The present evil isn't going to either.



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