If you’re like me, you grew weary over the Christmas holidays of the constant droning on all the talk and interview shows about the “war on terror”, the polls on whether we’re winning or losing, whether Obama has a strategy to defeat ISIS or not, if so, what is it, will there be American “boots on the ground”, if so, how many, etc., etc., not to mention the increased emphasis on related national security issues in the Republican primary campaign since Paris and San Bernadino and the hair-splitting over where the various candidates would take us in this war. So in response this is my best shot at a New Year message to whomever we elect this coming November.
Memorandum to President Obama and all those who aspire to succeed him:
• We have been at war with the ideology of Islamism since 1979, but not directly with Islam, and this is a big distinction which we should understand because we can’t defeat the enemy if we can’t or won’t properly identify it.
• This war is in large part a major element of the reformation of Islam, which is underway, as well as a civil war to determine who speaks for political Islam, Sunni or Shiite, and among warring elements of the majority Sunni sect.
• We cannot avoid this civil war or the reformation that surrounds it and hope that they will kill each other—it has and will more aggressively come to us if we do not defeat the enemy on their battlefield.
• The alignment in this war, which has been characterized by Norman Podhoretz as World War IV, a characterization that has considerable merit, is the civilized world of order vs. the uncivilized world of disorder, and it is an existential confrontation for the world of order—we must win it.
• The current rules of engagement will not do it; in order to win, the United States must lead the world of order in all of the manifestations of that leadership, which will include the winning and holding of territory and the occupation of parts of the world of disorder for a possibly extensive period of time.
I wish it were not so, but such are the burdens of American exceptionalism and leadership of the world of order.
If you doubt the gravity of the challenge we face, simply contemplate the vast and potentially dire implications of the confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran sparked by the execution of a dissident cleric carried out last week by the Saudis. This could get very ugly very soon.