March 22, 2004

Charity or Focusing on the Goal? II

After I wrote the original in this series, I read Steven Den Beste's latest which led me to revisit the topic.

I do believe that we have the same ultimate objective as Europe with regards to the Nihilist Death Cultists (NDCs), to be rid of them and their bomb attacks and stabbings and shootings etc. The problem arises in that shortly after that point, we diverge on the issue of the mutability of our opponents. It's funny because the original crusaders, the proselytizers the nations with the longest history of forcible conversions are convinced that this foe is immutable and thus must be appeased and accommodated. The US, the land of religious tolerance, is adopting strategies that ultimately rely on the intellectual destruction of the NDC intellectual framework.

But these two things are strategic goals, not ultimate objectives, and they share a feature that makes day-to-day cooperation on anti-terrorist activity possible. They both require a significant amount of time to accomplish. This time requirement implies that until the strategy bears fruit, the NDCs must be pruned back as severely as possible. So we have a top level agreement with Europe on the level of ultimate objectives and a coincidental bottom level agreement on day-to-day tactics. Where we disagree is in the middle at the level of strategy and this makes the bizarre we're friends/we're fighting relationship with France and the rest of Old Europe (to use the gentler Rumsfeld construction) possible, even inevitable. But I don't think it is ultimately stable.

From their perspective, we're jogging their elbow on the road to accommodation and ultimate political settlement. From our perspective, they are confusing the jihadiis and giving them hope that they can win at the peace table what they cannot win on the battlefield. Arguments over tactics like the prison camp at Guantanamo are largely illusory and a point of contention because of their strategic implications, not for any legitimate human rights concern over fair trials or harsh interrogation techniques.

Given the obvious truth that a burden shared is a lighter burden, it makes sense from both sides' perspective to try to find some way to pull in the same direction at the strategy level. The US has done a very dangerous thing by upsetting the bedrock of so much of the international legal system in repudiating nonintervention and state sovereignty. Without limits, this would put us smack back in the middle of the same unsustainable system that produced The Thirty Years War. One of the US' foreign policy failures has been to delineate the limits of the new post-Westphalian revisionism and this has led to some suspicion that there is no limit. The European Union cannot survive such a state and, in any case, wholesale repudiation of Westphalia is not necessary for the US to achieve its objectives and would even be counterproductive. But what is the dividing line in the zone of sovereignty and the zone of Westphalian repudiation?

The answer to that is in Thomas Barnett's upcoming book The Pentagon's New Map which outlines the guts of the current US grand strategy (and yes, you should preorder this book if you haven't already). The intellectual construct of a Functioning Core and a Non-Integrating Gap (Core and Gap from here on out) with Westphalian repudiation limited to the Gap adequately addresses Europe's nightmare of an elimination of sovereignty while retaining the freedom of movement that the US' strategy demands.

But this only addresses one part of the friction and, I fear that we're going to have to engage Europe to convince them that political accommodation with an intact NDC ideology is simply untenable, even in the medium term and we might as well get on with the inevitable task of convincing these people that Heaven does not await the suicide bomber. As we do this, we should never lose sight that what we are arguing over a profound difference in strategy, not a difference in objectives, which are shared. Our objective is not to kill NDCs per se but to be able to live in peace with the lifestyle that we choose secure in the knowledge that there are no NDCs plotting to kill us for having the audacity to not join their macabre philosophies.

Posted by TMLutas at March 22, 2004 11:18 AM | TrackBack