Commentary Magazine


World War IV

 

To the Editor:

Norman Podhoretz’s article on World War IV is extraordinary, doing what no one else has done to date [“World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win,” September]. He has put the situation in context and connected all the dots, making clear the global threat facing the United States and other non-Islamic countries.

The supporters of fundamentalist Islam are fanatics who are prepared to die to kill those who observe a religion other than Islam. Mr. Podhoretz’s seminal essay should be handed out on the campuses of America and everywhere else where people discuss the survival of democracy.

Edward I. Koch

New York City

 

To the Editor:

Norman Podhoretz’s article is a tour de force. I believe that he has correctly assessed the war, its nature, and the enemy. It will become a mini-textbook for studying this war.

John Swails

Oral Roberts University

Tulsa, Oklahoma

 

To the Editor:

I am encouraging everyone I know to read Norman Podhoretz’s “World War IV.” It is a tremendous contribution to the public discussion.

There is an old tradition, regrettably lost in most quarters, which recognizes the value of gray-haired people at the city gate mentoring the young. Mr. Podhoretz upholds that valuable tradition in an informed, reasoned, and well-communicated fashion.

Allan Erickson

Newberg, Oregon

 

To the Editor:

Norman Podhoretz’s article is the single finest historical and political exposition of the now not-so-nebulous forces that have plagued us for the past few decades. It is on a par with the work of George F. Kennan.

We are indeed in a raging world war, one for which we have supplied the kindling. It will either destroy us or make us stronger and better. Mr. Podhoretz’s article makes it clear that the choices are stark indeed.

Randall L. Kleinman

New Orleans, Louisiana

 

To the Editor:

Of everything I have read on the war on terror, Norman Podhoretz’s article is head and shoulders above the rest. Thank you for publishing it.

Louis-Vincent Gave

Hong Kong

 

To the Editor:

Norman Podhoretz’s essay is a magnificent retrospective and explanation of the Bush Doctrine, which I heartily endorse. I live in France and, as you can imagine, am a lonely voice in the wilderness when it comes to defending the Bush administration’s strategy concerning World War IV.

Dwight Stedman

St. Christophe-en-Brionnais, France

 

To the Editor:

I cannot recall a more comprehensive, insightful analysis of the situation in Iraq than Norman Podhoretz’s “World War IV.” The article should be mandatory reading across college campuses today. Thank you, Mr. Podhoretz, for your insights, clear writing, and forceful analysis.

Jenene Stookesberry

Denver, Colorado

 

To the Editor:

Nearly everyone was shocked, horrified, and surprised by the terrorist attacks of September 11. But for me a further occasion for surprise was how quickly the nation seems to have buried those events beneath a kind of business-as-usual patina. In many ways, Americans’ notorious penchant for ignoring history can be a blessing, as it blocks the kind of ethnic score-settling that can become such a besetting sin in traditional societies. Still, no attitude can be less helpful in the war against terrorism than historical amnesia.

For that reason, as for so many others, the nation owes a debt of gratitude to Norman Podhoretz for his lucid overview of the events of the past three years. But if I am right in expecting a long, drawn-out conflict, another factor must also be mentioned: the spread of moral narcissism in contemporary political discourse.

For me, the sure sign of such narcissism is selective indignation. Last year, Commentary published an account of the regular and systematic use of torture by Saddam Hussein’s regime almost from its inception (“Baghdad, with Victims,” December 2003). When I would show this article to several of my more hotheaded antiwar acquaintances, immediately came the tu quoque retort: well, Americans once supported Saddam, so who are we to criticize?

A more egregious example of empty moralizing can be found in the different levels of outrage in the world for the plight of the Palestinians versus the plight of the Sudanese in Darfur (or the starvation of the North Koreans, or the persecution of the East Timorese, etc.).

This is a syndrome that to the best of my knowledge Friedrich Nietzsche was the first to notice:

When one considers how much the energy of young people needs to explode, one is not surprised that they decide for this cause or that without being subtle or choosy. What attracts them is the sight of the burning fuse, and not the cause itself. Subtle seducers therefore know the art of arousing expectations of an explosion while making no effort to furnish reasons for their cause: reasons are not what win over such powder kegs.

 

What Nietzsche foresaw as an incipient component of bourgeois civilization has now become an outright epidemic, perhaps even the defining feature of post-industrial civilization. When liberal moralizers now claim to look out on the world, what they are seeing is not the world as it really is, but only their own self-congratulating and self-affirming mirror.

Rev. Edward T. Oakes

University of St. Mary of the Lake

Mundelein, Illinois

 

To the Editor:

Once again we are indebted to Norman Podhoretz for bringing together the strands of an issue that defines our times and determines our future. “World War IV” should become a standard reference as we struggle with terrorism in the years to come.
The speed with which antiwar attitudes from earlier decades rushed toward the new conflict may be better understood if we recognize that the cold war, “World War III,” has become classified in the minds of a great number of people as “the unnecessary war.” In their view, the hyper-armed cowboys of the U.S. pushed the rest of the world into constant danger of a nuclear holocaust when all that was necessary was to let the Soviet Union fall from its own weight. That it did fall without nuclear warfare only proves the point in their eyes.

Pacifism is too respectable a word for these attitudes of the Left. The presumed abhorrence of violence seldom extends to third-world perpetrators, nor does it respect the right of self-defense outside the sphere of designated victims.

M. Donald Coleman

Mamaroneck, New York

 

To the Editor:

There is one point that I would like to add to Norman Podhoretz’s analysis. Consider the world as it was on September 10, 2001. America’s position, whether measured by economic, military, political, or cultural power, was unmatched. It dwarfed even America’s position in the golden era of the 1950’s, before the Vietnam-war syndrome sapped the nation’s resolve. For America’s class of 1968, those Mr. Podhoretz calls “jackal bins,” or for their cohorts in Europe, this was not the way things were supposed to turn out.

Marx predicted that the failure of capitalism would lead to its rejection by the flock. Unsurprisingly, he got it backward. It is the success of capitalism that has led to its rejection by the priests. For the “jackal bins,” 9/11 was a godsend, the last glimmer of hope that the cause to which they dedicated themselves was still alive. And given this group’s entrenchment in the elite institutions of the West, it is no surprise that they can move large segments of the populace with them.

Dennis Travis

Glen Head, New York

 

To the Editor:

Norman Podhoretz’s article on World War IV shows clarity, courage, and a moral engagement I have seldom had the pleasure to notice in articles on U.S. foreign policy, terrorism, and the Middle East conflict. I am Belgian, and in the last few years I have been exceedingly frustrated by the cowardly and dishonest posture of many Europeans toward the U.S and Israel in international affairs.

I have never seen a street demonstration protesting terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. But when Israel tries to stop such an attack with legitimate (and always contained) military force, our streets in Europe are immediately filled with masses of protesters, donning Palestinian kaffiyehs, waving peace flags, bashing Ariel Sharon, and insulting Jews.

Why this double standard? Think, perhaps, of a child that is bitten and killed by a mad dog. Do the streets fill up with angry people protesting the dog’s behavior? Of course not. Maybe the double standard is simply that, subconsciously, many of the protesters consider Palestinians to be far less human than Israelis.

Geert Vandenweghe

Tienen, Belgium

 

To the Editor:

Instead of furthering a noble cause, Norman Podhoretz provides justification for policies that threaten to diminish America’s capacity to carry out its great mission of safeguarding liberty and fostering freedom.

What is most odd is the asymmetry in the policies Mr. Podhoretz praises. He reminds us that the cold war (what he calls “World War III”), a truly global conflict involving two superpowers with tens of thousands of nuclear weapons arrayed against each other, was brought to an end by a policy of heightened and robust containment. By contrast, in dealing with the breakout of “World War IV,” involving stateless terrorists and rogue nations that possess none of the capability or territorial reach of the Soviet Union, Mr. Podhoretz argues in favor of the Bush Doctrine, an untested policy of continuous war involving preemptive action.

The problem for U.S. supremacy—and for the Bush Doctrine—is how to use American power effectively. The events of 9/11 did not change the fact that even the most powerful nation in history cannot act unilaterally or without strong alliances. Despite its swift military victory in Iraq, the U.S. lost the global debate on the policy of preemption, especially given the lack of proof for the main justifications of the war, namely, weapons of mass destruction and concrete ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

Even nations in the “coalition of the willing” now have populations strongly opposed to the war. Mr. Podhoretz just passes this off as anti-Americanism and says the U.S. should move forward. He suggests that all opposition to the Bush Doctrine belongs in the same noxious swamp as Susan Sontag and Gore Vidal, in order to label it more easily as extremist.

The change in American policy is tragic. The institutions and policies that emerged from the Truman Doctrine laid the way for a broad and—until recently—bipartisan coalition in support of democracy and America’s forward engagement in the world. The result was not only the collapse of the Soviet empire but also an enduring transatlantic alliance that has formed the basis of world security for more than 50 years and that recently has seen an infusion of countries newly dedicated to democracy (and, in large measure, American leadership). But instead of drawing upon such traditions and strength, the Bush administration rebuffed NATO’s pledge of support in the war on terrorism, and instead of building the strongest possible alliance against terrorism, it has cherry-picked its allies to pursue a misbegotten war.

We are witness to a new and dangerous radicalism that has misused America’s global power, destroyed bipartisanship in foreign policy, and undermined established international democratic alliances. Ultimately, this will result in a divided country and greater American isolation, with fewer nations willing to join in “coalitions of the willing,” leaving America weakened and more vulnerable in dealing with the present danger.

Eric Chenoweth

Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe

Washington, D.C.

 

To the Editor:

Norman Podhoretz succeeds in reinforcing the deep fear of many outside America (and, I suspect, many within it)—namely, that the country’s current leadership is convinced that anything America does is, by definition, right.

One wonders why Mr. Podhoretz argues that the war in Iraq was essential when there were no weapons of mass destruction there, when the Baathist regime was hostile to Islamic fundamentalism, when Saddam Hussein (the “ruthless and evil” dictator) was installed and supported by a succession of American administrations, and when the invasion has not brought about a new and robust democracy but even more instability, with many Iraqis (who were expected to be grateful) flocking to Islamic fundamentalism.

The reason there is so much opposition to the war is not, as Mr. Podhoretz claims, that hand-wringing and weak left-wing politics are overtaking the media and ignoring public opinion. It is simply that, in light of the aforementioned facts, the war in Iraq was wrong. No matter how laudable its intentions, the war had no legal or moral basis.

By all means, we should wage a war on terrorism and recognize that the enemy is smart, strong, and fanatically determined. But a different approach to the war, one no less strong on conviction but more concerned to include those like myself (rather than dismissing us as stupid, arrogant, and misinformed), might surprise Mr. Podhoretz with the degree of support it would win.

Anthony Rimell

Christchurch, New Zealand

 

To the Editor:

Even though Norman Podhoretz offers four “pillars” in support of the Bush Doctrine, there appears to be only one: preemptive attacks against any entity deemed to be a threat to the United States. He could have just come out and said it. Why waste all that ink and paper? We are living with the aftermath of the first use of that doctrine. Is the world now a safer place?

Bob Winners

Glendale, California

 

To the Editor:

I take issue with Norman Podhoretz’s caricature of the “realist” opposition to U.S. intervention in Iraq. The more intelligent realists did not dispute the possibility of effecting a political transformation there, as we did in Germany and Japan after World War II. They argued instead that our current political culture would not tolerate the necessary costs. President Bush has proved the realists’ point by pursuing Wilsonian ideals with a Coolidge-like frugality.

Wayne Seibert

Sylva, North Carolina

 

To the Editor:

The future of the Bush Doctrine hangs in the balance in Iraq. An American failure would spoil the electorate’s appetite for further large-scale preemptive actions and effectively invalidate the doctrine. An American success, conversely, would provide the legitimacy that is so urgently required for the doctrine to take root. This is the grand struggle that is being fought before the eyes of the world.

Norman Podhoretz should therefore offer more than just a diatribe against “the anti-American Left” and should frankly engage several important questions: What are the risks and potential consequences of failure in Iraq? What if a democratic or pro-American government is unsustainable? What is the likelihood, in such a case, that other, less desirable influences may ultimately fill the political void there?

One must wonder if President Bush fully grasped the gravity of these questions before his inelegant celebration of a “mission accomplished” aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. Tragically, it seems likely that his administration’s failure to carry out its mission in Iraq will undo his own doctrine.

Robert Kadoori

Atlanta, Georgia

 

To the Editor:

Norman Podhoretz seems persuaded that anyone opposed to the invasion of Iraq misconstrues the scope of the war on terror, but many of us who strongly support the latter consider the former a misguided diversion. Precisely because World War IV is a global struggle, we cannot fight it alone.

Far from demonstrating that we cannot be pushed around, Iraq has revealed the limits of a superpower, and has provided an instruction manual for Islamic radicals on how to make the U.S. pay dearly in future conflicts.

Mr. Podhoretz lauds President Bush for having the firmness and clarity about terrorism that previous administrations lacked. But 9/11 was the most shocking attack since Pearl Harbor, and its effect on public opinion was to give Bush enormous latitude. After such an attack, other Presidents also would have invaded Afgha- nistan and pursued Osama bin Laden, but they would not necessarily have invaded Iraq, or abandoned Afgha- nistan before democracy was firmly rooted there.

Finally, it demeans President Harry S. Truman to compare him, as Mr. Podhoretz does, with President Bush. It is true that some thought Truman, like Bush, ill-prepared for the presidency, but the similarity ends there. In addition to having been a combat officer, Senator, and Vice President, Truman read voraciously and studied history with a passion; Bush knew virtually nothing of history, geography, or foreign affairs when he began campaigning for the presidency. He still apparently reads little beyond the executive briefings prepared by his staff—making him their intellectual captive—and there is persuasive evidence that before 9/11 he did not even read those carefully.

Lawrence I. Bonchek

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

 

To the Editor:

Those who undertake “to set . . . [an] entire region on a course toward democratization” (as Norman Podhoretz describes President Bush’s strategy) ought to do so with competence. If we expected Iraqis to wish to be as free and prosperous as we are, we should have also expected some of them to behave badly when, after the invasion, the regime they had been living under abruptly collapsed.

The problems that characteristically arise in an occupation were well known—but the important knowledge lay with institutions like the State Department, the CIA, the Army War College, the Council on Foreign Relations, all of them apparently held by the war-planners to be insufficiently right-wing. The refusal of the Bush administration to prepare properly for the occupation was a major and inexcusable failure of judgment. This war had political aims. Why was the realization of these aims so innocently taken for granted?

Virgil E. Vickers

Newton, Massachusetts

 

To the Editor:

Norman Podhoretz writes that in recent years, “American citizens continued to be injured or killed in Israel and other countries by terrorists who were not aiming specifically at the United States.” But that is only part of the story.

There have been numerous attempts by Palestinian terrorists to murder Americans. According to Newsweek, Yasir Arafat’s Fatah terror group was involved in the 1983 attack in Lebanon in which 241 Marines were massacred. Arafat’s Force 17 terror unit claimed responsibility for an attempted car-bomb attack in 1985 against then-Secretary of State George Shultz during a visit to Jerusalem. Arafat’s Fatah attempted a similar attack against Shultz in 1988. In January 2001, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—a member- organization of Arafat’s PLO—carried out a grenade attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem. More recently, Palestinian Arab terrorists ambushed a convoy of clearly marked U.S. diplomatic vehicles in Gaza in October 2003, murdering three American security personnel. According to the news agen- cy Middle East Newsline and the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, Arafat himself gave the orders for the attack in order “to strike U.S. interests in Palestinian Authority areas.”

In any event, U.S. law makes no distinction between American victims of terror who were targeted as Americans and those who were targeted for some other reason. In all such cases, American authorities are obligated to do everything they can to bring the killers here for prosecution and punishment. The fact that not one of the Palestinian Arabs involved in murdering over 100 Americans since the 1960’s has been brought to the U.S. for trial is deeply disturbing. This would appear to be another example of the kind of appeasement that Mr. Podhoretz cites in his article as having contributed to the weakening of the West’s effort against international terrorism.

Morton A. Klein

Zionist Organization of America

Merion, Pennsylvania

 

To the Editor:

Norman Podhoretz’s “World War IV” presents an impassioned, moving defense of the Iraq war, and the wide acclaim his essay has received testifies to its power. Yet the argument could be stronger. Key events of a decade ago are not well understood.

Above all, al Qaeda was not involved in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, as Mr. Podhoretz suggests. Osama bin Laden was not indicted for that attack in a U.S. criminal court. Nor is that attack among the military charges leveled against the al Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Bin Laden was not indicted for a 1995 plot to bomb U.S. airplanes (a plot led by Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the World Trade Center attack), although Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (who masterminded the 9/11 strikes) was indicted for that plot.

Mega-terrorism—starting with the first assault on the World Trade Center and culminating in 9/11—began before al Qaeda became involved in major attacks. Al Qaeda’s participation in such assaults occurred only after bin Laden moved to Afghanistan, where Mohammed joined up with him.

The FBI in New York led the investigation into the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Its head, Jim Fox, believed Iraq was responsible. “Although we are unable to say with certainty that the Iraqis were behind the bombing,” Fox wrote, “that is certainly the theory accepted by many of the veteran investigators.”

Our default explanation for terrorism is al Qaeda. But what are al Qaeda’s capabilities compared to those of a major terrorist state? The Iraq Survey Group has detailed the enormous size and complex organization of the Iraqi intelligence service, which trained a host of Arab parties in various skills, including explosives.

Documents emerging from Baghdad reveal Iraq’s extensive dealings with numerous bad actors, including bin Laden. The White House has been unwilling to invest political capital to explain this, but it is the critical missing piece in understanding the Iraq war.

Laurie Mylroie

Washington, D.C.

 

To the Editor:

Kudos to Norman Podhoretz for presenting a coherent and persuasive defense of George W. Bush’s foreign policy. But Mr. Podhoretz’s argument that the Islamic regime in Iran is now threatened because it is encircled by unfriendly governments in the Gulf states, the Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union, and the newly liberated Afghan- istan and Iraq completely misses the mark. In fact, President Bush has removed two bitter enemies from Iran’s borders—Saddam Hussein, with whom it fought a fierce eight-year war, and the Taliban, whose brand of Islam made them hostile to Iran. Thanks to the removal of these two concerns, Iran is now a regional superpower, bent on becoming a world superpower with the acquisition of a nuclear bomb.

Sam Rothenberg

George Washington University

Washington, D.C.

 

To the Editor:

In his vigorous defense of President Bush’s conduct of “World War IV,” Norman Podhoretz does not mention the single greatest failing of successive American administrations: their turning away from the attainment by Pakistan of the “Islamic bomb.” Pakistani technology is now at work in Iran creating what is considered by most Israeli political and military figures the greatest threat to Israel’s existence since 1948.

Despite certain warnings and cautionary statements, the Bush administration has no real plan for contending with, and stopping, the coming into being of a nuclear Iran. It is hard to imagine a more apocalyptic “World War IV” scenario.

Shalom Freedman

Jerusalem, Israel

 

To the Editor:

Norman Podhoretz makes a valiant but failed attempt to justify the invasion of Iraq, which is a diversion from the real war on terror. International terrorism, especially terrorism against the U.S., is primarily a Saudi phenomenon. Fifteen of the nineteen terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks were Saudis. Osama Bin Laden is a Saudi. The Taliban were composed primarily of Saudis. About 25 percent of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are Saudis. Saudi money helps erect Wahabbist mosques and madrassas around the world that preach hatred. The Saudis distribute the great anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

If the U.S. were truly intent on fighting terrorism, we would have finished the war in Afghanistan and gone after Saudi Arabia.

Sheldon F. Gottlieb

Boynton Beach, Florida

 

To the Editor:

Many thanks for Norman Podhoretz’s lucid and persuasive essay on President Bush’s ongoing effort to lead American foreign policy away from appeasement-besotted “realpolitik” and back toward the functional idealism embodied in the Marshall Plan.

Mr. Podhoretz’s presentation is deeply flawed, however, by his astonishing omission of U.S.-Saudi relations. If our eagerness to accommodate a government so dramatically opposed to the democratic model is not an instance of realpolitik, what is?

Michael Stoken

Highland Park, Illinois

 

To the Editor:

As always, Norman Podhoretz makes an eloquent case, but it seems incomplete. Economics is crucial to the challenge we face, but not because of poverty in the Mideast. Rather, the prime source of our current troubles is the placing of vast riches in the hands of the wrong people. The Saudi, Iranian Shiite, and (former) Iraqi Baathist regimes are the legatees of British and, later, American oil policy.

When King Faisal imposed the oil embargo during the Yom Kippur war in October 1973, the U.S. (and Europe) should have explained to the Saudis and other oil-state rulers that we did not vastly enrich them, educate their sons, and protect their regimes so that they could use our oil dependence to blackmail us or to extract excess economic rents, let alone to invest in terror. Instead we caved. And thus the foundation was laid for a vast financial oil-state surplus, whose proceeds would mostly be invested (apart from sybaritic indulgence) in armaments, WMD programs, extremist versions of Islam, and support for terrorism (part of it willing, part of it protection money).

John C. Wohlstetter

Discovery Institute

Washington, D.C.

 

To the Editor:

The only thing I would question about Norman Podhoretz’s well-timed article is the last part of his subtitle. I do not think World War IV can ever finally be “won” because the terrorists will never stop what they are doing. The best we can do is to fight them wherever and whenever they strike.

Patricia Meyerowitz

Easton, Pennsylvania

 

To the Editor:

Norman Podhoretz’s “World War IV” is a solid contribution. I wonder, however, about the notion of inducing Middle East- ern clerics to emulate the Protestant Reformation. Have we forgotten the fierce civil wars that the Reformation unleashed for centuries, still going on in Northern Ireland? Besides, reformed religion, like modernity generally, has produced some dreadful results (evident in families and child-raising) along with various gains.

To my mind, Samuel Huntington’s vision of a “clash of civilizations” (really, cultures) is more persuasive than Francis Fukuyama’s shallow universal perspective, which is as woodenly rationalistic as Hegel’s “recognition of all by all.” Like Woodrow Wilson before him, President Bush has gotten carried away here by a sentimental and all-too- human political impulse.

None of this alters my admiration for Norman Podhoretz and his superb tract. No one, to my knowledge, has defined better where we are and ought to go.

Robert G. Cohn

Menlo Park, California

 

To the Editor:

There is much to recommend in Norman Podhoretz’s “World War IV,” but he fails to see the lack of militancy that may well doom the application of the Bush Doctrine. In World War II, there was a clear attitude that we had to defeat the enemy and its poisonous ideology. In World War IV, by contrast, we are guided by political correctness, and are quick to emphasize that Arabs are not our enemy and that, as President Bush declared, “Islam means peace.” Rather than defeating our enemies and calling for their unconditional surrender, we try to win their “hearts and minds.” The U.S. did not raze Falluja in April of this year but bowed to Arab sensitivities, sacrificing American lives, victory, and morale instead.

A related problem is the aim of converting the Arab-Muslim nations to democracy. Mr. Podhoretz argues that this is as feasible as it was for Germany and Japan. But Arab nations have no heritage of anything resembling individual rights, as the Weimar Republic did, nor any openness to modernity, as Japan did. Even if they did, consider by analogy the idea of prosecuting World War II by declaring that “fascism means peace” and that that we need not vanquish the primary Axis nations. Our defeat would have been assured.

Allen Weingarten

Morris Township, New Jersey

 

To the Editor:

Commentary is to be commended for publishing the fine article by Norman Podhoretz. Mr. Podhoretz is always worth reading; here he has outdone himself. I agree that the only “safe” course for the United States is to grasp the nettle. In the end, however, I take issue with Mr. Podhoretz. I think he is the prisoner of his hopes, not the historian of reality.

It is true, as he writes, that “the most decisive question” is whether we will cut and run, or “hang in long enough to carry World War IV to a . . . successful conclusion.” But even Mr. Podhoretz admits that he has only prayer to fall back on if John Kerry wins the presidency. I suspect that those prayers will not be enough.

As for the Bush Doctrine, I would ask again a question I posed to Mr. Podhoretz in a letter almost exactly two years ago.

 

A “doctrine” is just a collection of words. It is true that words themselves have some effect, but to translate the words into deeds takes will. It may have been comforting to the descendants of Regulus to hear the same three words at the end of each speech of Cato to the Senate, regardless of the subject, but the Punic conflict did not end until the sack of Carthage. . . . Like Mr. Podhoretz, I also have high hopes for a doctrine which recognizes evil when it sees it, rejects moral relativism, holds states and individuals responsible for the terrorists they sponsor, will not bind itself always to wait to be attacked first, and includes the Israeli response to terror with our own. But I wish I were as sure as he seems to be that when push comes to shove the words will turn into deeds.

The last two years have simply reinforced my fears. Just as Mr. Podhoretz prays that he is wrong about Kerry, so I pray that I am wrong about Bush. But I do not believe I am.

Richard Durant

Grosse Point, Michigan

 

To the Editor:

Norman Podhoretz makes a persuasive case that we are now in the midst of World War IV. I was surprised, however, that he did not suggest any strategies to deal with the aspects of this war that make it so different from the prior three. The main differences today are: the involvement of religious officials, the special tactics of terrorism, and the apparent insulation of states from suffering any consequences for actions they take (or fail to take) that provide havens for terrorists.

I would suggest a new doctrine along the following lines. First, holy sites should lose their protected status if they are used for purposes like inciting violence or harboring terrorists and their weapons. Once sites lose their status as “holy,” they would no longer be exempt from counterattack.

Furthermore, terrorists are not born as terrorists. Every element contributing to their creation is in the control of some state. These include such things as the contents of schoolbooks, messages in state-controlled media, border security, and the permissibility of terrorist incitement and training.

It should no longer be acceptable for a nation to foster or permit acts leading to the creation of terrorists. Failure to provide economic compensation for the damage done by terrorists should result in a response designed to cause equal or greater damage to the people and assets of the culpable country.

Philip A. Korn

New York City

 

To the Editor:

Although the great bulk of Norman Podhoretz’s analysis is sound, he may be too quick to declare the onset of World War IV. There is no doubt that Osama bin Laden, the mullahs, and other jihadists are at war with us, and that they are trying to get all of Islam behind them; but they have not yet succeeded.

I would argue that the battle now is to convince Muslims that an all-out war would be disastrous for Islam, and that they should therefore withhold support from the jihadists. This can be done by using U.S. political and military power to compel Arab governments to stop supporting terrorists, and by encouraging the Iranian population to remove the mullahs.

It is still feasible for the U.S. to be so successful that the majority of Muslims will conclude that Allah did not intend for there to be jihad against the West in this generation. World War IV would be averted or at least postponed. On the other hand, if we fail in the next few years, we may be in for a much greater war than any we have seen.

Max Singer

Jerusalem, Israel

 

Norman Podhoretz writes:

Having already delivered myself of 30,000 words on this subject—in the course of which most of the objections raised in the letters below were anticipated and answered to the best of my ability—I will now be brief in responding to my critics one by one. Before doing so, however, I want to thank all those who prefaced their criticisms with kind remarks about the article as a whole.

Eric Chenoweth’s letter contains nothing that has not been harped upon innumerable times by reactionary realists on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. These people are dead set against the Bush Doctrine precisely because it proceeds from the recognition that 9/11 exposed the obsolescence of the ideas they have desperately been striving to salvage (hence my use of the term “reactionary”), and in joining their company Mr. Chenoweth takes another turn around the same old beaten path. But if he adds nothing of substance to these bankrupt ideas, he does infuse them with a novel delusion in claiming that they can be squared with “America’s capacity to carry out its great mission of safeguarding liberty and fostering freedom.” Alas, poor Eric; I knew him when the organization for which he works fought the good fight to liberate the Soviet empire from Communism. Now, even while advocating retreat from an analogous battle to liberate the Middle East from Islamofascism, he imagines that he still stands where he stood in World War III. Yet, if you ask me, he has forfeited the right to even so much as a toehold on the moral and political high ground from which this country has undertaken to safeguard itself by safeguarding liberty and fostering freedom.

Anthony Rimell has me two-thirds wrong. I do not dismiss him as “stupid” or “arrogant,” though I certainly do consider him “uninformed” in asserting that there was “no legal or moral basis” for going into Iraq and that the outcome has been a disaster. Since he was unpersuaded by the detailed arguments on these matters that I advanced in my article, I doubt that repeating them here in summary form would serve any useful purpose.

Bob Winners wants to know if the preemption pillar of the Bush Doctrine has made the world a safer place. The answer is yes.

As Wayne Seibert would see if he took another look at my article, I dealt at some length with the question of what “our current political culture” is willing to support. But, contrary to what Mr. Seibert contends, very few realist critics of the Bush Doctrine have paid much, if any, attention to that question, and most of them have indeed raised grave doubts about the possibility of doing unto Iraq what we did unto Germany and Japan after 1945.

Robert Kadoori is right about the importance of the battle of Iraq. That is why it is necessary to fight against all those who have themselves been fighting against what we set out to do there about two years ago.

A favorite charge of these opponents, parroted here by Lawrence I. Bonchek, is that the invasion of Iraq was a “diversion.” But as I tried to show in my article, our enemy in this war is a two-headed monster—one with a religious face and one with a secular face. I also spent a great deal of time trying to show why it was, and is, sound strategy to go after the latter in Iraq after having successfully taken on the former in Afghanistan. George W. Bush may not be so great a reader of history as Harry S. Truman was, but exactly like Truman before him, he had the wit and the courage not only to recognize a gathering threat but the intellectual wherewithal to adopt a strategy for dealing with it.

Virgil E. Vickers credits the CIA, etc. with having accurately foreseen what would follow from an invasion of Iraq, and he accuses the Bush administration of refusing (not merely failing, mind you, but refusing) “to prepare properly for the occupation.” But as has been richly documented by Michael R. Gordon in, of all places, the generally anti-Bush and antiwar New York Times, and as should have been taken for granted all along, it was on the basis of the intelligence provided by the CIA that the war planners developed their plans, that the generals then adopted their tactics, and that everyone’s expectations were shaped. I would also note that none of the disasters that had reasonably been anticipated and for which preparations had in fact been made—oil fields set afire, civil war, hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the country—ever occurred.

Morton A. Klein has good grounds for describing the treatment of Arafat by previous administrations as “appeasement” (though that may not be the most precise characterization). But surely no such charge can be lodged against George W. Bush, who has refused to treat with Arafat at all.

Laurie Mylroie takes issue with my suggestion (derived from what the then CIA director R. James Woolsey thought at the time) that al Qaeda was involved in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. She also faults me for what she evidently regards as my neglect of state support. But here is what I wrote: “In 1993, Clinton . . . refused even to meet with his own CIA director. Perhaps he anticipated that he would be told things by Woolsey—about terrorist networks and the states sponsoring them [emphasis added]—that he did not wish to hear because he had no intention of embarking on the military action that such knowledge might force upon him.” As for the complicity of Iraq in particular in this and other terrorist attacks, I would be only too happy if Laurie Mylroie should win her longstanding battle to establish that complicity beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sam Rothenberg is worried about Iran, and so am I. Yet unlike Mr. Rothenberg, the Iranian mullocrats themselves do not feel that the removal of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein has been good for them. If they did, they would not be working so hard to frustrate the progress of democracy in those two countries.

Shalom Freedman is also rightly worried about Iran’s development of a nuclear arsenal. But what can we do about this? I for one place next to no faith in diplomacy. My great hope, however, is that we will intensify efforts (which I assume are already under way) to encourage an uprising by the internal opposition that would lead to the overthrow of the mullocracy, the eventual democratization of the country, and its renunciation of nuclear weapons. Otherwise, military action may become the only option.

Sheldon F. Gottlieb, Michael Stoken, and John Wohlstetter, for their part, are worried—and again rightly—about Saudi Arabia. To which I say: all in good time (provided that the Bush Doctrine remains in force). Indeed, as I have repeatedly asserted, a victorious conclusion to World War IV will mean regime changes—by peaceful means where possible, by force where necessary—in all the despotisms of the greater Middle East, emphatically including Saudi Arabia. Only in this way can we “drain the swamps” in which terrorism breeds and rob it of the sanctuaries and support without which it cannot survive. (Patricia Meyerowitz, please take note.)

Robert G. Cohn and Allen Weingarten, like many other observers, are confident that such a strategy is futile because the culture of the Arab-Muslim world is incompatible with democracy. For all the reasons I spelled out in the concluding sections of “World War IV,” I disagree.

Richard Durant seems to think that the Bush Doctrine has not been translated from words into deeds. Tell that to the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.

Philip A. Korn similarly seems to think that the Bush Doctrine does not target states that foster or sponsor terrorism. But (see the section of my article entitled “The Second Pillar”) that is exactly what the Bush Doctrine does. Not that it would necessarily be a bad idea to incorporate one or more of Mr. Korn’s codicils.

Max Singer wants us to convince the Muslim world that it should not support the jihadists. I have no objection to such a campaign, but I see it as one of the many different weapons to be deployed in the war we began fighting on 9/11, not as an alternative to that war.

Finally, for the interesting points they make, and for their extraordinarily generous words, I am grateful to Mayor Koch, John Swails, Allan Erickson, Randall L. Kleinman, Louis-Vincent Gave, Dwight Stedman, Jenene Stookesberry, Father Oakes, M. Donald Coleman, Dennis Travis, and Geert Vandenweghe—as well as to the hundreds of readers who have contacted me directly or have posted equally generous responses to my article on the Internet.

 

Editor’s note: Reprints of Norman Podhoretz’s article can be purchased at $4.95 per copy (including shipping in the continental U.S.). To order, and to inquire about bulk rates, please contact service@ commentarymagazine.com or call (800) 829-6270.

About the Author




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.