Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Deeming the War Won

Jihadi hate still burns brightly and we can't turn our backs on jihadis and pretend to walk away from war.

We've been at war with transnational jihadis hopped up on their version of Islam and with their UN-recognized backers for more than a decade, and our president is tired of it. He says all wars end. And they do--when one side wins or when both sides tire of the war. I know we didn't win. Are the jihadis really tired of the war?

The problem is that those who are tired of the war see motivation to fight as a one-way street. When our enemies target and kill us, too many of us worry about a "backlash" against the co-religionists of the attackers, and ask "why do they hate us?" as if we asked for the killing. Yet when we kill our enemies who have attacked us (and kill some innocents by mistake), too many of us argue that we provide our enemies with reasons to hate us.

Despite being at war all this time and doing some serious damage to the jihadi side in the Philippines, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and (yes) Iraq, many of us--contrary to the president's argument that we are tired of war--have managed to not quite internalize being at war. Whether it was 9/11 or a rampaging soldier on individual jihad or the Boston Marathon bombing, many of us seem to worry less about the attacks and more about the dread "backlash" against innocent Moslems who live among us.

That impulse at least has a good motive: avoiding a tendency to blame everyone who is Moslem or Arab for the sins of a few. In many ways, avoiding that backlash is counter-insurgency 101. You don't alienate potential supporters or make neutrals your enemies. Focus on the actual enemies, eh? Indeed, I warned of this in the days following 9/11:

Above all, vigilance must not degenerate into paranoia. We must trust that our Moslem and Arab neighbors share our values. They or their parents or grandparents immigrated to America because they too cherish our freedoms and way of life. Like most Americans, they are here because someone in their family fled poverty, oppression, or both, to build a better life for their children. They are horrified and angry like all Americans. "They" are our friends and neighbors and are part of "us." Some, whether citizens or residents, will be guilty of cooperating with the enemy or even actively fighting us. This is not new. Fascism and communism had their admirers here even in our darkest hours during those fights. Those betrayers were guilty as individuals and not as members of any religion or ethnic group. Let us not descend into the logic of our enemies that the perceived or actual guilt of one condemns all similar innocents. Our enemies will have won the war in a fundamental and lasting way if we become like the terrorists even as we physically destroy our terrorist enemy.

I'll go one further. I don't believe I've ever mention this. In 1990, when I was a soldier in the Army National Guard and fully expected to be sent to Desert Storm (in the end, after being on the mobilization list to go, we were not sent), I wrote a letter to President H. W. Bush asking--as one of his soldiers who would do his duty against an enemy--to guard against that backlash.

My concerns of 1990 weren't because I thought Americans are evil at heart. Yet I knew history, and I knew that around the world, people representing the nationals of an enemy power have been and are targeted for abuse or worse. And I knew in our own history that Japanese suffered in World War II and that Germans were under suspicion in World War I. With a war and a substantial number of Arab Americans in our society, I did worry about a backlash that might stain our history again.

Yet we had no backlash in 1990-91. And we had no backlash even after the horror of 9/11. By the time we went to war with Iraq in 2003, I was confident that fears of backlash were baseless given our more recent history.

Despite our restraint all this time and all the deaths that jihadis mete out, too many here still only think of the coming "backlash" when our enemies kill us here or abroad. Being super-focused on victory isn't what the "backlash" peddlers have in mind, is it? No, those backlash worries are usually accompanied by the often-asked question after each attack against us, "Why do they hate us?"

They have lots of answers for that question. And it always settles on being something America does--or fails to do. That is, as regrettable as the jihadi rage is, it is certainly understandable that they have murderous rage given what we do.

What rot. The war in Iraq, for example, caused jihadi rage in their view (contra the "good" war in Afghanistan--remember when it was the "good" war?). Yet 9/11 did not require war in Iraq--still in the future--to inspire hatred to kill us. And we are not fighting in Iraq now. Yet that did not stop jihadi rage in Boston this year. Heck, if the Iraq War caused the jihadi rage, why aren't the ranks of jihadi terror groups filled with Iraqis burning for revenge?

Yet despite this monumental ability to understand (and accept) jihadi rage, if even a few of us do something wrong, like the hazing and humiliation at the military prison at Abu Ghraib (there was no torture in that scandal, recall) or an errant air strike (which is complicated because our enemies often surround themselves with civilians and dress like civilians, too), it becomes an excuse for people here to argue that the crimes (or honest mistakes) of a few of us justify the anger of all Moslems against all of us and excuse their murders of us.

Yes, blame has been a one-way street. If we kill, it is our fault and when they kill--it's still our fault. When our enemies kill us, why don't we see that as a reason to hate our enemies? I'm not asking that we hate all Moslems--I've been clear on that. I just want us to work up a good focused hate on those who hate and kill us until we win the war.

When we kill our enemies, why don't we warn against the pending unjustified "backlash" against Westerners (or just non-jihadi Moslems for that matter) by Moslems in response? Why don't we also ponder the answers to the question "why do we hate them?" and list the many answers that revolve around the killings, failings, and crimes of the Moslem world that justify our anger and our war? Is that so hard? Could we try that for just a little while to see what that is like?

Good grief, you'd think that if anything was ready made to be a villain in the left--especially the radical feminists' world--it would be the oppressive patriarchy of the radical Islamic world that the jihadis fight to create! But no, Dick Cheney is the homophobic villain to fleck the spittle. Amazingly, Code Pink hags who'd be shut away in the dark (try out Code Black and Baggy) if jihadis ruled get all angry at holding jihadis at Guantanamo Bay! In what world does this even make sense?

Despite more than a decade of responding with war to jihadi anger that targeted America long before 9/11, too many here just never really thought of our country as a nation at war defending itself. And now we will officially end the war after the "mission accomplished" speech our president just gave.

But just as the war in Iraq did not end when we left and now accelerates despite President Obama's claim he "responsibly ended" that war, the global war on terror will continue even without us. We will be attacked again by jihadis who will gain the opportunity to plot more and bigger attacks on us. Perhaps out of sanctuaries in Pakistan or Afghanistan (where our president also says we are "ending" the war soon).

For the jihadis, war as a one-way street where only they wage war and we get killed is the ideal jihad. You'd think our president--who for a while embraced drone strikes as our one-way war against jihadis--would understand that preference. Instead, we seem intent on giving this ideal form of war to the jihadis in the hope that even jihadis can get tired of slaughtering us if we remain very, very quiet and don't give offense by actually waging war in return too much.

We should be able to see which way this is going. Have a super sparkly day.