Worldview: For the love of god and country

I once opined that no one can face a fiercer opponent than someone fighting for what they hold most dear.

We Americans, and really most Westerners, have a very romantic view of that idea. When we hear it, we see Spartans fighting at Thermopylae or Colonists fighting the Redcoats or Churchill exhorting the English to fight the Germans on the beaches.

Sure, there is that, but nobody said that what someone holds most dear has to be lovely or honorable in order for someone to be willing to die for it.

In fact, it is that very romantic fallacy that is causing us to lose the so-called War on Terror. What we’re failing to realize is that the fighters who have flocked to the likes of al Qaeda and al Shabbab and ISIS and their many brethren around the world fiercely love the variety of Islam they have embraced. They love it so much, they are willing to kill themselves trying to spread it and defend it.

Until we realize these people have embraced in harsh reality an ideal we have turned into fuzzy romance, we cannot beat them. It will never be enough to drop some bombs on the places they are currently hiding or to occupy the countries they happen to be operating from today. No, we have to attack the very foundations of what drives that ideology in the first place.

I understand that last notion is ugly and fraught with the potential for being cruel. As it turns out, so is our enemy.

DLH

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Worldview: 2010: The news that wasn’t

To me, 2010 was defined as much by what did not happen as by what did. It was an anxious year, one that could have been far worse or far better.

Last January 1, I endeavored to make several predictions about the coming year, an impossible task, yet an interesting intellectual exercise nonetheless. Let’s see how I did:

  • The Pakistani conflict with al Qaeda and the Taliban will come to a head: While the Pakistani government did not fall in 2010, the intensity of the country’s internal struggles increased to the point that the distinction between insurgency and civil war is almost irrelevant. The list of major terrorist events inside Pakistan is immense, and reminds me a lot of how Iraq looked in 2005 before the surge. Frankly, it is amazing that the national government managed to survive, and I suspect it owes a lot of its survival to the fact that it ceded control of broad swaths of the country to militants.
  • Iran will demonstrate its capacity to build and deliver a nuclear weapon: I was very surprised that this did not happen, but I think we can congratulate on thing for the fact that it did not: Stuxnet. The Stuxnet worm was a stroke of genius on some nation’s part that was more effective in hampering Iran’s nuclear progress than a thousand bombers could have been. Still, Iran is moving forward with its projects, including the potential of basing missiles in Venezuela capable of reaching the United States.
  • The war in Afghanistan will be revealed to be even more difficult than first officially acknowledged: I think I nailed this one, mostly because the Obama administration has demonstrated no resolve for winning this conflict directly. Coupled with the deep problems in Pakistan, Afghanistan looked increasingly dire in 2010, although there are signs victory is still within reach, especially now that General David Petraeus is in charge of the show.
  • A major terrorist attack against a Western nation will succeed: They did not fail for lack of trying. 2010 was full of attempts to attack the west that failed or were thwarted. The only thing that amazes me more than their lack of success was their apparent ineptitude.
  • Third party candidates will make significant inroads in the November general election: The Tea Party thwarted my hopes for the 2010 midterms as much as it did the Democrats. Perhaps it is not fair to just blame the Tea Party: American voters are creatures of habit, hence our 200-year-long two party system. That said, the next two years should be an entertaining political train wreck.

In a way, I guess some could say that the world turned out far better than I expected it to on 2010.

DLH

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