A Hindu fable. Relevant concepts in the present struggle. Mistakes in the Cold War. America's greatest asset in any struggle. Projecting a clear vision.
We have often used the Hindu fable of the six blind men and the elephant--each of whom erroneously describes the elephant in terms of the part that he is touching at the moment--in public speeches, to point out the inherent limitations on verbal reasoning and single dimension analysis. The workable approach to even a limited understanding of any subject is seldom in the words of those who have a point to prove, but rather in a five or more dimension perception of the relevant reality--in a comprehension of the height, width, depth, time and external context that controls that subject.
Applying this self-evident truth to America's present War on Terrorism, brings to mind a great many images and factors getting little or no attention in the media coverage: On a broad foundational plane, one needs to understand the nature of the various human societies that will play a part, for good or ill. The basic traits of a political society. The many aspects of the present terrorists, threatening our lives and interests; their personalities and capacity, including their motivations, strengths and weaknesses. We need to understand the vast variety of perceptions of this War from perspectives of those who will or may--depending upon our action--play some part, either now or in the future, in determining the degree of our success or failure in both the near and long term.
The media has been almost lock-visioned into what is but the tip of the conceptual and perceptual iceberg. We have heard endless prattle about the nature and varieties of Islamic Fundamentalism, and commentary on the stated views of those deemed responsible for the attacks. There has been fairly general support for the idea of our crushing the current manifestations of those organizations considered to have crossed an ill defined line, where theological considerations have given way to attempts to intimidate by violent--often suicidal attacks--on the civilian populations of the West. On the other hand, there have been sometimes rather patronizing appeals for toleration of peaceful Moslems living in the West; the unstated implication being that this really is a Christian/Moslem thing. But is it really?
There has also been debate on what we should do--after an assumed defeat of a foreign State shown to have protected Terrorists waging War on America. A former Speaker of the House of Representatives--once the second most powerful man in America--has opined in the media that we should "replace" certain foreign Governments. Others have discussed the concept of our engaging in something called, "Nation Building." There has also been a tendency to focus on terrorist tactics, in particular as they effect such ethnic or religious battlegrounds as Israel and Northern Ireland. And predictably, at least one well known Leftist newspaper has endeavored to blame the assault on America on the terrible poverty in certain parts of the Arab world. (Former President Clinton has now voiced similar ruminations of fantasy.)
The Administration seems a bit better focused. It has been moving calmly and deliberately, with a grasp on far more factors than the media--or the self-anointed pundits in same. In seeking worldwide support, it appears to be adopting an approach to each Nation, tailored to what is unique to that Nation with respect to the present struggle--asking only so much as will not compromise that Nation's legitimate individual needs and interests. In this, at least, the Bush Administration must be commended. It is clearly the approach which best fits our initial premise.
Yet there are other aspects that have not been so clearly addressed; and while War Managers seem to have learned from our mistakes during the Cold War, it is far from clear that they are going to avoid the worst of those mistakes; mistakes that flowed from the false egalitarian premises of 20th Century "Liberalism."
Communism, as the Anarchism that preceded it as a major menace to the Civilization of the West, did not flow from a spontaneous stirring of the "masses." Nor does the present threat of militant Islamic fundamentalism. The "masses" do not create revolution. Throughout history, the "masses" have had trouble enough just surviving; obtaining food and shelter. They have never had the time nor understanding to plot revolution or guerrilla warfare. Those who launch the assaults on the established order always come from the leisure classes (Marx and Lenin were good examples, as is bin Laden), people who have both the material means to find time to reflect, and the mental capacity to hatch plots. The mobs in the street, from the French Revolution on, have been merely the cannon fodder manipulated by such plotters.
From FDR on--if not before--the Leftwing in America have gravitated towards our State Department. Career players, they remain in positions of influence--often controlling the perception of reality--regardless of which party is in power. At every opportunity during the decades of the Cold War, they used the threat of Communism to justify the promotion of a Socialist ideology in much of the Third World. The verbalized rationalization was that we needed to promote "social justice" or some form of egalitarianism, so as to dampen the appeal of Communism to the "have nots" of the earth. Thus they actually gave pseudo-intellectual support to some of the very contentions of the Communists that the material success of the "haves" was a result of unjust exploitation. Thus they undermined many of the most determined foes of Communist ideology. Thus they diverted attention from the single strongest argument against Communism, and by that diversion prolonged the Cold War.
The most vulnerable aspect of Communism--as Anarchism before it--and as the Terrorist movement today--was that the Communists were Internationalists; like Medieval outlaws and later Pirates, men who showed no respect for the borders and National prerogatives of the distinct peoples of the earth; criminal elements who sought to plunder the fruits of the labor and the institutions of the established leadership of every nation; arrogant bullies who sought to trash the cultural integrity of every people. Instead of engaging in our own brand of meddling in the social and political infrastructure of other countries, America could have gone right for the Communist jugular, by rallying all established societies against the common threat.
I know that we were accused by the minions of the Left of propping up various tyrannical regimes during the Cold War, even as bin Laden today misrepresents our alliance with Saudi Royalty--clearly a far more truly religious and moral Society than his mesmerized, hate-filled zealots. Yet a closer look will reveal that our major activity in much of the Third World from the end of World War II on, was in undermining traditional status, ethnic rights and even private property, in pursuit of a "one man/one vote" lunacy, in countries where the bulk of the population not only did not constitute "one people," but did not have the slightest idea of the functions of a modern political society.
In their contempt for National borders, in their cross border operations, the Terrorists today display another extreme form of Internationalism. As such they pose a threat to the National integrity--even National identity--of most of the peoples of the earth. This threat is particularly evident in the Islamic World. While the Socialist regime in Iraq may not feel threatened, the Monarchists in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco and the Gulf Emirites, certainly do. So too do the still stable Republican political societies in Turkey and other non-Arab Moslem States. In all of these, there is an immediate advantage if we focus on the Internationalism--the International brigandry--involved in the present threat, rather than on an apparent Islamic fanaticism. (Again, our Saudi friends and allies represent a far truer and better rooted Islamic ethos.)
With the multi-cultural confusion, already produced in our midst by the policies of those seeking an undifferentiated humanity; with the ease and speed of modern transportation and communication; we simply can no longer afford to indulge the Internationalist, i.e. Norman Cousins' denial of meaningful human differences, as an approach to other peoples. Cousins, the former leader of Americans seeking World Government, called upon our educators and media to focus only on the similarities between peoples; to ignore what was unique in each society, in order to make the differences appear to be no longer worth fighting for. But normal humans take pride in what makes their respective lands and cultures unique. We do not increase our own appeal by trying to mute what is important to others. We only spread the sort of mistrust that helps Internationalist brigands recruit bored University students, looking for a cause.
The greatest asset that America has had, since George Washington led the Continental Army to victory, has never been found in our material wealth or physical resources--not even in the awesome weapon systems, developed over the past 56+ years. Our greatest strength in any struggle has been in an ability to improvise. There were countless incidents in World War II, where this made all the difference. It was in this particular quality that you will find the reason why we could prevail so decisively against two of the best armies every mobilized, with only a fraction of the casualties that they sustained. (Contrast that, for example, with the Russian losses in the same war.)
Our aptitude, in this regard, has been honed in a culture (and the selective breeding patterns induced by that culture) which exalt the individual, which make achievement or failure dependent upon the mettle of the individual. It is in that culture (and selective breeding patterns), that the individual becomes responsible for solving his own problems, becomes fully accountable for his own behavior. While this culture of the Fathers has been under sustained attack for three generations, it remains inherent enough in the character of the rooted American, that there can be little doubt but that--if the Administration is really determined to stay the course--we will prevail over the present enemy. It may take a long time or victory may come relatively quickly. The real question is what will follow.
There is no doubt but that America now has the attention of virtually every person in Asia and North Africa, who has the capacity to understand the issues in the present confrontation. University students from Rabat to Jakarta, at least, are weighing what it all means for them and their way of life. Doubtless, there are many who feel that we are indeed the enemy of Islam; and in that flawed perception, lies the great danger. Many, one suspects, are even now plotting their own adventures; forming new associations, dreaming up new ways to bedevil us, years after we defeat the present day bin Ladens.
The compelling reason to concentrate on the Internationalist aspect of the threat, is that it projects a clear respect for the true diversity of the earth: Not the silly sloganized pretense of the Left, that diversity means that we are really not diverse at all; but a recognition that we are all very different indeed, and that we fight for a dispensation where all are free to celebrate those differences; where borders still mean something; where the peoples of different lands seek their futures within frameworks that reflect their respect and honor for their own roots. A clear image that this is a fight against those who do not respect borders or heritage; that this is not a war between Christian nations and Moslem nations, but against those who war on the very concept of the sovereign nation.
Such an image of America's purpose--and one need only look back to the Washington/Jefferson foreign policy, to which we adhered from the inception of the Republic until the early Twentieth Century, to demonstrate that such was indeed our traditional purpose in most foreign engagements--will make it infinitely harder for the future bin Ladens to recruit. It will also make it increasingly more difficult for any whom they do recruit to find any established social circle on earth, in which they will be welcome. And in returning to our own ideological roots, to values that made us respected the World over, we surrender absolutely nothing to our present enemy. Indeed, we may even reap the added dividend of reaching some of our own intellectually corrupted college students, by projecting the clear vision that has been lacking for many years.
The alternatives are very ugly indeed.