The Global War on Terror is not only a war of arms, but is also a war of ideas. White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said words to that effect recently. As the words sank in, I realized the broader implications on our internal debate. It became clear why those who lack ideas of their own for domestic or foreign policy also have no idea, concept, or capability to understand or conduct the Global War on Terror.
Those who constantly criticize the President and attack him on every aspect of his policies while failing to offer any intelligent ideas of their own are also those who show they have no idea what the war on terror is or how to fight it. Every day their words and actions illustrate their absence from the realm of ideas, so it should come as no surprise when they show ignorance toward fighting a war of ideas.
Fighting the war on terror requires a grasp of both tangible and intangible elements, such as fully understanding that although the threat may not be perfectly defined, it still exists. But, those who do not subscribe to the world of ideas typically only acknowledge danger from terrorists when there’s political gain to be had because they only think and act within the framework of what’s tangible to them. If it’s not physically perceptible, if there’s no specific danger or benefit to them, it falls outside the realm of their thought processes. That leaves them to focus their fighting where they feel they can make personal gains against perceptible entities, i.e. the Administration and military. They spend their energy and resources on internal attacks because they don’t comprehend an external enemy that isn’t defined by boundaries on a map nor the intangibles which motivate his actions.
Those who have no idea how to fight the war on terror are largely associated with, and are often one and the same as, those who have no idea how religion can be an integral part of anyone’s life. They denounce and attack those Americans and institutions which draw their guidance and direction from religion, and who lead their daily lives and operations in keeping with religious tenets. Because they do not understand the idea of religion, they try to suffocate and extinguish it. This explains why they fail to comprehend an enemy which draws his motivation from religion and why they fail to see how this enemy could act on the religious ideas which he so firmly believes.
Al Qaeda has clearly stated that their goal in Iraq is to create instability, foment a civil war, prevent democratization and formation of a government in order to establish a safe haven from which to launch terror attacks and advance their version of Islam. But those who fail to acknowledge and understand this idea fail to understand the need to win in Iraq. Those who lack the capacity to comprehend this idea also fail to understand that the consequence of premature withdrawal from Iraq is an Al Qaeda victory, which in turn provides them the opportunity to establish a new base of operations for their attacks against us. They fail to understand that our early departure would reinforce the Islamic Jihadists’ notion that Americans lack the resolve to fight for our own future and embolden them to do even more harm to us. These ideas are central to Al Qaeda’s strategy, but those Americans who can not work with ideas and the reality that comes from those ideas play right into the hands of that strategy.
Those who constantly misrepresent and criticize the war effort don’t seem to have any idea that their words and actions are part of the enemy’s strategy for crushing the resolve of the American people. They remain stuck in partisan politics, oblivious to the benefits their constant attacks on America’s war effort have for the morale and perseverance of the enemy. Because they seem to have no idea what the enemy’s strategy or end-state is, let alone any idea how to defeat it, they unwittingly carry out the enemy’s strategy through their incessant negativity and attacks against our war effort.
Before noon on September 11, 2001 our ideas and policies about national security with respect to terrorists were no longer valid and had to be changed. We could no longer afford to sit and wait to be attacked again. But, for those who fail to work within the realm of fact-based ideas, the concept of preemptively striking an enemy has been nearly impossible, if not completely impossible to accept. They continue to hope and argue for resumption of the old policy and attack the President’s new one. The tragedy of 9/11 was still not enough for them to grasp the need for a new idea.
Even after fully considering the shortcomings of our current leadership, why, when we need innovative leadership capable of producing the ideas and actions that will preserve our great nation, would we ever consider trusting its safety to those who daily demonstrate their complete absence from the domain of ideas necessary for that safety?