Saturday, June 04, 2011

Why China is not going to be a Superpower

A great deal has been said and written about China in recent years -- about its "miracle economy", its financing of US debt, its impending "superpower status", and so on. Almost all of this discussion ignores the context in which all this activity is happening and thus ignores the realities of China with the result that such discussions are typically useless for understanding the current situation if not outright misleading.

Any understanding of China today has to be firmly based in a thorough understanding of Chinese history and culture. To present the basis for such an understanding in a single article is impossible. However, it may be just barely possible to roughly sketch the key concepts that need to be comprehended to begin to gain some understanding of what China is, how it got where it is, and where it is likely to be going, especially with respect to the US.

In the interest of brevity, I am electing not to discuss the specifics of China's on-going military build-up. That is a large topic that deserves more serious consideration in its own right; it can't be done justice here. But when the Chinese military build-up is viewed in the context of the rest of this article I hope it will be clear that is it not all that it has been cracked up to be.

I do however want to make two points regarding the Chinese military, and specifically the Chinese navy (the PLAN) because I think they tend to be overlooked and lead to serious misunderstanding. (For one thing, I see pundits taking official USG statements about China's regional power and leaping to conclusions about China's global power, apparently not realizing that China is not the top regional power in east Asia; it probably is not even Number 2.)

First, I believe it is hard to for American observers to appreciate the huge gap that exists between our understanding and experience of naval power and that of the Chinese. Naval power is so much a part of our heritage that we take it for granted; it is, as it were, in our blood. The Scandinavians had blue-water navies in the 9th and 10th centuries that were able to project power over a wider area than the PLAN can do today. European navies have been engaging in global operations for 500 years; the PLAN could not sail a ship to Hawaii on the 1990s without USN assistance.

These deficiencies are not due to lack of maritime technology, then or now. Sinophiles like to note the seaworthiness of Chinese junks and point out the apparent adoption of the stern-post rudder in China centuries before it was used in Europe. While this argument has problems on purely technical grounds, the larger point is that while the Chinese did have, and continues to have, the requisite technical means, the Chinese state deliberately turned its back on maritime expansion.

It did this for cultural reasons: the social characteristics needed to be a successful maritime power -- independence, innovation, personal initiative, individualism, risk taking, entrepreneurship -- are deeply antithetical to Chinese social philosophy and world view. It is not that these traits do not exist among the Chinese, but that they are seen as destabilizing and have been suppressed, driving their expression underground and into marginalized sectors of Chinese society.

Second, China has historically been inward looking and strongly focused on self-sufficiency; external trade was seen as something distasteful that was nevertheless nice to profit from when convenient, but not as a fundamental basis of prosperity. The Chinese would like to believe they could do without it and since trading with "barbarians" was demeaning to the state, they maintained official fictions about external trade, calling it "tribute", right up until the early 1800s.

These two factors -- disesteem of foreign trade and distrust of nautical culture -- turned the Chinese away from maritime development, preventing the creation of an effective navy and limiting severely limiting China's ability to project power. Related issues have similarly affected the Chinese military as a whole and account for much of China's historical military weakness.

These issues result from deeply ingrained ideals that have not gone away and they influence the way the Chinese government does business with foreign interests even today. The mask is very different than it was 200 years ago, but it is still a mask.

It is these deep divides in basic ideals and worldviews that make China so opaque to us. Chinese society embraces ideas that appear to us to be nonsensical, counter-productive, or contradictory. In many cases, they are any or all of these, but that does not matter to the Chinese because their ideas of how things work and how they should work, of what is desirable and what is intolerable, are quite different from ours.

The first thing to know about China is that it has the world's longest history of unbroken cultural continuity: the China of 4000 BC has substantial similarities to the China of today. As a conservative system for maintaining social order within a consistent cultural context, Chinese culture is unmatched; a fact to be either envied or deplored, depending on your point of view.

Chinese society has been based on a system of hierarchical relationships within the family unit since the time of our earliest evidence regarding their culture. Age was superior to youth, men to women, and rulers to subjects. Thus within the family, children are always inferior to parents, wives to husbands, sisters to brothers, younger brothers to elder brothers, and so on. The father figure controlled all family assets and held ultimate authority over his offspring; he could sell them into slavery if he desired or kill them for improper conduct. Moreover, these relationships were essentially fixed in perpetuity; that is, one was (in theory) always inferior to one's ancestors and superior to one's descendants.

It is the family, not the individual, that forms the most basic element in Chinese society and is the responsible unit in political life. Personal status was defined by one's position in the family, so each person had a role to play: a fixed set of social expectations established by convention and enforced by the authority of the father. If everyone properly performed their appointed role, order would be maintained. Failure in one's role would lead to being disesteemed by the group and meant catastrophic loss of face, which could be remedied by suicide.

Social relationships mimicked familial ones, so early China has been described as a familial state and similar rules applied. The filial piety and habits of obedience instilled by family life formed the basis for loyalty to the ruler and obedience to state authority. By extension of the father's authority over his family, Chinese governance has been, again since these very early times, authoritarian and autocratic. The ancient rulers legitimized and maintained their rule in large part by practicing ancestor worship; another echo of the basic family life.

Who that ruler was and how he was chosen has, in China, been historically based on the concept of the Mandate of Heaven. The Mandate was bestowed on that man who was best suited to rule by virtue of his evident moral superiority. What made this man's moral superiority evident was primarily his success in warfare. Thus, in the Chinese view, being able to effectively slaughter one's rivals was taken as proof of Heaven's Mandate and since Heaven would never bestow its Mandate on the someone morally unfit, such prowess was de facto proof of moral superiority.

The holder of the Mandate became the Son of Heaven and was recognized an sort of "God on Earth", although the Chinese concept of god is not markedly similar to the Judeo-Christian concept. As such, disputing the will of the Son of Heaven was not only immoral it had a quasi-religious aspect also. (Originally, this was probably not quasi either, since the most ancient Chinese kings we know of appeared to be religious functionaries.)

Just as Heaven could bestow its Mandate, so Heaven could show that it's mandate had been revoked. Natural calamities such as floods, earthquakes, droughts, and plagues were common signs that the mandate had been lost, but so were losing face before barbarians or losing control of the common people. Thus, if a rebel could wrest control from the ruler, he could lay a plausible claim to the Mandate.

If this all seems slightly odd and circular to our way of things, that's because it is. But it has served the Chinese well, at least from their official point of view.

The reasons for China evolving both this type of society and this style of governance are complex and need not concern us here. The things to keep in mind is that they evolved in China's prehistory and have largely persisted to this day.

The first known Chinese rulers are the semi-legendary shaman-kings of Xia, Shang, and Zhou. Xia dates from about 2200 BC and was succeeded by Shang, which lasted from about 1750 BC to 1040 BC. Zhou, the first Chinese kingdom from which we have written records, dates from about 1100 BC to 256 BC, overlapping the Warring States period and ending within living memory of the establishment of the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC.

The economy of all three ancient kingdoms was based on settled agriculture, not trade, which was minimal. The shaman-kings maintained power through their vital role in communicating with the ancestors and the interpretation of oracles. Animal sacrifice was common and human sacrifice was sometimes practiced. Xia, Shang, and Zhou show a great deal of cultural homogeneity and continuity and the essential characteristics of Chinese society appear to be already well established.

During the so-called "Axial Age" around the middle of the 1st Millennium BC the power of the shaman-kings diminished and China evolved new social philosophies. These new philosophies sought to provide a sounder intellectual basis for a ruler's authority than the shamanistic practices of the earlier kings and they have provided the foundation for the organization and operation of Chinese society ever since.

These foundational social philosophies are Legalism and Confucianism. Legalism might be briefly described as a harsh realpolitik theory that made rigorous use of carrots and sticks -- mostly sticks -- to main social order. Legalism is not overly concerned with morality. Legalist thinkers considered good-hearted people to be ineffective and easy to manipulate. As prominent Legalist philosopher said: "If you glorify the good, errors will be hidden; if you put scoundrels are in charge, crime will be punished."

Confucianism, in contrast, stresses correct moral behavior and loyalty, especially loyalty to family -- filial piety -- and most especially loyalty to one's father, which was held to be absolute. By extension, loyalty to the ruler, as head of the greater family that was society as a whole, was held to similarly important, absent evidence that the ruler was losing or had lost the Mandate. (It should be noted that Confucius recognized that filial piety and one's duty to the ruler could conflict.)

A central tenant of Confucianism was the perfectibility of man. This was to be attained mainly by following the moral example of the ruler and initially applied only the elites; the common herd was assumed to controllable only by Legalism's sticks and (meager) carrots. Therefore, Confucian scholars bent their efforts to elevate and enlarge the moral conduct of the ruler. In the view of Confucian scholars, moral rectitude gave one power; people were naturally inspired by right conduct to emulate it.

The contradiction between Confucians educating the ruler on morality and guiding him in the paths of right conduct when that ruler was already seen to be supremely moral by the fact of having been granted Heaven's Mandate did not bother Chinese thinkers. Such contradictions are not uncommon within Chinese thought, which is a point it is well to keep a firm grasp on.

In keeping with farming being China's inherent economic basis, Confucianism valued the peasant farmer and looked down on the profit motive, so Confucians were against trade and heaped scorn on merchants. In the Confucian world-view, the economy should be based on agrarian self-sufficiency. In China, trade was mainly an internal matter, to be conducted under the strict supervision of the right-minded Confucian bureaucracy.

When China had the opportunity to open up maritime trade, it chose not to do so, literally "missing the boat" in the words of one prominent historian. In China, foreign trade was characterized as "tribute" to which the emperor, in his supreme goodness, responded with "gifts." This was the official attitude right up into the 19th Century and it continues to influence Chinese trade relations today.

Confucianism also deplored violence and while it is not strictly a pacifist philosophy -- Confucian officials could and did command troops and fight wars -- it did strongly discourage the idea of a professional military. Warriors were not included with the four professions (or social groups) that Confucianism recognized.

In this context, it is important to understand the role of the best known ancient Chinese military theorist, Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War. Sun Tzu, who said things like: "To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill" and "All war is deception", is generally held up by Westerners as expressing the quintessential Chinese view of warfare. This is misleading because Sun Tzu was, in fact, expressing the Confucian view of warfare, or perhaps more accurately a view of warfare that was acceptable to official Confucianism. (Some scholars identify Sun Tzu's thought as being Daoist, but as has been said, a Chinese official was a Confucian on the job and a Daoist off it. Daoism can be seen a complementary opposite to Confucianism.)

But Sun Tzu was only one of the ancient Chinese military theorists, and not necessarily the most important one to the Chinese. Other revered Chinese military theorists expressed markedly different theories, in which the word "annihilate" is quite common. No subduing the enemy without fighting here.

These military theorists were writing directly to the Emperor who, while revered under Confucianism and expected to publicly conduct himself by Confucian norms, was not bound by them. Martial violence was seen as the exclusive province of the Emperor, who had a monopoly on its use. Confucians accepted this because the Emperor's capacity for violence, unpredictability, and disorderliness was the necessary complement to Confucianism's emphasis on order, prescribed ritual, and non-violence. Such dualities are fundamental to Chinese thought. (This specific dual is known in China as wen wu; think yin yang, only different.)

Nonetheless, they were still inclined to speak out against such behavior, a practice that sometimes lead to their being publicly beaten by the harassed Emperor or even executed. Despite this treatment, Confucian scholars and officials never attempted to set up a separate power base from which to try to exert political power. Confucians were bound the Emperor as members of his court and faced him as individuals, not as a group.

The Confucian focus on harmony, cultivated moral living, and dislike of violence did result in -- or more likely just supported and excused -- another signal characteristic of Chinese politics: the bifurcation of the Imperial court into an Outer Court staffed and run by Confucian officials and responsible for most aspects of civil administration, and an Inner Court run by the emperor himself and staffed by his closest relatives and associates, and his personal servants (often eunuchs). The Inner Court was concerned mainly with diplomatic affairs, direct communication with regional governors, and of course warfare -- all executive activities with the potential for violence that were maintained under the Emperor's direct control. Especially in later dynasties, the Emperor had his own communications networks and dedicated organs run from the Inner Court, which the officials of the Outer Court had no direct access to.

This distinction between an Inner Court and an Outer Court has been maintained in China to the present day, where the leadership has two central committees -- one for civil affairs to which the various Ministries respond and a Central Military Committee with a more exclusive membership that is the seat of real executive power. As in Imperial days, these two bodies have their own organs under them and are served by separate communications networks which do not interconnect.

Confucianism, removed from its Chinese context, has been admired by people in the West but the fact remains that both it and Legalism are theories of social control used to legitimize authoritarian rule by an autocrat. Confucianism and Legalism seek to achieve this control by different methods but their over-riding concern is to keep the individual wholly subservient to the power of the state.

When Confucianism arose during the Warring States period it was not fully embraced by the ruling class. Indeed, the first Emperor -- the unifier of China, founder of the Qin Dynasty, and a strong Legalist -- was violently opposed to Confucianism and tried to suppress it. He ordered the episode known as the "Burning of the Books" and had 460 Confucian scholars murdered. (Supposedly he objected to their moralistic hectoring.)

It was the Han Emperors, who came to power after the short-lived Qin dynasty collapsed, that adopted Confucianism as the official state philosophy. They did not however, disavow Legalism. As incongruous as it might seem to us, the Han forged a Confucianist-Legalist hybrid known as Imperial Confucianism.

The Han ushered in period of stability in China that last for about 400 years. Thereafter followed a period of disunity that ended with the Sui-Tang reunification in the 6th Century AD. During the later Han and the centuries of disunion, Buddhism rose to prominence in China, challenging and sometimes almost supplanting Confucianism as the state belief system. Buddhist monasteries acquired considerable land and wealth, creating a potential base from which to oppose the Imperial order.

As a result, the Tang Dynasty engaged in a severe suppression of Buddhism, even though Buddhism in China never did aspire to a political role. Nevertheless, the Chinese rulers could not tolerate any sort of concentration of potential power outside their purview, no matter how benign or disinterested the parties seemed to be.

This is another key aspect of Chinese politics that has never changed, and why the Chinese leadership feels compelled to violently suppress groups that can claim the attention a large number of people, even if it just to get together to exercise in a park. In China, there is simply no such thing as a benign organized activity that takes place outside the official domain. All opposition to the state therefore must take place in secret societies including such disreputable groups as the Triads, which have a long and unpleasant pedigree in China..

Buddhism, though largely destroyed as an organized community, did not go away in China. After the Tang collapse and a period of anarchy lasting about 60 years, the Song dynasty came to power. (The Song dynasty was split in the Northern Song and Southern Song, a detail we can gloss over here.) Under the Song, a new flavor of Confucianism emerged, known as Neo-Confucianism with incorporated important Buddhist elements. Neo-Confucianism was the guiding force of Chinese governance until the late 19th Century and remains a powerful, if unremarked, influence in Chinese thinking today.

The Song era also saw the first dominance of China by "barbarian" outsiders. Three successive foreign dynasties controlled much of -- and in the final case, all of -- China during this period: the Liao dynasty established by the Qidan, the Jin dynasty of the Ruzhen, and finally the Mongol Yuan dynasty, created by Genghis Khan but with its final conquests completed under his grandson Kublai.

The Song period marks the acme of Chinese cultural achievement, but was coincident with ineptitude in foreign policy and almost complete military impotence. Again, these are points to keep in mind.

The Mongols were ejected from China by the founder of the Ming dynasty, a "strange and terrible" man of peasant birth who rose to power as a rebel warlord and seized the Mandate. Reigning as the Hongwu emperor, he was "overall a disaster for China... Personally, he was vastly energetic, paranoidally suspicious -- suspecting his prime minister of treason, he had him and 40,000 other people executed (later purges may have increased this total to over 100,000) -- and subject to violent fits of temper." (Characterization by John King Fairbank; "China - A New History".)

As a ruler, he believed in extreme frugality and so decapitated the state's administration and starved his government of funds. In the name of "reform" he undid three century's worth of Song administrative improvements and made China both poorer and harder to govern. The distorting effects of Hongwu's rule have been with China ever since.

One such distortion deserves special mention because it persists and underlies a great deal of misunderstanding about the state of the Chinese economy; a misunderstanding that the Chinese leadership exploits to gull Western government and business leaders. It mainly concerns the way government revenues were historically collected and spent, but it affects almost everything else.

China was too vast to set up a centralized government collection system such as evolved (more or less) in many Western states. Instead, China adopted a system in which a specific tax was instituted to fund a specific government expenditure. Thus, dyke repair in a given province might be funded by a specific toll on canal transport, or bandit suppression in one region might be funded by a tax on a particular commodity there or elsewhere. The funds raised were sent directly from the officials tasked with collecting the funds to the officials in charge of the authorized expense; the central government was not in the loop.

Of course, this system invited massive corruption. Official A who collected the funds had no way of knowing how much Official B, who spent them, actually needed to meet the expense they were intended for, just as Official B had no way of knowing how much Official A had actually collected. The situation could well be more complex than this because in practice, such a transaction might involve multiple provinces which could have different units of measure and different currency standards. So there may have been other Officials C, D, and F involved in processing the transaction between A and B, each with an opportunity to manipulate these dealings outside the view of both the central government and the officials on either end.

Thus every official in the chain had ample opportunity to indulge in a little graft along the way. To make matters worse, most officials were seriously underpaid in the name of Ming frugality and needed to engage in such corrupt practices to support themselves.

Finally, in consequence of the Hongwu Emperor setting the taxes that supported imperial administration at a unrealistically low level, the Ming central government did not have the resources to control this process, even if it had felt the need to. And, given that same Emperor's decapitation of the imperial administration, it probably did not.

The overall result was an incredibly complex web of fiscal dealings that was nowhere under the control of, or even visible to, any one person or organization. Officials at every level could cook their books to reflect whatever fiscal picture they wanted to present to their superiors, and these carefully massaged fictions made their way up the line to the Imperial government, which therefore had no real idea of the state of its finances.

Of course, officials at every level also had their back-channel networks that could be used to attempt to divine something of the truth, but this just added a further layer of confusion and manipulation, resulting in a situation where most everyone tried to deceive most everyone else while probably thinking that he and he alone had a good bead on things.

This morass affected not just government finances, but the China economy as a whole. Because Confucianism despised merchants, merchants could not readily do business without official backing. In such an environment, entrepreneurship could not flourish. As one scholar put it, the way to succeed in China was not to build a better mousetrap, but to bribe convince an official to grant you the official government mousetrap monopoly. The overt Chinese economy was thus effectively bureaucratized and "officialized", and therefore subject to all of the officials' dealings and double dealings, while a large black market took place hidden from government scrutiny.

This Byzantine fiscal structure is so deeply imprinted on China's economic and political landscape that it cannot be eradicated, even if there was motive to do so, which there really is not. Because just about every Chinese official can profit in some way from this opacity, and the business people still remain largely dependant on the officials, there is almost no one who sees their interest as being served by too much transparency in the system, including those who participate in the black market, as they too depend on government corruption and so would not welcome genuine fiscal reform.

The only people who perceive a benefit from transparency in Chinese fiscal matters are the foreigners, whom the Chinese would still like to do without as much as possible, aside from exporting vast quantities of goods to them. (This, of course, is another aspect of the Chinese economy that is not new: the emphasis on an export economy whether it be low-tech manufacturing now or tea and that dishware we call 'china' then.) So China has put in place an overlay of modern, Western-based financial structures to allow them to participate in global markets and in international finance, and they are held to have been quite successful in these endeavors. But this overlay is just that -- at best, a mechanism to allow the traditional Chinese fiscal system to interface with foreign banking and financial systems, and at worst (for us) a distorting gloss meant to deceive us into thinking the Chinese economy is something it is not.

In reality, it is both things at the same time.

The end result of all this is to make China's overall economy not merely opaque but like a hall of distorting mirrors, reflecting a superposition of interlocking falsehoods. The Chinese government's advertised fiscal policies are a kind of shadow play where the right figures are made to dance for the right people in the proper form to create the desired overall impression. This is how they have always operated and they will keep it up until things fall apart, which they inevitably do.

It is not surprising then that the Ming Dynasty, which lasted until 1644, did not improve China's lot. Imperial mismanagement and administrative ossification combined with Chinese agriculture approaching the point of diminishing returns to undermine the whole country. While Europe was embarking on its Age of Discovery and advancing rapidly in all aspects of life, China was undergoing a general contraction. Society deteriorated to the point where the Chinese populace under the late Ming were worse off than their ancestors were under the Mongols. Chinese historians have termed this: "The Paradox if Growth without Development".

But when we look at it, it does not look much like a paradox at all, but the natural result of a dysfunctional economic system acting in concert with firmly entrenched Chinese proclivities favoring the maintenance of social order and unworkable theories of "moral behavior" above all other considerations, regardless of the consequences.

As Ming rule began to collapse, China was once again conquered by "barbarians" -- this time the Manchus, who set up their Qing Dynasty in 1644. The first Manchu rulers were energetic, competent, and dedicated but they remained handicapped by the limitations of the Ming administration they inherited. To a certain extent the Manchu emperors were able to work around and make up for these limitations but they never solved them or succeeded in replacing the dysfunctional Ming administrative methods with new and truly effective structures and policies.

The Ming-Qing transition also saw the first arrival of Europeans in China in significant numbers, in the form of Jesuits and the Dutch and British East India Companies. These interactions were complex and cannot be dealt with here, but the main point is that for the first time China was confronted with a competing cultural worldview that was in most ways equal and in important ways superior to their own. European "barbarians" simply could not dealt with or dismissed in the way the central-Asian "barbarians" that the Chinese had dealt with for thousands of years could be.

Nonetheless, Western contact with China appeared to be manageable until the early 19th Century, when the Qing still seemed to be near the height of their power. But the West of 1820 was not much like the West of 1650, a fact the Chinese did not fully appreciate. As tensions rose between China and the British in the early 1800's, over such things as the opium trade and the Chinese treatment of British merchants, the Qing tried to control the British using the same techniques they used to control the inner-Asian tribes.

These tactics when applied to a modern Maritime power and used within China itself, as opposed out on the borders of the hinterlands, led to a serious loss of face by the Qing regime. They also antagonized the British, who responded by a launching a short, victorious, and for the Chinese, disastrous war. With a few gunboats, a few thousand troops, and general who walked into battle armed only with a cane, the British quickly brought China to it knees. (It is perhaps notable in considering China's military capabilities that Britain had more success in China during this period than it did in Afghanistan.)

Although this first victory cannot be said to be total -- the British, along with the French, the Russians, and the Americans, would fight and win two more petty wars before the Qing completely capitulated -- it dealt China a blow from which it has still not fully recovered.

The Western victories inaugurated what has been called the Unequal Treaty Century, which lasted from 1842 until 1940, and which the Chinese generally consider to be the signal humiliation in their history. China was forcibly opened to Western technology, Western values, and Western education through the imposition of Treaty Ports, where Western firms were allowed to trade, Chinese tariffs were managed by Western officials, and Western citizens enjoyed the benefits of extraterritoriality.

Britain got Hong Kong, which had significant effects the culture of neighboring Guangzhou, and the culture of Shanghai, one of the original five treaty ports, was forever changed by the strong British and later American presence. (For example, English is still the second language of Shanghai, spoken by most of the residents.)

In fairness, it must be noted that these conditions were not entirely new nor wholly of Western origin. The Chinese had a long tradition of extending extraterritoriality to foreigners, based on their distaste of mixing with "barbarian" legal customs and concerns. Nor were the trade and tariff arrangements entirely unprecedented. In fact, it was largely the actions of Chinese officials in revoking some of these long established customs that set the stage for hostilities in the first place. Even the opium trade, the nominal flashpoint, and for which the British are often demonized, was carried on the good deal of willing participation by the Qing government.

Also, and perhaps ironically, foreign administration in many ways proved a boon to the treaty port cities and to China. British administrators managed the tariff system better than the often ineffective and corrupt Chinese officials so that it actually increased revenues to Qing government coffers, supporting Qing central power. The British and later the American established enterprise zones in which Chinese business sprang up, the first popular Chinese newspapers were published and Chinese arts and letters began to find a voice outside the rigid control of Qing officialdom, all under the protection of foreign gunboats.

Millions of Chinese were first exposed to notions of private enterprise, rule of law, and representative government in the treaty ports and many responded enthusiastically. Overall, this period was both the beginning and the end of important phases of Chinese history, having repercussions that are only now beginning to be fully felt.

Of course, in the 1840 none of this was evident and it would not have really mattered anyway (as it still does not in the eyes of many Chinese). The Qing regime had suffered tremendous loss of face, and as a result, China was wracked in the middle of the century by a number of rebellions, the largest of which was the Great Taiping Rebellion that lasted 13 years. The aggregate effect of these rebellions was to reduce China's population by about 15% -- from about 410 million in 1850 to about 350 million in 1873. This was a catastrophe on the order of the Black Death in Europe, especially considering how much China would have been expected to grow during this period, had the rebellions not happened.

The rebellions were defeated by a new generation of Chinese and Manchu officials who looked to new ways and in some cases, new paradigms, for answers. Overall, the years from 1860 to 1900 was a period on much intellectual ferment in China, when the old Confucian ways of doing things were seriously questioned and new ways of thinking, largely based on Western empiricism, were tried. This was officially known as the "Self-strengthening Movement" and received guarded Imperial support. They succeeded in giving the faltering Qing Dynasty a new lease on life for the rest of the century, but ultimately they were not successful.

China was not alone in dealing with the problems of reform and Western contact at this time. Across the narrows waters of the Yellow Sea, much the same thing was happening in Japan, under the Meiji Restoration. Thus, Chinese officials and scholars looked to Japan and well as the USA and Europe for guidance and inspiration in dealing with their challenges. Many Chinese traveled abroad to get direct exposure to Western learning and education. Japan was a favored destination, given it's proximity and cultural affinity, but many also went the US. But in the end, things turned out very different in Japan than in China.

The problem in China, as compared to Japan, was twofold. First, the Chinese could not wholly free themselves from their Confucian straight jacket. Under "Self-Strengthening" they adopted a compromise -- perhaps more aptly a bastardization -- of "Chinese learning for the fundamental structure, Western learning for practical use." The Chinese officials and scholars behind "Self-Strengthening" did not realize or attempted to deny that technological innovation, which was what they were after, imposes a philosophy of its own and that philosophy is distinctly non-Confucian. Preeminent Chinese historian John King Fairbank called this attempt to have it both ways, "Jumping halfway across a river in flood."

The second problem was that while Japan was ruled by the reformist Meiji Emperor, China was effectively ruled by the "ignorant and obscurantist" Empress Dowager Cixi. So while reform and Westernization in Japan was actively supported and sanctioned by the nation's God-Emperor, the Empress Dowager in China gave only cosmetic sanction while working to undermine the reformers and sabotage their efforts. (Again, the characterization is by Fairbank.)

At the time, many conservative Chinese scholars and officials recognized the problem of modernization in tools but not in thinking -- jumping halfway across a river in flood -- but their response was to strongly oppose all Western influences. This set up a serious tension within the Imperial bureaucracy, which the Empress Dowager exploited to play the reformers off against the conservatives (something the Chinese leadership still does). No real progress could happen in such a situation, but in the short term it did help support central Imperial power.

Thus a slow painful drama was played out in which the effete Qing administration slowly lost its grip on society over the rest of the century. Finally, in 1900 things began to irrevocably fall apart.

The beginning of the 20th Century in China is a very complex and multi-layered period that cannot be simply described, nor will I try to do so. What is important for my purposes here is what it ultimately led to. The century started with the Boxer Rebellion, a fairly minor uprising, but one that put the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Manchu dynasty in high relief.

Afterwards, there occurred a lot of posturing about representative government: reformist officials had for some years been arguing that some form of representative government should be implemented and debating about the details, and a few experiments with along these lines were actually tried. In 1906, a promise of a national assembly was finally made.

But in 1908, the aging Empress Dowager died, first having arranged what may have been her last semi-official act: to have the Emperor to pre-decease her, which he did by one day. (No one seriously thinks this was a coincidence; a conclusion supported by modern forensics.) Apparently she preferred to see the dynasty pass into the hands of her 3-year-old grandson instead of her reform-minded son.

Chaos ensued as the narrow-minded Manchu princes tried to maintain power. Their bungling culminated in a revolt in the Wuhan territories in October 1911, which sparked most of the rest of China to declare independence from the Qing Dynasty. From here, things moved fast.

In January 1912, the Chinese people declared a republic and installed Dr. Sun Yat Sen as provisional president. By March, with the situation continuing to deteriorate, an agreement was reached whereby Dr. Sun resigned, the last Qing emperor abdicated, and a former Qing official and military man, Yuan Shikai, was installed in power.

China's first flirtation with representative government had lasted barely three months -- half the time that Russia's first elected government under Anatoly Kerensky, formed almost exactly 5 years later, would survive between the fall of the Romanovs and the Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917.

Once installed, Yuan did what every Chinese leader, before or since, has done -- consolidated his hold on power. In Yuan's case, this meant disbanding the new national assembly and assassinating his main rival. He set up a new administration on the bones of the old and appeared to flirting with the idea of assuming the title of emperor and establishing a new dynasty when he died in 1916.

Yuan Shikai is often called the "Father of Warlords" and the moniker is apt. The last military architect of the Qing Dynasty, he was a ruthless, able schemer but an ineffective ruler and his death plunged China in chaos. The Warlord Era, similar in some ways to the Warring States period (but much shorter), would end not through the triumph of a Chinese faction but by foreign invasion, this time by Japan.

In the meantime, it provided the opportunity for the new and expansively minded Soviet Union to start the Chinese Communist Party. One of the first members of the CCP was a disaffected young student named Mao Zedong.

The CCP, as it was initially constituted under the guidance of COMINTERN (the Soviet agency tasking with spreading communism across the globe) was a dismal failure. It failed to raise the country in rebellion, engaged in a few inept plots, and was decimated by the Chinese Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek in 1928.

But it was not wholly destroyed and when the Japanese invaded in 1932 (again demonstrating China's historic military impotence) the CCP and the Nationalists made common cause. The CCP had since booted out the Soviet advisors and during the lull Mao had discovered a solution to the problem of trying impose communism on Chinese society.

The problem was that the Soviet advisors, with mindless adherence of doctrine, had tried raise revolt among a Chinese urban proletariat that did not in fact exist. They looked down on the Chinese peasantry much as they looked down on their own Russian peasants only more so, given the intensely bigoted attitudes Russians had towards Asians. In their view, agrarian peasants were clearly not appropriate revolutionary material. (Recall that many of the original Bolsheviks were college students. See the history of Russian activities in Central Asia and China during the Great Game Era regarding Russian attitudes toward Asians.)

Mao's insight was that Marxist-Leninist doctrine could be successfully applied in China if it could be modified to put the Chinese peasantry back in their exalted place in Confucian doctrine. By smuggling these elements of Confucianism into communist thought, Mao was able to transform the CCP into a vital and growing organization.

Some historians have argued that Mao broke with Confucianism and that Confucianism ceased to be an important ideology in Chinese culture and government after about 1900. This is true only if one takes an overly narrow and pedantic view of what Confucianism is. What Mao did was change the names and tweak the terms to make them comfortably conform to the precepts that had been used to govern China for thousands of years. In this, he was little different from the Neo-Confucians of the Song Era or the Ming and Qing scholars who put together various Confucian adaptations to incorporate necessary new ideas into an acceptable Confucian framework.

Mao's Confucian shenanigans are perhaps somewhat obscured by his having to work with the Nationalists during the Japanese invasion and WWII. The partnership was not ineffective: the Chinese ability to resist Japanese incursions increased and by the of the war, they were even able to score some victories over the weakened Japanese forces (who committed some serious blunders of their own).

Once the Japanese were defeated, China of course fell headlong into civil war. The Nationalists appeared to hold all the good cards and had American backing to boot. But Chiang Kai-shek and his generals ignored their American advisors, squandered their resources, and generally behaved with a destructive foolishness that is remarkable even by Chinese standards.

In the end, Chiang Kai-shek was forced to retreat to the island of Formosa, now Taiwan, where after a rocky and bloody beginning, he actually managed to settle down and lay the foundations for a successful state before he died.

China was not so lucky. Having endured in the last 50 years the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, the Warlord era, the Japanese Invasion, WWII, stupendous economic mismanagement that led to hyperinflation so bad it makes the Weimar Rebuild look like model of financial rectitude, and a nasty civil war, Mao was now firmly in power and was about to unleash his greatest idea of all: The Great Leap Forward.

The Great Leap Forward has been called the worst man-made catastrophe of all time, and rightly so. Many Western academics seem inclined to give it a pass compared to Stalin's extermination of the Kulaks or Hitler's persecution of the Jews, which are both viewed (again rightly) as the purest expression of evil. They do this because, they suppose, the Great Leap Forward was launched with what they consider to be "good intensions."

Personally I think this probably makes the Great Leap Forward actually worse: evil such as that done by Hitler and Stalin is obvious and can be easily recognized and resisted. Evil that is cloaked by "good intensions" can be harder to unmask and to rouse people against.

But my opinions aside, the idea that the Great Leap Forward was so motivated suffers under scrutiny. Millions were executed outright: shot, tortured to death, and simply locked up and starved. Whatever the advertised purpose, it seems clear that Mao used the Great Leap Forward to remove "undesirables" from the Chinese population.

The Great Leap Forward killed about 45 million people, by current estimates. This is about one third less than those who died as a result of the Taiping and associated rebellions of the mid-19th Century. But what those disasters did in two decades, the Great Leap Forward accomplished in just two years.

The damage was so great that even the CCP leadership had to acknowledge the Great Leap Forward was a failure. Mao had lost face and the leadership was split. In consequence, Mao launched his next great idea: the Cultural Revolution.

The Cultural Revolution was a more complex phenomena that the Great Leap Forward, and while it did not kill nearly as many people -- estimates run at a few million at most -- it lasted much longer and arguably did even more damage.

It would be going too far to say that the Cultural Revolution transformed Chinese society; it did not. What it did was distill the very worst aspects of traditional Chinese society into a toxic mess while targeting those members of society who were most productive and creative and exalting those who were most parasitic and destructive.

In essence, one might say (oversimplifying) that the Cultural Revolution consisted of forming idle disaffected youths in brigades, the Red Guards, and turning them loose on their social betters in a pathological inversion of Confucian order. Teachers, artists, scientists and other "intellectuals", along with some Party leaders, were murdered, tortured, "sent down" and "reeducated."

Of course, there was much more to it than this: families were categorized, labeled, and stigmatized; communities were formed in "work units" that gave party bosses control of every aspect of the worker's lives and destroyed any community cohesion, making everyone utterly dependant on the state; and campaigns targeting this group or that one were launched or at least threatened, so eventually everyone was a potential victim and disaster could strike anywhere, no matter how well thought of or exalted a family may have been in the recent past.

Inevitably, these nasty expedients, however effective they were at controlling people in the short term, led to a massive escalation in violence. Various leaders formed their own Red Guards and sent them after their rival's Red Guards until the whole thing that degenerated into a factional blood bath.

By the early 1970s, the whole disgusting mess was dying down from sheer exhaustion. The infamous Gang of Four, backed by Mao, was trying to exert its control but other elements in the administration were gathering under the new No. 2 man in the CCP, the widely respected premier Zhou Enlai and were working towards restoring something like a proper order.

Mao's prestige had been fatally damaged by the factionalism created by the Cultural Revolution, symbolized by the supposed treachery and mysterious death of General Lin Biao, the previous No. 2 Party man whom Mao had gone to great lengths to build up as the leader he was closest to and his likely successor. Although the news about Lin was suppressed for more than a year, that did not help Mao's position.

Mao had in fact decided Lin was no longer useful and, wanting to reduce the role of the military in the party, had maneuvered him into an untenable position using the time-tested methods of Chinese politics. Lin then became involved in a conspiracy launched by his son, which had no realistic chance of success as informers kept Mao apprised of it progress. Lin and his wife died while trying to escape to Russia.

However proud Mao may have been of maneuvering Lin into treason, he had in fact placed himself in a no-win situation as the word leaked out. Lin was not the first "most trusted advisor" Mao had discarded, and in the view of the populace, Lin's sudden treachery was evidence that either Mao was a fool to elevate him or had unjustly murdered him and was now lying about him. Either way, Mao, who had been living in imperial style, was beginning to lose the Mandate.

For the next few years, Mao remained the nominal supreme leader but his real power ebbed. When Zhou Enlai became ill with cancer in 1973, Deng Xiaoping, who had been "sent down" during the Cultural Revolution, was named his successor as Premier. Later Deng was made party Vice-Chairman and head of the Army.

When Zhou Enlai died in 1976, the Gang of Four, still supposedly acting for Mao, once again removed Deng from power. But then a massive earthquake east of Beijing killed 500 thousand people. This portent represented to the Chinese of 1976, just as it had for their ancestors for the past few thousand years, the fact that Mao had irrevocably lost the Mandate of Heaven.

Mao died shortly after, in September 1976, fulfilling his culturally sanctioned role of a failed dynastic ruler. In the equally traditional maneuvering for power that followed, the Gang of Four were arrested and tried, and Deng Xiaoping finally came out on top in 1978. Deng eventually became Supreme Leader, a singular position above government (in which Deng had no official place), and he remained in this quasi-imperial role until to his death. (It is worth noting that Deng took steps before he died to see that no Supreme Leader would succeed him and possibly challenge his legacy. If Mao played the role of the Last Bad Ruler of a dynasty, it is tempting to see Deng in the role of a vital, competent dynastic founder. Such an idea maybe overblown, but not by much.)

During his time in power, Deng repudiated many of Mao's policies, introduced many reforms and modernizations, reopened China to Western trade and set out to aggressively acquire Western technology. These actions set China on it's current path, laying the foundation for the "miracle economy" and supposedly setting the stage for China's emergence as a "superpower" or even (to some over-excited observers) a global hegemon.

But in point of fact, Deng's reforms were nothing very new. They only appeared new and revolutionary in light of China disastrous experience of the 20th Century when it blundered from one calamity to another. History shows us that Chinese history is a long and consistent pattern of behavior interrupted by periods of unspeakable carnage caused by the basic and unavoidable characteristics of Chinese society.

Chinese society has never yet had a real transformation. It's history is one of tweaks to address changing circumstances, but the tweaking has never made essential changes. When faced with the opportunity for real change, China has invariable chosen to suffer a period of calamity on the unspoken-- as there is no need to speak it, it being as ingrained as breathing -- belief that it can weather any calamity, no matter how horrific, and come out essentially the same as it went in. This is, to Chinese eyes, what success looks like.

Seen in proper context, all Deng really did was turn the clock back to about 1890 and try to address the same questions of reform and modernization that the late Qing scholar-officials struggled with. Absent power being held by an aging, ignorant and obscurantist ruler, Deng solutions -- which are not much different than those proposed a century ago -- are working much better (it would be very hard for them not to.)

But China is still trying to "leap halfway across a river in flood". The Chinese gloss of the 1990s was the same as that uttered in 1890 with just slight changes in translation to render the idea as: "fill-in-the-blank with Chinese characteristics".

China remains hampered by a fiscal system whose Ming-era dysfunctions still cause problems: as a result, no one in the Chinese government really knows how much money the government has or how big the economy really is or how fast it is growing. This remains the subject imperial-style court politics while the government puts on a show for the foreigners, appropriating the hallowed tenants of Sun Tzu to do it.

China still has not addressed in any serious way the cultural, economic, and social issues created by the influx of Western ideas into the original treaty-port cites which -- then as now -- contain the vast bulk of the Chinese economy. Mao had reversed this situation by decentralizing production and moving much of it into the interior to prevent it by easily overrun. This was, of course, quite inefficient and under Deng's reforms, the natural order reasserted itself. So ironically, China is now just as vulnerable to foreign domination as it was in 1842.

These coastal cities, having resumed the course they were set on in the mid-1800s, are again subject to forces that are badly straining their relationship with the more conservative interior, and especially the Leadership in Beijing, just as happened with the Qing court. Whether this bodes ill or good for China depends on whose side you are on.

Finally, China has done little -- despite the overheated warnings of ill-informed pundits (some of whose good faith is dubious) -- to address its historic military impotence. Its weapon systems are near-obsolete, its doctrines are antiquated, its logistics inadequate, its organization outmoded, and its military thinking backwards, hidebound, and muddled. Further, key elements are -- in a situation weirdly reminiscent of the inept Song diplomacy -- under the control of the very foreign interests that represent their most likely antagonists.

How well the current Chinese leadership can manage these issues remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: leaping half way across the river will not work any better now than it did 100 years ago. Either the leadership must address these issues creatively, and thereby effectively cease to exist as a recognizably Chinese government when the country is finally transformed, or it will elect to suppress them, or it will continue to fumble about with smoke and mirrors until the whole structure again collapses, possibly into a period of carnage and chaos.

Until China successfully addresses these issues -- which will first require the Chinese to actually see them as issues that must be addressed -- they will not be able to sustain the transformation that many Western observers think they are seeing.

But they can still put on a good show -- if they are not asked to keep it up for too long.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Iraq and Winning the Global War on Terror - Full Article

This is an essay I wrote in 2006 on my thoughts about our strategy for fighting the GWOT. I wrote in repsonse to some comments and questions by Shrinkwrapped and he was kind enough to post it in his blog. I'm reposting it here in its entirety by request of an interested party.

It is rather long -- you have been duly warned.

Why we write…
It may seem odd to begin a essay on strategy with a personal reminiscence, but I do so because it has relevance beyond the symbolic interpretation that immediately occurred to me.  On 09/09/01, our beloved Newfoundland underwent a serious operation that our vet told us would result in profuse bleeding for at least a couple of days. We asked our vet what “profuse” meant. Before answering , he cocked an eyebrow and his face settled into that off-kilter expression that means, “You have no idea.”
Indeed, we didn’t. A 150-lb dog has a great of a blood and since it was important that he be roused and walked periodically, it got everywhere. We covered most everything in our house with sheets and blankets and towels, changing them as  they became saturated. Blood lay pools on our front porch and ran down the steps; the walk leading up to the house was covered with bloodstains; our backyard, a scene I cannot adequately describe. We slept in relays, and so it was I who woke on the morning of 9/11 into a house spattered with and reeking of blood to have my wife tell me that the Twin Towers had been attacked and several thousand Americans had been killed.
9/11 marked us all in different ways, according to our natures and circumstances. For me, those included being a career intelligence analyst. My shock and grief were compound by the realization that we had failed; that this was exactly what community I was a part of and the discipline I had dedicated my life to was supposed to prevent. This sense was heightened, not by a prior sense of foreboding but by the memory of how many times in the past eight years, and increasingly over the past four, I had looked at the priorities and tasking given us and said, (out loud or sotto voce, depending on who was in the room), “What the hell?”
And then I reacted according to my nature: I sat down and wrote what I thought we needed to do about this new war we had just woken up to. That is the genesis of this post.
I write the foregoing to give an idea of both the dislocation I felt and the sense of purpose that immediately followed; reactions that were common among my colleagues. The realization that “the dogmas of the quiet past are insufficient to the stormy present” and “as our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew” was forcefully brought home to us in a way we did not anticipate, and indeed, at no time in our history since the original speaker first spoke those words have they been so true. The responsibility to think anew that others might act anew fell quite heavily upon us, the intelligence community, and we were determined, even eager,  to embrace it.
Thinking anew is always risky and never easy, and what was difficult for us has been even harder for others. This is a new type of war against a new adversary under circumstances that are unprecedented. We do not have a public vocabulary to adequately discuss it or much in the way of historical examples to lend clarity or use as a basis for reasonable expectations. Parts of the conflict occur at bewildering speeds; others seem unreasonably slow, and our ability to interpret events depends on information affected by a host of factors, many of which are distorting; some deliberately so. It is no wonder that our debate on the conduct of the war resembles nothing so much as the three blind men and the elephant, with the blind men engaged in rancorous debate and elephant taking sides.
These debates have gone off in all sorts of directions, from denying the threat to an extreme us-or-them mentality that sees all Islam as an existential threat and fears a devastating general war against an enemy who could be tens or even hundreds of millions strong. The middle ground sometimes seems a bleak a no-man’s land where idealists wander mumbling nostrums about democracy in the chilly company of moderate Muslims whose existence is elsewhere doubted if not denied. 
Can any real answers be extracted from all this? Do we have a strategy to fight this war? Is it realistic? To what extent is it working? These are the questions I’m going to try to address in this essay, or perhaps I should say begin to address. To address these questions as comprehensively as they deserve is beyond my information and probably beyond my means. But I do hope to clarify the major issues and if I cannot conclusively answer those questions, at least bound them, and perhaps provide a starting point for future discussion. 
My ideas and opinions here are my own; they are not endorsed by anyone in any organization and I have consulted no one in the community on any of this. But neither are these just my personal notions of how things should be done. I am not a general of the armchair or any other variety. I am an observer and an analyst, not a strategist. What I write here is based on what I know of our overall strategy as it was formulated in the year after 9/11 (I retired in late 2002) and what I have observed since, interpreted according to my experience. So the following is my assessment of what we are doing and, for the record, what I think we should be doing. Any instances of factual error, faulty logic, and wishful thinking are therefore solely mine.
On Terminology
Naming our enemy has been a problem, and not just reason of PC sensibility. I don’t like the term “Islamofascist” because I doubt its accuracy and have a hard time spelling it. “Islamic terrorist” I think is too narrow; our foe has adopted terror as his main weapon, but I think to use that term may imply I’m talking just about the people who fly planes into buildings and not the larger infrastructure that supports them and the social elements that inspire and guide them. The situation is also complicated by there being two different, and in principle opposed, Islamist groups opposing us: Sunni, principally Wahhabi, extremists and radical Shi`ites. These two groups are based on different traditions but have adopted similar methods to broadly similar aims.
There are also Palestinian terrorist organizations whose motivations are substantially different than the Wahhabis or the Shi`ites, and while both of these latter have attempted to get some leverage out the Palestinian conflict, this is a tactical accommodation to benefit from what is essentially side issue.[i] As such, my discussion is not going to consider the either Palestinian terrorists or the Palestinian question.
So I’m going to settle on “Jihadis,” which I take to mean those who engage in or actively support war with us in the name of Islam. I will also sometimes call them simply: “the enemy;” and when I do, that is who I mean.
When talking about the people on our side of the war, I am simply going to say “us” as opposed to the US, America, the West, Western liberal civilization, etc. By “us” I mean anyone who stands with us in opposing the Jihadis, and even some people who don’t but that, because of civic duty, we are obligated to protect. I will use terms like the West or Western liberal civilization or culture when discussing historical factors or events as they relate to our past or current interactions with Islam. I trust this will not create confusion.
On Strategy
Fundamentally, we need to achieve three things in this (or pretty much any) war. We need to defend against enemy attacks, we need to destroy the enemy’s capacity to fight,  and we need to ensure that in future new enemies do not arise to revive this threat. Our strategy must encompass each of these goals and must employ all possible means: law enforcement and traditional counter-terrorism, military force, and diplomacy, nation building, and promoting democracy.
In fact, although it is simplistic, it is not inaccurate to say that the first goal is primarily a counter-terrorism issue; the second, a military issue, while the third relies on it own triad: diplomacy, nation building, and democracy. That conception might lead some clarity to the ongoing debate over approaches: they are all necessary and they all ultimately reinforce each other.
There is a fourth element in our strategy that is not really separate from the other elements, but is part of each, while at the same time it operates outside of each and supports each independently: the information war (IW) component. It is the major IW component that gives this war much of  its unprecedented character. Although I doubt IW is seen as a separate and distinct discipline in this war, because of its nature I will discuss it separately, hoping that will not introduce fatal confusion.
Counter-terrorism strategy
I think counter-terrorism is the most straightforward and easily grasped part of our overall strategy. It is the part we hear a lot about and that touches us most directly. It is also largely tactical in nature and the furthest from my particular expertise. So I will summarize it by saying that the objective of this part of the strategy is to detect and destroy terrorist cells and their leaders, and to thwart their attacks. Intelligence is key — rapid, timely, precise tactical intelligence — which employs all the methods we read about in the NYT and then some.
An equally important objective of the Counter-terrorism strategy is dealing with the infrastructure that supports the Jihadis. This includes mainly the people and organizations  that finance and supply them; in effect the logistical tail of the Jihadi movement. (Jihadis seem to provide much of their own tactical intelligence, though they also get intelligence from their sponsor states.) Counter-terrorism methods may or may not be able to isolate or attack these elements, but they are important to at least finding them, and the golden rule of doing so is: “Follow the money.” (Hence, the critical importance of the SWIFT operation that the NYT revealed.)
Counter-terrorism strategy is of the most immediate concern, especially to the general public, but in essence it mainly holds the line against the Jihadis. It can make it very difficult for them to operate and it can, with help, starve them of funds and supplies. But it cannot keep the enemy from reconstituting himself; one good counter to the counter-terrorism strategy is simply patience.  
Military strategy
The objective of the military strategy is primarily to deal with hostile governments that support the Jihadis. It also operates against hostile insurgencies and organizations like the Taliban and Hezbollah that have significant combat power. Destroying the ability of hostile governments to support the Jihadis is important because the Jihadis are a transnational state-supported threat, not a non-state threat. Although the Jihadis also derive considerable support from social elements within countries that are nominally opposed to them, state support is more important.
Only states can give the Jihadis the type of sanctuary that allows them organize and train large numbers of fighters, or to maintain the type of organization necessary to plan, coordinate, and execute major attacks. Deprived of sanctuary, they must move frequently and focus on maintaining tight security, which means smaller groups, less communication, less coordination. Logistic support becomes both harder and more risky. Constantly operating in a hostile environment increases stress, erodes trust, and encourages mistakes. All these factors enhance our counter-terrorism capabilities and make that strategy more effective.
States also are obviously important sources of funds, weapons, weapons development, recruits, and intelligence. In recent years, some fascinating scholarship has evolved that shows what happens to the size and operational capability of groups that are not state supported. (Note: I’m afraid no link. I believe it was discussed over at the Belmont Club, quite sometime ago.)
Another critical point is that WMD, especially nuclear weapons, are state assets. It would very difficult for a terrorist group to get their hands on a nuke without state support any time in the foreseeable future. Chemical and biological weapons have a lower threshold, but they have their own characteristics that make obtaining and using them difficult without state support. Lack of state support therefore dramatically reduces the chances of the Jihadis obtaining WMD.
So eliminating state support is key. But operations just to topple a hostile government, such as Saddam’s previously or potentially Iran and Syria now, is not always sufficient. To make sure the deposed government does not reassert itself and resume support for the Jihadis, we may have to remain in-country and that probably means dealing with an insurgency.
Any deposed hostile government with a significant power base can try to organize an insurgency. It helps if the former power holders are ethnically distinct or have a religious or class identity that gives them a degree of natural unity, but most will have enough followers to make an uncomfortable degree of trouble.
Iraq of course had all the prerequisites for an insurgency, and I believe organizing one and fighting the invasion that way was Saddam’s plan, possibly from the beginning. I take nothing away from our military accomplishments in Iraq by saying this, as the insurgency plan may have been a fall-back and it is clear from the panic and disorganization among the Iraqis during the final days on the invasion that Saddam expected his military’s resistance to give him more time than it did and we no doubt disrupted his plans to no small degree. (I very much doubt that sneaking about and living in septic tanks was part of Saddam’s pre-invasion plan.)
I bring this up because it gives the lie to the theory that if we had done this or that — more troops, harsher crackdown, not disband the Iraqi army, or whatever — the insurgency could have been avoided. It could not. So our military strategy must consider the likelihood of an insurgency in future cases. (I’m not sure this was appreciated as much as it should have been in 2003, but live and learn.)
As important as it is, our military strategy cannot by itself prevent the Jihadis from recovering from even a quite severe military defeat. As with counter-terrorism, an effective counter to our military strategy can be patience. Military operations are expensive, taxing, and carry significant political risk. Waiting them out is easy, cheap, and under the right circumstances, foolproof. If they can, Jihadis will adopt this plan when the tide is strongly against them.
It should be noted however that our military capability does give us credibility; especially when it has been experienced up close. Demonstrated military strength, I think, gives us foothold in the Islamic imagination which allows us to begin to set the foundation for controlling the militant strain of Islam from which the Jihadis arise. This has been demonstrated in both Iraq and Afghanistan and should not be discounted.
In conventional wisdom, diplomacy is seen as an alternative to military action: a means by which conflicts can be resolved through a political solution, or hostile governments can be contained or even brought down by economic sanctions, international pressure, or internal pressure through encouragement of dissident groups. Such measures are almost entirely useless against religiously motivated enemies who are uninterested in political solutions, largely immune to international opinion, and generally unimpressed by, or not subject to, economic sanctions. Under such circumstances, diplomacy acts mainly to enable our counter-terrorism, military, and nation building efforts, rather than as a means of direct action.
Our diplomatic strategy, as I see it, is therefore comprised primarily of these things:
Ø      Maintaining the coalition of our allies.
Ø      Enhancing cooperation with our “semi-allies”, especially in intelligence activities.
Ø      Pressuring non-hostile governments to curtail support for the Jihadis from elements within their borders and to cooperate with us in identifying and disabling local terrorist groups.
Ø      Buying time in the international arena for our military and nation building activities.
Ø      Laying the diplomatic groundwork for future action.
Note that I don’t mention combating anti-American feeling abroad as part of our diplomatic strategy. Frankly, I don’t think it is. Contrary to popular belief, there is little evidence that anti-American feeling abroad has been seriously increased by Iraq or our other efforts against the Jihadis. The apparent upswing is due mainly to an increase in noise level by governments and social elements who have been persistently anti-American for decades, and subsequent exaggeration by anti-war elements in the media. Largely ignored and therefore under-appreciated are the governments with which our ties have been strengthened since this war began. On the balance, I think our international position may actually be somewhat improved compared to the last years of the Clinton administration.
Regardless of these factors, the crucial point is that our overriding concern is defeating the Jihadis and most of the anti-Americans overseas are themselves targets of the Jihadis. Because of this, anti-American feeling does not preclude important cooperation. It just means that cooperation may be given as unobtrusively as possible.
Nation Building and Democracy
I have lumped nation building and democracy together here not because they are the same thing or have the same goals, but because they support each other and often operate side by side.
Nation building is not a term I much like, but it has common currency so I will not try to coin another. By nation building, I mean establishing a degree of security, repairing infrastructure, and helping to set up or revive the social institutions necessary for stability, economic growth, and a return to public life. Such achievements make promoting democracy possible; without them “promoting democracy” is reduced to holding meaningless elections.
Neither nation building nor democracy are necessarily aimed at what many think of as “winning hearts & minds” in that the goals do not include getting the population to love us or even like us very much. The goal is to get them to take ownership of their society and economy, and to make sure that they have something to take ownership of. If that happens, people will naturally gravitate towards a government that does not promote war or terrorism, in order to hold on to what they have achieved. Often they will see representative government as the best means of doing this. That is why our strategy is to promote democracy by creating the conditions that encourage it, not by imposing it, as some have  said.
Many people have legitimate doubts about that premise, or that representative government is a panacea. Those doubts must be taken seriously because, as the previous paragraph makes clear, nation building and democracy are the means by which we intend to achieve final victory. But even if the doubts are well founded, nation building and promoting democracy play an important role even if their ultimate success is in doubt.
Recall that one of the more effective counter-strategies for the Jihadis is simply patience: if our strategy is limited to counter-terrorist and military means, time is on their side. Nation building and democracy counters that by threatening the Jihadis with a transformation of their society that would destroy them. It presents them with a serious dilemma: either lay low and wait to see if the transformation is being successful or not, by which time it may be too late, or fight both us and the transformation of their society.
Therefore, nation building and efforts to promote democracy seek to accomplish three things, all of them important:
Ø      Engage the population’s self-interest to resist the Jihadis and deny them support.
Ø      Present an ideological challenge to radical Islamist ideology.
Ø      Put time pressure on the Jihadis, enhancing our military and counter-terrorism operations.
 It short, these efforts, although difficult and time-consuming, form the foundation of our overall strategy and make it what it is. If that premise is wrong, our strategy is built on sand. That of course is the central question I will take up in the final section.

I have often characterized the conflict we are fighting as unprecedented, and indeed it is; so much so that we cannot even adequately name it. We fight this conflict on a global scale, on multiple levels, in various ways. Our enemy is comprised of hostile governments and transnational organizations supported by both international and local groups, many of which reside in nominally friendly governments. Politically, there are governments and groups that are allies, some that are enemies, and a number that are trying to have it both ways. We are not fighting a conventional war, or a counter-insurgency, or a counter-terrorism campaign, but all of these all at once. And all are asymmetric. No wonder we don’t know what to call it. No wonder people are confused about it, or even fail to believe in it.
To go into all the dimensions of this multidimensional, global, asymmetric war is outside the scope of my discussion here; an apt topic for a future book perhaps, to be written by someone else. Here I will restrict my comments to one of the factors that makes this conflict unprecedented: the central role information plays in it. This is, I think, the first conflict that is more than anything else an information war. Given its centrality, some discussion of information warfare is appropriate.
Information warfare has meant different things to different people at different times. When I starting working on IW in about 1991, it was just out of the pet theory stage and many foolish things were said. Fairly quickly, a consensus view developed along with a consensus definition — which I now forget. I made no great attempt to remember it because it did not adequately capture the essence of IW, which is to manipulate the enemy’s decision-making process in our favor while maintaining the integrity of our own. To use this as a definition probably assigns IW an unacceptably wide ambit; it certainly does from the organizational, operational, and bureaucratic point of view.
For this reason, the official definition of IW is much narrower to give it its own place within both the theoretical understanding of conflict and the organizational structure of the military. Under this definition, IW relates to gaining control of or dominance over the information sources and/or channels that an adversary uses to develop what the military calls situational awareness, which they define as the degree to by which one’s perception of one’s current environment accurately reflects reality. (There’s a nice page on it here: )
But I like the broader, more expansive, definition in the context of the war we are currently fighting. It properly emphasizes, in my view, the multidimensional nature of this conflict and role almost everyone it fighting it. I think it also help us understand what is going on and gives us a more useful framework for interpreting current events than the traditional one.
So by separating IW out for discussion, I do not mean to imply that we have a coherent IW strategy that guides our conduct of this war. I doubt that we do. Instead I want to highlight how information — that is, the asymmetric use of information — changes the nature of this conflict and what affect that has on the conduct of the participants.
Also when I speak of IW here, I do not necessarily mean IW operations consciously conducted in accordance with a separate IW strategy; I mean the effects we achieve by our conduct when viewed from an IW perspective. Almost everything we do, intentional and not, affects our enemy’s decision-making process, even as everything they do is intended to affect ours.
As there are different modes of warfare, so there are different modes of information warfare. In conventional warfare, one can speak of maneuver warfare and direct assault. Maneuver warfare seeks to maneuver the enemy into an untenable position, at least partly in the hope that he will realize this and surrender. Direct assault seeks to crush the enemy by brute force.
Our enemies have been conducting their IW in a direct assault mode. Their IW strategy is much more explicit than ours; terrorism is in the broad sense an IW tactic. Combined with the rest of their IW strategy, it is intended to convince us to abandon the fight — in effect to surrender. They use their media, the internet, messages by terrorist leaders, and speeches by national leaders to spread direct propaganda. They manipulate our media through techniques that range from faked photos and staged photo-ops to granting direct access, manufacturing false stories, and inserting friendly sources into the news gathering process. They have even manufactured atrocities. They stage Islamic protests (with signs conveniently written in English for our benefit), videotape the savage murder of hostages, encourage and sometimes financially support antiwar and anti-American groups, and they manipulate the UN. All these are a direct assault on our national will.
In contrast, our IW is of the maneuver variety. We use a much broader spectrum of approaches because our circumstances do not afford the luxury of the simple and direct approach. For example, our diplomatic efforts, seen from an IW perspective, work simultaneously on multiple levels. At one level, we pursue diplomatic options because they might yield some direct result. On another level, our pursuit of diplomatic options prepares the ground, both internationally and domestically, for what is to come. On a third level it obscures our real intentions, buys time, sends mixed messages to our enemies about our intentions, and provides useful misdirection.
In a similar manner, our reaction to the Jihadis’ IW efforts is in itself a kind of IW response. When the Jihadis get their desired viewpoint on the war into our media, which they have been very successful in doing, it creates a reaction that is reflected back to them and that they observe to gauge their success. So when opinion makers and the media present doom-and-gloom assessments and presentiments of defeat, the Jihadis are led to believe their IW efforts are succeeding.
But this perception can be just as distorted as the one they insert into major news outlets and wire services. This distortion arises as much from organic stresses within US society as from conscious effort. The Jihadis do not understand how we deal with controversy, they do not understand how different sectors of our society assign credibility to different information sources, and they don’t understand the relationship between public debate and public opinion, or how both ultimately influence government policy. By viewing our society through the same distorting lens that they spiked with false information in the first place, they derive a misleading picture of what we are about. The picture is all the more convincing for not being fake, and it leaves them vulnerable to being blind-sided, as Saddam was twice, and as the Taliban and al Qaeda were in Afghanistan, and again in Iraq.
It may seem nonsensical to characterize largely unconscious reactions as IW, and strictly speaking I suppose it is. But my point is that, whether conscious or not, our reactions have equivalent force and effect. Combined with diplomacy and the IW component of our military and counter-terrorism operations, it does give us a strong overall IW capability that we have used to our advantage in the past, and continue to employ.
My intent in the foregoing is to briefly illustrate the IW nature of this conflict and to partially redress the perception that the information war is going as quite badly for us as many think. That is not to say all is well. As IW is about perception, that perception is still a sign of trouble and the trouble comes as much from us as from the actions of our enemies. So it behooves us to take a closer look at IW and perception.
IW and Perception
It will not take a remarkably astute reader to deduce from the foregoing that IW, especially as applied in the current conflict, is a two-edged sword. Crudely put, to fool the enemy we have to, if not fool ourselves, at least obscure our true plans, as well as our methods, and perhaps even some of our successes. Public statements, diplomatic overtures, even UN agreements all serve more than their stated purpose. Thus, the observables that we, as a society, are used to relying on to make judgements are no longer fully reliable, and this problem is worst with those pundits and professional commentators who believe they have a good bead on things, by virtue of their professional experience.
These people are often poor at interpreting current events not simply because of bias. Bias affects everyone to some degree but I’m discounting commentators from the ideological fringes here. The problem is more that the pundits were not forced to think anew by 9/11 because they bore no direct responsibility for what would come after. As a result relatively few have made the necessary effort to educate themselves about the unprecedented nature of this conflict. Therefore, they cannot educate the public in such important matters as reasonable expectations and signs of actual progress, and a great deal of uninformed debate flourishes, not only between those who support the war and those who oppose it, but among the supporters of the war themselves.
 As a result, public perceptions are almost hopelessly muddied, unrealistic expectations flourish, and domestic opponents of the war gain because whatever their arguments may lack in facts and logic, they make up for in conviction and consistency. In this sense, Bush’s political problems are more a result of the unprecedented nature of the conflict than what is often referred to as his failure in leadership. Bush is simply ahead of the country, and our peculiar circumstances are making it more difficult for the country to catch up. In this way IW has, in effect, changed the nature of national leadership.
IW and Leadership
We, in common with most people, yearn for strong, even uncompromising, leadership. Bush’s second-term leadership is derided as tepid by many of his supporters. There is a yearning for clarity; the kind of clarity that would come from abandoning maneuver warfare, in my military analogy, for direct assault. I deeply sympathize with these sentiments, but I think they are misguided because those who hold them do not fully appreciate crucial facts.
In this new type of war, every action Bush takes, every speech or comment, even [especially?] inadvertently into an open mike, directly affects the decision making of our enemy. He must act and speak with that in mind and he knows it. He cannot always reassure us, saying what we wish he would say if it does not suit his larger purpose in this conflict.
But more importantly, things have changed. In his first term, Bush could show us that kind of bold, direct, “cowboy” leadership because in it was right thing to do at that time. Aggressively moving into Afghanistan and taking out Saddam were correct not only in the interests on national security but to send the proper message to the our enemies and the rest of the world.
The successes of his first term laid the groundwork for his second term, which has presented different challenges requiring different approaches. So Bush has had to adapt and his public leadership style has changed as a result. If a return to direct leadership is called for, I have no doubt we will see it. So in essence, Bush has not changed — but the war he is fighting does change and will continue to do so. It falls to us to be aware of that and better appreciate the ramifications.

Strategy and IW — Terrorism and Democracy
In the beginning of the IW section, I commented that terrorism is in the broad sense an IW tactic. The same may be said of democracy. The intent behind both is the same. Iraq provides the clearest example of this. The Jihadis use terrorism and their other IW efforts not so much to directly degrade our military but to convince us to withdraw support from our military. We support democracy in Iraq not to directly defeat the Jihadis, but to convince the Iraqis to withdraw their support from the Jihadis, and indeed to actively resist them.
What is true of the conflict in Iraq is true of the greater conflict. Neither we nor the Jihadis stand a good chance of ultimately prevailing purely by military means; they because they lack the military capability, us because it is not consistent with our nature to wage a war of general devastation. The most important thing about our strategy is that it is focused on specific bad actors within Islamic society, and intended not just to capture or kill them, but to isolate them and delegitimize their ideology. The Jihadis have the same goal: to isolate us internationally, to delegitimize us and more broadly to delegitimize Western liberal values as the basis for civilization.
So call it IW or a war of ideas, that is essentially what we have. They have chosen terrorism to underpin their strategy. We have chosen democracy to underpin ours.
Is this realistic? Are there better alternatives?
To answer that requires that we look at more at Islam, the Jihadis, and the paradox of the war they are waging.

On Islam, War, and Paradox
“For many centuries, Muslims had been accustomed to a view of history in which they were the bearers of God’s truth with the sacred duty of bringing it to the rest of mankind. The Islamic community to which they belonged was the embodiment of God’s purpose on Earth. The Islamic sovereigns who ruled over them were the heirs of the Prophet and the custodians of the of the message he had brought from God, with the God-given duty of maintaining and applying the Holy Law and extending the area in which it prevailed. To this process there were in principle no limits.”
That quote from Bernard Lewis (The Middle East, Chap. 16, pg. 305) aptly sums up the cornerstone principle of the argument for general conflict between Islam and us. For Muslims, it provides the religious, moral, and legal justification to conquer and subjugate non-believers who resist the will of God. For us, that principle, when combined with the aspects of Islamic culture we find deplorable, leads many to the conclusion that Islam is a fundamentally dysfunctional culture, inexorably drawn to extremism and bent on our destruction. To accept this view is to conclude one of two things:
1.       That Islam itself is the enemy, not just radical elements within it, and a general war with Islam is inevitable; or
2.       That while Islam itself is not the enemy, it is inimical to democracy, and its inherent dysfunctionalities will always create violent radical elements that will continue to attack us unless it can be reformed. 
In the first view, Islam itself must be defeated, in a conflict that will be prolonged, violent, and bloody. In the second view, the Jihadis must be defeated or at least contained, and Islam itself reformed. If Islamic democracy is not seen as viable, the alternative would seem to be a largely self-imposed Islamic reformation that does not depend on the successful introduction of democracy. Such reform would represent the triumph of moderate Muslims over the extremists, delegitimizing the latter and allowing the moderates to control (if not expunge) their violent tendencies.[ii]
If the first view is correct, our current strategy is not only wrong but dangerously shortsighted. It fails to do any more than address the symptoms and may actually encourage the enemy’s efforts. If the second view is correct and our belief in the transformative power of democracy is indeed misplaced, our experiments in nation building and promoting democracy are doomed to fail. Under these circumstances, Islamic radicalism would sustain itself and continue to breed violence, and the specter of Jihadis armed with WMD becomes increasingly real.
Just as worrisome, the aftermath of our failures could recapitulate the bloody dislocation that followed on the failure of “imperialist” meddling in the Middle East in the early years of the last century, but this time with much more powerful weapons. While likely to be different in character than a general war with Islam, it is perhaps an equally undesirable result.
So on our side, the strategic options to avoid a larger, potentially global war come down to democratizing Islam or reforming it. If neither of these is possible, the question of war is almost entirely out of our hands.
Let us look then at the other side; the Jihadis. They certainly agitate for war: the Wahhabis and their adherents {the Sunni side of the Jihadis) in have explicitly said they are at war with us, and have announced their intention to restore the Caliphate.[iii] Their emphasis on the international nature of this conflict and their widespread international activities, particularly in Europe, make clear that they do not consider their aims as limited to the Middle East. Radical Shi`a, based in Iran, at least contemplates a return hegemony over the Middle East and the religious domination of Islam.[iv] They may also foresee an apocalyptic showdown with the forces of the Great Satan, but they have been somewhat less consistent about this.
Both the Wahhabis and the Shi`ites are minority sects in Islam.[v] They are less separated by doctrine than by over a thousand years of mutual animosity. The Shi`ites in particular have a sense of martyrdom and persecution that has deeply affected their religious and political attitudes and behavior.  Their ultimate aims would thus seem to be diametrically opposed, but at this time, we stand in the way of both of them. As such, what is required for them to fulfill their apocalyptic aspirations?
Apocalypse Now … or Later?
From a historical perspective, war between us and Islam has been more the rule than the exception, so the notion that another major war is looming is not an extraordinary one. But history also demonstrates that high degree of Islamic unity is a necessary condition to succeed in such a conflict. When Islam has been lead by a Caliph, a Sultan, or an Emperor of sufficient authority, it has advanced. When such rulers have been absent, weak, or had to face rivals of similar stature, Islam has retreated.
Such rulers have always embodied an important religious as well as social and political dimension. Caliphs were explicitly the religious leaders of Islam, as well as rulers, and were maintained in that role as figureheads even after their executive power was eclipsed by the Sultans. Eventually the Sultans appropriated the religious role too, and after the last Caliph was over thrown by the Mongols, the Sultans did not see any need to later resuscitate the office. Sultans, in their role of “defender of the faithful”, engaged in a number of campaigns of conquest and conversion against Europe, capturing Greece and much of the eastern Europe.
The Ottomans raised Islam to the height of its power, but the decline of the Empire beginning in the sixteenth century, and especially the failure of the second siege of Vienna in 1683, badly shook Islam’s confidence in it’s own superiority. The initial response of the Ottoman court was to reform its military on the European model. Although the Emperors intended to limit this reform strictly to the military, it lead to more far-reaching reforms and by the mid-1700s, the Ottoman Empire had acquired a distinct European taint that compromised the religious authority of the Emperors. By the late 1700s, it was apparent that there was no longer an Islamic authority that, even in principle, could mobilize the Faithful to support a war against the Infidel.[vi]
The Ottoman Empire continued to become involved in wars with Islamic rivals like Iran, and in European Wars where it role was determined by geo-political, not religious, concerns. By the time of its collapse, the Ottoman Empire was so far removed from its nominal role as the leader of Islam and, by virtue of its extensive adoption of European modes, from the core of Islam itself, that Mustafa Kemal (Attaturk) succeeded in establishing a secular republic in its place.
Yet throughout this period of decline, and ever since, no comparable Islamic authority has arisen and attempts to establish unity by other means have not met with success. In the late 19th Century, the idea of pan-Islamism originated as means to unify all Muslims against the threat of Christianity, but it was quickly appropriated by the Ottomans who made a limited form of it official policy to prop up their flagging prestige. As such it was of some use to the emperor in appealing to his subjects for loyalty against dissident elements and gaining the support of other Muslims outside the empire, especially those in Europe. But overall it seems never have become a major factor, being eclipsed by other imported ideologies and by the idea of nationalism.
Pan-Islamism probably did help inspire the Pan-Arab movement which espoused unification among the Arab peoples and nations of the Middle East based on Arab nationalism. Pan-Arabism was the most serious attempt to establish unity among Muslims on non-religious grounds. Its most successful champion was probably Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, and the Ba’ath Party in Iraq and Syria supported it as well, but military defeat by Israel and the failure of pan-Arabist governments, who had strong Marxist leanings, to produce economic growth effectively ended the movement as a serious force for Muslim or even Arab unity. (Pan-Arabism does still exert considerable influence among Arab intellectuals, I believe in a manner analogous to Marxism among US academics.)
Part of the problem with pan-Arabism was in fact its secular and nationalist nature, which flew in the face of the Islamic egalitarianism and the ideal of unity among believers. Seen as discriminating against non-Arab Muslims, pan-Arabism failed to gain enough traction outside of intellectual circles to compensate for its failures. The fact that the end of pan-Arabism as a serious force coincides with the rise of radical Islamist ideologies is probably not a coincidence. Eventually even such a dedicated pan-Arabist as Saddam Hussein had to adopt a much more Islamic stance to maintain his prestige in the Muslim world.
The trans-national character of the Jihadi movement is significant in that it represents the skeleton of a authority that might compel a greater portion of Islam to support a war with us, as in times past. (Such a war may not be one of conquest per se, but of subjugation: the Vichyization of the West. In practical terms the distinction hardly matters.) However, the skeleton has remained just that despite the careful nurturing of decades, and as such the Jihadis, even with state support, have been unable to exert the influence necessary to achieve their designs.
Furthermore, they are subject to opposing tensions. The stateless nature of the Sunni Jihadis works in their favor in being congruent with Islamic ideals, but those ideals are in tension with national and sectarian loyalties. The Shi`a Jihadis have the opposite problem: their creed has a more ethnic and nationalist tenor which enhances identity and group unity but that tends to be in opposition with Islamic ideals and may alienate non-Iranians.
So the Jihadis themselves have something of a problem. To inaugurate the war they seek with us, they need to muster much more active support than they have, and also do something about the competing tensions, both between their groups and greater Islam and between each other.
Do they have a plan to deal with this problem, or — if that question is too doctrinaire, and it probably is — how does this situation bear on what the Jihadis are seeking to accomplish today?
Jihadi War Aims - Killing Peter to impress Paul
One of the Sunni Jihadis’ stated goals, frequently mentioned with a degree of derision, is to restore the Caliphate. This claim conjures up for us visions of an seventh-century ideological movement attempting to turn back the clock and elicits many pejorative comments in that same vein. But it also misunderstands the basic premise that underlies their goal.[vii]
The Jihadis do not understand their fundamentalism in the sense of reverting to a seventh-century society; it is doubtful that they intend to restore legal concubinage or slavery, or excise Western influence to the point of depriving themselves of cell phones or the technology to exploit their oil resources. Like Christian fundamentalists, their focus is on capturing what they hold to be a truer essence of their religion, going back to first principles, as it were. For the Jihadis this means in large part rekindling a sense of dedication to the sacred duty of bringing Islam to the rest of mankind while it defending from attack by whatever means necessary.
The Jihadis understand their history quite well and recognize the vital role of a religious unifier in their success. The last such unifiers who in their view had the proper credentials are the Arab Caliphs. Later Sunni Islamic rulers were mostly Turks, and while the Turks were quite successful and represent the pinnacle  of Islam achievement, the deep cultural antipathy between Turks and Arabs explains why the Jihadis do not hold up the Ottomans as a proper historical inspiration.
Thus, the Jihadis’ desire to restore the Caliphate does not imply a return to some bygone semi-mythical social ideal, but return of Islamic authority with the credibility to create an Islamic unity with sufficient power to challenge us. This in turn explains the Jihadis methods and tactics, which brings us to the paradox.
The Paradox - the Circle is Squared
Up to this point, my discussion skirts a paradox that underlies much of our public discussion of the war, and it is time to address it. The paradox is this: the Jihadis employ terrorism as their tactic of choice. Terrorism is the weapon of the weak. Conventional terrorism may cause us pain but cannot threaten our civilization. Even nuclear terrorism is unlikely, as terrible as it is, to result in our collapse. Yet we say that the Jihadis present an existential threat.
How can this be? Either Islam presents an existential threat and we are fighting the wrong sort of war, or this really is a law-enforcement problem and we’re still fighting the wrong sort of war.  What is the resolution to the paradox? How can this particular circle be squared?
It can be squared because the paradox is based on a misunderstanding of what the Jihadis are trying to accomplish at this stage in the conflict. The key is that they are not yet fighting to destroy us — they are fighting for control of Islam. The terrorist campaign is designed to force our retreat, not defeat; to show our weakness and lack of fitness to hold our paramount position in the world. The 9/11 attack, following up earlier attacks, was intended to be a master stroke that, after two decades of demonstrated vacillation and weakness — in Iran, in Lebanon, in Somalia, in Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, and Palestine — would render our decline irreversible. Muslims throughout the world would take note and embrace the movement that had inflicted these blows and demonstrated our basic unfitness. With us in retreat and themselves ascendant, the restoration of the Caliphate, in the sense of described above, would be inevitable. And with the restoration of that authority, they believe their victory would be assured.
The Vital Corollary
The vital corollary is this: the Jihadis are not yet in a position to impose the degree of unity they need for their victory. Their master stroke energized us and moved us to action, calling into question their basic assertions about our strength. They continue fight us using terrorist means because they lack sufficient support in the Islamic world to fight us any other way. This means that the Jihadis are not as dangerously close to the mainstream of Islamic society as many seem to think. They have yet to prove themselves and so can be isolated, and being isolated, defeated. That is exactly what our strategy intends: to destroy not only the Jihadis and their resources, but to destroy their credibility as potential leaders of Islam as well.
The Vital Caveat
The vital caveat is this: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is more than just a desire to get the means to wipe out Israel. Nuclear weapons confer instant credibility. If we allow the Mullahs to achieve them, it represents not only a serious threat, but a severe symbolic defeat for us as well. In essence, the Mullahs are trying to achieve through the acquisition of nukes what they has so far been unable to achieve through terrorism. This benefit accrues to them — in principle — even if they have no intention of ever using nuclear weapons. The same might be said — again in principle — for idea that nukes will give them an “instant hegemony” over the Middle East.
I emphasize  “in principle” because acquiring nukes is a gamble for them, not just with us and Israel, but with the Islamic world as well. It is not clear that Iran’s Sunni neighbors are prepared to accept a nuclear-armed Iran, in which case rather than enhancing the Mullah’s Islamic prestige, this may be a “bomb too far.” The resulting prospect of nuclear one-upmanship in the Middle East is frightening indeed. All the more reason (as if more were needed) for us to do everything in our power to see that the Mullahs do not succeed in their nuclear aspirations.[viii] 
Now, with this understanding of Jihadis war aims, we are brought back to the question: what are our options and what are the chances of successfully implementing them?
Our Response - Weighed and found wanting?
At the beginning of this section, I stated that our strategic options to avoid a larger, potentially global war come down to democratizing Islam or reforming it, because only such measures can destroy the Jihadis’ credibility as potential leaders of Islam and remove the societal support on which they depend. Our counter-terrorism, military, and diplomatic efforts must support one or the other of these options or our strategy becomes in effect just a holding action, with no clear victory in view.
In order to examine these options more fully, it is time to explore the approaches we might use for each and try to assess how realistic they are. But first I want to emphasize that my purpose here is not the set up rhetorical straw men to demolish in pursuit of a preconceived result. In discussing these options it is important realize we are discussing a constellation of activities under each approach, and that each approach offers, and generally requires, flexibility. A simple example is that we are supporting democracy in Iraq and an autocrat in Pakistan while largely ignoring another autocrat in Libya — all at the same time and under the same strategy. So when I talk about our different approaches to implementing our strategic options it will be well to bear this example in mind.
That said, I think we can reduce our approaches to three alternatives without oversimplifying too badly. I will term them: Passive Containment, Active Containment, and Engagement. The first two support Islamic reform; the third, Islamic democratization. (Again, by reform, I mean reform that does not depend on the successful introduction of democracy but a triumph of moderate Islam that results in their ability to control the extremist factions and deny support to the Jihadis.)
Passive containment I include in the spirit of completeness and because I think it exemplifies the typical pre-9/11 approach as applied to Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Palestinians. The general characteristics of Passive Containment are:
Ø      A law-enforcement approach to terrorism emphasizing defensive and legal measures.
Ø      A diplomatic approach to hostile governments emphasizing international agreements, resolutions and sanctions imposed through the UN, and moral (and possibly some practical) support to dissident elements.
Ø      Relies on but weakly supports deterrence.
Ø      Military action only as a last resort and with a limited objective, which may or may not include regime change, and then only under UN auspices.
Ø      Little or no emphasis on nation building or even establishing lasting security.
Ø      Strong emphasis on politically expedient exit strategies.
The failures of this approach are manifest and it does not deserve further consideration. That leaves us with two genuine alternatives, Active Containment and Engagement.
Active Containment is I think close to the approach favored by people, including some experts, who are dubious about our current strategy’s reliance on Islam adopting democracy and concerned that our approach does not pay enough attention to Islamic cultural realities. Such people often seem to consider our current strategy unnecessarily idealistic and that we might recklessly sacrifice stability because of that idealism. Other potential objections are that our current approach does not take sufficient notice of international opinion, which might tend to undermine our efforts, or that it inflames Islamic popular opinion against us, which certainly would. An Active Containment approach is intended to address these issues. Accordingly, its general characteristics of are:
Ø      A broad approach to terrorism emphasizing both national defense and active measures against terrorists overseas.
Ø      A diplomatic approach to hostile governments emphasizing international penalties and sanctions and practical support of dissident elements is preferred but not entirely relied upon.
Ø      Strongly supports deterrence as preferable to defensive measures that may be provocative.
Ø      Military action as a last resort and with a limited objective, which may or may not include regime change
Ø      Military action preferably, but not necessarily, conducted under a broad international coalition.
Ø      Little emphasis on nation building.
Ø      Strong emphasis on establishing lasting security under a compliant regime.
Ø      UN participation in diplomatic and military measures is preferable but not considered vital.
Ø      Exit strategies are based on stability.
Finally, Engagement best typifies the public expression of our current approach, although I think in reality our approach is an admixture of Engagement and Active Containment. This admixture results mostly from the need to be flexible but the reported tension in the administration over approaches undoubtedly accounts for some of it as well. Engagement is a more radical and revolutionary strategy than Active Containment and is therefore perceived as risky, hence the tension. Its general characteristics of are:
Ø      A broad approach to terrorism emphasizing both national defense and active measures against terrorists overseas.
Ø      Approach to hostile governments balances military and diplomatic options.
Ø      Supports deterrence but prefers strong defense measures.
Ø      Military action acceptable on clear evidence that further diplomacy is counterproductive.
Ø      Military action preferably, but not necessarily, conducted under a broad international coalition.
Ø      Military objective will usually include regime change and establishing lasting security.
Ø      Strong emphasis on nation building and supporting representative government.
Ø      UN participation in diplomatic measures is desirable but can be secondary.
Ø      UN participation in military measures is undesirable and to be avoided.
Ø      Exit strategies are based on victory
In trying to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of Engagement vs. Active Containment to assess which is more realistic and offers the better chance of victory, we face the problem that only one is being tried in the field, with results are sometimes muddled or controversial and cloud our assessment. The other we can only evaluate with an appeal to history, which may offer more clarity but with the caveat that some of the history may no longer apply. So our task on the one hand is to find measures of our effectiveness that are, as much as possible, directly observable and free of distortions, and on the other to focus (again, as much as possible) on history of permanent relevance.
I think a good way to begin this process is by examining containment. Containment strategies, best exemplified by the Cold War, can offer a relatively low-risk way of overcoming an adversary with minimal armed conflict. They emphasize deterrence and steps are taken to keep what military actions that do occur from escalating. Military action may involve the use of proxies to keep the main antagonists out of direct contact. Diplomatic measures, including sanctions, embargoes, and agreements to internationally isolate the adversary, play an important role.
Accordingly, containment strategies require a high degree of international cooperation, making them subject to corruption and diplomatic gamesmanship, especially by non-aligned parties. A combination of leverage and accommodation is necessary to keep them working, and this often results in compromises with regimes and other actors whose behavior is otherwise distasteful. Maintaining stability is important because abrupt changes in the international landscape tend to threaten deterrence, change the degree or type of leverage available, and upset the web of agreements and accommodations that are necessary to maintain containment. Containment therefore militates against such things as regime changes that might otherwise be considered beneficial and prefers to work through the established political order of the countries or regions with which it is concerned.
But the key fact about containment is that it only works by itself if the adversary is subject to internal stresses or inexorable external pressures that will eventually bring on his collapse. For this reason, containment alone is unrealistic against the Jihadis. Both the internal stresses within Islam and the external pressures it is subject to — most of which are applied by our culture — tend to act in favor of the Jihadi movement, not against it. The only important stress within the movement is the Sunni-Shi`a sectarian divide and so far, this has had little effect. Within the Wahhabis and radical Shi`a movements themselves, there appear to be no important internal stresses.
This is why containment must be coupled with an effective reformation movement within Islam to be ultimately successful.[ix] Such a movement almost certainly would have arise within Islam though not necessarily within Arab culture.[x] Islamic theology itself, as originally conceived, would clearly support reform and moderate elements do exist within Islam that could in principle use it to challenge the Jihadis. A containment approach, with its emphasis on working with existing political and societal structures, nominally seems well suited to support these moderates in their efforts.
The difficulty, and I believe it is a fatal one, is the way a containment approach would have to interact with the nature of Islam itself. History records various Islamic movements that have attempted to restore Islam to the purity of its original faith. These movements have become radicalized and often violent because paths to reform in Islam are blocked by the autocratic nature of the state. Because the containment approach works through the existing political structure it cannot unblock these paths to reform. Instead, it must rely on imposing reform from the top down and unfortunately, the autocrats that would do the imposing are either the problem, as in Iran, or lack sufficient credibility to institute meaningful reform, as in Saudi Arabia or Egypt. The involvement of us in encouraging the state to undertake reform would also tend to discredit reform in direct proportion to our visibility in this regard. This has the obvious drawback of taking reform out of our hands and entrusting it to an autocratic government whose motives are suspect and whose operations are generally opaque. In effect, we would be putting the ultimate success of our strategy in the hands of people who have been the cause of much of the problem in the first place.
Finally there is the question of whether moderate Islam can by itself mount a serious ideological challenge to either Wahhabism or radical Shi`a. The silence of moderate Muslims on the subject of Islamic terrorism has been so nearly total that many have come to, if not actually doubt, then simply discount their existence. The necessary moderate impulse has long existed in Islam, notably among the Sufis, but it has existed along side the extremists and rarely if ever challenged them. There is no reason to believe that with such encouragement as a containment approach could afford it would do so now.
If the Active Containment-Reform approach offers no realistic chance of success, does the Engagement approach do any better? Certainly the historical antecedents do not auger well. Liberal western ideologies did make their way into Islam from Europe during the 19th Century and there was a period of experiment with consultative bodies and representative government. Except in Turkey, none of them worked and overall they may have done more harm than good. These ideologies were in direct competition with authoritarian ideologies from eastern Europe, and it is these latter that had the more lasting effects, being familiar and comfortable to autocrats and authoritarian reformers alike.  
It is on this basis I believe that many scholars and career experts on the Middle East doubt the wisdom of Engagement approach with its dependence on establishing democracy. The extensive experience and knowledge of these experts must carry great weight, yet I would be careful of showing them too much deference. Part of the difference between the approaches is philosophical and unfortunately, such differences are not generally resolvable through debate.
For example, their emphasis on history and their view of Islam’s cultural realities invites the rebuttal that they are applying to Muslims the soft bigotry of low expectations. More personally, I might believe that these experts retain too much of the pre 9/11 mindset and thus fail the test to think in the new ways necessary to this new world. But these are not arguments: “old thinking” is not necessarily wrong just because it is old, and what cultural realities are depends on how reality is perceived. That perception depends the subjective weights each observer gives to the various elements that make up this ineffably complex reality.
Perhaps a better argument for Engagement is that the Jihadis are less accustomed to it and less comfortable with it. Pursuing solutions thought to be idealistic puts more pressure on them than what might be called the “calculated realism” of a containment approach. They believe us to be timid and risk-adverse. To the extent we express fervor in our strategy and follow it up with deeds, we combat their portrayal of us and dilute their advantage in that regard. Idealism impresses them more than careful diplomatic maneuvering; it makes us an enemy to be reckoned with.
It can also be argued, as I have done, that promoting democracy confronts the Jihadis with a direct ideological challenge that shortens the time in which they have to establish themselves as leaders of Islam. Democracy hold out the promise of tangible benefits and, what is more, it is fundamentally incompatible with Jihadi ideology. Unlike the moderate Islamic theology, which seems too comfortable living with extremism, democracy requires its adherents to take sides and defend it if they are going to retain its benefits. This is likely to form a more compelling argument than asking them to oppose the Jihadis in the name of Islamic reform, but actually just because they threaten us. Evidence from Iraq and Afghanistan strongly argues that this is indeed the case.
In addition, the potential utility of democracy in promoting Islamic reform should not be overlooked. Democracy by its nature opens up the paths to reform that have been blocked, and allows the consultative nature of original Islam can be restored. Theologically then, Islam and representative government are not incompatible, and the adoption of one does not necessarily imply the abrogation of the other. I would argue that democracy coupled with Islamic reform presents an insurmountable challenge to the Jihadis.
On the basis of such arguments, I could maintain that our current strategy offers distinct advantages over the alternatives and a better chance for victory and a stable Middle East. But these arguments are, for the most part, uncomfortably theoretical. After all, al Qaeda still appears to be capable of hatching major plots, violence in Baghdad has increased, and the cease-fire in Lebanon is seen by many as emboldening Hezbollah, and even Syria and Iran.
Are these events setbacks that should call our strategy into question, or just the kind of things we should expect as our strategy moves along to a successful conclusion?
Are there reliable measures of our effectiveness available that support the conclusion that our strategy is in fact working?   
It’s time to take a closer look at victory.

On Victory
In the 5 years since we started the current campaign we have achieved undeniable successes. We have freed 50 million people from two of the worst tyrannies on Earth. We have introduced representative government into two countries who have never known it and whose people are seeing the benefits. We have successfully defended our country against further attack and destroyed numerous terrorist cells and networks. We have defanged Libya and dismantled a network that would have supplied nuclear weapons to our enemies. And we have done all this minimal casualties and collateral damage. Such achievements are unprecedented.
But victory is more than a list of deeds. Victory is ultimately about removing the enemy’s will to continue the fight. It might be surprising that I did not mention that maxim until now, but I think it explicitly belongs here. It has been pointed out — correctly — that we will never break the Jihadis will to fight. They are not a rational enemy, many argue that they are not even sane, and they covet glorious death. There is only one way to deal with an enemy who will never give up: you convince the larger society of which he is a part to give him up. As I have pointed out throughout this essay, without the support of their larger society, the Jihadis cannot survive.
How do we measure such a thing? I submit that the best barometer we have is the Jihadis themselves in Iraq. By their words and actions, they reveal to us their assessment of how Islam regards them, how our strategy is working, and therefore their own prospects for victory.
Some of this evidence comes directly from internal communications and captured intelligence. These sources are encouraging but they are also limited in scope and possibly episodic. In contrast, their strategic choices are quite telling. The Jihadis are acutely aware of the value of time and patience; it occupies a vital place in their strategic doctrine. They know that they are currently fighting us in Iraq and Afghanistan at an increasingly severe tactical disadvantage. They know about the antiwar and anti-American feeling that they have done everything they can to intensify, here and abroad. Their know the pressures on us to leave Iraq and that their situation would greatly improved if we left, so their best strategy now would be to lay low and be patient until that happens.
But they are not being patient. They are in fact fighting tooth and nail, both against us and against the new Iraqi democracy. There can be only one explanation for this: they believe democracy in Iraq is working; that our strategy is therefore working, and that time is not on their side.
Twenty years or more of teaching in madrassas, preaching in mosques, exhorting through their media, issuing fatwas, establishing charities, subsidizing martyrdom, attacking us, and all rest have not brought more men to their banners than can support a strategy of weakness. But if they were confidant in their future — confidant that Iraq would not become a stable democratic state, confidant the Afghanistan would collapse again of its own discord, confidant that Islam would eventually turn to them for guidance and leadership — they would not be attacking and slaughtering fellow Muslims. They would not be fighting and dying in large numbers in battle against the most proficient military in history.
The Jihadis have watched the progress in Iraq and Afghanistan, considered the consequences for Islam and for themselves, and I think they are ones who now see the writing on the wall: that they are divided, that they have been found wanting, and that their days are numbered. They are not fighting for time anymore — they are fighting for their lives.
And as the Playwright said: “To these aged eyes… that’s what winning looks like,” [xi]

I have tried to articulate, as far as my modest gifts allow, what our strategy is, how I think it is being implemented, how well it is working so far, and why. I have meandered into this topic and that one, giving cursory treatment where perhaps more was needed, indulging perhaps in superfluity where I should have been concise. I have disagreed with experts whose detailed knowledge I cannot hope to match and made arguments in pages that could justly fill a book. It is likely that others could have done this better and I hope they will, and sooner rather than later. That said, I conclude with two things of which I am dead certain.
First, we are winning — but we have not won. Victory cigars or breaking out the champagne is not yet in order. We are near the cusp of a critical moment — a nuclear-armed Iran — and if we bungle it all our previous efforts may be for naught. Even if we don’t, there is a long road still to go, and doubtless future setbacks to be overcome. So there are yet risks and hard slog throughout, but this is no time to give in to useless alarm. We have a winning strategy for this war, but resolve is the weapon we most need. Without it our arsenals are pointless, our soldiers irrelevant, our efforts to spread democracy still-born, and we ourselves surrendered. With it, victory is in reach.
Second, I began this essay with a personal reminiscence that I said came to have a relevance greater than the symbolic one I immediately attached to it. It is this:
In this war there are no noncombatants. Not only are we all military targets in the eyes of our enemies, but we all take part in the fighting. Every opinion we form and express, every conclusion and argument we make, and particularly every vote we cast, influences our enemy and affects our collective will. We need to be aware of this. We do not need to stifle debate or speak with one voice or declare “my country right or wrong.” But we do need to care about winning this war, resist fashionable defeatism, denounce it’s ally, relativism, and display some old-fashioned fortitude.
Fail in that and nothing else will help us. Succeed in that, and everything else is just details.

Epilog - The World turned upside down
If every cloud has a silver lining, the converse is also true. If I have concentrated on the silvery aspects, believing as I do that the doom-and-gloom aspects have been over-emphasized, I must acknowledge that the cloud does exist. And I probably ought a say a little about what I think it looks like and over whom it currently floats. Here I think a historical example is apt:
In 1921, two years after Attaturk began his quest to form his secular republic in Turkey, a new leader seized power in Iran. This man, Reza Khan, had similar problems to Attaturk’s and saw a similar solution to dealing with them: modernization based largely on Western principles. But Reza Khan set about his solution in two fundamentally different ways: instead of establishing a republic, he deposed the Shah and declared himself Shah; and instead of secularizing the state, he maintained the primacy of Islam. Just over 50 years later, Turkey was a stable republic while Reza Khan’s successor, while having made great strides towards modernizing his country, was trying to cope with an insurrection mounted by a charismatic Shi`ite cleric who would shortly depose him, found an Islamic regime, and become the foremost exporter of both Shi`a radicalism and terrorism in the world.
The contrast is instructive: Attaturk was ruthless in imposing a type of westernization he saw as internally consistent. Reza Khan, while personally ruthless in dealing with rivals, temporized in his approach, creating an Islamic-Western hybrid that unfortunately combined Islamic autocracy with western education, modes, and ties, and that ultimately could not survive. A further contrast between the two situations is that Iran had the benefit of oil revenue, especially during the late Shah’s reign.
Of course, I am not the first to note the toxic combination of Islamic religion, autocratic government, western ideas, and an oil-based economy, but I believe that it is not well enough appreciated. The biographies of many in the Who’s Who of Islamic Terror reveal men with western education and western ties, coming from autocratic oil-rich states. Osama bin Laden is the scion of Saudi oil magnates;. The Ayatollah Khomeini preached his version of radical Shia and nurtured his revolution from France, and the current Iranian leaders (including the current president) were educated in the Shah’s westernized universities. These are just a few prominent examples.
On the surface, it is not surprising we should find such men leading terrorist and radical organizations. Western thought has always been a catalyst for change, whether it is democratic or socialist principles, or even on Nazi ideology, which enjoyed considerable popularity in the Middle East in the 1930 and 40s and influenced the founding of the Ba’ath Party. Western-educated intellectuals were the primary conduit for these ideas and thus the leadership of reformist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood (founded in the 1920s) was dominated by doctors, lawyers, and philosophers, many educated in the US or Europe.
The failures of reform and the experience of WWII and its aftermath radicalized some of these men, who often turned back to Islam while same time embracing authoritarian western social models — Nazism or Bolshevism — that were themselves antithetical to Islam, but operated from the well understood principle of strength. These imported ideologies legitimized violence in the pursuit of social reform just as Islam legitimized violence in the name of imposing God’s truth on the Unbeliever. In effecting this combination, these radicalized intellectuals seem to have combined the worst aspects of Western and Islamic thought, while the godsend of oil wealth gave them a way to put their ideologies into practice (with minimal concern of hard economic realties) if only they could get their hands on it. Some eventually did.
It is not my intent here to lend dignity to the various “Why they hate us” screeds, but to point out the Western connections to the antecedents of today’s Islamic terrorists, and to emphasize that the reformist impulse of the last century was not native to Islam. The important ramification of this is that it tends to shift the battleground out of the more traditional and conservative Islam societies into those in close contact with the Western traditions of license and protest, and of tolerating, even supporting, Islamic radicalism when it suited their purpose — in short, to Europe.[xii]
Europe seems have become a kind of Jihadi paradise. It is at once a godless community of temptations both material and carnal that despises young Muslims for their otherness while admiring them for their conviction. The epitome of multicultural tolerance, it makes no serious attempt to assimilate Muslims in the name of that ideology, thereby effectively condemning them to an underclass existence while marinating them in a protest-based political culture. In orgies of self-loathing, Europeans can stand arm-in-arm with terrorists, waving signs proclaiming “We are all Hezbollah”.
In this paradoxical land where so much is allowed but so little is approved of, legions of marginalized young men in search of clarity and greater meaning can find both in the local mosque, and acting out their fantasies of redemption requires nothing more than a trip to the local train station. Europe itself provides them with motive and opportunity, and the Jihadi terror masters with the method. Little wonder then that the fastest growing population of radicalized young Muslims seems to be found there.
Should my statement of the conditions approximate the truth and Europe be unequal to the task of dealing with it, I foresee a singularly disturbing possibility: Even if we defeat the Jihadis in the Middle East, as we seem to be doing, could Muslim Europe provide a potential refuge; a reservoir for re-infection if you will?
If so, the most serious challenge of our times may not be in the Middle East, where the current focus is, but dealing with radical Islam nurtured in the Nihilist void of the European soul. The Doom’s Day scenario is not then a new Caliphate centered on Baghdad, Damascus, Tehran, or Cairo, but one centered in Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, or Madrid. Is the bewildering, other-worldly possibility then that 50 years hence, a democratized Middle East will stand with us against the new autocrats of Islamic Europe?
“And as they marched away, the band played, The World turned Upside Down.”[xiii]

[i] By side issue I mean that the avowed intent of Iran and the Wahhabis terrorists to destroy Israel is not primarily for the benefit of the Palestinians nor would a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian conflict cause either of these groups to abandon their larger conflict with us.
[ii] Given the history of Islam expunging extremists and their predilection for violence would seem unlikely at best.
[iii] It is interesting to note how little the Arabs, having founded Islam and spread it throughout the Middle East, have actually controlled it. The period of Arab ascendancy was relatively brief and it was diluted almost from the beginning by Persian influence. The demands of empire obliged to the Arab Caliphs to adopt the only imperial model under their control, Sasanid Persia, and this gave rise to resurgence of Persian power and influence. Within three hundred years, the Arab caliphs fell under the domination of Persian rulers and Islam itself was dominated by Shi`a theology. When the Sunni revival came, it was the Turks, not the Arabs, who accomplished it. The independent Persian rulers were not conquered by Arabs, but by Mongols, who did little lasting damage to Persia and allowed Persian national life and culture to continue to flourish. Ironically, the most lasting damage the Mongols did was to Arab Iraq, and Baghdad and Iraq would never recover their central place in the Islamic world. By the early 20th Century, the Arabs were a poor people in rebellion against their Turkish overlords. This history is useful to reflect upon when considering the claims and attitudes of the Sunni Arab Jihadis.
[iv] The Iranians have a long and proud imperial tradition dating back to classical times. Perhaps unique in the Islamic world, they have not last touch with their pre-Islamic traditions and continue to celebrate them. [Egypt has an equally long and proud history but not with the same continuity, having been under Hellenic and then Roman control for almost 1000 years before the coming of Islam, and it does not popularly celebrate its pre-Islamic status to the same degree.] Iran has remained important since the advent of Islam, being, along with Turkey and Egypt, one of the three major Muslim power centers since the Middle Ages. This gives Iranian Islamists a distinctly national character that Arab Islamists tend to lack, and which affects their aspirations and their ultimate goals. In addition, Shi`a was briefly the dominant sect in Islam, giving inspiration to radical Shi`ites. [Shi`a has a long radical tradition — the original assassins were a radical Shi`ite sect.]
[v] Radical Shi`a has the benefit of controlling a state, which gives them resources and options the Wahhabis lack. While I do not mean to belittle a war with Iran, especially a nuclear-armed Iran, I do not put in the same category as a war with Islam. Some might consider that a war with nuclear-armed Iran, while not in the same category, is still over the threshold of serious catastrophe and they may well be right. This is of course one of the reasons it is so critical to deny Iran nukes (the probability of nuclear terrorism being the other). But the question of nukes and Iran is a subset of my topic and it does not effect our strategy at the level I am discussing it, so I take leave to put it aside for the purposes of this piece. (It certainly effects how we implement our strategy and our priorities, but that is outside my scope.)
[vi] The late 1700s saw a religious backlash against the Ottomans and it took two forms: Wahabbism and a radical Sufi movement, the Dervishes. These movements were not allied; the Wahhabis despised the mysticism of the Dervishes. But the Wahhabis organized against Ottoman authority and enjoyed some success before being crushed by the Emperor’s forces in 1818. They remained a minor movement they found a patron in the al-Saud dynasty, which captured Mecca and Medina in 1924. The rest, as they say, is history.
[vii] I’m focusing on the Sunni faction here as my example, but the same basic approach underlies Shi`ite terrorism.
[viii] A great deal has been said about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his belief in the imminent return of the Hidden Imam and the attendant apocalyptic confrontation with evil — presumably us, but also perhaps encompassing those Sunni leaders whom the Shi`ites see as usurpers and the heirs to those who martyred the Prophet’s family. Whatever Ahmadinejad is about — seriously planning catastrophic destruction or just talking recklessly in hopes of rekindling the spirit of the Islamic revolution — it is clear he is dangerous. But it needs to be pointed out that wanting to blow up the world, or even just the Middle East, is not the same thing as doing it. Even if Ahmadinejad is crazy, he would need to find enough other equally crazy people to help him carry out his plan. Such people are not that common and one or two in critical places regaining their sanity or losing their nerve can bring such operations to an abrupt end. This reduces the odds of his succeeding substantially. So I think it is a mistake to focus too heavy on the peculiar nature of Ahmadinejad. Nukes in the hands of more “rational” Mullahs with more prosaic plans of hegemony and religious domination is just as bad, and in some ways perhaps worse.
[ix] One could also argue that democratization could be coupled with containment, but I’m going to avoid that because containment strategies, as they are usually described, are not suited to introducing democracy into authoritarian societies and the necessary adjustments would make them indistinguishable from Engagement for the purposes of this discussion.
[x] The Wahhabi movement itself may have gotten an important impulse from an Indian scholar of the Naqshbandi dervish sect writing in Arabia in the 18th Century. Of Sufi origin, the Naqshbandi dervishes were introduced into the Middle east from India where they spread widely and had considerable influence on the religious revivalism that affected Islam during the 18th and 19th Centuries. 
[xi] James Goldman, The Lion in Winter. (Henry II to Philip)
[xii] Saying Europe may be too broad here, since the information of which I’m aware centers on France.  Germany also seems to have a serious Muslim situation but I’m not yet clear on its dimensions and how they are dealing with it. The same may be said of Spain and Italy. I would suspect Spain of having a greater problem, but Muslims there may also be better assimilated for cultural reasons. Holland seems to have a serious problem as a result of laxity, and possibly Belgium as well. The Swiss, I have no idea. The UK has a problem by virtue of its tolerance for radicals, but also has the best chance of dealing with the situation. Its sources of immigration are perhaps different from France and Germany’s as well. Even Sweden has reported issues with young Muslim men, but I suspect these won’t reach the serious proportions. Norway I’ve heard nothing about and may be largely immune as it seems to be a less popular Muslim destination, and also lacks Sweden’s famous tolerance.  Denmark may have a bigger problem than Sweden by virtue of proximity but I do not expect it to reach the proportions of Germany. Eastern Europe seems to be little effected so far, probably because they are more pragmatic and not yet afflicted with crippling multicultural relativism.
[xiii] A historical fable about Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown. Let’s try to keep it that way.