A way to go

Posted: Dec 17, 2001 12:00 AM
Angelo M. Codevilla is one tough hombre, yet his prescriptions are mobilizing, even for the weak-willed: There is muscle of the brain there. Not surprising, inasmuch as Mr. Codevilla is a professor of international relations at Boston University and a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute. It is in the sparkling Claremont Review of Books that Mr. Codevilla analyzes the war we are in, tells us why it is not achieving its purpose, and goes on to tell us what, in his gritty opinion, needs to be done. The least bellicose of which is "a declaration of war against the Assad regime by the U.S., Israel and Turkey." The good news is that such a move would "most likely produce a palace coup in Damascus."

What we are doing now, he tells us in some detail, is wasting our time. Our "War on Terrorism" has three parts: "'Homeland Security,' more intelligence, and bringing al-Qaida to 'justice.'" About this program, we are informed, "The first is impotent, conterproductive and silly. The second is impossible. The third is misconceived and is a diversion from reality."

The reason that the homeland security business is miscast is that the goal of protecting us from the terrorists is simply impossible. There are too many targets. An attempt to protect them (a) will not succeed, and (b) will set into motion restrictions on the American Way of Life that are themselves an objective of the enemy. It does not do, to countenance the threat of being killed, to commit suicide.

Intelligence of the kind we have working for us in the drug world -- the practice of integrating informers in the culture of the drug-importing network -- is beyond our reach. The assignment is too broad, our resources manifestly insufficient. We simply cannot produce a thousand Arab-speaking spies who can integrate themselves unnoticed in the warrens of the enemy.

As we are proceeding, we are not targeting the procreative citadels of the enemy. It is not so much Osama bin Laden we are after as those who permitted him to be strong and influential and, as a terrorist leader, productive. Our enemy? "It's the Regime, Stupid."

The principal sponsors of the terrorists are not religious fanatics. "Palestine's Yasser Arafat, Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Syria's Assad family have made themselves the icons of Islamism despite the fact that they are well-known atheists who live un-Muslim lives and have persecuted unto death the Muslim movements in their countries."

Yet the PLO, Iraq and Syria are the effective causes of global terrorism. "More than half of the world's terrorism since 1969, and nearly all of it since the fall of the Soviet Union, has been conducted on behalf of the policies of those three regimes. By comparison, Libya, Iran and Sudan have been minor players."

What to do?

Destroy those regimes. "Killing these regimes would be relatively easy, would be a favor to the peoples living under them, and is the only way to stop terrorism among us."

We should most publicly proceed to the business at hand. "It is important that U.S. forces invade Iraq with the stated objective of hanging Saddam and whoever we judge to have been too close to him. Once those close to him realize this is going to happen, and cannot be stopped, they will kill one another."

Professor Codevilla summarizes the principal weaknesses of Western elites who do our strategic thinking. The first is the superstition that violence and killing do not settle anything. "In fact, they are the ultima ratio, the decisive argument, on Earth. Mankind's great questions are decided by war. The battle of Salamis decided whether or not there would be Greek civilization."

Second, we should know that attempts to appeal to moderation don't work, and in fact, reach back to bite us. "'Extremist' is one of many pejorative synonyms for 'loser.' The surest way to lose the support of 'moderates' is to be ineffective. Might is mistaken for right everywhere -- but especially in the Middle East."

Don't try to reach for "root causes of resentment against us." It will get you nowhere. Just identify the regimes that foster or permit terrorism, use our might against them decisively, and turn the targeted countries back to the people who live there. In the course of things, it is entirely possible that they would discover that a root cause of legitimate discontent is the lack of freedom, political and material.

See The Claremont Review of Books, www.claremont.org.