June 1, 2007


The Case for Bombing Iran (Norman Podhoretz, June 2007, Commentary)

Although many persist in denying it, I continue to believe that what September 11, 2001 did was to plunge us headlong into nothing less than another world war. I call this new war World War IV, because I also believe that what is generally known as the cold war was actually World War III, and that this one bears a closer resemblance to that great conflict than it does to World War II. Like the cold war, as the military historian Eliot Cohen was the first to recognize, the one we are now in has ideological roots, pitting us against Islamofascism, yet another mutation of the totalitarian disease we defeated first in the shape of Nazism and fascism and then in the shape of Communism; it is global in scope; it is being fought with a variety of weapons, not all of them military; and it is likely to go on for decades.

What follows from this way of looking at the last five years is that the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be understood if they are regarded as self-contained wars in their own right. Instead we have to see them as fronts or theaters that have been opened up in the early stages of a protracted global struggle. The same thing is true of Iran. As the currently main center of the Islamofascist ideology against which we have been fighting since 9/11, and as (according to the State Department’s latest annual report on the subject) the main sponsor of the terrorism that is Islamofascism’s weapon of choice, Iran too is a front in World War IV.

Setting aside the questions of whether it makes much sense to consider Iran in conjunction with al Qaeda, when the two are such obvious enemies, and whether bombing is necessary, given that Iran has the electoral means neceessary to dispose of Mahmoud, we might merely note that demanding that we bomb Iran out one side of your mouth and moaning about crowds chanting Anti-American/anti-Israel slogans out the other side is spectacularly amusing. It's perfectly reasonable to consider Iran an enemy and to utilize violence against an enemy, but risible to then worry that they don't play nice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 1, 2007 12:00 AM

The radical Shi'ite, Al Qaeda divide is ideological in nature although there is agreement on terror as a means to differing ends. Crowds of 'religious' yahoos within a 'democracy' only solidify the view that possibly they mean what they say. Since it's a 'democracy' civilian collateral damage is justifiable.

Posted by: hugh at June 1, 2007 8:09 AM

The dichotomy is that the students have definitely come over to the side of Liberty, but don't want a US strike to restore liberty because they'd rather do it themselves. they look at the various "peaceful" revolutions that freed Eastern Europe and put down the Communist state, and dream that their revolution would be peaceful. However, the Mullahs are not Gorbachev, and Reagan rides with the angels. Their revolution will be more bloody than the Cedar revolution of Lebanon, and be just as (in)effective.

Posted by: Gerald at June 1, 2007 8:23 AM

To begin with, I concur with Podhoretz' use of the terms, "World War III" and "World War IV."

The connection between the wars is even closer that that writer allows. In one sense, all three enemies--Nazis and Nipponists, Communists, the spiritual jailhouse--are part of the same universal Satanic conspiracy. (If you are setting out to "demonize" the enemy, why beat around the bush?)

They were or are, each of them, counter-progressive reactions against the Western idea. In each case, the ressentment of a surpassed culture was harnassed to the service of the Enemy. This is harder to see in connection with the Germans, absent a consideration of the atavistic elements of both Kaiserism and National Socialism.

Of course, the different theaters and campaign of WW IV are still part of one war. Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Palestine--we stir the nest, and stamp the vermin that spill out.

Ever we do so, misericorditer, with a merciful heart, as Augustine wrote, secure in the knowledge that the liberated inmates of the reformed jailhouse will be better off, as the peoples rescued in the earlier world wars are better off.

Posted by: Lou Gots at June 1, 2007 8:51 AM

In the Cold War the democratic presidential administrations (Truman, JFK, LBJ) acted more-or-less responsibly in the face of the Soviet threat.

The 2008 candidates don't even acknowledge the threat exists.

Posted by: Gideon at June 1, 2007 9:08 AM

"consider Iran in conjunction with Al Qaeda..."

The screaming gangster Shi'ites running Iran have more in common with Al Qaeda than you want to possibly imagine. Sure, after they took care of the West (and Israel), they would turn on each other. But, they'll conspire against us until then.

And it behooves us to treat them just the same - as outlaws - because that is what they are.

Posted by: ratbert at June 1, 2007 9:10 AM

Correct as to al Qaeda, wrong as to Shi'ism, which is the point.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2007 9:45 AM

Gorbachev would have beenb voted out had he held elections, as Mahmoud will be. His party has already lost. Iran is more like us than like the USSR.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2007 9:47 AM

No, Shi'ism is a religion, not an ideology.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2007 9:47 AM

Religion/ideology, talk about a distinction without a difference! Belief systems are ideologies. Belief systems belong in the realm of metaphysics. When they step across the line and begin to recommend physical coercion rather than moral suasion they become tyrannical. Thus the 'seperation of CHURCH (not religion) and state'.

Posted by: hugh at June 1, 2007 10:39 AM

I don't concur with Podhoretz' terminology.

There's a real argument to be made that the struggle with radical Islam is Cold War II - against a state sponsored ideology that operates globally through proxies, fellow travelers, and international organizations, with both arms and propaganda - but we need to get beyond the state-on-state, army-on-army paradigm of the World Wars. That's not how the jihadi wars are going to play out.

Posted by: Kelly at June 1, 2007 10:57 AM

Religion is revealed. Ideology is rational.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2007 2:41 PM

Like Marx's recieved revelation regarding the laws of historical development? It seems inconsequential whether one believes a special insight comes from God or from one's unique intelligence. It becomes ideological when one wishes to destroy or enslave those who aren't buying.

Posted by: hugh at June 1, 2007 4:02 PM

The isms--Darwinism, Marxism, and Freudianism--while all obvious nonsense, are rationally derived.

The only thing that matters is whether it's revealed by God or a mere human notion.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2007 4:40 PM

The thugs and gangsters running Iran have as much in common with Shi'ism as Hermann Goering did with Christianity.

You used to point this out to Harry, week after week.

Mahmoud, Yazdi, Khameini, and Nasrallah are on a different plane than Sistani. They have more in common with Zawahiri, bin Laden, Assad, and Haniyeh than with the average Shi'a in Iran or Lebanon. And we should treat them that way.

Posted by: ratbert at June 1, 2007 6:23 PM

Khameini isn't like Ahmedinejad and Yazdi. Nasrallah is properly considered a political leader, not a religious one and his cause is going to win because the Shi'a of Lebanon should.

Assad's a garden variety secular dictator. Bin Laden, Zawahiri and company are nuts.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2007 9:47 PM

OJ, this should not be news to you, but when someone says their religion comes straight from God, they are not necessarily correct. Given that He is credited with many oft-contradictory instructions and that all religions by definition deny (at least in part) all other religions, basic logic tells you they can't all be correct.

You seem to think that because the Shiite strain of Islam is Abrahamic, it's inherently in the best traditions of the Christian West. Well, some of us think that, despite its roots, there are many reasons to think that it isn't. When I see a group that regularly proclaims its desire to exterminate things I consider to be the traditions of my culture/nation/people/religion, they don't look like allies to me.

Finally: while many of your jabs at Western rationalism/secularism are on target, I firmly believe that what the Islamic world needs is not That Old-Time Religion but a strong dose of good old American rationalism/secularism (not the Marxist/fascist sort they tried in the 20th century). Maybe they'll stop putting so much energy into blaming their problems on Americans and Jews and Satan when more of them are paying mortgages and learning something other than religious texts.

Posted by: PapayaSF at June 2, 2007 12:38 AM

No, it's in the best traditions of the West because of its Messianism, which makes it more like Christianity and pre-Christian Judaism, rather than Sunni Islam.

America has no secular tradition, which is why it avoided the tragedy of the isms. Which we, by the way, exterminated.

Posted by: oj at June 2, 2007 6:33 AM

But all Messianisms aren't equal, and it's silly to claim that America has no secular tradition. It's a huge part of our tradition. But I suppose you are using some odd definition of "secular."

Posted by: PapayaSF at June 2, 2007 2:07 PM

Ah, a rare daily double, the non sequitir/truisim. No one was discussing all messianisms, just the three Messianisms that matter and are too similar for the differences to mean much.

Madison explains why it's the central point of liberal democratic politics in Federalist #51.

Posted by: oj at June 2, 2007 3:05 PM

It's absolutely not a non sequitur. I said all religions aren't equally valid, and that applies to the subset of Messianic religions as well. And if you think the Founders thought Islam "too similiar for the differences to mean much," you're smoking your socks.

Posted by: PapayaSF at June 3, 2007 6:52 PM

No one is discussing all, thus a non sequitir. Folks may have believed David Koresh was the messiah, that doesn't make Koreshism a peer of Shi'ism.

Posted by: oj at June 3, 2007 9:28 PM