Saturday :: Sep 9, 2006

The “long war” – just another name for disaster.


by soccerdad

Michael Vlahos is Principal Professional Staff at the National Security Analysis Department of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. He has an article in the The National Interest, available online. His title: The Long War: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Protracted Conflict—and Defeat sums up our situation very well.

The “Long War” is the new narrative being pushed by the Bush administration. From this narrative everything else flows. The frequent recent references to WWII and fascism, i.e. Islamofascism, are key parts of this narrative.

War narrative does three essential things. First, it is the organizing framework for policy. Policy cannot exist without an interlocking foundation of “truths” that people easily accept because they appear to be self-evident and undeniable. Second, this “story” works as a framework precisely because it represents just such an existential vision. The “truths” that it asserts are culturally impossible to disassemble or even criticize. Third, having presented a war logic that is beyond dispute, the narrative then serves practically as the anointed rhetorical handbook for how the war is to be argued and described.

Mr. Vlahos then proceeds to completely disassemble this narrative clearly explaining why it can only end in failure.


But the image of a long war—a dogged, “twilight struggle”—is not particularly attractive, especially if American failure and losses in Iraq are thus implicitly translated into a slow-bleeding vision of forever war. Such a picture certainly does not make the blood rush or the pulse race. To keep this effort up for “generations” as the president is fond of saying, the purpose driving this war must be great of course. But even more—and this is its greatest challenge—such purpose must explain the need for generations of pain and sacrifice.

As we all know the faithful and its massive propaganda machine have bought into this narrative.

On the Muslim side, this narrative has two major effects. It plays directly into the hands of the extremists and alienates the moderate Muslims.

The great, lost opportunity of American hopes for reform in the Arab world was with non-violent Islamists. That opportunity has now been fully squandered. In societies ruled by tyrants, quietist Islamists had come to represent an alternative hope for their communities. But in our chosen Iraqi showcase we set about, perhaps unwittingly, to alienate the very Islamists on whom our successful rule relied. Now they identify themselves as resisters of American occupation.

The US policies and actions in the Middle East have made liberal Islamists look like collaborators rather than leaders. The lack of commitment to the cause of democracy has been exposed by the destruction of the Cedar Revolution by Israeli and US actions. The US continues to back and fund non-democratic regimes like that in Egypt. Reform is dead in Bahrain and is on life support in Saudi Arabia.

So, in the end, our dark narrative prevents us from distinguishing reform and resistance movements we can live with from groups we absolutely must destroy. The Long War narrative cannot conceive of legitimate Muslim resistance against tyranny (unless of course, like Lebanon or Iran, we are in favor of it first). Thus authentic resistance is automatically lumped with Takfiri evil.

And the consequences of continuing this narrative:

And if the current Long War narrative is invoked in event of a war or armed clash with Iran, what may result? A Persian-American war could potentially elevate Iran’s standing even among a majority Sunni umma. Even now Muslims view Iran as the only nation-state that stands up to U.S. power. A conflict with Iran would fully consolidate Muslim hostility and the perception that America represents the evil force in the world—the Dajjal—directly threatening Islam’s very survival. Thus even Shi‘i Iran might—in this exceptional situation—represent itself as the leader of Muslim resistance against the dark force. Thus one of the consequences of a Persian-American war would be to divide the Muslim world between those who resist evil and those who collaborate with it. This means that the rulers of Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf princelings—U.S. “friends and allies” all—would now shine as true apostate traitors to Islam. They would be under enormous pressure: either to renounce their relationship with the Americans or risk internal collapse (from coup, civil war, insurgency). Either way we lose. The Long War is a failed narrative because it does not describe actual reality. Reality tells a story of an America delivering change to the Muslim World, a force of creative destruction. If anything, this American-created reality only fires up the longstanding Muslim grand narrative of deliverance and restoration. Moreover, the Long War perversely elevates the Takfiri narrative by telling Muslims that we are the dark force that must be resisted.

The “Long War”, “Clash of Civilizations”, “WWIV” or what ever you want to call it becomes self-fulfilling because it is the only logical outcome of these failed policies. They resist us and hate us not because of our freedoms but because of our aggression. It’s a long war that can not be won, if for no other reason than there are over a billion Muslims all over the world. Our continued failed polices will unite them as never before against us. The “long War” as presently conceived can only end when either we come to our senses and end it or most Muslims are dead.

Will we come to our senses? I think the jury is still out. Major terrorist attacks within the US that I see as inevitable, barring a change in US policy, would greatly propel the war forward. Without the attacks, the huge costs to the country in blood and money may be enough to stop the war. But never underestimate the power of a corporate backed, religious inspired, main stream media based, propaganda effort to bludgeon the average person into submission.

soccerdad :: 6:03 PM :: Comments (15) :: Digg It!