Posted: November 28, 2001
hen "war is forced upon us," said Douglas MacArthur in his speech to a joint session of Congress in 1951, "there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War's very object is victory—not prolonged indecision. In war, indeed, there can be no substitute for victory."
With becoming eloquence, President George W. Bush has promised Americans that the terrorists will be brought to justice and that the "evildoers" worldwide will be defeated. Although they began this war on their terms, it will end, he assures us, on our terms and in a moment and manner that we shall dictate. Yet he has said very little about victory. What will be the shape of our victory?
After all, it is one thing to say that the war will end only when we say so. It is quite another to declare that it will end only when we have won. Though the war in Afghanistan goes well, President Bush admits that Afghanistan is but a single theater of this conflict, and not the decisive one, at that. So even as the fighting rages, the American mind turns naturally to the next question: What comes after Afghanistan? What actions would be decisive in this war? How shall we know when or if we have won?
These are not impertinent questions. On the contrary, these are strategic questions that must be answered if the American people are ultimately to have confidence in the war and in this administration. I don't doubt that President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and other gallant figures in the government intend to open a second and perhaps even a third theater of war after settling matters in Afghanistan. But many of our allies, not to mention U.S. congressmen and high-level administration officials, will oppose further measures. In fact, the more decisive the measures threaten to be, the more they will be opposed.
So as our initial contribution to the war effort, the Claremont Review of Books is proud to publish Angelo Codevilla's powerful, trenchant essay on what it will take to win this war on terrorism. Codevilla's reasoning is of the impatient Hamiltonian sort, familiar to all readers of The Federalist: who wills the ends must also will the means. Got it? A seasoned Washington veteran who now teaches international relations and political science at Boston University, he has a style that might be called take-no-prisoners, except that that would be an insult to his refined conscience and natural-law learning.
Who will win us this victory over our new enemies? The armed forces of the United States, that's who, but as Jean Yarbrough and Mac Owens explain, all is not well with our military. The aftereffects of Vietnam linger, sometimes in paradoxical ways. Even generals and presidents are caught up in them, as Owens recounts. All the while, contemporary society regards the military with a mixture of hostility, wonder, and indifference. Invited to address the cadets at West Point on the occasion of that institute's bicentennial, Yarbrough excogitated with a historical and philosophical guide to the American military's ethos, to its distinctive virtues and their place in our republican way of life. The CRB offers an excerpt which argues that despite the tensions between military and civilian life, there is cause for gratitude.
The term "terrorist" comes, appropriately enough, from the French Revolution. That phase of the French Revolution known as "The Terror" does not, it turns out, carry an invidious label imposed on it by contemporaneous or later enemies. "Terror" was a kind of slogan of the Robespierre faction, and the words terrorisme and terroriste probably originated as proud self-descriptions. Edmund Burke was the first or at any rate among the first to use the term in English, as a pejorative, of course. Harvey C. Mansfield takes off from this fact in his dazzling exposition of terror's significance in modern political thought.
Another writer, Osama bin Laden, address unknown, contributes his infamous fatwa proclaiming that individual Muslims everywhere have a duty to kill Americans anywhere. The indiscriminate murder of men, woman, and children, soldiers and civilians, called for by bin Laden is irrefutable proof that our was is a just war. Of such an enemy it is hard to tell, as Professor Mansfield observes, where the religious fanaticism leaves off and the nihilism begins. As additional evidence on this question, the CRB offers an eye-opening essay on the "72 black-eyed virgins," allegedly promised to Muslim martyrs in Paradise as a reward for their earthly sacrifice.
After exploring these and the many other delights of this issue, gentle reader, you may need a drink, or at least to read about a drink, and so we gladly serve up Walker Percy's memorable essay on bourbon. Drinking bourbon is one of those civilized pleasures that our enemies (and to be sure, some of our friends) deny themselves. All the more reason to enjoy it, we say. In moderation, of course.