May 1, 2004 2:33 pm


Victor Davis Hanson does a yeoman job puncturing myths. Unfortunately, he fails to realize that, for better or worse, the US decided to fight the War on Terror not in the manner it fought World War II but in the manner it fought the Cold War. Hence, instead of clear cut rational battle lines directed at the total defeat of the axis powers by military means, the War on Terror is fought only intermittently by military means. Most of the time it is fought by political, economic and ideological means.

During World War II, nobody expected the allies to liberate France, establish a democratic government and wait for the Germans to overthrow Hitler. But that is precisely what the US did in Europe at the beginning of the Cold War. It established democracies in Western Europe and waited patiently for the USSR to implode as George Kenen, the father of containment, predicted.

Had the Bush administration followed the W.W.II. model, it would have exploited its victory in Iraq by moving to overthrow the Baath regime in Syria or the Islamist regime in Iran. But it did neither. Instead, it transformed its military machine into a police force and began trying to build a democracy in Iraq. Just as the allies essentially ignored Fascist and Communist efforts to sow havoc in the new democracies, so it is trying to ignoring the active efforts of Baathits and Islamists to sow havoc in Iraq.

Nor is this analogy lost on the Bush administration. In Plan of Attack, Woodward describes the origin of the axis of evil speech thus,"In his research, Gerson had gone back to President Truman's 1947 speech proclaiming the Truman Doctrine to assist the free people of Greece and Turkey in their struggle against Communism. He was surprised to learn that Truman had not been a particularly good explainer. . . . In Gerson's view, it had not been Truman or Eisenhower who had explain the necessity of fighting Communism but John Kennedy as a Cold War Democrat in his 1961 inaugural when he proclaimed 'the burden of a long twilight struggle.' Bush seemed to have clear instincts, and Gerson wanted to give them a structure that would define their historical significance. The goal was no less than to change the American mindset the same way it had been changed at the beginning of the Cold War."

It is only this paradigm shift which begins to explain not only the passionate nature of the current election season but also the vitriolic nature of the international struggle. Remember the McCarthy era?

The Nineties were such a welcome vacation from history that we naturally would rather not have to be dragged back into it. Personally, I do not believe there is much choice, I only hope this 'twilight struggle" will not last fifty years or cost as many lives.

comments powered by Disqus