Superpower vulnerability

Henry C K Liu

This article appeared in AToL on  December 14, 2005

That the US is now the world's sole remaining superpower is above challenge. This status has affected the United States' approach to formulating foreign and domestic policies in the post-Cold War era.

In foreign policy, the US has been operating on the basis that its national values have been validated by triumph in the Cold War and that its resultant sole-superpower status now earns it both the moral right and the military means to spread such values over the whole world. Resistance to such self-righteous values is now deem evil by US moral imperialism, in need of elimination not by persuasion but by force. This new approach has made the world less safe than it was during the Cold War, the end of which briefly entertained a false hope for a new age in which a world with only one superpower could thereafter live without war, hot or cold. Instead, the world has been plunged into successive holy wars of imperialistic moral conquest by the sole remaining superpower, bringing escalating terrorist attacks on to the US homeland. The impact on domestic policy from terrorist threats has in turn been the wholesale suspension of civil liberties in the name of homeland security.

Such holy wars of moral imperialism cannot be blamed entirely on neo-conservatives in the second Bush administration. While the two wars on Iraq were initiated by the two pere et cie Bush administrations that sandwiched eight years of Clinton rule, the Bosnia and Kosovo wars were the handiwork of Clinton administration neo-liberals. The faith-based foreign policy of George W Bush echoes the value-based interests of the foreign policy of Bill Clinton, such as the grandiose aim of enlarging democracy by force around the world and preventing mass starvation and ethnic genocide by spilling more blood.

The Balkans adventure

The US under Clinton sent troops into Bosnia-Herzegovina with a host of policy delusions, such as revitalizing an outmoded North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to perpetuate European security dependence on the US, ending a local war that could spill beyond the borders of Croatia and Serbia, establishing a closer relationship with the Russian military, demonstrating that the US was willing to use its super military power to spread its national values overseas even though the security of the US was not threatened and neutralizing domestic criticism of amorality in a foreign policy based of realpolitik.

The wary US military demanded and received clear rules of engagement toward these flamboyant political objectives, allowing soldiers who were attacked, or threatened with attack, field authority to respond with lethal force quickly and massively; exempting the military from having to perform jobs of refugee resettlement, monitoring elections, controlling civilian traffic, supplying food, clothing, fuel or other basic needs to the civilian population; no hard time lines for moving forces into Bosnia, hence allowing the military to enter slowly with deliberation and in the safest possible way; committing to a clearly defined departure date (December 1996) for military forces; limiting the mission to peacekeeping and not peace enforcement and, if there were major attacks on the Implementation Force, US forces would withdraw; a solid understanding that "mission creep" would be firmly resisted; provision of the best of the newest equipment to US forces on the ground, in the air and on the sea, and the State Department arrangement for military cooperation from neighboring states, especially Hungary, Albania, Croatia and Serbia.

In fact, the US military served notice that it was the wrong tool for achieving the administration's limited-war political objectives. It was a perfectly appropriate position. The US military is arguably the best in the world, best led, best equipped and best trained. But its performance and morale are steadily eroded by assignments to missions that are best handled by non-military means. When a well-oiled machine is use inappropriately, both the machine and the task suffer. The experience in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a nation that existed only in the imagination of US ideologue policymakers, should have served as a clear warning for Kosovo and Iraq. It was Bosnia that "animated our policy towards Kosovo", Nicholas Burns, US ambassador to Greece, told Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the conservative Cato Institute. Even though the United States spent US$12 billion and occupied Bosnia for more than three years, Clinton's arm-twisting Dayton scheme was a policy failure. To this date, nationalist Serbs continue to dominate local politics and refugees are not returning home. There is little home-grown economic growth. The kind of democracy being introduced by the US "more represents Boss Tweed than George Washington" as the US and its NATO allies force Bosnians to live under a government that represents none of them. Internecine local conflicts always have a longevity that exceeds the US political attention span.

Bandow testified on March 10, 1999, before the House International Relations Committee hearing on "The US Role in Kosovo" that the Clinton administration attempted to impose "an artificial settlement in Kosovo with little chance of genuine acceptance by either side". A US diplomat in Belgrade was reported to have said: "If you're a Serb, hell yes, the KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army] is a terrorist organization." Even moderate ethnic Albanians admit that the KLA had targeted Serb police officers and other government employees, any Serbs viewed as abusing Kosovars, as well as Albanian collaborators. Each cycle of violence spawned more deadly violence. Belgrade understandably accused the US of aiding and abetting terrorists in Kosovo directly but remotely from Washington.

Intervention in Kosovo was even more perverse than in Bosnia. US secretary of state Madeleine Albright warned: "We are not going to stand by and watch the Serbian authorities do in Kosovo what they can no longer get away with doing in Bosnia." She announced that the US reserved the right to take unilateral action against the Serbian government, saying, "We know what we need to know to believe we are seeing ethnic cleansing all over again." Not only did the US and its NATO allies have no workable plan behind their intervention of moral imperialism, Washington's proposal for autonomy status satisfied no one and required yet another interminable occupation, as the opposing sides remained determined to continue fighting. The conflict in Kosovo is a complex clash of mutually exclusive claims, a conflict between political/cultural legitimacy principle and demographic principle, which is aggravated by conflicting historical grievances.

For more than six years, the small Balkan province of Kosovo was the victim of an ambitious but futile nation-building experiment by the US, implemented by a United Nations mission exercising dictatorial authority to implement democracy, backed by a NATO-led "peacekeeping" force, in a region torn by decades of bitter, bloody ethnic clashes between an ever more assertive Albanian majority and an isolated Serb minority. Originally, nation-building referred to the efforts of newly independent nations to mold former colonial territories carved up by colonial powers without regard to ethnic or natural boundaries into viable and coherent national entities. Nation-building has come to be used by the US since the end of the Cold War in a completely different context from its original meaning, with reference to what has been succinctly described by James Dobbins, former special envoy for Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, as "the use of armed force in the aftermath of a conflict to underpin an enduring transition to democracy". Nation-building is lauded as "the inescapable responsibility of the world's only superpower".

At the cost of about $1.3 billion a year, some 11,000 international civil servants and police officers have been trying to nation-build by constructing new make-believe ministries, an ineffectual parliament, corrupt local councils, a demoralized bureaucracy, dysfunctional courts, foreign-controlled customs and a militarized police force that answers to foreign commands, as well as new media orchestrated to spread pro-West propaganda. The region remains in economic depression as the poorest part of the Balkans, and the least stable. Enmity between the Serbs and Albanians continues to run deep. Estimates of unemployment range from 30-70%. The regional government is bankrupt, and the economy continues to shrink every year. Such are the gifts of US moral imperialism. The same pathetic fiasco appears to be repeating itself in "democratic" Iraq, which is expected to slide into civil war as soon as US forces withdraw.

Nuclear power

Iraq's strategic error was its premature geopolitical neutrality. Had Iraq placed itself under the protection of a nuclear power prior to achieving its own independent nuclear capability, it would not have been invaded by anyone. The tragedy of Iraq was not that a weak non-nuclear power was invaded arbitrarily by the sole superpower, but that the world order of sovereign states failed structurally to preserve the sanctity of sovereignty. Other nuclear powers in the system failed to preserve the principle of sovereignty by protecting a helpless, small non-nuclear state from naked aggression on flimsy pretext by the sole nuclear superpower.

Whereas nuclear-arms control and non-proliferation during the Cold War were complementary regimes to prevent a world-destroying nuclear exchange between two superpowers, such regimes since the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have been modified by the US agenda of depriving an "axis of evil" of an effective nuclear deterrence against US military coercion. The invasion and occupation of Iraq were based on a pretext of eliminating the proven existence of weapons of mass destruction, not just suspected programs to produce such weapons. The fact that no such weapons were found after the invasion was dismissed as immaterial. The issue was that Iraq could be logically expected to require nuclear weapons and could have had such weapons if it had not been invaded. "Better safe than sorry" was the modus operandi of indiscriminate preemption, notwithstanding that the logic to require nuclear weapons on the part of small nations is traceable to a belligerent US militaristic policy of preemption.

US nuclear-arms policy echoes century-old US societal values toward gun ownership. Extremists on the US political spectrum regularly argue that guns do not kill people; evil people, or criminals, kill people. Thus anyone the US considers unfit to claim the natural right to own guns must first be labeled evil. Extending the same logic, nuclear weapons do not kill; evil governments do. This peculiarly American rationale extends to US posture on nuclear proliferation. World safety is not threatened by US possession of nuclear weapons because US values by definition are righteous. The United States now possesses 10,300 warheads, 20 times the total number possessed by all the other six nuclear powers besides Russia. While the US has reduced its arsenal of warheads from 150,000 to 10,300, the TNT tonnage of destruction power with bigger warheads still commands the equivalent of 120,000-130,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs. The US nuclear arsenal is designed not merely for massive destruction to win a war, but total destruction of all opponents to rid the world of evil.

A 1998 study ("Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940" by Stephen Schwartz) ranks US nuclear-weapons spending against all other federal government spending from 1940-96, as documented by the Office of Management and Budget. During this period, the US spent nearly $5.5 trillion on nuclear weapons and weapons-related programs in constant 1996 dollars. Non-nuclear-related national defense totaled $13.2 trillion. Social Security, at $7.9 trillion, is not government spending per se but funds collected from payroll taxes and redistributed to older citizens or placed in the trust fund. Nuclear-weaponry spending over this 56-year period exceeded the combined total federal spending for education; training, employment, and social services; agriculture; natural resources and environment protection; general science, space, and technology; community and regional development (including disaster relief); law enforcement; and energy production and regulation (including nuclear energy). Such non-military spending is the center of US core values, and the influence of the US would have been enhanced with better funding. On average, the United States has spent $98 billion a year on nuclear weapons, or $1.40 per capita per day, while more than 20% of the world's people live on less than $1 per day.

By investing its $162 billion trade surplus (2004) with the US in US sovereign debt, China alone provides enough credit to finance the US nuclear arsenal which someday may be used against China, a card-carrying evil nation on account of its being communist.

The US has steadfastly refused to adopt a no-first-use commitment on nuclear weapons. Yet it presumes the God-given right to attack any nation with the suspected intention to develop nuclear arms. Non-proliferation has been distorted by US machination into a counterproductive regime. The US policy of indiscriminate preemption now encourages all nations to try to achieve nuclear capability as soon as possible, for the danger of attack from the US resides in the window of the defenseless vulnerability between planned acquisition and actual possession, as only non-nuclear nations are at risk from US superpower conventional forces with counterstrike immunity to the US itself, except via terrorist attacks.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace estimates that Israel now possesses between 100 and 170 nuclear warheads, but Israel is a client state of the US and thus enjoys immunity from non-proliferation sanctions. With Iraq and Libya disarmed of official nuclear-weapon intentions, the Arab world now is nuclear-free, at least temporarily, but the Middle East is not, with as many as 170 nuclear warheads in the Israeli arsenal. Nuclear-arms-control scholastics dictates that nuclear deterrence only works with parity between antagonists. While the Arab-Israeli conflict remains basically unresolved, the absence of nuclear weapons on the Arab side is highly destabilizing to regional peace through the doctrine of deterrence. Peace is the inevitable victim of power imbalance.

The fact is that all weapons of mass destruction are inherently evil, regardless of who owns them. And the nation that uses weapons of mass destruction first is evil beyond redemption. For the sole superpower that has used such weapons twice with the flimsiest excuses and has since jealously guarded its right to first use against all others to deny the right of allegedly evil target nations to possess nuclear weapons is hypocrisy of the highest order.

Arms control as an international regime is the enemy of disarmament. Non-proliferation is a selective regime than applies only to non-nuclear nations. The world is not safe unless and until universal nuclear disarmament comes into full effect.

The award of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize to the International Atomic Energy Agency and its chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, whom the Bush administration had recently tried but failed to remove from his post, is an indication of the disconnect between US nuclear policy and world opinion. ElBaradei expressed pre-invasion skepticism over the non-proliferation pretext of US invasion of Iraq and he has declined to support the US claim that Iran is secretly implementing a program to produce nuclear weapons. Echoing world opinion, ElBaradei said: "The Prize recognizes the role of multilateralism in resolving all of the challenges we are facing today. It will strengthen my resolve and that of my colleagues to continue to speak truth to power." He might have said "superpower".

Crusades, then and now

Basic to US national values are individual freedom and democracy, which the US now aims to spread around the world even though the current manifestation of such values is hardly recognizable from their original form. These values are not abstract concepts with natural universality. The US view of freedom and its version of democracy are deeply and fundamentally rooted in its unique historical conditions, which are far from universally shared. The global propagation of such values amounts to nothing more than moral imperialism. And the authority to decide which sovereign nation in the world order of sovereign nations is evil has not been granted to the US by any global democratic process. Such awesome authority has been usurped by the US on the basis of military and economic power, and is not accepted by others around the world, especially those who have been arbitrarily accused of being evil.

No one outside of the US voted for the US president to represent them. A sizable number of the world's citizens consider the US president evil by the nature of US policies. As a universal principle of democracy, the critics of the United States have as much right to their opinion as US policymakers have about the morality of other nations. The US invasion of Iraq was not sanctioned by world public opinion or even by the United Nations. The US forgets that the world organization is called "United Nations", not "United Nation" led by a superpower, the way the US federal government often forgets that the name of the country is "United States", not "United State" led by a strongman. In fact, US unilateralism and intolerance of legitimate dissent are the reasons there is rising anti-US reaction around the world.

The US is now pursuing a foreign policy that harks back to the medieval rite of trial by ordeal based on the principle of might is right. This militarized strategy of imposing US national values on alien societies by force is rationalized by the empty promise of permanent peace, since nations of similar values are supposed to be less likely to resort to armed conflict to settle their differences. This view has not been validated by actual events.

Throughout history, nations of similar faith and values have gone to war against one another not over ideological differences, but to engage in power struggles and to settle territorial or economic disputes, even after an external common enemy has been identified. The Christian Crusades against Islamic lands were clear examples. Even with Islam identified as a common enemy, the Crusades failed to unit the European Christians, who continued to war among themselves. The current US crusade to make the world safe for freedom and democracy in its own image is a dangerous delusion of grandeur. Like all crusades in the past, this one will also cause great destruction and misery for no redeeming purpose.

Global terrorism shares common operational tactics, but the strategic political aims of terrorism in every country threatened by it are unique, as are the conditions that bring them about. There is no common goal or solution for global terrorism. All terrorisms have localized causes and localized solutions; only the tactics are universal.

The historical Crusades were a long series of expeditionary military campaigns with a religious pretext sanctioned by the popes that took place during the 11th through 13th centuries. They began as Catholic endeavors to capture from the Muslims holy Jerusalem, which the Christians had never controlled politically in their entire history, even during Jesus' triumphant entry into the city almost two millennia ago. The Crusades developed into extensive territorial wars devoid of Christian morals.

The Crusades gave birth to nationalism in Europe that subsequently plunged the world into the Napoleonic Wars and the two World Wars of the 20th century. They allowed the papacy to consolidate its systematic dominion over the then known world. They demoralized the Crusaders rather than saving the souls of those against whom they crusaded. They changed Christian Europe more than the Islamic Middle East. They weakened Christianity more than Islam.

George W Bush's new crusade against Islamic terrorism may also change the US more than the rest of the world, and not toward more freedom and democracy. When his crusade against evil finally ends, Hamiltonian capitalism, like feudalism of the old Crusades, may well subside if not disappear from the US, and a new Jeffersonian economic democracy aspired to by the founders of the nation may see a revival.

The Crusades failed in all three of their geopolitical objectives. The European Christians failed to win the Holy Land. They also failed to check the global advance of Islam. They failed to heal the schism between the East and the West in the Christian world by focusing on a common foe. Eastern Orthodox Christians saw the Crusades as attacks also on them by the Western Church of Rome, especially after the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade. Despite the fact that they also belonged to Western Christianity, countries in Central Europe were the most skeptical about the idea of Crusades. Many cities in Hungary were sacked by passing Crusader armies. Poland and Hungary were subjected to conquest from the Teutonic Crusaders. It is likely that the US "war on terrorism" will also fail in all its geopolitical objectives.

There is symmetry between crusade and jihad. In the Islamic world, the term "jihad" has positive connotations that include a much broader meaning of general personal and spiritual struggle, while the term "crusade" has negative connotations of institutional aggression. In truth, the Crusaders committed atrocities not just against Muslims but also against Jews and even other Christians. The saintly objectives of the Crusades were transformed into causes of great evil. As a school of practical religion and morals, the Crusades were no doubt disastrous for most of the Crusaders. The campaigns were attended by all the usual demoralizing influences of war and the long sojourn of armies in enemy territory. The occupation of Iraq is having the same demoralizing effect on the US military.

The vices of the crusading camps were a source of deep shame in Europe, as the obscene abuses of the US occupation forces in Iraq are a source of shame in the US. Popes lamented them. Like Robert McNamara, who almost single-handedly led the US into a quagmire of fantasy escalation to win an unwinnable war in Vietnam and later confessed his errors and regrets in public long after retirement, Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) exposed the evils of the Crusades long after he preached in favor of a Second Crusade. At Easter 1146 at Vezelay, Bernard preached his sermon in front of King Louis VII of France, who became inspired to take up the cross and spent the years 1147-49 conducting the Second Crusade. Many writers have since set forth the fatal mistake of those who were eager to make a conquest of the earthly Jerusalem while forgetful of the City of God as annunciated by Saint Augustine. "Many wended their way to the holy city, unmindful that our Jerusalem is not here." So wrote the English writer Walter Map (c 1104-c 1210) after Saladin's victories in 1187. Similarly, it is a travesty of truth to claim that democracy can be born of a regime change forced on any nation by a foreign power. The bogus democratic governments that the US sets up in conquered lands are the most effective arguments against democracy.

The schism between the East and the West was widened by the insolent action of the crusading popes in establishing Latin patriarchates in the East and their consent to the establishment of the Latin empire over Constantinople. The institutional memory of the indignities heaped upon Greek emperors and ecclesiastics has not faded completely even now. Another evil of the Crusades was the deepening of the contempt and hatred in the minds of the Mohammedans for the doctrines of Christianity. The savagery of the Christian crusading soldiers, their unscrupulous treatment of alien property, and the bitter rancor in the crusading camps were a disgraceful spectacle that left a lasting and bitter image for the peoples of the East.

While the Crusades were still in progress, conscientious objection was made in Western Europe that they were not followed by spiritual fruits, but that on the contrary, the Saracens, who had invaded France in the 8th century and occupied Sicily from the 9th to the 11th century, had been converted to blasphemy rather than to the true faith. The cronyism and profiteering that now permeate the reconstruction of Iraq make mockery of free markets and democratic processes. The systemic persecution of Islamic clerics by the US occupation in Iraq and elsewhere will leave a gulf of hate between Muslims and Christians for generations to come.

The Crusades gave occasion for the rapid development of the system of papal indulgences, which became a dogma of the medieval theologians. The practice, once begun by Urban II at the very outset of the movement, was extended further and further until indulgence for sins was promised not only for the warrior who took up arms against the Saracens in the East, but for those who were willing to fight against Christian heretics in Western Europe. Indulgences became a part of the very heart of the sacrament of penance, and did incalculable damage to the moral sense of Christendom. To this evil was added the exorbitant taxation levied by the popes and their emissaries. Matthew of Paris, an English historian and a monk of St Albans, in his Chronica majora complained of this extortion for the expenses of the Crusades as a stain upon that holy cause. Similarly, the financial drain from the "war on terrorism" acts as a cancer in the US economy and forces supply-side theologians to accept fiscal deficits as patriotic dogma while drastically cutting social programs at home to reduce government spending.

The spell of ignorance and narrow prejudice that separates civilizations can only be broken with extended peaceful interaction. Peace alone will open a new horizon of thought, and within that horizon, institutions and aspiration of a new civilization of diversity would be nurtured from reason and human commonality. The modernity that liberated the West from its dark ages, which some Western scholars accuse the Muslim world of lacking, was in no small way inspired by exposure to Eastern cultures. After the lapse of six centuries and more, the Crusades still have their stirring negative lessons of wisdom and warning that the Bush team and subsequent US leadership would do well to examine.

War games

This mentality of superpower moral imperialism is not unique to the United States. History is a long parade of such collective self-righteous human afflictions. The US is merely the latest manifestation. Yet there are some aspects of US moral imperialism that are unique.

The US was born of a secessionist movement from an emerging British Empire. The national psyche of the young nation was molded from a deliberate rejection of the societal values of the Old World. The idea of a United States was inspired by new ideals of liberty, individualism and anti-statism. The new society was the child of 18th-century liberalism with the promise of a new world that was expected to be free of feudal hierarchy and superstition. In that sense, the evolution of the US into another old-style superpower in the super-statist mode is a momentous disappointment in history, rather than the end of history. The US has failed the promise of a New World in a new age. It has evolved into a superpower in military force wrapped around an underdeveloped society in moral strength. The threat to the founding ideals of the United States from the "war on terrorism" is greater than that from terrorism itself.

The reasons for this moral failure are complex. Yet much has to do with the experiential void on the real horrors of war on the part of the US public. The US had been exempt from the destructiveness of war on its homeland until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, with the exception of the War of 1812.

Pearl Harbor was a precision attack on a US military base on an overseas island territory. At the time of its attack, Hawaii was not yet a state, but a colony with a less odious label. Most Americans then viewed Hawaii as not much different than the Philippines, a US colonial outpost in the Pacific. The Japanese attack brought on a response to damaged national pride that led directly to US participation in World War II not because the survival of the United States had been threatened by a Germany at war in Europe, but because US military assets in a US overseas island colony were attacked and destroyed by a Japan that had viewed a US oil embargo against it as an overt act of war that left Japan with less than three months of oil supply.

The Japanese militarists had wrongly calculated that US losses of Pacific naval assets in the Pearl Harbor attack would force the United States to accept a Japanese sphere of influence in Asia until it could rebuild its Pacific Fleet, at which time Japan could reach naval parity with the US. Had the Japanese delayed the Pearl Harbor attack by a year, the history of Europe might have been very different, as Britain might not have survived German aggression without direct US intervention. Or if the technology of war had extended the distance of force projection to overcome the oceans to neutralize the safe-haven protection of the US mainland, World War II might have turned out differently, without uninterrupted US war productivity.

Today, the US is no longer a natural safe haven from attacks of all kinds protected by two oceans. Yet US policies continue to act as if such vulnerability does not exist and that the United States can handle any threats to its national survival.

The fact that US civilian experience of war has been limited largely to movies that depict death and displacement of foreign civilians and widespread destruction of cities on foreign lands tends to reinforce the fantasy in the United States that the missionary spread of righteousness US values by military means can be a risk-free endeavor. US soldiers went to war overseas in the secure milieu of a military institution and experienced war as a highly structured game, much like the game of professional football or hockey, albeit massively more bloody. The war dead came home in sanitized flag-draped coffins and the survivors came home well scrubbed in fresh uniforms to partake in victory parades on Memorial Day. Docudramas on battles of the previous wars are played on television as entertainment, in locales that are exotic beyond the realm of discourse.

Hollywood celebrated the mujahideen as freedom fighters against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in an endless supply of B-movies. When the Soviets left Afghanistan in disarray in 1989, the communist government remained in power in Kabul, but soon regional factions led by local mujahideen supported by the US began fighting one another trying to replace it. In 1992, the government in Kabul fled, and a terrible fight between different warlords destroyed most of the city. This continued also when the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996.

The Saudi Wahhabi movements played a key role in recruiting volunteers to fight in the Balkans. According to Yossef Bodansky, director of the US Congress' Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, the war in Chechnya had been planned during a secret summit of HizbAllah International held in 1996 in Mogadishu, Somalia. Michael Moran, MSNBC's international editor, wrote on August 24, 1998, that "at the CIA, 'blowback' is the term that describes an agent, an operative or an operation that has turned on its creators. Osama bin Laden, our new public enemy No 1, is the personification of blowback. And the fact that he is viewed as a hero by millions in the Islamic world proves again the old adage: reap what you sow." The US did not turn against the Taliban until bin Laden went to Afghanistan. Clinton sent a missile to try to kill him.

The disastrous Battle of Mogadishu on October 3, 1993, has been memorialized in the hit action movie Black Hawk Down as a tribune to battlefield bravery and camaraderie. There was an unspoken assumption that bombs only fell on people who speak strange languages and cities with exotic architecture. Accordingly, US society as a whole felt safe enough to construct a social fabric that views government as an intrusion, collective efforts as a violation of individualism, with a naive faith that most problems can be better solved by market forces and those that cannot, voluntarism can handle well enough.

The forgotten war

The War of 1812 was a forgotten war for good reasons. That war was the only war fought on US soil, in the course of which Washington, DC, was sacked by British forces. That is a reality that the United States does not want its citizens to remember, lest such memories fan pacifism. The immediate origins of the war were foreign seizure of US ships, insults and injuries to US seamen by the British navy, and British interference on rapid western expansion of the US frontier.

British outrages at sea took two distinct forms. One was the seizure and forced sale of US merchant ships and their cargoes for allegedly violating the British blockade of Europe. Although France had declared a counter-blockade of the British Isles and had also seized US ships, England was the chief offender because its navy had greater command of the seas. The second, more insulting outrage was the capture of men from US vessels for forced service in the Royal Navy. The pretext for impressment was the search for British deserters who, the British claimed, had taken employment on US vessels. The British seized 1,000 US ships, the French about 500. Between 1803 and1812, British captains took more than 10,000 US citizens to man British ships.

As with the Iraq war of 2003, the US entered the War of 1812 with confused objectives and divided domestic loyalties and finally had to made peace without settling any of the issues that had originally induced the nation to go to war. Yet unlike the holy wars of the past decade, the War of 1812 had its roots in upholding the nation's right to international commerce amid great-power conflicts.

Beginning in 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte's Continental System clashed with the 1807 British Orders in Council, establishing embargoes that made international trade precarious. The maritime war between Britain and France was a great opportunity for neutral trade. Exports from the US rose from $20 million in 1790 to $140 million by 1807. The outbreak of war in Europe in 1793 saw the British government gradually enforcing increasingly rigorous policies toward neutral trade. To counter British naval superiority, France had opened its colonial ports, which had been closed before the war, to neutral trade. Britain pledged to put an end to all neutral trade. The US held that if a ship was neutral, the goods on board were also neutral, hence the slogan "Free ships make free goods." Britain on the other hand followed its Rule of 1756, a policy the US had accepted as part of Jay's Treaty of 1795, which held that neutrals could not in wartime engage in trade that had been prohibited during peacetime.

As the US after World War II has since done, restricting trade was a policy that Britain had long used to destroy an enemy's commerce. Once war was declared on post-revolutionary France, Britain again undertook a maritime war against French commerce. The renewal of the trade war after the breakdown of the Peace of Amiens put the whole of the carrying trade to Europe into the hands of neutrals. Britain decided to end this trade with blockades and ever more rigorous orders in council.

Orders in council issued on May 16, 1806, known as the "Fox Blockade", put the coast of Europe from the Elbe in Germany to Brest in France, a distance of almost 1,300 kilometers, in a state of blockade. In response Napoleon, in his Berlin Decree of November 21, 1806, declared the British Isles in "a state of blockade, forbade all correspondence or trade with England, defined all articles of English manufacture or produce as contraband, and the property of all British subjects as the lawful prize of war". Britain retaliated with more stringent orders in council. The orders of January 7, 1807, prohibited coastal trade with France and its allies. Those of November banned neutrals from trading with ports from which British ships were prohibited; only by going through a British port, and paying duties and obtaining a license, could a neutral trade with an open European port. British prime minister Spencer Perceval (1809-12) explained, "The object of the orders in council was not to destroy the trade of the Continent, but to force the Continent to trade with us."

From 1803-07 the British seized 528 US-flagged ships, while the French seized 206 between 1803 and the end of 1806. Maritime trade for neutrals was profitable but increasingly dangerous.

The US under president Thomas Jefferson responded to these restrictions on trade by passing the Embargo Act of December 1807, prohibiting US ships from trading with Europe and banning the importation of manufactured goods from Britain. The embargo was repealed in March 1809 and replaced by a Non-Intercourse Act, opening trade with all but France, Britain and their colonies. "Our lot happens to have been cast in an age when two nations to whom circumstances have given a temporary superiority over others, the one by land, the other by sea," Jefferson commented. "Degrading themselves thus from the character of lawful societies into lawless bands of robbers and pirates, they are abusing their brief ascendancy by desolating the world with blood and rapine. Against such a banditti, war had become less ruinous than peace, for then peace was a war on one side only." It is an attitude that Islamic terrorism shares today about the US.

Jefferson's embargo was especially unpopular in New England, where merchants preferred the national indignities of impressment to the halting of overseas commerce. (Corporate America today is similarly showing signs of increasing unhappiness with confrontational US foreign policies.) This discontent contributed to the calling of the Hartford Convention during the War of 1812 to consider the sentiments of New England.

Prior to the war, New England Federalists had opposed the Embargo Act of 1807 and other trade-restricting government measures. Many of them continued to oppose the government after fighting had begun. The Federalist Party was the first anti-war party in the history of the United States. Although manufacturing fostered by trade restriction on manufactured imports, together with contraband trade, brought wealth to the region, the War of 1812, and its expenses became steadily more repugnant to the New Englanders. The Federalist leaders encouraged disaffection over government policy. The New England states refused to surrender their militia to national service, especially when New England was threatened with invasion by Napoleon in 1814. The federal war loan of 1814 got almost no support in New England, despite war prosperity there. Federalist extremists, such as John Lowell and Timothy Pickering, contemplated a separate peace between New England and Great Britain.

Finally, in October 1814, the Massachusetts legislature issued a call to the other New England states for a conference in Hartford, Connecticut. Representatives were sent by the state legislatures of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island; other delegates from New Hampshire and Vermont were popularly chosen by the Federalists. The meetings were held in secret. George Cabot, the head of the Massachusetts delegation and a moderate Federalist, presided. The proposal to secede from the Union was discussed and rejected, the grievances of New England were reviewed, and such matters as the use of the militia by federal authorities were thrashed out. The final report issued on January 5, 1815, arraigned president James Madison's administration and the war and proposed several constitutional amendments that would redress what the New Englanders considered the unfair advantage given to the south under the constitution.

Only the news of Andrew Jackson's victory at New Orleans and of the Treaty of Ghent ending the war made the recommendations of the convention a dead letter. The Hartford Convention continued the view of states' rights as the refuge of sectional groups, and it sealed the destruction of the Federalist Party, which never regained its lost prestige. Concern for states' rights and thoughts of secession were not exclusive or original to the south. Unpopular and unsuccessful wars can topple governments and break up nations.

The War of 1812 was supported by a group of young Democratic-Republicans known as the "War Hawks", led by House Speaker Henry Clay of Kentucky and John Calhoun of South Carolina. Clay was the leader of the American System in opposition to British-dominated globalized free trade. He was the original anti-globalization politician. The War Hawks advocated going to war against Britain for a variety of reasons, mostly related to the interference of the Royal Navy in US shipping, which the War Hawks believed hurt the US economy and injured US prestige. War Hawks from the western states also believed that the British were encouraging native Americans on the frontier to attack US settlements, and so they called for an invasion of British North America (Canada) and pushing Britain off the continent once and for all. To Canadians, the war was clearly a case of naked US aggression, much as the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq is viewed today by many around the world.

On June 1, 1812, Madison gave a speech in Congress, recounting US grievances against Britain, after which the House of Representatives quickly voted 79-49 to declare war, and after much debate, the Senate also voted for war, 19-13. President Madison's use of economic pressure to force England to repeal its blockade in fact succeeded. The revival of the Non-Intercourse Act against Britain, prohibiting all trade with England and its colonies, coincided with a poor grain harvest in England and with a growing need of US provisions to supply the British troops fighting the French in Spain. As a result, on June 16, 1812, the British foreign minister announced that the blockade would be relaxed on US shipping. Had there been a trans-Atlantic cable, war might have been averted. The conflict formally began on June 18 when Madison signed the measure into law.

This was the first time that the new US nation had declared war on another nation, and the congressional vote would prove to be the closest vote to declare war in US history. None of the 39 Federalists in Congress voted in favor of the war; critics of war would subsequently refer to it as "Mr Madison's War". The slogans such as LBJ's War, Clinton's War and Bush's War are signs of deep division in US politics that steadily eats away national unity.

The War of 1812 was sideshow of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe; the main event of 1812 was Napoleon's invasion of Russia. The low point came on August 19, 1814, when a force of some 4,000 British troops under Major-General Robert Ross landed on the Patuxent River and marched on Washington, DC. At the Battle of Bladensburg, five days later, Ross easily dispersed 5,000 US militia, naval gunners, and regulars hastily gathered together to defend the capital. The British then entered Washington, burned the Capitol, the White House and other public buildings, and returned to their ships. Britain, the then superpower, learning from the disastrous Revolutionary War, realized that military occupation was not a viable policy.

The war created a new sense of nationalism in both Canada and the United States. The successful defense of the Canadian provinces against US invasion ultimately ensured the survival of Canada as a distinct nation, and the end of the war marked the decline of a long-standing desire of the US to see the British Empire expelled from North America. Peace between the US and British North America also meant that native Americans could no longer use conflicts between the two powers to defend native lands against the expansion of white settlement.

The war progressed through three distinct stages. In the first, lasting until the spring of 1813, England was so hard-pressed in Europe that it could spare neither men nor ships in any great number for the conflict in North America. The United States was free to take the initiative, to invade Canada, and to send out cruisers and privateers against enemy shipping. During the second stage, lasting from early 1813 to the beginning of 1814, England was able to establish a tight blockade but still could not materially reinforce the troops in Canada. In this stage the US Army, having gained experience, won its first successes.

The third stage, in 1814, was marked by the constant arrival in North America of British regulars and naval reinforcements, which enabled the enemy to raid the North American coast almost at will and to take the offensive in several quarters. At the same time, in this final stage of the war, US forces fought their best fights and won their most brilliant victories. It is a law of conflict that forces defending the homeland command decisive advantage over invading forces. That advantage was neutralized in Iraq by the infiltration of the Iraqi high command by US special operations.

According to Office of the Chief of Military History of the US Army, British Major-General Sir Edward Pakenham was sent to America to take command of the expedition. On Christmas Day 1814, Pakenham arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi to find his troops disposed on a narrow isthmus below New Orleans between the Mississippi River and a cypress swamp. They had landed two weeks earlier at a shallow lagoon some 16km east of New Orleans and had already fought one engagement. In this encounter, on December 23, General Jackson, who had taken command of the defenses on December 1, almost succeeded in cutting off an advance detachment of 2,000 British, but after a three-hour fight in which casualties on both sides were heavy, he was compelled to retire behind fortifications covering New Orleans.

The news of the peace settlement at Ghent on Christmas Eve, followed two weeks later by Jackson's triumph in New Orleans, allowed the war as a whole to be popularly regarded in the US as a great victory. Yet at best it was a draw. US strategy had centered on the conquest of Canada and the harassment of British shipping; but the land campaign failed, and during most of the war the navy was bottled up behind a tight British blockade of the North American coast. Ironically, while Jackson won the Battle of New Orleans against the British in a demonstration of US resolve, some two centuries later, President Bush lost the Battle of New Orleans to a hurricane in a demonstration of US vulnerability.

If it favored neither side, the War of 1812 at least taught the United States several lessons. Artillery contributed to US successes at Chippewa, Sackett's Harbor, Norfolk, the siege of Fort Erie, and New Orleans. The war also boosted the reputation of the Corps of Engineers, a branch that owed its efficiency chiefly to the Military Academy. Academy graduates completed the fortifications at Fort Erie, built Fort Meigs, planned the harbor defenses of Norfolk and New York, and directed the fortifications at Plattsburg. Almost two centuries later, the Corps of Engineers failed to defend New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina because of budget cuts. If larger numbers of infantrymen had been as well trained as the artillerymen and engineers, the course of the War of 1812 might have been entirely different and Canada might have become a part of the US.

Sea power played a fundamental role in the war. The militia performed as well as the regular army. The defeats and humiliations of the regular forces during the first years of the war matched those of the militia, just as in a later period the Kentucky volunteers at the Thames and the Maryland militia before Baltimore proved that the state citizen soldier could perform well. The keys to the militiamen's performance, of course, were training and leadership, the two areas over which the national government had little control. The militia, occasionally competent, was never dependable, and in the nationalistic period that followed the war when the exploits of the regulars were justly celebrated, an ardent young secretary of war, John Calhoun, would be able to convince Congress and the nation that the first line of defense should be a standing national army. The US has since moved toward an all-volunteer army exempting the rich and the educated from military service and from harm's way in foreign wars. Decisions on war now are made by those whose children would not have to fight. Actual battles are now fought by those who are grossly under-represented in the US system of representative democracy. Little wonder that US policy has become warlike.

The War of 1812 was fought over trade and territory. It was a comparatively rational war with potential winners and losers measurable by success in economic interests. The "war on terrorism" is a holy war against evil. There are no winners in a holy war, for one man's holiness can be another man's evil. In the interconnected world of the 21st century, no nation can wage war with immunity on its homeland. A global "war on terror" cannot be waged with a homeland safe haven. The US public who fervently support foreign wars need to understand that such support is not like cheerleading at a football game. Foreign wars now come with serious bloody consequences at home that they were hitherto only familiar with on the television screen. What happened to Baghdad can happen to New York or Chicago, and the dead bodies can be those of US citizens.

The 'global war on extremism'

In an item titled "Calling Islamism the enemy", on January 29, 2004, Daniel Pipes, founder and director of Project for the New American Century and son of Professor Richard Pipes, Harvard historian of Russia and communism, wrote in his weblog:
David E Kaplan of US News and World Report who wrote The Saudi Connection: "Nearly four years after [September 11, 2001], officials have finally figured out who the enemy is. The White House's new counter-terrorism strategy, now being revamped at the National Security Council, will focus more sharply on Islamic extremism, not terrorism. One important sign of the change: policymakers are ready to abandon their shorthand for the conflict - GWOT, or the global war on terrorism. The likely new name is simply WOE - the war on extremism. The reason, explains a senior national-security official: 'Terrorism is the method rather than the enemy.'" (Sometimes, it's just all in the name, US News & World Report, June 6, 2005) In this context, the term "global war on extremism (GWOE)" appears first to have been mentioned in print on March 18, 2005, by Henry C K Liu in Asia Times, with reference to the Pentagon's 2005 Third Quadrennial Review.
A month after my aforementioned GWOE article in Asia Times Online (Militarism and the war on drugs, Part 5 of the World Order, Failed States and Terrorism series), Jim Hoagland, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote in the Washington Post ("A shifting focus on terrorism", April 24):
A new look for President Bush's global war on terrorism sits atop Condoleezza Rice's early to-do list at the State Department. Expect fairly soon some useful new handles on the problem and a more coherent overall strategy to guide the struggle that the bureaucracy abbreviates as GWOT … Although greatly reduced since Rice replaced Colin Powell at Foggy Bottom, wrangling between the departments of State and Defense continues - this time over operational details of the National Security Policy Directive that is being pulled together for what some policymakers are starting to call the global war on extremism (GWOE). Moreover, the snippets of the internal debate that have emerged do not make it clear that the administration will acknowledge the politically sensitive objective of rolling up the religious networks that produce and support the global jihadists of the Wahhabi, or Salafi, sect of Islam. If not, the Bush team will fight on with one hand tied behind its back.

Those caveats, however, should not obscure the importance of the refocusing and redefining exercise going on behind closed doors at the White House. In the election campaign and inaugural period, official Washington lost focus on the war on terrorism and, to a lesser extent, on the closely related battle for democracy in Iraq.

A Pentagon concept paper that sought to spell out new ways of looking at the war on terrorism languished at the White House for a year. The failure of the administration to move urgently to name a new ambassador to Iraq signaled the loss of US political and diplomatic momentum after the January 30 elections there.

But now sitting in the cabinet, Rice has pumped new energy and discipline into a fractious system that languished when she was Bush's national security adviser. She moved quickly to establish clearer definitions and responsibilities for her department in the struggle to eradicate al-Qaeda, the [Abu Musab al-]Zarqawi gang in Iraq and other jihadists.

That means defining other departments' responsibilities as well. In Bush's first term, bitter disputes - based in personality clashes and a settling of old scores as much as in substance - would have handicapped such an exercise.

But internal strife has largely subsided since the departure of Powell and his powerful deputy, Richard Armitage, who skillfully provided background information on the shortcomings of perceived enemies at the Pentagon and elsewhere to congressional and other allies. Here's an interesting coincidence: Armitage was a mentor to virtually all of the State Department personnel whose cases of mistreatment by UN ambassador-designate John Bolton were cited in Senate hearings last week, and Powell has pointedly declined to support Bolton.

The essential question the review faces is put this way in a private musing by one cabinet officer: How does the United States, which is good at fighting countries we are at war with, fight a war against extremists in countries we are friends with? (Hello? Saudi Arabia? You still on the line?)

The policy directive is set to delineate three essential tasks in GWOE: the Department of Homeland Security keeps the lead in defending US territory against terrorist attack; the State Department will be in charge of counter-ideology against Islamic extremism, tasked with broadening and greatly strengthening the weak "public diplomacy" campaign of the first Bush term; and the Pentagon will destroy or disrupt "networks" of terrorism, wherever they exist.
The daunting task of defending against disaster
Defending US territory against massive terrorist attacks is an impossible task. The United States relies on the automobile for mass movement. Traffic engineers know that each lane of traffic on an expressway can accommodate about 500 vehicles per hour at a speed of 65 miles per hour (105 km/h). The speed decreases as the volume of traffic increases. At peak volume of 800 vehicles, the speed slows to 15 mph (24 km/h). Beyond 800 vehicles per lane, traffic jams develop to reduce both the speed and volume abruptly toward zero. It is a fact every motorist has learned from personal experience. To evacuate 2 million people from a city such as Houston at the average density of three persons per car adds up to 700,000 cars all moving in one direction to flee from impending disaster on four lanes of interstate highway traveling at 105 km/h would take 350 hours, or 15 days of 24-hour continuous traffic flow, assuming gas stations along the way can supply the needed fuel. It is obvious that massive evacuation is not a workable option against threats of imminent massive destruction, notwithstanding all the planning of the Department of Homeland Security. The experience of recent hurricanes highlighted the vulnerability of the US urban system. The chaotic evacuations of New Orleans and Houston have prompted local officials across the country to take a new look at plans for emptying their cities in response to a large-scale natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

The New York Times reports that from Los Angeles to Boston, from Seattle to Miami, plans to relocate, house and feed potentially hundreds of thousands of suddenly displaced people are impractical at best and inoperative at worst. As the exodus from Houston during Hurricane Rita demonstrated, in many places highways would clog quickly, confusion would reign and police resources would be overtaxed. New Orleans offered a different and more deadly example of what could go wrong, as tens of thousands of people, many of them poor and lacking private transportation, were left to fend for themselves in cities without food, water, basic services or law enforcement.

Most major US cities have made preparations for localized emergencies such as fires, floods or large toxic spills that might involve the relocation of a few thousand or tens of thousands of people. Since the September 11 attacks, cities have received billions of dollars from the newly formed Department of Homeland Security to prepare for a major terrorist attack. But few have prepared in detail for a doomsday possibility like Hurricane Katrina, the storm that engulfed New Orleans and left much of the city a wasteland that is likely to remain so for months. Nor have they prepared workable plans to evacuate millions of people with short or no notice, as the residents of the Gulf of Mexico coast of Texas learned to their dismay. Officials in Texas are now still struggling with how to manage the return of residents.

New York, more than most US cities, has the advantage of a sprawling mass transportation system. Eight million people a day use the system, and officials count on it to be useful in an emergency as well. That could be vital, because city traffic, already a problem in an ordinary rush hour, would pose a significant challenge. New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the city has two general evacuation plans, one for hurricanes and another for terrorist attacks. The plans include the opening of hundreds of shelters, mostly in schools. But officials acknowledge that many elements of an evacuation would have to be improvised.

Los Angeles, the United States' second-most-populous city, sits atop a spider web of earthquake faults, several of which could slip with devastating consequences, leveling large parts of the city and touching off widespread fires and explosions. But the city has no plan for moving and sheltering the large number of people who would be made homeless by such a disaster, officials concede.

Emergency-response planners acknowledge that no plans exist for moving hundreds of thousands, and potentially millions, of southern Californians out of harm's way. San Francisco's evacuation plans depend in large part on the two main bridges that connect the city with Oakland to the east and Marin county to the north. Both are vulnerable to a major earthquake, as is the Bay Area Rapid Transit tunnel beneath the bay. The plans call for the use of fishing boats and ferries to get people across the bay if other routes are blocked, a stopgap solution at best.

Since Hurricane Katrina, New York officials have assured residents that the city is prepared to handle the kind of evacuation that a major hurricane would require. The city has plans to move people from areas that are likely to flood, plans to open shelters and reception centers, and plans to use public transportation to carry them there. If a huge natural or man-made disaster ever struck Long Island, evacuating the island is not an option. Stretching eastward 190 kilometers from the mainland into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island and its nearly 3 million residents have only a few highways or rail lines out - including the infamously jammed Long Island Expressway - and all of them lead into parts of New York City, which has its own evacuation problems. As a result, most Long Islanders would be forced to deal with such a major disaster by staying closer to home.

As all military strategists know, a sure way to lose a war is an inoperative defense. Most Americans who follow football understand this fact. The US is no longer the only party who can bring destruction to the homeland of another country. On the basis of an inoperative defense, the US "war on terrorism" cannot be won.

Goldwater and the politics of extremism

The glorification and legitimization of extremism began with Barry Goldwater in his 1964 presidential campaign when he famously proclaimed in his acceptance speech in the Republican national convention in the San Francisco Cow Palace: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. [Applause] Let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." The narration from Lyndon Johnson in the "daisy" ad showing a little girl counting flower pedals followed by a nuclear countdown: "These are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God's children can live or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die," allowed Johnson to pile up what was for that time the largest landslide in US history.

Goldwater delegates and the spectator galleries shouted down New York governor Nelson Rockefeller with catcalls and boos when he tried to speak against extremism. Hostile scrimmages erupted on the convention floor, forcing Rockefeller to cut his speech short. Afterward, the triumphant Goldwater conservatives rejected the defeated Rockefeller-Scranton liberals despite the need for party unity. "Hell, I don't want to talk to that son of a bitch," Goldwater growled when Rockefeller called him to concede the nomination. Life magazine bemoaned the "ugly tone" of the entire convention. The New York Times called it a "disaster" for both the United States and the Republicans, saying the Goldwater nomination could "reduce a once-great party to the status of an ugly, angry, frustrated faction". The Rockefeller liberals sat out the election and failed to regain control of the Republican Party, a reality that exists to this day.

On the morning after his acceptance speech, Goldwater sought an audience with General Dwight Eisenhower, who was straying again toward rebellion over Goldwater's chief applause line. It was reported that, echoing a widespread public outcry, Eisenhower demanded to know how Goldwater could see "extremism" as good politics when it smacked of kooks. Goldwater stammered through several ineffective replies before trying a D-Day analogy. What he meant was that patriotism required sacrifice, said Goldwater, and that General Eisenhower had been the ultimate "extremist" for liberty when he sent the Allied troops across the English Channel against Adolf Hitler. This interpretation transformed Eisenhower's mood. "By golly, that makes real sense," he said with his famous grin of relief that nearly matched Goldwater's. Extremism became tied inseparably to militarism.

Goldwater extremism lost the election but gained solid control of the Republican Party. Commentator Bill Moyers recalled Johnson saying that he had delivered the south to Republicans "for your lifetime and mine", which would turn the whole structure of politics on a fulcrum of race. This new political landscape in the south has continued to morph toward the Republican Party until the candidacies of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Goldwater extremism was directed against communism with a defense of race inequality. Today, the "war on terrorism" pitches US militant extremism against Islamic extremism.

By shifting focus to "networks" rather than "terrorists", and to "extremism" rather than "terrorism", the US departments of State and Defense will broaden their operations to remold the tens of millions of real and potential jihadists who believe, as Rand Corp analyst Brian Jenkins recently put it, that "war is its own reward, a perpetual condition until Judgment Day" and not a struggle with a finite end. Jenkins cites the case of an Egyptian former jihadist who defected when he understood that "life was better than paradise" gained through murder and violence. Getting moderate Muslim leaders and nations to convince their citizens of that proposition is now the centerpiece of any strategy paper that comes out of the White House. Yet Muslims can still remember Goldwater's denigration of moderation in the pursuit of justice as not being a virtue. Islamic terrorists can cite Thomas Jefferson about the US and its allies: "Degrading themselves thus from the character of lawful societies into lawless bands of robbers and pirates, they are abusing their brief ascendancy by desolating the world with blood and rapine. Against such a banditti, war had become less ruinous than peace, for then peace was a war on one side only." The United States needs to recognize that the only effective weapon against terrorism is the delivery of justice everywhere, which will deprive terrorists of any stake in resorting to killing and destruction.

When the game of nuclear terror was played between two superpowers, the rules were clearly defined and the outcome rationally predictable because calculation was based on state interests. When the game of mass destructive terror is played between a superpower and terrorist groups, the game becomes uncontrolled and wild, with no rules. What do the followers of al-Qaeda want? They want foreign troops out of Saudi Arabia. Such specific aims are a fundamental definition of the defense of liberty, which, according to Goldwater, is no vice. The people of the US would do no less to get foreign troops off US soil. The Crusades were launched to get infidels off the Holy Land.

Terrorists are not extremists. Terrorists have specific limited aims and strategies. Extremists want total solutions. A war against evil is an extremist undertaking. A war to eliminate a particular evil condition is not an extremist undertaking as it has limited objectives. Extremism is a term used to describe either attitudes or actions thought by critics to be hyperbolic and unwarranted, beyond what is necessary for the problem. In terms of ideas, the term "extremism" is often used to label political ideology that is far outside the societal center or mainstream. In terms of actions, "extremism" is often used to identify aggressive or violent methodologies used in an attempt not just to right a political wrong, but to banish all that is wrong. Political radicals are sometimes called extremists, although the term "radical" originally meant to go to the root of a problem. In medicine, a radical cure means invasive surgery. "Radical" is a somewhat less negatively connoted self-label. In terms of the use of violence, the terms "extremist" and "radical" are generally used to label those who use violence against the will of the larger social body, rather than those who believe in violence to enforce the will of the social body on dissidents. State or policy power is never deemed radical. Revolutions are by definition radical.

The terms "extremism" and "extremist" are almost always applied to others. The terms connote using illegitimate means such as subterfuge or violence to promote one's agenda beyond the realm of discourse. No sect of Islam describes itself as "Islamic extremism", and no political party calls itself "right-wing extremist" or "left-wing extremist". Goldwater legitimized a politics of extremism that evolved into neo-conservatism. In security parlance, to terminate with extreme prejudice means to kill without reservation.

The idea that there is a philosophy of extremism is thought by some to be suspect. Within sociology, several scholars who study (and are critical of) extreme right-wing groups have objected to the term "extremist", which was popularized by centrist sociologists in the 1960s and 1970s. The labeling of a person, group or action as "extremist" is often a technique to further a political goal - especially by governments seeking to defend the status quo, or political centrists. Rather than labeling themselves "extremist", those labeled such tend to see the need for extreme actions in a particular situation, such as assassination of a foreign or domestic head of state.

Extremism is a position defined by its distance from the mainstream of the moment. History and the mainstream beliefs of a later time may see a different picture. Market fundamentalism, like all other forms of fundamentalism, can be viewed as an extremist doctrine. Benjamin Franklin's admonition "We had better hang together or be hanged separately" applies to all fundamentalists. There is no solution by war. Peace is the only solution. The "war on extremism" needs to be refocused as a war on all forms of fundamentalism, Christian, Islamist and market. Remove extremists from both sides and let the moderates negotiate a new peace.

A lost cause, and the loss of liberty
If the aim of the "global war on extremism" (GWOE) is to spread democracy, then the war has already been lost because democracy in the United States, the headquarters of the war machine to spread democracy, appears to have been the first victim of such a war. Daniel Pipes wrote in the New York Sun on December 28, 2004 ("Why the Japanese internment still matters"):
For years, it has been my position that the threat of radical Islam implies an imperative to focus security measures on Muslims. If searching for rapists, one looks only at the male population. Similarly, if searching for Islamists (adherents of radical Islam), one looks at the Muslim population.

And so, I was encouraged by a just-released Cornell University opinion survey that finds nearly half the US population agreeing with this proposition. Specifically, 44% of Americans believe that government authorities should direct special attention toward Muslims living in America, either by registering their whereabouts, profiling them, monitoring their mosques, or infiltrating their organizations ... the bad news is the near-universal disapproval of this realism. Leftist and Islamist organizations have so successfully intimidated public opinion that polite society shies away from endorsing a focus on Muslims.

In America, this intimidation results in large part from a revisionist interpretation of the evacuation, relocation, and internment of ethnic Japanese during World War II. Although more than 60 years past, these events matter yet deeply today, permitting the victimization lobby, in compensation for the supposed horrors of internment, to condemn in advance any use of ethnicity, nationality, race, or religion in formulating domestic security policy.

Denying that the treatment of ethnic Japanese resulted from legitimate national-security concerns, this lobby has established that it resulted solely from a combination of "wartime hysteria" and "racial prejudice". As radical groups like the American Civil Liberties Union wield this interpretation "like a bludgeon over the War on Terror debate", they preempt efforts to build an effective defense against today's Islamist enemy.

The apology for internment by Ronald Reagan in 1988, in addition to the nearly $1.65 billion in reparations paid to former internees, was premised on faulty scholarship ... especially in time of war, governments should take into account nationality, ethnicity, and religious affiliation in their homeland-security policies and engage "threat profiling". These steps may entail bothersome or offensive measures but they are preferable to "being incinerated at your office desk by a flaming hijacked plane".
By the logic of Pipes, the US should have put the German-American Eisenhower in an internment camp, since the key enemy in World War II was Germany. But then white Americans are mostly above suspicion of ethnic disloyalty. German-Americans are the largest ethnic group in the US, with approximately 60 million Americans claiming German ancestry. German-American loyalty to America's promise of freedom can be traced back to the Revolutionary War. Nevertheless, during World War II, the US government and many Americans viewed German-Americans and others of "enemy ancestry" as potentially dangerous, particularly recent immigrants. During that war, the US government interned 11,000 persons of German ancestry out of a population of 120 million, while 120,000 Japanese-Americans were interned, comprising the entire Japanese-American population on the west coast.

In World War II, the war to defend democracy, the US government used many interrelated, constitutionally questionable methods to control those of enemy ancestry, including internment, individual and group exclusion from military zones, internee exchanges for US citizens held in Germany, deportation, "alien enemy" registration requirements, travel restrictions and property confiscation. The human cost of these civil-liberties violations was high. Families were disrupted, reputations destroyed, homes and belongings lost. Meanwhile, untold numbers of German-Americans fought for freedom around the world, including their ancestral homelands. Some were the immediate relatives of those subject to oppressive restrictions on the home front. At least 2,000 Germans, German-Americans and Latin Americans were later exchanged for Americans and Latin Americans held in Germany. Some allege that internees were captured to use as exchange bait.

Of course, the loyalty of Jewish Americans was not above suspicion during the Cold War and the Joseph McCarthy era, despite the shameful in-group persecution of left-wing Jews by their conservative brothers. Jews, of course, are less-than-honorable whites in the West. Should the Holocaust that killed 6 million Jews be prevented from being used "like a bludgeon over the War on Terror debate", to rid of world of evil Islam?

Even in wartime, the US government should have exercised greater vigilance to protect the liberties of those most vulnerable because of their ethnic ties to enemy nations. Some were dangerous, but too many were assumed guilty and never able to prove their innocence. A war to spread democracy abroad cannot be fought, let alone won, by destroying democracy at home. The protection of civil liberty cannot be selective. The loss of liberty to one is the loss of liberty to all. That is the most fatal vulnerability for the US as a democratic superpower.

December 14, 2005