Can You Name this War?

March 3, 2006 | by | Topic: The American StoryPrint Print

Can you name the war which so far has claimed over 6,000 American lives, more than half that number being innocent civilians? First we called it “The War on Terrorism,” which didn’t work because making war on terrorism made as much strategic sense as making war on illiteracy, drugs or obesity. Ditto “The War on Terror.” Last summer, the Pentagon floated the moniker, “War against Violent Extremism.” That’s still too amorphous. After all, millions of Americans believe abortion, medical experiments on animals or eating meat are manifestations of violent extremism. What about “The War in Iraq?” That works only if one sees fighting in Iraq as distinct from a larger conflict prompted by the events of 9/11. Naming this war is difficult because, as a nation, we lack a clear understanding of who our enemies are and what they are trying to achieve.

Failure to understand who we are fighting, and their goals, makes it difficult to define our strategic objectives. Without clearly defined strategic goals, public support inevitably wanes as casualties mount. And casualties will increase because generals need clearly defined strategic objectives before they can devise appropriate military strategies. Replay Vietnam where measures of success devolved to body counts as domestic opposition to the war grew, rendering defeat. Losing this war will prove far more catastrophic for the nation and the West.

Who are we fighting? Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and associated groups along with the nations that support them, specifically Iran and Syria.What are their goals? Not unlike the Axis powers in World War II, our enemies in this war have differing goals. The sum of their goals, however, makes for a total war of global proportions. If the Cold War was World War III (also a total war between competing powers with total war objectives fought globally), then this is World War IV.

The Cold War avoided an apocalyptic nuclear conclusion because leaders in the democratic West and communist East valued the future of their respective civilizations—and the lives of their progeny—more than they did propounding their respective political ideologies. Radical Islam knows no such inhibitions. It is a common misperception, one fed by worshippers in the temples of multi-culturalism and diversity, that Whabbi and Salafi Islam are the only extreme forms of the religion. It is obligatory for anyone addressing the topic to note, “the peace-loving nature of most Muslims.” Perhaps, but the recent global paroxysm of mindless violence by millions of Muslims reacting to cartoons depicting the Prophet argues otherwise.

Al Qaeda’s stated goal is to establish a global Islamic caliphate by the end of this century. Their ally, Mohmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s demented president, recently declared his intent to obliterate Israel and subdue the Great Satan…that would be us. In war, the intensity of violence usually accords with level of the objectives. Eradication of a state and the forced religious conversion of the world constitute total war objectives. World War IV, therefore, is a global, religious and total war. That is something few Americans understand.

Religious fervor drives our enemies. A religion that turns men and women into human bombs is incomprehensible to most Americans. The recently elected Hamas delegate to the Palestinian parliament who joyously raved that three of her sons had martyred themselves and her other sons would soon join them, is unfathomable to a people steeped in the “Kum by Ya” theologies of accommodation and toleration.

The reality is that Imams around the world daily preach messages of death to America, Christians and Jews. After 9/11 many liberal Christians, oblivious to the religious passion it takes to compel men to fly airliners into office buildings while gleefully bellowing “Allah Akbar!” urged the administration to forego military action in favor of “engaging our enemies in dialogue” to better understand why they are so motivated. To these well-meaning folks, let me offer this: death is a great de-motivator.

Hatred we cannot fathom drives our enemies. They hate our democratic institutions and despise our religious freedom. They hate the tolerance that respects homosexuality and accommodates “a woman’s right to choose.” They hate the freedom of expression that allows cartoon depictions of their Prophet. The respect Western men show their women and the independence of those women are anathema to them. They don’t want our understanding or our apologies; they want our heads. Public relations campaigns cannot bring an end to this kind of hatred nor will such efforts keep them from attacking us. War fought to a definitive conclusion will.

To win World War IV we must first understand the nature of our enemies and their goals. Otherwise, get used to hearing “Ia ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad rasoulu Allah” because that’s what your grandchildren will be chanting. And our national tombstone will read, “Died of Diversity.”

Earl H. Tilford

Earl H. Tilford

Dr. Earl Tilford is a military historian and fellow for the Middle East & terrorism with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. He currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where he is writing a history of the University of Alabama in the 1960s. A retired Air Force intelligence officer, Dr. Tilford earned his PhD in American and European military history at George Washington University. From 1993 to 2001, he served as Director of Research at the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute. In 2001, he left Government service for a professorship at Grove City College, where he taught courses in military history, national security, and international and domestic terrorism and counter-terrorism.

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