The honorable POTUS has apparently gotten himself in a bit of trouble with a little comment he made to the effect that the war on terror can't be won. The waffle-house brigade, who have been mercilessly criticizing him for fighting this war on terror now want to criticize him for saying it can't be won, we shouldn't be giving up. I'm pretty satisfied with the explanation he gave on the Rush Limbaugh show for those comments. He's simply saying that in most warfare, the war ends, a peace treaty is signed and rebuilding begins. He's just saying that these terrorists will never give up the fight, so we can't approach this war as we have other wars and expect their to come a day where Osama Bin Laden or someone like him will come to the table and sign a peace treaty.
But, more to the point, it is a valid question as to whether or not the war on terror can be won, and this all goes back to the whole pursuit of peace in the middle east. I have the greatest respect for our President. A few days ago someone asked me if I had read Unfit for Command. I told them no, I've just got too much other more important reading to do than that, and I don't need to be convinced not to vote for Kerry. But, I do want to interact with a statement that the President gave on the Rush Limbaugh show:
I believe societies can be transformed because of liberty, and I believe that Iraq and Afghanistan will be free nations, and I believe that those free nations right there in the heart of the Middle East will begin to transform that region into a more hopeful place, which in itself will be a detriment to the ability to these terrorists to recruit -- and that's what I was saying.I have just finished reading George Grant’s book The Blood of the Moon, and he has a few words in this book that are pertinent here.
Grant traces the history of many conflicts with the Muslim world and the many attempts of foreign nations to bring peace in the Middle East. He talks about the Crusades, about Napoleon’s efforts in the Middle East, about Russia and about America’s attempts to bring peace there. He goes through our history of appeasement in the region prior to the Gulf Wars. Among other things he says
Like Napoleon’s conquests, Britain’s colonization, and Russia’s containment, America’s appeasement has failed to bring peace to the region. Because all approached the Middle East from a mechanistic and materialistic perspective – assuming that the imposition of Western notions of pluralism, economic development, and international cooperation are paramount values shared by all – they failed miserably to comprehend the complex maze of spiritual and historical factors that catalyzes the crisis in the Middle East.Further, in discussing the attempts of secular intellectuals to shape peace in the Middle East, Grant says:
Again and again, the story that history has told during the last two centuries is the story of the folly of expert and meticulous men attempting to reengineer society in accord with their own preferences, redraw the maps of the world according to their own peculiar design, realign ancient passions by means of their own modern mechanics, and resolve spiritual dilemmas by means of their own temporal values. The result has been nothing less than a designer disaster.Grant also quotes the prophetic warning of Kermit Roosevelt, the youngest son of Teddy Roosevelt, who, in 1949 said:
Are we yet aware of the danger that in the Middle East the United Nations may come to be regarded and mistrusted and hated as the guardian of the New World Order – the New Age trappings for the old Humanistic conspiracy of Left and Right together? The danger of Russia and the United States is the seen danger, and a grave one it is. Seen, in time it must be settled by peace or war. The danger of Orient vs. Occident –of Islamic culture vs. Christian culture seems as yet unseen. That could be ruinous. We may well succumb to it from not seeing. We must not assume that in the days ahead the crisis in the Middle East can be solved through military alliances, political connivance, or strategic initiative. Beware of the politicians or the coalitions that propose such a solution – they may be fairly regarded, whether from the Left or the Right as part of the same old entrenched interests that have stood against the Christian faith and have fought for a mechanical imposition of a new age or new world order since the time of the Fall.I found all of this pertinent, given the Iraqi conflict and Bush’s words in particular. I don’t want to get into the intricacies of the debate about whether or not the war in Iraq was justified except to affirm that the government does have the power of the sword and if Iraq did indeed pose a threat to our security, then the government was justified in using the sword in this case. I understand that there are huge debates on this issue, which it was not the intention of this post to get involved in. Personally, it is hard for me to work up any kind of vicarious guilt for removing a man from power who used to throw his people into plastic shredders. But then I realize that this also opens the debate about whether or not we are called to be the world’s policeman, which is a worthy debate. So, I’ll leave that for now.
On the one hand I get the impression that Bush understands the immense difficulty of bringing peace in the Middle East, or at least the immense difficult of dealing with terrorists. On the other hand, I do wonder if he fully grasps the fact that Middle Easterners don’t value our notions of liberty and freedom. Liberty and freedom may be the highest values to us here in America, but they are not such high values in the Muslim world. The conversion of the world to Islam is the highest value in those cultures, whether through persuasion or Jihad. Therefore I would have little hope that these cultures would embrace our notions of freedom and liberty. The only way that would work is for the secularizing forces of modernity to dilute the religious commitments of Muslims. Yet, Muslims have done the best job of any of the major religions (including Christianity) of resisting modernization and secularization. Thus, I don’t see this happening.
In this regard, Christians are reminded once again to not trust in chariots or horses, but to trust in God. I believe we should support our President (contra all of this “I support our troops but not our President” nonsense) in this matter, but supporting this effort is not the same as “trusting” in our President. History has proven that Western-type governments fail miserably at bringing peace in the Middle East. It is only the gospel of peace that can bring lasting peace.