Tony Blankley

There is a historically fairly predictable pattern to the unfolding strategies and views of great wars. They often start with a morally ambiguous view of the enemy, a more limited conception of the war's magnitude and a restrained application of violent tactics.

Eventually, moral clarity is obtained, war objectives expand -- often to grandiosity -- and tactics become ferocious. For example, at the start of our Civil War during the 1861 battle of First Manassas, spectators came out by carriage with picnic lunches to observe the event. By 1865, Gen. Sherman executed a campaign of civilian terror and material obliteration in his march to the sea. Likewise, the war started with the purpose of saving the union, but morally expanded to end slavery -- North and South.

World War II started out in Europe first with the phony war and mutual thoughts of a negotiated peace, then with careful bombing (Adolf Hitler initially ordered that London not be bombed), and ended with the fire-bombing of Dresden and Tokyo and the atomic obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Even Hitler, in his war on the Jews, as late as 1940 was thinking of deporting German Jews to Madagascar, and ended in rounding up Jews throughout Europe and perpetrating genocide in industrially designed death camps (although some historians believe the Madagascar plan may always have been a subterfuge for the Final Solution).

Today, the West's struggle to resist radical Islamic aggression (both cultural and terroristic) is still in that early phase of moral confusion and limited tactics. Thus, we continue to debate the ethical merits of minor intrusions into American civil liberties (such as National Security Agency surveillance of some phone calls from foreign suspects), and even serious and patriotic men such as Sen. McCain and Gen. Powell challenge the need to permit psychologically rough -- but nonviolent -- interrogation of captured terrorists.

But there are some signs that the early stage of moral confusion is beginning to give way to greater clarity. Last week, two towering intellects -- Pope Benedict XVI and Henry Kissinger -- began to offer clarity. On Tuesday, the pope gave his now famous, but still misunderstood, lecture at the University of Regensburg. And on Wednesday, Kissinger published a half-page seminal article on the risk of civilizational war in The Washington Post.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

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.

©Creators Syndicate