Norman Podhoretz discusses his new book World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism and reflects on the Bush administration's middle-east policies.
Norman Podhoretz is an American neoconservative columnist. A leftist commentator during the 1960s, he became associated with the neoconservative movement during the early 1970s. In 2007, his role as foreign policy advisor to Rudy Giuliani's Republican presidential campaign and public advocacy of an American attack on Iran brought renewed attention to his thought and works.
Podhoretz calls the Cold War conflicts and today's War on Terror 'World War 3 and 4'. This linear comparison is just not correct. You cannot draw direct comparisons as the situations are very different. Yes, use our past experiences as a knowledge base and whatnot, but by calling these other conflicts 'World Wars' he seems to be trying too hard to create this frightening sense of terror that has been degrading this country's quality of life, keeping its people fearing the end of the world and causing radical thinking of their own.
One of his quotes, which almost threw me off my seat, in expressing the goal of our military actions was "the reform and modernization of the Islamic Religion". This is what he intends for the result of the war on terror to be. How will our military actions accomplish this? Kill all the radical fundamentalists?
In this brief talk, I simply got the sense that Podhoretz is close minded and stubborn in his views, exhibiting the very qualities of those he is fighting against.
So it's my great pleasure to introduce our final speaker of this retreat. He is an extremelydistinguished person, author, editor, Norman Podhoretz. His area of expertise includeamerican culture, religion and foreign policy. I have known Norman and his family,particularly I've known his wife for some 27 years, Midge Decter, who is just a fabulous,fabulous person in my own experience. Moreover Norman also has, Norman and Midgealso have a son. At least the son I know is John Podhoretz and who is an establishedjournalist very much in his own right and there's a wrinkle to that I'll explained in just aminute. Norman is the recipient of the presidential medal of freedom, which is thenation's highest civilian honor. At Hoover we actually were exposed again to this honorbecause on of our fellows Gary Becker, about a month ago received the same medal. It'san extraordinary achievement. Norman served as Editor-in-Chief of CommentaryMagazine for 35 years and is now it's Editor-at-large. The wrinkle is that his son John, istaking over the Editor-in-Chief position at this very influential journal. Norman haswritten hundreds of articles for most of the major U.S. Periodicals and has also written 11books. The most recent of which is World War Four, The long struggle against Islamo-Facism. I trust you found a copy of his book in your book bags. His comments thismorning will draw very much on his book. So would you please give a warm welcome toNorman Podhoretz.Thank you. Well I was delighted to discover that all of you received a copy of my bookand I bring to you the thanks of my publisher for these extra aded income. I don't seemany tired faces and giving signs of having stayed out up all night to read the book. So Iwill give you a bit of a taste of what is in store for you when you do read it and you areabsolutely duty bound to do so. It is mercifully short to put that way. So far as I know,World War Four, The long struggle against Islamo-Facism, is the first serious attempt toplaced what happened on 9/11 2001. The military campaigns that have followed it inAfghanistan and Iraq. And the war of ideas it has provoked at home placed into these allthe context of the role the United States has played in the world since 1940. In doingthese my purpose is to show that the war into which we were plunged six years agocannot be understood, let alone won, unless we faced up to the hard truth that it is a directsuccessor to the two world wars that immediately preceded it. That Afghanistan and Iraqare not wars In their own right but fronts with theaters in the larger struggle. And thatlike the cold war which in retrospect can now be seen more clearly as world war three.This new war world war four will in all probability go on for some three or four decades.For today in the monster with two heads, one religious and one secular that isaccordingly best described as Islamo-Facism. And the states breeding, sheltering andfinancing its terrorist armory. We are for the third time in some sixty years up against anaggressive, totalitarian force, murderous in respect to the liberal democratic world ofwhich we were in still are the leading part. Of course the first of these challenges came atus from the right in the form of Nazism and its Facist allies. And we took it on anddefeated it in world war two. The second came from the left in the form of communismas embodied most dangerously in the Soviet Empire and that one we took on anddefeated in world war three. Now we are confronted with a new totalitarian challengethat comes at us from a religious force that was born in the 7th century but that is thegreatest story of Bernard Louis has demonstrated, refashioned itself in the 20th century bytaking lessons in how to organize and operate politically first from the Nazis who movedin to the Middle East in the 1940's and then from the Soviets who replaced them in the1950's. It then went on to equiped itself with the technologies of the 21st century and it'snow striving mightily to add weapons of mass destruction to it's terrorist armory. Nowthere are those who claimed that the Islamo-Facist are so much less powerful than theirtotalitarian predecessors of world war two, world war three. That treating them asenemies in a great war actually dignifies them and wildy exaggerates the true dimensionsof the threat they pose. But the parodoxical truth is that is the Islamo-Facist are evenmore dangerous and more difficult to defeat than the nazis or the communist were. Theyhave as Daniel Pipes has pointed out, an ideology capable of appealing to muslims ofevery size and shape, from limping proletariat to privilaged, from illiterates to Phds, fromthe well-adjusted to psychopaths, from Yemenis to Canadians and even Pipes adds that ifwe assumed that the Islamo-Facists constitute only ten to fifteen percent of the muslimpopulation worldwide, they still number some 125 to 200 million persons or a greatertotal than all the dedicated facists and communists combined who ever lived. Not tomention that they have a possible access to nuclear weapons that they are only too readyto use against us. But the objective of the Islamo-Facists isn't merely to deploy theseresources in order to murder as many of us possible. Like the nazis and the communistsbefore them, they are by their own account dedicated to the destruction of the freedomswe cherished and for which America stands. It is these then that we in our turn no lessthan the greatest generation of the 1940's and its spiritual progeny the 1950's and afterhave a responsibility to uphold. Can we discharge that responsibility? Will we? Theanswer I argue in my book will depend at least upon the war being waged in what inworld war two was called the home front, as on the bloody battles being fought by ourarmed forces in the middle east. Unlike world war two which just about everyone inAmerica whole heartedly supported, but like world war three, when the domesticpolitical scene seeth with angry conflicts, world war four has given rise to a fierce battleof ideas on the home front. One side consist of those of us who see Islamo-Facism as thelatest mutation of the totalitarian threat to our civilization and who insist on thecorrelative necessity of meeting and defeating it by military means where necessary a ndby non-military instruments of power where possible. On the other side, stand those whothink that the threat is a mere criminal nuisance. Nuisance is actually a word that wasused by John Kerry. The nuisance that can be managed by the police and does not incase rise to the level of requiring a military response. In my judgement the question ofwhether and to what extent the american people of these generation and the next can orwill shoulder the burden that 9/11 has imposed on us, will ultimately be answered less bythe fortunes of our troops in the field than by the outcome of these ferocious war of ideasat home. To be sure the burden of fighting world war four differs from the onesAmericans were asked to shoulder in world war two and world war three in some ways,we today have it easier than the Americans who lived through those two wars. Rightly orwrongly and for better or worse, this time there is no draft, there are no shortages orrationings and taxes haven't been raised but on the other hand we have more cause to beanxious over the safety and security of our continental homeland which it cannot be saidto often, neither Hitler or Stalin ever managed to strike, let alone with the weapons ofmass destruction that the Islamo-Facist terrorists may well get their hands on before thiswar is over. Furthermore, because winning world war four will almost certainly take aslong as winning world war three did. Americans of these generation and the next arecalled upon to be far more patient than the greatest generation needed to be in world wartwo,in which the United States was involved for only four years. Then there's the area ofmorale, in the run up to our entry into world war two, a good deal of anti-war sentimentcame from isolationist and pacifist but hardly any of this survived the attack on Pearlharbor nor once we were in the war was there any visible or openly expressed defeatismnot even in response to actual defeats and we suffered many, especially in the early years.This happens when you get too old to remember your script. In world war three bycontrast, great bouts of defeatist sentiment did get arouse by critics both on the left, whothought we were being too aggressive and on the right who thought we were not beingaggressive enough. Defeatism was also reinforced by angry recriminations over whetherand or how this or that battle should have been fought. And the battles in dispute werenot only military as in Korea and to a much larger extent Vietnam, but also political as inthe passionate debates over arms control and detente. In addition there were ideologicalas over the question of whether the enemy was soviet expansionism in particular orcommunism in general or our own paranoid delusions. The first six years of world warfour have been marked by versions of all these features. But today thanks to cable tv andthe internet, the forces promoting defeatism have achieved far more power than they evercommanded in the past. We who believed in the absolute necessity of fighting andwinning world war four can complained all we like about the conditions that have bred somuch defeatism but these are the conditions under which world war four will have to befought if it's to be fought at all. And if it is to be fought at all, it will also have to befought by the kind of people Americans now are. Before the United States entered worldwar two, serious doubts were raised as to whether wa are a match for such disciplinedand fanatical enemies as Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. And in world war threeleading anti-communists like Wittiker Chambers and James Barnum were sure that welacked the stomach, the heart, the will and the wit to stand effectively against the truebelievers of the Soviet Union and it's allies and sympathizers. To Chambers we were thelosing side. And to Barnum we were very suicidal in our liberalweakness and folly. Theyturned out to be wrong because they and not they alone failed to anticipate as CharlesHorner of the Hudson Institute has put it, "Failed to anticipate the resiliency of theAmerican citizenry and its leadership". Today as we all know similar doubts and fearsare once again flying all over the place with even some who would like to believedotherwise, murmuring that we have all grown so soft, too self-indulgent and too selfabsorbed to meet an even more daunting challenge from an enemy who is so much readyto die for his beliefs than most of us are. It's also being said that we've grown socomplacent since 9/11 of 2001, that nothing, nothing short of another terrorist attack hereat home will shake us back into the realization that we are actually at war. Now it will befoolish to deny that there are some basis for such doubts and fears and yet it would surelybe just as foolish to repeat the mistake of Chambers and Barnum in failing to anticipatethe resiliency of the American citizenry and its leadership. As to the citizenry we onlyneed to point to the young Americans in uniform all volunteers who have been bearingthe heaviest burden of world war four. That their determination, their courage and theirlove of country, they are by all accounts a match and more than a match for theirforebearers of world war two and world war three. And who is to say that these youngpeople are less representative of America than such of their elders and contemporarieswho conspiciously lacked the same virtues. When however we turned to leadership theother factor was resiliency Chambers and Barnum underestimated. That's like harder toavoid, not that I contrary to most people if you can believe the polls have any doubtsabout the leadership of George W. Bush. In fact I believe that in significant respects inmy book, he bears a strong resemblance to Harry Truman whose ratings at this point inworld war three were even lower than Bush's but whose now universally regarded as agreat president. The reason is that Truman recognized the soviet threat when many wereblind to it. And he enunciated through the Truman doctrine a strategy known ascontainment for meeting that threat. This is precisely what George W. Bush has donethrough the Bush doctrine with regards to Islamo-Facism that is why I think that he toolike Truman will someday be recognized as a great president. I analyzed the Bushdoctrine in great detail in my book but I can summarized it here without too muchdistortion as a long range strategy designed to make the middle east safe for America bymaking it safe for democracy. With pre-emption as it's named military instrument anddemocratization as it's main long range political instrument. So far as resiliency goes agood measure of it is the buoyancy President Bush has exhibited even during the darkestdays of his presidency. At this moment with about 14 months left to him, he shows in hisconduct of the war none of the usual symptoms of lameduckerry and all the signs ofenergy and resolve. But he does have only 14 months to go and in speculating on whomight succeed him, that my own doubts begin to arise. Rudy Gulliani and FredThompson and Mit Romney are this point the republican front runners and if any of thembut especially Gulliani should win in 2008, chances are that the Bush doctrine willremained their guiding strategy. But supposed that a democrat should become presidentin 2008, what then? Here too in my book I looked back at Truman this time to see howhis doctrine fared while he was still in office and what happened to it after he left. Forthe moment it was first enunciated in 1947, the strategy of containment was flowedthrough the Truman doctrine exactly like the Bush doctrine of today was attacked fromthe right as well as from the left and if that was not enough from the center as well. Inthe election of 1948, Truman did the seemingly impossible task of confronting all thesechallenges and a few others as well. When against what every poll had predicted hesucceeded in warding them all off and defeating the republican candidate, ThomasDewey. He could reasonably claimed that the American people were behind the mainprinciples of his foreign policy. Even so enough bitter oppostion remain within andaround the republican party to leave it uncertain on whether containment was anAmerican policy or only the policy of the democrats. This uncertainy was exacerbatedby the presidential election of 1952. When the republicans choose Dwight D.Eisenhower as their candidate and the democrats went with Adley Stevenson becauseTruman had become so unpopular that he choose not to run. It was a campaign featuringstrident attacks on the Truman doctrine by Eisenhower's running mate, Richard Nixonand his future secretary of state John Foster Dulles. Nixon for example mocks Stevensonwho promised to continue on the course set by the Truman doctrine as a graduate of thecowardly college of communist containment presided over by Truman's secretary of stateDean Atcheson. While Dulles repeatedly called for ditching containment in favor of apolicy or rollback and liberation. Yet when Eisenhower came into office he hardlytouched the hair on the head of the Truman doctrine. Far from adapting a bolder andmore aggressive strategy, the new president ended the by then extremely unpopularKorean war on the basis of the status quo ante. In other words precisely on the terms ofcontainment. Even more telling was Eisenhower's refusal three years later to intervenedwhen the Hungarians apparently encouraged by the rhetoric of liberation still beingemployed in the broadcast of Radio Free Europe. When Hungarians rose up in revoltagainst their soviet masters, for better or worse this finally dispelled any lingering doubtas to whether containment was the policy just for the democratic party. With fullbipartisan support behind it, the Truman doctrine had become the official policy of theUnited States of America. If in January 2009 a democratic should be sworn in asPresident of the United States, will he or she as for once reality in the shape of HillaryClinton rather than political correctness demands that we add, will he or she likeEisenhower with respect to republican derision of the Truman doctrine in 1952 quietlyshelved the attacks of the democrats on the Bush doctrine. Will he or she then tacitlyacknowledged that there is no serious alternative to the strategy it prescribes other thanreturning to the law and order approach through which we dealt so ineffectively withterrorism before 9/11. And or submitting to the craven will of the Europeans and thecorrupts administrations of the United nations. Will he or she realized that no matter howsuch a shift might be dressed up and spun, it would and rightly be interpreted by ourenemies as cowardly retreat. Will he or she understand that the despotisms of the middleeast would once again feel free to offer sanctuary and launching pads to Islamo-Fascistterrorists? Will he or she realized that these terrorists would be emboldened to attack usagain and infinitely greater scale than before? And on the home front, will he or shecease and desist from raising false alarms about the treaths to civil liberties posed byprograms essential to protect us from just such terrorist attacks. Programs such as likethe surveillance of certain international phone calls or the tracking of bank accounts.Will he or she stop defining tortured down to the point where it becomes impossible toconduct any interrogation at all of captured terrorists. Thereby depriving us of theintelligence also necessary if future attacks are to be prevented. From the way thedemocrats have been acting and speaking especially since Bush's reelection in 2004, allthe answers to the above the questions would seem to be no. But is it too much to hopethat these denials are only the luxurious indulgencies of opposition. And that ademocratic president like the republicans after 1952, will be forced by awesomeresponsibility of power to forego them all and to take up where Bush have left off. Notthat if this were to happen a perfect bipartisan harmony would descend upon the nation.After all contrary to the rosy reminiscences on how it was then, not even the bipartisanconsensus that was reached after 1952 eliminated all discord, plenty of it remained as Ihave the scars to proved that it was periodically exacerbated by such reverses like the bayof pigs under Kennedy, Vietnam under Johnson, Nixon and Ford, Iran under Carter andIran Contra under Reagan. There was also a long stretch during which it looks as thoughour enemies were so strong and we so debilitated that many among us republicans noless than the democrats thought the best we could do was in effect to sue for negotiatedpeace. But God be thanked. But it would be ridiculous to contend that nothing changefor the better when communism landed on the very ash shape of history that Marks haspredicted would be the final resting place of capitalism. I suppose that we hang in longenough to carry World War IV to a comfortably successful conclusion. What will victorybring this time around. Well, to us it will bring the elimination of another and to say itagain in some respects greater threats to our safety and security. And because that threatcannot be eliminated without the use President's Bush's image draining the swamps inwhich in breeds, victory will also entail the liberation of another group of countries fromanother species of totalitarian tyranny. As we can already see from Afghanistan and Iraq,liberation will no more result in the overnight establishment of ideal conditions in theMiddle East than it has done is East Europe or Russia. But as an East Europe, betterthings will immediately happen and a genuine opportunity will be open up for even betterthings to come. Of course, many critics of the Bush doctrine question or totally reject theidea that democratization represents the best and perhaps even the only way to defeatIslamofascism and the terrorism that uses as it main weapon against us. What they askedif the Middle East is incapable of democratization and what if Islam as a religion is byit's very nature incompatible with democracy. This are hard questions that whichreasonable people can and do differ. But those of us who backed the Bush doctrine haveour own sets about the doubts of the doubters. Among other things, they seem to assumethat Arabs and/or Moslems are so different from the rest of their fellow human beingsthat they actually like being pushed around and repressed and beaten and kill by thugswhether dressed in military uniforms or wearing clerical gab. And for our part wewonder where the Moslems really do prefer this kind of life to the freedoms and thecomforts and the conveniences that we in the West take so totally for granted that we nolonger remember to be grateful for them. In defending the political component of thedoctrine, Victor David Hanson from whom we heard last night reminds us that thepolicies of the past did not bring stability to the Middles East and did not prevent 9/11.And he then goes on to argue that constitutional government or messy democracy is theone course that might someday and "Free Middle Easterners from kidnapping, suicidebombers, and dictators and sunglasses" while at the same time and these are my wordsnow freeing us from the global reach of the Islamic terrorism.In any event, Bernard Louis adds, we have no choice. Either, says Louis, we bring themfreedom or they destroy us. For those of us who support the Bush doctrine also takesissue with the view that democracy and capitalism can grow only in the soil that's beencultivated for centuries. We often point out that in the aftermath of World War II, theUnited States management in the single decade to transform both Nazi Germany andimperial Japan into capitalist democracies and in the aftermath of the defeatedcommunism in World War III a similar process got underway under it's own scheme, inCentral and Eastern Europe and even before Vladimir Putin slammed on the breaks inthe old heart land or evil empire itself. Why not we ask the muslim world.Listen again to Bernard Louis who says this about the common view that Islamic peopleare incapable of descent civilized government. Quoting Louis "It shows ignorance of theArab past, contempt with the Arab present and unconcerned with the Arab future. Aswith democratization so with the reform and modernization of Islam and considering, thiseven more difficult question, we who believe in the Bush doctrine find ourselves askingwhether Islam can really go on for all eternity resisting the kind of internal reformationand modernization that began within Christianity and Judaism in the early modern theory.Not that we are so naÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¯ve as to imagine that Islam can be reformed overnight of from theoutside. There is however at least the fighting chance that the clearing of the ground andthe sowing of the seeds out if which new political, economic and social conditions cangrow, will gradually give rise to correlative pressures from within of a religious nature.Such pressures will take the form of an ultimately irresistible demand on theologians andclerics to define warrants in the Koran and the Shariah under which it will be possible toremain a good Moslem while enjoying the blessings of descent government and even thepolitical and economic liberty. In this way, a course might finally be set towards thereform in modernization of the Islamic religion itself. But what about us here inAmerica. On what course are we now set.In his first state of the union address, President Bush tried to answer that question byaffirming that history and once again called America as he put it to fight freedom's fight.In this language, we can hear an echo of the concluding paragraph of George F.Kennings, SA written under the pseudonym X at the outbreak of World War III. Thethoughtful observer of Russian American relations will experience a certain gratitude forprovidence which by providing the American people with this implacable challenge asmade their entire security as a nation dependent on their pulling themselves together andaccepting the responsibilities of moral and political leadership that history plainlyintended them to bare.Substitute Islamofascism for Russian-American relations and every other word of thismagnificent statements applies to us as a nation today, but do we the American people ofthis generation have it in has to beat back the implacable challenge of islamofascism andas the greatest generation of World War II and taken on the Nazi and their factious alliedand as his children and grandchildren ultimately manage to do in confronting the SovietUnion and it's communist empire in World War III.Well, in spite of how bleak the prospects may look as of the end of November 2007, Ipersist in thinking that we do and that we will but only on one condition, only if those ofus who see the struggle against the islamofascism as a world war against the latest mutationof the totalitarian challenge to us civilization only if those of us who see it that way canprevail in the war of ideas here at home against those who never knew or have lost sightof or have lost heart in but we are fighting against, what we are fighting for and why wehave to win. It is as a contribution to that war of ideas that I wrote this book and Icommend it to you now.