10 December 2006

Accepting the Idea of Victory

"A country that often blamed itself more in victory than defeat was showing manifestations of a terminal illness, conducting postbellum hearings to assess blame in the midst of a war for its survival."

Friday's featured article on the Wall Street Journal's editorial page is called Our Unceasing Ambivalence, by Shelby Steele.

He discusses America's reluctance to take on the responsibility of a superpower, our fear of being seen as colonialists, and how that makes us ambivalent toward the idea of victory in Iraq.

He continues by reminding us of the nature of the enemy we face,

Islamic extremism is an ideology of menace. It empowers those who, but for menace, would languish in the world's disregard. The dark achievement of bin Laden, Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad, names we know only because of their association to menace, is that they have used menace to make their people visible in the world, to bring them back into the scheme of history. And they are greatly loved for this. If their achievements follow from evil rather than from good, this is a small thing. Worse than evil is invisibility.

And then concludes with another reminder - of our responsibility to victory in Iraq.

For every reason, from the humanitarian to the geopolitical to the military, Iraq is a war that America must win in the hegemonic, even colonial, sense. It is a test of our civilization's commitment to the good against the alluring notion of menace-as-power that has gripped so much of the Muslim world.

Today America is a danger to the world in its own right, not because we are a powerful bully but because we don't fully accept who we are. We rush to war as a superpower protecting the world from menace, then leave the battle before winning as a show of what, humility? We confuse our enemies, discouraging them one minute and encouraging them the next.

Could it be that our enemies are really paper tigers made formidable by our unceasing ambivalence? And could it be that the greater good is in both the idea and the reality of American victory?

"In the real monster battles of the war, they had won every time. But they now somehow felt more demoralized than the enemy, which had suffered many more losses...

That the assembly exiled, executed, or fined almost every notable leader did not make them more accountable as much as timid and prone to second-guessing.

So the country did not often learn from its mistakes but almost always scared leaders into being too cautious or reckless, their decisions based on anticipating what the voters might approve on any particular day."

- Both paraphrased from Victor David Hanson's "A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War."

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