Tuesday's front-page New York Times headline on Hezbollah/Israeli fighting -- "International Force Is Favored, But No Nation Commits Troops" -- was widely received with giggling "Well, duh's!" In a way, it was funny. While the Europeans agreed that international troops should be sent in to stop the fighting, the article ended with a quote that "The Germans recommended the French, the French recommended the Egyptians, and so on."
But if one scratches just beneath the surface of the headlines, the great strategic failure of America since Sept. 11, 2001 can be detected in the fourth paragraph of the N.Y. Times article:
"There has been strong verbal support for such a force in public, but also private concerns that soldiers would be seen as allied to Israel and would have to fight Hezbollah guerrillas who do not want foreigners, let alone the Lebanese Army, coming between them and the Israelis." Well, of course they don't.
From my extensive conversations with Europeans, high and low, I don't doubt the accuracy of that statement. Most Europeans and far too many Americans still see Hezbollah terrorism as just part of that "Arab Israeli mess" in the Middle East. (And, of course, Hezbollah doesn't want foreigners to stop them from killing). But more importantly, most of the peoples of the world -- including the United States -- still don't believe that radical Islamist terrorism is a grave, worldwide challenge to civilization.
And therein lies our great strategic failure to date. So long as most people -- certainly most Europeans, perhaps most Americans -- see Islamist terrorism as merely the more or less disconnected actions of a relatively small number of fanatics, then Europeans will never send their sons to fight and die to defeat it. And, of course, they particularly won't send their sons to risk death for the "Jewish state" of Israel or the "imperialist" United States. And who can ask any parents to risk sacrificing their sons for some foreigners -- whether despised or not?
President Bush has failed in five years to successfully make the case either to America or to the Western world that we are, in fact, in a mortal, worldwide struggle, what my old boss Newt Gingrich recently called World War III; what I called "The West's Last Chance" in my book last year; and what I and many others have called the clash of civilizations.
Only when that case has been made persuasively will the real struggle for victory begin. Only then will Europe raise armies to fight -- not for Israel or the United States -- but for their own survival.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.