Everyone makes assumptions. It’s a necessary part of living in a complex world. Most assumptions are pretty reasonable, like expecting gravity to remain in force and the laws of physics to follow their nominal patterns. But others, especially the ones involving human behavior, are less credible when examined, yet people hold them as currency in developing their plans. A clear example of this is the present Middle East situation.
President George W. Bush began his planning for military action in the Middle East with a crucial assumption; that a democratic republic was feasible for governments there, and could be implemented. That assumption is being put to the test right now, and significant policies will be adjusted one way or the other by the results of that experiment, to say nothing of the small matter of the fate of tens of millions of people in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am one who believes Dubya’s assumption is valid, and will prove true unless Congress decides to desert our allies - again.
But the other side makes its assumptions as well. More than a few sources say that Ahmadinejad has decided to lay his plans for 2009, when a new and conceivably softer President takes office. Ahmadinejad and his supporting mullahs have come to believe in the assumption that America can only endure short wars with clear, clean endings. Accordingly, he thinks that if he can ratchet up the cost gradually and make a decision doubtful both in time and in cost, we will give up the fight and he can win by default. I believe such an assumption is spectacularly foolish.
I must stop here and examine the ‘short war’ theory. It’s true that America has a history of fighting wars which are historically short; our War for Independence began the fighting in 1775, and settled matters just six years later at Yorktown. We fought a bloody civil war, but it took only four years to reach Appomattox. We did not enter either World War I or World War II until late, and both together represented less than six full years of warfare. It has been said that we cut out of settling affairs in Korea for fear of China, and again the same in Vietnam. It has also been said that we cut and ran under Carter, under Reagan (Lebanon), under Bush and Clinton (Somalia and Haiti). In that light, Dubya is a strange one, an aberration the Jihadists may simply wait out; they know he leaves office after this term.
Yet a closer look at each of those cases shows the lie to the assumption. We did not, actually, settle matters with Britain at Yorktown. The evidence of that lies in the sparring and bickering after the end of that war, all the way through to the end of the next war in 1814, making the war for our nation’s birth really a 39-year conflict, without a lot of clear decisions until the end. You may recall that the British trashed our own capital, and burned down the White House, yet in the end it was America which won, and won without a doubt. One reason the Brits are such good friends with us, is because they know we are not a nation to have as an enemy. It is a deadly mistake to set yourself against us.
As for the Civil War, sure we signed an armistice in 1865, but again it is a great fool who thinks the war was over then. Reconstruction took at least the next generation, and as late as 1964 many of the initial issues remained to be resolved. It’s not at all incorrect to say our Civil War was our own ‘Hundred Years' War’.
As for World War I and World War II, yes we entered late and didn’t muck about waiting to resolve the conflict, but we did so in no uncertain terms. The Kaiser effectively ceased to exist after we invaded Germany in 1918, and after World War II, there was no longer a Nazi government, no longer an “Imperial” Japan, no longer an “Il Duce” in Italy. And there has been no similar style of government in those nations since, and need I mention we have garrisoned troops in those nations ever since that war? Democrat or Republican, every President and Congress understands why, 61 years after we finished that war, we still keep control in those countries. As friends and honored guests now, to be sure, but well-armed and alert for all of that new-minted friendship.
I will say bluntly that Korea and Vietnam stand as tragic reminders to us, of the cost from betraying allies and forgetting commitments. They are not the rule, but the lesson as to why we must be willing to fight. Carter and Clinton did a great deal of damage to American credibility, true, and I was dismayed a bit at our retreat from Lebanon in 1983, but Reagan restored our name and integrity in South America, Africa, and in the Middle East. Far too many people forget that the U.S. Navy escorted tankers through the Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war, receiving the hatred and scorn from both Mullah and Dictator for their valor, yet the tankers made it through. When we retook Grenada, critics smirked, but it sent a message that there was a line beyond which we would certainly pay in force, and when Qaddafi-supported terrorists bombed a German night club in 1986, the responding air raid sent a clear message that America would no longer settle for diplomatic measures. An “accidental” bomb dropped on the French Embassy sent a perhaps unintentional message to that nation that neutrality is a fiction in such conflicts.
And lest we forget, the Cold War lasted between the end of World War 2 and the end of the first Gulf War, some 46 years, at times threatening truly horrific possibilities. The United States won that war, a war which Liberals would now like to pretend was never really going on. There are too many veterans of violent incidents, however, for that fairy tale to really catch on, yet it seems to have fooled the Mullahs.
Nobody but madmen wants a long bloody war. But it’s an even greater fool who fails to notice that America has had long conflicts in its history and more, tends to settle the conflict by totally removing the group from existence which provoked the conflict. After the American Revolution, there were fewer and fewer absolute monarchs. After the U.S. Marines raided the Barbary Coast, piracy was distinctly less popular. After World War 2, the only places you could find large numbers of Nazis were in certain South American countries and in Hollywood movies. The Japanese were determined to fight to the last man, until we made it abundantly clear that we could literally kill every single person in Japan if we had to do so. When the stakes matter, we do not fight halfway, or settle for terms.
In conclusion, the new movie “United 93” is about to come out, yet another lesson the Jihadists have failed, which will cost them dearly. In the opening lines of the trailer, the narration reminds us that four airliners were hijacked, and three of them made it to their target. The one which did not, was stopped not by the Air Force or Army, but by regular people. Ordinary citizens who had never been trained to fight, who had no warning about what was to happen to them, who were facing near-certain death, discovered what had happened to the twin towers, and took it upon themselves to protect innocents at another place. The heroism of those 40 people stands on its own, deserving of its own honors many times over, but for here it also reminds us that ordinary people, ordinary Americans, can and have stood up when the need was present, an unseen power and authority which no enemy ever seems to count until they are wondering how they could have lost so badly. I cannot say how long it will take or what it will cost, but we will win this war, and in doing so end Jihadism and its cruel minions in the Middle East.