Reflections on 'the long war' and the resolve required to win it

Posted: Mar 02, 2006 12:05 AM

At last the Pentagon has produced a name for the war we are in against jihadist terror.

Within the past century, the West has fought two massive hot wars (World Wars I and II), with intense yet confined flare-ups in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf. In the World Wars, Allied forces destroyed imperialist nation-state fascism.

Thereafter, perhaps marked at the outset by Winston Churchill's 1946 "Iron Curtain" speech in Fulton, Mo., the West entered the Cold War against a terror-driven communism empowered internationally by nuclear weapons. It featured an arms race, more flare-ups (in, e.g., the European satellites and "liberation" wars across the planet), as well as gulags, starvation, slavery, torture and Big Brother oppression killing 100 million.

The Soviet form imploded in the late 1980s, leaving here and there such lingering examples as Cuba and China - with tin-pot mimics and malign hangers-on from Burma to Zimbabwe to Venezuela.

As Lincoln reminded famously at Gettysburg ("we are engaged in a great Civil War"), so now we are engaged in new hostilities without foreseeable end.

To describe the developing conflict, the Pentagon has begun employing the phrase "The Long War."

At least one earlier war - a 15-year struggle in Shakespeare's time between the European Hapsburgs and the diminishing Near Eastern Ottomans - carries the historic appellation today. Yet the Pentagon's choice is apt for a war that began perhaps with the assassination of Robert Kennedy by Sirhan Sirhan, saw the shooting of Pope John Paul II by the recently released Mehmet Ali Agca, featured a multiplicity of hijackings, murders, bombings and suicide attacks - and, on 9/11, blossomed into brilliant flower.Not only has the Pentagon given the war a name; the Pentagon also is greatly altering the military to fight it - as can be seen clearly in (1) the latest quadrennial review of the nation's fighting forces and (2) the Bush administration's defense budget for fiscal 2007.

With the budget addressing the findings and proposals in the review, what are the findings and proposals?

(a) A force of 2 million, including Guard and Reserve components - with less manning of in-theater operations by the Guard and Reserve (next year Guard and Reserve manning levels in Iraq and Afghanistan are projected to drop from 30 percent to 19 percent).

(b) A shift of emphasis from the Atlantic to the Pacific, including a shift of ships and fleets.

(c) Funding for new conventional hardware such as the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter down the line, and new unconventional hardware such as reconnaissance drones and novel submarines.

And (d) a 25 percent increase in special forces funding for thousands of additional white-unit and black-unit commandos (SEALs, Rangers, Marine spec-op units, and Navy Riverines) to conduct the unconventional fighting now considered likely in the future.

For all this, the Pentagon is requesting $439 billion for fiscal 2007, or almost 7 percent more than the $411 billion authorized in fiscal 2006. Seems like a lot, and it is - about equal to the combined defense expenditures of the next 16 high-spending countries. Yet it is less than proposed next year for Medicare/Medicaid ($592 billion) and Social Security ($581 billion) - and hardly more than a third of the anticipated combined expenditures for both.

In the 1960s Robert Strausz-Hupe wrote a seminal study of the war against communism; he titled it "Protracted Conflict." That one has ended; we won. Comes now "The Long War" against an enemy hateful of nearly everything Western, Christian, and non-Islamist - including us. It is an enemy without borders, fanatical, vicious and willing to die.

The Pentagon's strategic goals: homeland defense, combating terrorism abroad, halting the spread of nuclear and biochemical weapons, and positively influencing a Chinese dragon on steroids. The budget will furnish the manpower and technology to carry out those strategies if Americans, as a people, do not falter.

The essential question confronting America and the West is not dollars or technology or manpower. It is will, resolve. We must recognize that we are at war - in The Long War - and take the long view, the persistent view, to win it. On persistence, Calvin Coolidge may have uttered the definitive statement:

 Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent cannot: Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius cannot: Unrewarded genius is almost a cliche. Education cannot: The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The phrase "press on" has solved, and always will solve, the problems of the human race.

Press on we must.