Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Moral Self-Confidence and the Western Way of War: Part II

"If some “pacifist” society renounced the retaliatory use of force, it would be left helplessly at the mercy of the first thug who decided to be immoral. Such a society would achieve the opposite of its intention: instead of abolishing evil, it would encourage and reward it."
--Ayn Rand, The Nature of Government, The Virtue of Selfishness

NOTE: This entry is Part II of a two-part series on what has gone so terribly wrong in America's wars in Iraq and in Afganistan. Part I dealt with the concepts involved in the "Western way of war" and the problem we have now that we do not use it. Briefly, the Western way of war can be defined as war that is an agressive, all-out frontal assault intended to bring about a decisive conclusion as quickly as possible. It is total war fought for the purpose of winning. The problem discussed in Part I was defined as the the inability of the United States to actually fight such a war in either of wars in which we are currently involved, and the endlessly dragged out war, replete with military and civilian casualties that result. Part I can be found here . In this part, I will discuss what I believe to be the reasons why the United States has been brought to this point.

In my last post on this topic, I ended with a quote from Carolyn Glick's article "The Western Way of War". In order to begin to address the topic of this post--the reasons why the United States refuses to fight a decisive, total war aimed at the unconditional surrender of the enemy--I think it good to begin with the same quotation:

"For years, citizens of free nations have willfully ignored or dismissed the significance their enemies' gruesome goals and ideology. They have claimed that what these people stand for is insignificant. At the end of the day, they say, the only reason there are wars is because the nations of the West provoke them by being strong. And so, when they have fought wars, they have fought them with strategies that can bring them nothing but defeat."

Why would a nation or the nations that make up Western Civilization do this? Why would the United States or any nation ignore and dismiss the significance of "their enemies gruesome goals and ideology"? Why would it blame the cause of such wars not on the enemy's agression, but upon the virtue of it's own strength? Although there are many reasons why a nation might choose to fight a war in one way rather than another, that a nation would actually go to war with any other goal than to win the war bespeaks a philosophical problem at the highest level. Such an action indicates a profound lack of moral self-confidence. This lack of a sense of moral rightness can only come from the evasion of reality that emerges from a confused and irrational philosophy; one that rewards what is evil and punishes what is good.

Although the lack support for America's wars in Afganistan and Iraq may indeed emerge from the fact that these wars have not been properly declared, and that the people of the United States have been urged directly and otherwise to pay no attention to the ideas that support a weak foreign policy that has brought us to this turn, the only reason for such a profound lack of moral confidence must reside in the ideas that have replaced the "Western way of war."

In his essay entitled "The Balm for a Guilty Conscience: Moral Paralysis, Appeasement and the Causes of WWII" (The Objective Standard, Summer 2007), the historian John David Lewis writes:

"During the 1930s, men stood at a cusp in time, a point of momentous decision, watching the growing power of Germany under its screaming, malevolent leader. Their failure to confront Germany—and the devastating consequences of that failure—demonstrate the power of ideas, both to motivate aggressors and to undercut defenders from taking the actions needed to protect freedom." (Emphasis mine).

Ultimately, Lewis says in his essay, it is the power of ideas that create confrontations that lead to war, and that create the will towards victory; or that cause a nation to get mired down in endless skirmish after skirmish, carefully planned to create not victory, but equity. This leads finally to a quagmire that is never decisively won, but merely declared over, while the problematic behavior of the enemy remains and is exacerbated by the weakness of his opposition. The idea that leads to such self-defeating behavior in war is the lack of moral self-confidence; the lack of a sense that individuals have a right to self-defense, and may thus band together to defend their people against an agressor.

According to Lewis, with respect to the origins of WWII, the fault lay with the leadership of the United States and England, especially President Woodrow Wilson, who refused to allow the allied forces to invade Germany and demand unconditional surrender at the end of WWI. This lack of a decisive defeat, together with a "peace" treaty designed to maintain the European status quo, allowed Germany to imagine victory and then claim victim status under the provisions of the peace treaty. That together with a peace treaty that imposed goals of equity, national self-determination, and the concept of "collective security"--the idea that all nations must be equally disarmed regardless of which nations had been the agressors--guaranteed a bigger and bloodier war to follow. And it did. Fifty million people died in WWII.

And why did England stand by while Germany rearmed itself under Hitler, and began to threaten war? Why did Chamberlain appease, and appease again, right up to claiming "peace in our time" as the Nazis marched into Sudetenland? It was not economics, nor the horrors of war alone that caused the majority in the West to stand idly by while war was being prepared; at the root of it all was lack of a sense of moral self-confidence. In England, as in the United States, progressives carefully inculcated the idea that all nations are equal with respect to ideas, civilizing principles, and action; that no nation or civilization is morally superior to any other. These ideas were in direct contradiction to the political reality that the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles was designed to address. As Lewis puts it:

"Wilsonian idealists, egalitarian British socialists, and so-called “realist” conservatives—who disagreed about almost everything else—generally agreed that they could not abide the language of the Treaty. Many British politicians and intellectuals were divided, torn between Wilson’s ideals and the reality of Germany’s complicity in the war—split between theory and practice. . . . Morally, many British thought that Germany had a right to determine her own national destiny. Politically, they knew this would be a disaster. In the clash between the political reality in Europe and their unreal moral ideals, their ideals won."

Although the United States cast off these Wilsonian Ideals and went on to win WWII by fighting a total war that ended only in the absolute defeat and unconditional surrender of both Germany and Japan, the progressive idea of multiculturalism was not defeated in the United States. Rather, they remained dormant until the Consciousness Revolution of the 1960's, when with the United States mired in an undeclared war on foreign soil, engaged in despite the best interests of the country, and with no clear plan for victory, these ideals were brought back by the careful work of progressives of all political stripe in order to advance their cause and draw the United States away from its own ideals of individualism and liberty.

And since WWII, the United States has not engaged in any war that was declared in order to protect the rights of Americans, nor has she fought any war with the goal of total victory and the unconditional surrender of the enemy power.

Although there were various terrorist attacks by Islamo-fascists on American assets in foreign lands, most Americans did not wake up to the new enemy that had risen against them until they witnessed the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon. And the politicians' reaction to go to war was done with a similar curious mix of the unreality of the Wilsonian Ideals and the political situation created by the very real ideology of the Islamic Jihadists: the destruction of the Western way of life in Europe and America. Therefore, within three years the United States went to war in two different countries, only one of which was justified by self-defense, and both of which were undeclared. No specific goals for victory were made for either war, and there was no thought that the enemy must be totally defeated and brought to unconditional surrender.

Thus, as Bush--and now Obama--fiddled while our liberties were destroyed--our blood and treasure have been spent in order to set up a corrupt secular government that is rapidly being defeated by Islamo-fascists in Afganistan, and a nation divided against itself in Iraq. Meanwhile, the real menance to peace in the Middle East, and to the world, is growing Persian-style, as the madman Achmadinnerjacket (see Deut. 25:19) closes in on the goal of obtaining nuclear weapons to wipe Israel off the map and to defeat America.

And we evade this reality by mouthing the multicultural pieties of Wilsonian Idealism: that the United States should not engage in any action for the sake of our own self-interest; that all nations have the right to self-determination (apparently except Israel), regardless of proof of past agression and threats of future destruction; that in the face of the threats of madmen, the right and moral thing to do is disarm all nations (apparently except Iran); and that principled self-defense in the face of those who wish to defeat us physically and spiritually in order to destroy our culture and values and assimilate us into the "world caliphate" is immoral.

At the heart of this idea is a great contradiction: that somehow all nations have the right to self-determination--except the United States; that all cultures and civilizations are equal in values and outcomes--except Western culture and civilization. In other words, to paraphrase Orwell: All nations and cultures are equal; but some are less equal than others.

A blog friend of mine and an Objectivist has reminded me that when faced with a contradiction, one should "check your premises" because one or more of them is wrong.
The wrong premise here is that all values and all cultures are equal; that is they all equally promote human life and human happiness.

For nearly a century the progressives among us have worked to blur the difference between institutionalized rape and the abuse of women in Muslim countries and the difference in compensation between men and women in the West; they have worked to blur the difference between a fundamentally just court system based on the Rule of Law in the West, and a fundamentally unjust system based on Sharia law in Muslim countries. Further the progressives have deliberately planned to set different groups of people against one another in the West, on the basis of the faulty concept of "group rights", in order to sow dissension among us and bring chaos to our lives. They do all of this in the name of those same Wilsonian Ideals, which are really the ideals of collectivism. In the name of those ideals, they have murdered and starved--or encouraged others to murder and starve millions upon millions over the course of the bloody 20th century.

All values, all cultures, and all ideas do not equally promote human life, liberty and happiness. Some values promote the opposite--death, enslavement and misery. Ideas are important--they are acted out in the real world and they have real consequences. Collectivist ideals fly in the face of the nature of human individuals even to the level of our basic biology. They promote a morality that is incompatible with human life, and which is thus inescapably evil.
This is why the pretense we have engaged in in the West, that as Caroline Glick puts it, causes us to willfully ignore or dismiss the significance of our enemies' "gruesome goals and ideology", is downright deadly to ourselves and to our way of life. In order to break out of this trap of quagmire and endless war, it is important that we value our way of life highly, and demand that we fight our wars in the Western way, to total victory and unconditional surrender of the enemy, and only then engage in the American way of compassion to build up our former enemies.

We can win this battle, says Professor Lewis, but we cannot put the cart before the horse:

"Only after we understand that we should defeat these enemies, can we ask how. This point is vital, for the question of moral rightness is logically and psychologically prior to any question of strategy or tactics. If we do not understand that we should defeat them—if we think that we are as bad as they are, or that they have legitimate grievances that justify their attacks, or that we have created a situation that morally demands that we compensate them—then our lack of moral self-confidence will undercut our motivation to fight. But the facts do not warrant such a conclusion. We are morally right and the Islamic Totalitarians are evil—not merely in their methods, but, more fundamentally, in their values and goals. We have a moral responsibility to defeat them—if we want to live. We can and must approach this war with the moral self-confidence of those fighting for civilization itself—for the basic conditions on which human life depends—because that is precisely what is at stake."

A Holocaust survivor that I knew, a very thoughtful woman once asked me in bewilderment why we refuse to believe a dictator who tells us exactly what he will do, and then proceeds to do it. I told her that I thought that many people have difficulty accepting that such a person exists--one who is fundamentally messed up that he does not value even his own life.

And I still think that is true. But now I also know that it is not only that visceral reaction against the existence of evil; it is also about the inculcation over nearly a century of multiculturalism and the idea that it is moral to act outside of rational self-interest, to reward the bad and punish the good. This can only lead to an evil outcome: death and destruction, slavery and misery.

But we have a choice. As Caroline Glick said at the end of her article:
" . . . it also reminds us that there is another choice that can be made. The Western way of war needn't remain the path of defeat. That still is for the people of the West to decide."

True. And may that choice to defend our lives and freedom come soon and in our own day.

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