January 13, 2007

The First Terrorist War

The Flag of Saudi Arabia

[First published: October, 2003 ]

Sections of "The First Terrorist War"

1. Calling the War By the Right Name.
2. Not Process But Victory Restores Freedom
3. Playing for Time is Playing to Lose
4. The Goal of Radical Islam is Our Destruction
5. The War of Two Religions
6. The Unspoken Role of the Ballistic Missile Submarines
7. Avoiding the Islamic War by Winning the Terrorist War

"[Arabs] were incorrigibly children of the idea, feckless and colour-blind, to whom body and spirit were for ever and inevitably opposed. Their mind was strange and dark, full of depressions and exaltations, lacking in rule, but with more of ardour and more fertile in belief than any other in the world. They were a people of starts, for whom the abstract was the strongest motive, the process of infinite courage and variety, and the end nothing. They were as unstable as water, and like water would perhaps finally prevail." -- T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

1. Calling the War By the Right Name.
In a war, "Know your enemy" is one of the first axioms in formulating a strategy for victory. It is an axiom the United States has studiously ignored for over two five years. In its place we’ve seen a host of euphemistic notions and slogans thrown up in the belief that, having had many decades of a life where ugly things are given pretty or neutral names, Americans can no longer "bear very much reality."

In the years that have unfolded between September. 2001 and today, the public has had little asked of it and has seen less happen on our own ground that alarms it. All seems well, all is quiet here on the home front.

Foggy thinking, however attractive in politics, has no place in war. War requires a habit of mind that is precise, cold, and unrelenting. War requires that we call things what they are and cease to skirt issues that make us, in the damp parlance of our times, "uncomfortable." Vague names let us slip into fluffy policies hamstrung strategies and wishful thinking. This is where we are drifting.

To say we are "involved" in a "war on terror" and to repeat this phrase ad infinitum extends our decades old infatuation with euphemism and obfuscation into dangerous territory. The vagaries of the phrase lull us into a state where all dangers seem unclear and distant. The "war on terror" joins an expanding list of "wars on..." such as drugs, poverty, or profuse paperwork in government. The "war on terror" implies a "process" rather than a campaign; an indeterminate series of unresolved encounters rather than decisive actions that lead to an end, to peace.

Peace is the goal of war in civilized countries. To accept a perpetual "war on terror" is to accept a plan for mere "management" rather than a path to victory. And the failure to make a plan for victory is the construction of a plan for defeat.

To those with a clear vision of this war and a knowledge of history, it is a lie that we are "involved in a war on terror." Our media pundits and our policy wonks may prefer it that way, but this war is not at all similar to being "involved in a business slump" or "involved in a troubled relationship."

While wishful souls in the West may see the war as a "process" -- an exercise in supply chain management -- our enemies do not. Our enemies do not involve themselves with vague thinking and phrases front-loaded with vacillation and pusillanimous wishing. Their thinking is driven by an ancient religious doctrine designed to manipulate, exploit and harness societies into servitude. Their commitment to our destruction is adamantine. It is no accident that many of their spiritual leaders speaking from the centers of their faith call for the death of the "Crusaders." They see what their goals are in this struggle. Obfuscation has no place in their goals. They are the same goals they have held for more than 500 years. They are the goals announced several times a week in tens of thousands of mosques throughout the world. For our enemies, the wars of the Crusades and the wars surrounding the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire were merely the prologue to this war.

Our present reality, brought home to us in the cataclysm of September 11, is that we are now fighting The First Terrorist War. We had best know it by that name. When we persist in calling it the "war on terror" our implied goal is control and containment; a "management problem" This is a dangerous illusion.

In war the only acceptable outcome is complete victory. A negotiation does not end a war - - as Oslo shows. A partition does not end a war - - as we learned in Vietnam. A cease-fire does not end a war -- as we saw in the Gulf War. The Cold War taught us that a wall does not end a war. Only victory, clear and decisive, ends war and creates peace. To date, we have failed to learn this lesson and when a lesson is not learned, it is repeated.

In war, language is a strategic asset. Indeed, we see daily how language,here and abroad, is used to weaken the resolve of the United States. The central problem in calling The First Terrorist War the "war on terror’ is that f the phrase soothes us into accepting less than victory, and resolves the war to a new normality where terror is accepted as the status quo. This is the state in which Israel has existed for decades as terrorist violence becomes the scrim screen against which life goes on. Although our present foreign policy may impose this on Israel, it may, over time, prove less popular at home. We are not yet the kind of country that easily accepts The Forever War.

2. Not Process But Victory Restores Freedom

An open-ended "war on terror," like a ‘war on drugs" invites a continuing erosion of small liberties. As this persists, once rare infringements on liberty become the norm. If it is to be the case that the shoes of all air travelers are to be inspected from now until the last ding-dong of doom, we will all be wearing sandals on airlines for the rest of our days. In this, many are correct to be wary of the long term effects of The Patriot Act.

Short of military conquest, a free society does not lose freedoms gained. Rather, freedom is lost through small infringements on liberty and dignity in the name of security. In a perfectly safe state, freedom is seldom found. If our policies essentially sustain rather than defeat our enemies, we are to that degree held hostage to them. When war is reduced to a process, that process become a self-renewing system in the same way that the "war on drugs" has become institutionalized in our lives -- a normal part of the background noise that defines our days. A strategy based on "management" rather than victory leads only to the establishment of internal organizations dedicated to their own perpetuation.

During the Civil War and the World Wars of the last century certain freedoms were, at times, curtailed, infringed or suspended. Following victory in 1945 these freedoms not only returned but even greater states of equality and liberty emerged. Had the Second World War ended in a negotiated stand-off at the Rhine and Okinawa, a state of war would have continued for an unknowable time and, in such a state, a less-free United States would have been a certainty. Only the destruction of the Axis powers yielded a peace out of which freedom surged, not only in America but in the lands of her former enemies as well. Victory yields freedom in peace. An armed process yields only stasis.

3. Playing for Time is Playing to Lose
Our enemies (many of whom have studied and lived or now live among us) know us better than we are prepared to know either them or ourselves. In order to reform, rearm and launch future attacks they depend upon our belief that we are effectively managing the "war on terror." At the same time they know that, absent any large attacks, we will grow weary with small but constant losses tallied daily by our "caring and sensitive" media. They depend upon us being lulled back into the state of slumber we enjoyed on September 10th. And we grant their wishes.

If they are as wise as they are ruthless, our enemies will continue with their strategies of constant attrition and small, distant attacks. They will, for the present, avoid large shocks to the nation in hopes that the ambitions of our political factions and the intellectual lassitude of our major media will result in the defeat of the present administration in the coming elections. The goal of this strategy is the expectation of a more somnambulant administration less invested in war and more inclined towards the failed policies of appeasement, negotiation and payoff.

Should that happen our present "war on terror" will become even softer. It will be supplanted by something resembling "a diplomatic initiative to ameliorate terrorism." In effect we shall find ourselves, as we have so often in the past under liberal guidance, trying to buy out way out of the "war on terror." Our error will be believing that we are dealing with extortionists rather than enemies. And the measure of our leaders’ cowardice will be how deeply they promote this belief and the false hope it engenders.

4. The Goal of Radical Islam is Our Destruction
The consequences of a political and military stand-down would be to allow our enemies the time, basing and mobility to grow in numbers, advance in training, achieve greater tactical position within and about our borders, and acquire ever more sophisticated and powerful weapons. Once they have advanced to the next level of lethality they will strike us again with an effect on our lives, liberties, property and economy more extreme than 9/11.

The goals of the Radical Islamic forces arrayed against us are the same as their factotums, the Palestinians, have for Israel. In the jihad against Israel we can see what the Islamic forces have in mind for us: the complete destruction of our systems, the occupation of our land, the usurpation of our government, and the death or conversion of all our citizens. These are the goals of Radical Islam as understood by their fundamentalists and as tolerated by the vast majority of believers.

Much has been written about these goals. Most of our scholars conclude they are only fantasies, but a nuclear weapon detonated in Seattle does not care if a fantasy set it off.

Whether the goals of Radical Islam can be achieved is a matter for history to determine. It is the belief that they can be achieved that brings the First Terrorist War upon us. To the extent that we fail to recognize the intensity and commitment of our enemies in this war; to the extent we fail to match their passion for our destruction with our passion for victory; to the extent we cast our lot with process as they cast their lot with their God, we weaken our ability to decisively defeat them.

Ours is a "war on terror" while theirs is a "Jihad." Our efforts are a process. Theirs are directed by divine mandate. Whether you are of a secular or religious persuasion, it is well to remember that if you go to war you’d best have God on your side.

As such it is time to put away the frayed and weak designation of our actions as the "war on terror" for it is not "terror" that shooting wars engage. Wars engage combatants, armies, populations, institutions, nations and religions. It is unpopular, almost unsayable, to designate the First Terrorist War as a religious war, yet all serious people know that this is the case and that this, in the end, is what it shall come to.

5. The War of Two Religions
Through the violent attacks of a Radical Islam, two religions have been brought into conflict. The first is that of Islam, a faith that at its core requires absolute submission from its adherents, and looks towards the subjugation of the world as its ultimate apotheosis. As the youngest of the monotheistic religions, Islam is at a point in its development that Christianity passed through centuries ago. And it is not with Christianity that Islam is currently at war. Islam is saving that for the mopping up phase of its current campaign. The religion that Islam has engaged is a much younger one, the religion of Freedom.

As a religion Freedom has been gaining converts since the success of the American Revolution enabled it to go forth and be preached to the world. Freedom is easily the most popular of the new religions and historically converts nearly 100% of all populations in which it is allowed to take firm root. This is the religion which we have lately brought to Iraq.

The genius of the religion of Freedom is that it allows all other religions, from the venerable to the trivial, to exist without fear of censure or destruction. Indeed, the only thing that the religion of Freedom firmly forbids is the destruction of Freedom itself. "Thou shalt not destroy Freedom" seems to be the only commandment. And Freedom has been shown to resist efforts to destroy it in the most ferocious way. It’s enemies would do well to ponder the fate of previous attempts to do so.

On September 11, the agents of Radical Islam began their attempt to destroy Freedom by attacking it at its core. The reaction of Freedom to this assault has been, once you consider the destructive power of the weapons systems it possesses, measured, deliberate and cautious. This is because Freedom, although sorely wounded, does not yet feel that its very existence is threatened. A more serious attack at any time in the future will put paid to that specious notion.

Following a second attack at a level equal to or exceeding September 11, any political opposition to pursuing our enemies with all means at our disposal will be swept off the table. The First Terrorist War will begin in earnest and it will not be a series of small wars with long lead times and a careful consultation of allies. The war will become, virtually overnight, a global war of violent preemption and merciless attack towards the spiritual and geographic centers of our enemy. Arguments revolving around the true meaning of ‘imminent’ will be seen as they are -- so much factional prattle. Due to the nature of the enemy, the First Terrorist War will be fought here and there and everywhere. It does not matter when or where the second serious strike on the American homeland takes place, it only matters that on the day after this country will be at war far beyond the current level of conflict.

6. The Unspoken Role of the Ballistic Missile Submarines
Since 9/11 there is one element of our strategic forces that has not been discussed. Indeed, you seldom hear a question asked about its status. That element is our fleet of ballistic missile submarines. We currently possess 18 of these "ships," but a ballistic missile submarine is known not as a ship, but as a "strategic asset."

Each submarine has 24 missile tubes. Each tube holds one missile with from 5-8 nuclear warheads. Each warhead can be targeted separately from the others. The range of these missiles is classified but is thought to be in excess of 6000 nautical miles. The total number of warheads is approximately 50% of US strategic warheads. In sum, any single one of these strategic assets can create the end of a significant portion of the world. At present roughly 40% of this fleet is deployed at unknown and unknowable locations throughout the world’s oceans.

Originally built in order to deter, these strategic assets now assume a more aggressive role in the First Terrorist War. Because of the religious nature of the war, our enemy is unlikely to be deterred by the threat of obliteration. He will view that as highly unlikely since it would, of necessity, involve us in the deaths of large number of civilians in countries known to harbor or be friendly to Islamic terrorists. He believes we would not employ these weapons. This misunderstanding of the history of Western democracies under arms and in a state of total war invites global tragedy.

Nevertheless, the character and goals of our enemy are as fixed as the words of the Koran and he is not to be dissuaded by the threat of annihilation. Only actual annihilation will, in the end, suffice and yield victory. In attempting to achieve this annihilation we can only hope that the political and military situation does not evolve to a level where the submarines would have to play a role.

7. Avoiding the Islamic War by Winning the Terrorist War
Because we are large, lumbering, impatient and somnambulant our enemy depends on these factors to defeat us. He uses the opportunities of Freedom in order to make war upon it. He is able to infiltrate our society and institutions. He is able to be infinitely patient. He plans for the decades while we can barely manage to plan from one fiscal quarter to the next.

This is a war that will play out over years and will not be resolved in months. In order to gain victory and defeat our enemy we must put in place policies and strategies that cannot easily be altered by reports, polls, or election cycles. In order to achieve this we must be, as we were in the Second World War, united in purpose. It is, sadly, the nature of our society today that September 11th's unity was fleeting. To find this unity we must suffer through one more horrendous attack the nature and timing of which will not be of our choosing.

Still, as surely as the next attack will come, so will the unity that it creates in its wake and at that point the full power of Freedom’s Arsenal will at last be used to defend it. This is the social and political conundrum that confronts us in the First Terrorist War. And this is why the war must be divorced from ‘process’ and the goal of victory be cut into the stone of the American soul.

During the Second World War, our system, with few alterations, brought us through to a peace in which there were greater freedoms than before the war. Victory validated our way of life. Not only were our freedoms intact in 1945 but they were poised, with the economy, for a great expansion throughout the rest of the century and into this. If you had proposed, in the summer of 1946, that within 50 years all minorities would be fully enfranchised, that women would be fully liberated, and that homosexuals would be a dominant force with their enfranchisement only a moment away, you would have been dismissed as a socialist dreamer. And yet, here we are.

The same situation can also be envisioned as the result of our victory in the First Terrorist War at the end of a less-clear but no less threatening passage of arms. But this will only happen if we remain clear about the real nature of the First Terrorist War, and committed to unequivocal victory regardless of the costs in lives and treasure. Only by matching the determination of our enemy to destroy us will we prevail. The only thing that can defeat us are a dull reliance on management, a fascination with process rather than victory and the reluctance to believe the extent to which our enemy desires our annihilation.

Beyond victory in the First Terrorist War is a greater goal. What we must seek is not merely the "control" and "containment" of terror, for terror in this guise cannot be controlled or contained. We must come to the deeper understanding that only a complete victory over the global Radical Islamic forces can prevent the onset of a confrontation more terrible than the current war.

What we must press for in the Terrorist War is a victory so decisive that we can, in the end, avoid the larger war lurking on the not-so-distant horizon - - a true war between civilizations. That war, should it come, will not take the name of The Terrorist War, but of The Islamic War.

The Terrorist War is still a struggle that can be fought and won with conventional means. An Islamic War, should it come, would engulf the world and be anything but conventional.

*[NOTE: This essay was first published in October of 2003. It has recently been the subject of renewed interest at various places about the net, thanks in no small part to Joe Katzman's : 3 Touchstones, 3 Conjectures. In Katzman's article I find my effort bracketed by Stephen Den Beste's USS Clueless - Strategic Overview and Wretchard of The Belmont Club's 3 Conjectures. Now joined by Joe Katzman with Winds of Change.NET: Our Darkening Sky: Iran and the War]

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Posted by Vanderleun at January 13, 2007 7:21 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I'm glad you hung this up for viewing again. It is the most incisive and bracing short analysis of the situation that I know of. It is to be hoped that many bloggers will link to it, and if many Americans read and understand it then further dangerously fuzzy analysis can perhaps be reduced.

Particularly telling is your warning against "normalizing" the Terrorist War. Ever since the '50s, it seems, we as a society have increasingly responded to problems by institutionalizing them, creating panels of experts to issue reports, setting up self-perpetuating government agencies and imagining that failed policies must be pursued with greater vigor and larger budgets.

If this becomes our way of dealing with our mortal enemies among the Muslims, the consequences will be unthinkable.

We can sort of live with an endless so-called war on drugs fought at the wrong level -- street busts of mostly small-time dealers -- because the social cost of narcotics trafficking, while dire, is not a threat to the very foundations on which freedom rests.

But we will defeat ourselves, and risk civilization itself, if we convince ourselves that the Terrorist War is just one more "issue" that we can talk, think, spend and organize our way through. Our enemies know better, and they will exploit our acceptance of them as part of the status quo. I dread what we may have to experience before we learn to use our strength wisely … but use it.

Posted by: Rick Darby at September 10, 2004 8:05 AM

Holy cow! Where den Beste does a great job of detailing the EXTERNAL challenge, this article defines the INTERNAL challenge we face, which is acknowledging the extremity of the danger.

In some ways, the George Lakoffs and Noam Chomskys possess tools the rest of us need to exercise and practice to a far greater degree. Language and symbolism are tactical and strategic weapons of war. On the other hand, simply recognizing that they are such is half the battle.

The somnambulance of our culture is precisely what the Liberal elite have been working so hard to achieve for the past decades. It is what allowed them to maintain their dominance of American politics for so many decades.

I have said elsewhere, that just a "few years ago, [LIBERAL]journalists were unable to untangle Clinton’s definition of the word “is.” More recently they’ve had difficulty grasping the idea that an “ally” is a country that supports goals to which they have agreed, NOT one that obstructs. In the last weeks before the Republican National Convention, they are confused over whether the function of journalism is to report news or suppress it."

Whether the liberal hypothesis has been promulgated sincerely or cynically, in the end it doesn't matter if Liberals cannot be persuaded to defend themselves from the onslaught of Islamic fundamentalism.

Posted by: David March, animator & fiddler at September 18, 2004 7:17 AM

When are we going to wake up? Will it take Washington DC, New York, Chicago, and other cities in ashes, and millions, yes, MILLIONS dead before we do what we must? I've read all the writers and listened to the talking heads and all I can glean is that we are waiting for the inevitable to occur before we act because the left wing in this country weakens us at every turn by forcing us to fight with one hand behind our back just as in Viet Nam. Why can't we remember the lesson of William T. Sherman and George S. Patton that when you fight a war, fight the war to win and preserve your civilization. Political correctness be damned. National survival is what counts.

Posted by: Chester Pogostin at September 10, 2005 2:30 PM

Though I disagree with some of your base assumptions, your article is coherent and well thought-out. Furthermore, your article highlights exactly why I, and perhaps many other political independents, hate George Bush-- he is dishonest and incompetent. Suppose that your article accurately captures the nature of the war, and the US' military intentions-- it certainly makes more sense than the confusing drivel coming from the administration. If Bush would just stop dissembling about the nature of the war and the scope of action needed then he might open himself up to the possibility of re-gaining some respect from those of us capable of critical thought. If he furthermore showed the leadership and resolve necessary to implement his clearly stated objectives, then he might actually recover some of his squandered political capital. However, as things stand now, Bush is the one pushing the "war on terrorism" and it's interminable process, rather than saying and doing what is necessary for a decisive victory.

Posted by: dissemblance at September 10, 2005 10:16 PM

This is the most important, best-defined essay I have read about our current status since 9/11 happened. I had pieced together many of the individual elements or components included in this writing, but this is the summary description that brings it all into wide-screen clarity. This MUST be passed on to friends, colleagues and main-stream Americans through email links and the like. For the record, I wouldn't have found this without Google's new Blog Search tool that they introduced yesterday. (No, I don't work for Google!) God bless you.

Posted by: Van Vradenburg at September 15, 2005 11:20 AM

Does it matter in the long run whether President Bush utters platitudes designed to assure "allies" that he knows we cannot trust but that he can use in the short run, if all the while he is pursuing a strategy that will disassemble the ideology that drives our enemies?

For instance he breaks bread with terrorists from CAIR but on the other hand introduces freedom into the midst of the Middle East. Freedom will ultimately dissolve the fantasy ideology of Islam.


Posted by: Pierre Legrand at November 15, 2005 10:23 PM

Superb analysis. Cogent and irrefutable, it needs to be read by anyone who has a brain. I assume blogging this will have your approval? Acknowledged, of course!

Posted by: Gravelrash at November 16, 2005 4:54 AM

Freedom as described in this essay is secular. Secular has no soul. A large part of the population feels this country is not worth fighting for. This attitude comes directly from freedom as described. The backbone of our nation has been Christianity, that religion has lost its way and no longer exist. This failure of the Western culture and the acceptance of the lie will lead to our destruction. As someone much wiser than I said, "Evil has many doors, the Lie is the key to them all".

Posted by: jeffersonranch at January 21, 2006 6:30 AM

I also linked to this essay: it is very well done and deserves to be widely read and understood.


Posted by: Spartacus at January 21, 2006 10:02 AM

Thank you Spartacus

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at January 21, 2006 10:54 AM

Posting for Andy, who is caught by the spam filter:
For individuals living within western civilization, it comes down to "What
part of "we are going to kill you" don't you understand?".

About twenty percent of Americans don't understand, and double that number
that consciously refuse to understand out of BDS or mere political

The guy that blows up your family won't care how many times you saw
Faranheit 9/11 or how much money you gave to the DNC.

At least the muslims embrace "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".

Can't think of any effective, pragmatic strategy the western left has
embraced toward a higher ideal these last forty years. None.

They keep on bitching about evil right wingers. All well and good for
fundraising, I guess, but even Soros is going to get tired of the game
sooner or later.



Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at January 21, 2006 3:50 PM

I had read "The sword and the prophet" by Serge Trifkovic within a few weeks after 9/11. It told me all that was sufficient and necessary to know about the genesis of Islam, which is as you called it, the youngest of the monotheistic religions, at least by most accountings. I also fear that secularism has risen to such heights in the west, that the call to arms in protection of the homeland just might go unheeded, and even be reviled, as it so often is, presently.

Posted by: jOjOEofArcadia at January 21, 2006 4:29 PM

All Things Beautiful TrackBack Religious Dogma Has No Place In A Secular Society

Posted by: Alexandra at February 2, 2006 2:06 PM

I very much agree with your article. I however disagree with the idea that another attack will bring our country togather.
I do not like to be pessimistic but I believe that another attack will push us into submission to Islam. The reason I say this is the number of people I am associated with daily that have no committment or stomach for war.
If we had this same committment in WW1 or WW2 think of how different our world would be today.
Think of what we have taught the world about our country since 1945... Korea, we withdrew.. Viet Nam, we withdrew.. bombings at Marine Barracks in Lebonon, we withdrew.. the Cole, no action, over and over in the last 50 years we or an ally have been attacked and we've reacted only to withdraw before the job is finished, or worse, done nothing.
We have, by our actions, shown the enemies of our country that we no longer have the will to survive as a free nation.
As a friend once told me, "we talk the talk but can no longer walk the walk".

Posted by: Mike at January 1, 2007 2:32 AM

Are you ever going to finish part three of The Sacrifice and the Reckoning? I am looking forward to Operation Stick... I remember you said that thinking about such horror and devastation would take time and require quite a lot from you, but here we are in January 2007 and reality might just beat you to it.

Posted by: gabrielpicasso at January 13, 2007 5:00 PM

I've linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2007/01/re-first-terrorist-war.html

Posted by: Consul-At-Arms at January 14, 2007 7:06 AM
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