America: A Beacon, Not a Policeman       America: a Beacon, not an Empire

How Many Enemies Do We Want? (and UPDATE-9/11/2001

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How Many Enemies Do We Want?

By Joseph Sobran (who foresaw terrorist attack)

Washington, November 18, 1999  (and Updates, below, THE UNKNOWN ENEMY & THE SOLUTION IS PREVENTION

There is no popular demand for war with Iraq or anyone else, and President Clinton knows it. The pressure for war is coming from the usual quarters: those who, for various reasons, want the United States to dominate the Middle East.

    The op-ed hawks are framing the issue as whether Clinton has the character" (read:guts) to bomb Iraq. If there is one issue where he is vulnerable, it’s character. He is easy to caricature as a draft-dodging hedonist who lacks principle and courage. And the caricature requires only slight exaggeration. Clinton is no saint, and the kind of saint he least resembles is a martyr.

    As a young man, Clinton saw Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon devoured by a long, futile, unpopular war. That was Lesson One.

    Lesson Two came later. As a presidential candidate in 1992, Clinton faced a president who had just waged war on Iraq. It was the opposite of Vietnam: a short, popular war that cost few American lives and ended in overwhelming victory. During the campaign Clinton himself was widely derided for his evasion of military service and for his subsequent lies about it. Yet he won, and George Bush, a decorated war hero, lost.

    What Clinton learned from his own selection was that eve a successful war president can't count on re-election. At one point the polls had shown public support for the Gulf War at over 90 percent. Yet that support didn’t translate into electability for the commander-in-chief the following year.

    So the lesson of Iraq was added to the lesson Vietnam. What people will endorse passively is not the same thing as what they want passionately. Some of the op-ed warriors praised Bush for showing "leadership" in going ahead of the polls at an earlier phase, when those polls had shown most Americans reluctant to step up hostilities. Though the later polls swung in his favor, Bush’s support was shallow. His political fate proved that 90 percent verbal approval isn’t the same thing as 90 percent enthusiasm.

    From Clinton’s point of view, Nixon’s fate is the worst-case scenario and Bush’s is the best he could hope for. Furthermore, Bush was lucky. Nothing went wrong in his war, and he had enough sense to quit while he was ahead without toppling Saddam Hussein and trying to occupy Iraq, as some hawks had urged.

    Right now the elites within the Beltway are eager for war. The cries for "action" against Iraq (and Serbia, ed.) are deafening. Just this past weekend various talk-show panelists, liberal and conservative alike, called for everything from "carpet bombing" (Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio) to "ground troops" (William Kristol of the Weekly Standard). Leaders of both parties in Congress want Clinton to act – i.e., attack.

    Yet there is no grass-roots pressure for war. Most Americans don’t see their own welfare threatened by Saddam Hussein, however they may despise him. The European allies of the U.S. – more precisely, the ruling elites of Europe – don’t want war either; they dread the hostility of the Arab masses and the wider Muslim world. And they may be thinking that if Iraq is crippled, Iran will become the dominant power in the Middle East – in which case many of the same American voices who are demanding war with Iraq now will demand war with Iran later. Some of them have already named Iran as our chief enemy.

    How many enemies do we want? We have the power to make an unlimited number, provoking terrorist retaliation in the short run and who knows what in the years to come. And to what end? American military domination of the globe? Why is that desirable? What could it cost us? (italics ed.)

    As with Vietnam, the hawks are making it as awkward as possible for a president to behave with discretion and restraint. They threaten him with charges of cowardice if he retreats, while offering redemption if he attacks.

    The real question is whether Clinton will have the guts to endure being called a coward by people.

Copyright 1997, Universal Press Syndicate


The Unknown Enemy
September 11, 2001

by Joe Sobran

[Breaker quote: Why should anyone want to hurt us?]

  It was predictable. For years I've been writing that
the U.S. Government has been making more enemies than
Americans really need, all over the globe, and that one
of these days some of them would have a nasty surprise
for us.

  In fact it nearly happened a few years ago, when
Islamic radicals tried to blow up the World Trade Center.
But of course they made a botch of it and got caught.

  This time, though, someone pulled off what must have
been an extremely cunning conspiracy, a criminal feat for
the ages. They managed to execute a secret plan calling
for four simultaneous hijackings of airplanes. Those who
committed these coordinated deeds -- in spite of all
security measures -- also had the determination to die in
hitting their targets.

  This wasn't "terrorism." This was war. It wasn't a
random attempt to scare people with an arbitrary
atrocity, like the bombing of a pizza joint; it was a
serious attempt to kill as many people and do as much
material damage as possible at two strategic targets, the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

  But, as I write, hours after the attacks, we don't
know who is at war with us. We may never know. Who has
reason to hate this country? Only a few hundred million
people -- Arabs, Muslims, Serbs, and numerous others
whose countries have been hit by U.S. bombers.

  Imagine hating a country so much that you were
willing to cross an ocean and carry out an elaborate
revenge against its people, killing yourself in the
process. This is something far more than the sort of
ideological anti-Americanism that leads student mobs to
throw stones at U.S. embassies abroad; that's kid stuff.
This is an obsessive, fanatical, soul-consuming hatred.

  Foreigners aren't quite real to Americans, and most
Americans are unaware of how profoundly their government
antagonizes much of the human race. We are easy-going
people who generally have no idea how bullying we seem to
foreigners. Until now, we have had no experience of what
the U.S. Government has so often inflicted on others.
Now, at least, we have an inkling of what it feels like.

  Government spokesmen have responded with their usual
cant of "cowardly attacks" by "terrorists" who "hate
democracy and freedom." Rubbish. A fanatic who is ready
to die is the opposite of a coward, and nobody can "hate"
such abstractions as "democracy and freedom" with that
kind of intensity.

  It's dangerous to belittle your enemy, especially
when his courage and cunning have already proved as
formidable as his hatred and cruelty. The first question
you should ask about your enemy is why he is your enemy
in the first place.

  You may be deluding and flattering yourself if you
assume he hates you for your virtues. But our "leaders"
assure us that our enemies are unnaturally evil people
who hate us only because we are so wonderful. And they
manage to utter this nonsense with an air of tough-minded

  True realism, on the other hand, doesn't mean
blaming Americans for bringing these horrifying and truly
evil acts on themselves. It does mean trying to imagine
alien perspectives from which our government's conduct
might appear so intolerable that some people might be
driven to take atrocious revenge.

  "To understand all is to forgive all," says the
French aphorism. Not true. But understanding all can at
least teach you how to avoid making enemies, and avoiding
making enemies is the best defense -- better than a $300
billion "defense" budget that didn't defend the World
Trade Center.

  The great director Jean Renoir was once asked why
there were no villains in his films. He answered simply:
"Everyone has his reasons." Your bitterest enemy may have
his reasons for hating your guts. You may not think they
are good or sufficient reasons, but you'd better take
them into account. If he has any brains, he may find a
way to hurt you.

  The United States is now a global empire that wants
to think of itself as a universal benefactor, and is
nonplussed when foreigners don't see it that way. None of
the earlier empires of this world, as far as I know,
shared this delusion; the Romans, the Mongols, the
British, the Russians and Soviets didn't expect to rule
and to be loved at the same time. Why do we?


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> > For some problems, the only
> > "solution" is prevention.
  by Joseph Sobran,   10/10/01
> >
> >       My, my. Tempers after the 9/11 attack are
> > high, and I'm getting a lot of angry mail and
> > e-mail complaining about my negative and
> > unpatriotic attitude. Some of the more temperate
> > messages say that while my analysis may be correct,
> > as far as it goes, I don't offer useful "solutions"
> > for our present difficulty.
> >
> >       My analysis is the same one I've offered for
> > years, except that it may be too late to take my
> > advice. I've said our government's foreign policy,
> > especially in the Middle East, was asking for
> > trouble. Until a month ago, this was ignored. Now
> > that I turn out to have been quite right, some
> > people want me to explain how to get ourselves out
> > of trouble.
> >
> >       I really wish I knew. My point was that it's a
> > lot easier to avoid stepping into an abyss than to
> > climb out of it. It's a lot easier to avoid making
> > enemies than to defend yourself when they want to
> > kill you.
> >
> >       Let me put it another way. Suppose I warn you
> > that if you smoke, you may get cancer. You go ahead
> > and smoke; and sure enough, you get cancer. Then
> > you come to me and say, "Okay, you're so smart --
> > what's the cure for cancer?" I can only answer: "I
> > have no idea. If I knew of a cure, I wouldn't have
> > had to warn you, would I? I'd have told you to go
> > ahead and smoke, since if you got cancer I could
> > cure you."
> >
> >       The real irony of the situation is that Osama
> > bin Laden is essentially demanding that we live by
> > our own original principles. Not that he knows or
> > cares a whit for constitutional government, the
> > counsel of the Founding Fathers, and suchlike
> > infidel malarkey; but his demand for American
> > withdrawal from the Middle East would never have
> > been necessary if we had retained the modest
> > "republican form of government" that was bequeathed
> > to us. Instead the United States has become a
> > global empire.
> >
> >       And of course people like me are "anti-
> > American" for preferring the old constitutional
> > republic we've abandoned. And now, in order to
> > defeat bin Laden, we are moving, and moving
> > rapidly, even further away from a limited,
> > decentralized, constitutional system. By executive
> > order, President Bush has created a second
> > Department of Defense -- called the Office of
> > Homeland Security -- to do what the first
> > Department of Defense was supposed to do, but has
> > failed to do. And in today's parlance, a "patriot"
> > is an American who favors this unconstitutional
> > expansion of government power.
> >
> >       We are told that bin Laden hates freedom and
> > democracy. But he didn't ask us to ignore the Bill
> > of Rights, and specifically the Ninth and Tenth
> > Amendments; our own government, with popular
> > support, has been doing that on its own initiative.
> > It's been doing it for a long time, but in wartime
> > the process accelerates.
> >
> >       So no, I don't have a solution. I knew how to
> > prevent an incurable disease; but, as I say, it may
> > be too late for that. The last thing most Americans
> > want to do now is to restore the original
> > constitutional republic, with severely limited
> > powers, and with neither a huge welfare state at
> > home nor a military colossus abroad.
> >
> >       Does this mean "blaming America first"? I
> > don't blame the U.S. Constitution, which, if
> > adhered to, would have kept us out of the Middle
> > East cauldron that has now scalded us. I don't
> > blame ordinary Americans, who hardly know what
> > their government is and does. I don't even blame
> > our present government for the crimes of bin Laden
> > and his allies; the blood of thousands is on their
> > heads.
> >
> >       But I certainly do blame our arrogant, short-
> > sighted elites for putting this country on a
> > collision course with simple-minded fanatics who
> > don't distinguish between the innocent and the
> > guilty. It was foreseeable and avoidable, on our
> > own founding principles -- principles to which our
> > elites have no more attachment than bin Laden does.
> >
> >       The question now is whether the war on
> > Afghanistan will solve the problem or make it even
> > worse. It may destroy bin Laden and weaken his
> > network, without (if we're lucky) creating a wider
> > war and making us more enemies in the future; but
> > even if it succeeds in its immediate aims, it
> > certainly won't take this country back toward
> > constitutional government. It's already doing just
> > the opposite.
> >
> > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> >
> > Copyright (c) 2001 by the Griffin Internet
> > Syndicate, All rights reserved.
> >