The War Within the War

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With the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq, as announced to the world by President Barack Obama, we can all sit back and smile, right? Not too big a smile, if you please. The war in nearby Afghanistan goes on, no path to victory yet discernible save the path of patience. Meanwhile the jihadists seem to be taking over Yemen and Somalia.

What else didn’t we do in Iraq before standing down from combat? Locate weapons of mass destruction? Convert Iraq into a model democracy on the scale, say, of Chicago?

No war ever ends happily. Ours in Iraq ends (if it does end) with all of us knowing that a sizable and well-armed coterie of homicidal maniacs pledged to one of the great world religions remains at large, hoping to do us all in. There’s another cheerful thought to contemplate while removing your shoes in the airport inspection line.

The war ends, and the war goes on, as most—not all—Americans understand. The mosque flap in New York is the latest front, as much a skirmish between American and American as it is between Christian (or secularist) and Muslim. The continuing vulnerability of the United States of America not just to attack but to subversion is the issue in the controversy. The suspected subversives are the home-bred liberals who can’t see why so many of their countrymen have their noses out of joint over evidences of Islamic encroachment on the home culture. Why, for instance, the First Amendment as a cover for the preaching of America hatred? Why the babble on the left about “racial profiling” whenever it’s suggested that 80-year-old grandmothers from Oklahoma City make unlikely hijackers of airplanes?

The war within The War is a reminder that various Americans don’t take with great seriousness or urgency the necessity of neutralizing, perhaps eradicating, what liberals jestingly refer to as “the American way of life.”

Looking back, it’s easy enough to say that President George W. Bush should have taken this action or that one in order to fulfill the Iraq mission with maximum benefit for the welfare and freedom of the world. Why, all he needed on his desk in 2002 was a war plan concocted in 2010 by the wise, the enlightened and the writers of anti-war blogs. Alas that he didn’t have such a plan! Oh, well. If he’d had it, there wouldn’t be the fun now of chunking rhetorical rocks at him for failing to see what wasn’t visible. Such is presidential politics.

Combat or no combat, the war definitely belongs now to Barack Obama—as does, of course, the war in Afghanistan. As does the job of finding a way to run the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay through the judicial mill. As does the duty of conducting surveillance of plotters and planners here and abroad. So, too, the task merely of reminding the American people—and the people of the world—from time to time of the need to remain vigilant.

It’s the sort of task that gets in the way of “pluralism”—i.e., suggesting that out there in the big world live various non-Anglo-Saxon, non-Christian people (though we don’t want to hurt their feelings by talking about them too much) who dislike democracy, dislike the culture that democracy breeds, think Christianity and Judaism false religions, don’t care a rap for free speech or trial by jury, wouldn’t mind if someone knocked over our whole country, and, at the end of the day, have to be resisted—all of them—sometimes to the death.

One knows already how history will deal with this war and with its progenitor, given the liberal politics of most professional historians and their generic hostility to George W. Bush. That’s hardly the present problem. How will the war critic who now is president deal with a war that has become his own because of where he is and who he is? That is what the nation must find out now—and certainly will.


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