I didn’t want to let this column by Amir Taheri get by without comment. Here’s Mr. Taheri’s peroration:
Despite efforts by postmodernists, multiculturalists and apologists of terror to explain (and explain away) Islamofascism, the overwhelming majority of free peoples, especially in the United States, realize that they are engaged in an existential struggle against an enemy that can and must be defeated both on the battleground and in the field of ideas.
The world is witnessing a new type of war in which none of the traditional causes of conflict such as territory, borders, natural resources and markets are the prize. The prize in this war is human freedom. And this is why, no matter how long this conflict takes, the enemies of freedom cannot win.
I have a tiny, smidgeon of a problem with Taheri’s conclusion and it can be summarized with a simple question: if victory is inevitable why do anything?
Victory is not inevitable. Is never inevitable. It may look that way with the clarity of hindsight but that’s an illusion.
The North could have ceded victory to the South in the American Civil War and the Union would have ceased to exist.
The United States might never have entered the Great War on the side of the Allies and Europe could have fought itself to exhaustion or, as was predicted by some at the time, be fighting still.
The United States might have withdrawn back to its own shores (as was urged by its isolationists at the time), ceded Asia to the Japanese and left Europe to its own squabbles, imagining itself safe behind the thousands of miles of ocean that divided it from its enemies. This could have happened at a dozen times, in twenty ways, for a hundred reasons.
The Soviet Union could have won the Cold War: they were winning. Read the Mitrokhin archives.
There are a thousand ways in which we can lose whatever we’re calling the struggle we’re in now. We can overreach and become exhausted. We can underestimate and become complacent. We can withdraw into isolationism or pretend that someone else will carry burdens we’re unwilling ourselves to bear.
We’ve already spent a trillion dollars on additional security since September 11, 2001 and I think you’d be hard put to find anyone who genuinely believes we’re more secure for it. Much of that trillion is in the form of recurring costs. That’s a trillion dollars worth of research not financed, bridges not built, schools not refurbished, and roads not repaired. Another mass attack and we may have the unacceptable choices of massive, indiscriminate retaliation, domestic upheaval, or another trillion or two trillion or five trillion dollars worth of expense. We’re wealthy but we’re not indefinitely wealthy.
UPDATE: Is there another interpretation of John Mueller’s essay at Cato Unbound than that the United States should do nothing in response to terrorist attacks?