What Real War Looks Like
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What Real War Looks Like

by Elan Journo | December 07, 2006

The Iraq Study Group has issued many specific recommendations, but the options boil down to a maddeningly limited range: pull out or send more troops to do democracy-building and, either way, “engage” the hostile regimes in Iran and Syria. Missing from the list is the one option our self-defense demands: a war to defeat the enemy. If you think we’ve already tried this option and failed, think again. Washington’s campaign in Iraq looks nothing like the war necessary for our self-defense.

What does such a war look like?

America’s security depends on identifying precisely the enemy that threatens our lives — and then crushing it, rendering it a non-threat. It depends on proudly defending our right to live free of foreign aggression — by unapologetically killing the killers who want us dead.

Those who say this is a “new kind of conflict” against a “faceless enemy” are wrong. The enemy Washington evasively calls “terrorism” is actually an ideologically inspired political movement: Islamic totalitarianism. It seeks to subjugate the West under a totalitarian Islamic regime by means of terrorism, negotiation, war — anything that will win its jihad. The movement’s inspiration, its first triumph, its standard-bearer, is the theocracy of Iran. Iran’s regime has, for decades, used terrorist proxies to attack America. It openly seeks nuclear weapons and zealously sponsors and harbors jihadists. Without Iran’s support, legions of holy warriors would be untrained, unarmed, unmotivated, impotent.

Destroying Islamic totalitarianism requires a punishing military onslaught to end its primary state representative and demoralize its supporters. We need to deploy all necessary force to destroy Iran’s ability to fight, while minimizing our own casualties. We need a campaign that ruthlessly inflicts the pain of war so intensely that the jihadists renounce their cause as hopeless and fear to take up arms against us. This is how America and its Allies defeated both Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan.

Victory in World War II required flattening cities, firebombing factories, shops and homes, devastating vast tracts of Germany and Japan. The enemy and its supporters were exhausted materially and crushed in spirit. What our actions demonstrated to them was that any attempt to implement their vicious ideologies would bring them only destruction and death. Since their defeat, Nazism and Japanese imperialism have essentially withered as ideological forces. Victory today requires the same: smashing Iran’s totalitarian regime and thus demoralizing the Islamist movement and its many supporters, so that they, too, abandon their cause as futile.

We triumphed over both Japan and Germany in less than four years after Pearl Harbor. Yet more than five years after 9/11, against a far weaker enemy, our soldiers still die daily in Iraq. Why? Because this war is neither assertive nor ruthless — it is a tragically meek pretense at war.

Consider what Washington has done. The Islamist regime in Iran remains untouched, fomenting terrorism. (And now our leaders hope to “engage” Iran diplomatically.)

We went to battle not with theocratic Iran, but with the secular dictatorship of Iraq. And the campaign there was not aimed at crushing whatever threat Hussein’s regime posed to us. “Shock and awe” bombing never materialized. Our brave and capable forces were hamstrung: ordered not to bomb key targets such as power plants and to avoid firing into mosques (where insurgents hide) lest we offend Muslim sensibilities. Instead, we sent our troops to lift Iraq out of poverty, open new schools, fix up hospitals, feed the hungry, unclog sewers — a Peace Corps, not an army corps, mission.

U.S. troops were sent, not to crush an enemy threatening America, but (as Bush explained) to “sacrifice for the liberty of strangers,” putting the lives of Iraqis above their own. They were prevented from using all necessary force to win or even to protect themselves. No wonder the insurgency has flourished, emboldened by Washington’s self-crippling policies. (Perversely, some want even more Americans tossed into this quagmire.)

Bush did all this to bring Iraqis the vote. Any objective assessment of the Middle East would have told one who would win elections, given the widespread popular support for Islamic totalitarianism. Iraqis swept to power a pro-Islamist leadership intimately tied to Iran. The most influential figure in Iraqi politics is now Moktadr al-Sadr, an Islamist warlord lusting after theocratic rule and American blood. When asked whether he would accept just such an outcome from the elections, Bush said that of course he would, because “democracy is democracy.”

No war that ushers Islamists into political office has U.S. self-defense as its goal.

This war has been worse than doing nothing, because it has galvanized our enemy to believe its success more likely than ever — even as it has drained Americans’ will to fight. Washington’s feeble campaign demonstrates the ruinous effects of refusing to assert our self-interest and defend our freedom. It is past time to consider our only moral and practical option: end the senseless sacrifice of our soldiers — and let them go to war.

About The Author

Elan Journo

Director and Senior Fellow, Ayn Rand Institute