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October 16, 2007

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Post-9/11 Politics: World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism - Norman Podhoretz

Posted by Lee P. Ruddin

World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism
by Norman Podhoretz
New York: Doubleday Books, 2007
Hardback, £12

No sooner had the twin towers been toppled and the Pentagon smashed than a fierce competition began for the gold in the anti-American Olympics.
Team GB features guerrilla-columnists who flex their radical muscle at some of Britain's foremost publishing houses: Robert Fisk (Independent); John Pilger (Daily Mirror); Tariq Ali (London Review of Books); John Kampfner (New Statesman); and Peter Kilfoyle (Guardian). This Olympiad is the longest in history - for slamming neoconservatism and their ilk seems about as antiquated as Olympia - at six years. But now we are entering the closing ceremony. For someone has extinguished the Olympic flame and intercepted the flag.

Shadow Secretary for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Alan Duncan - admittedly, no authority on foreign policy - delivered a pertinent message earlier this week at Party Conference:

British politics has been captured in a massive cage of propaganda… So much so, that in an age of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. But it us our duty to tell the truth… truth is the creature of time, it is not the prisoner of authority.
Enter Norman Podhoretz and his World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism. Do not be fooled by the title, Podhoretz is no demagogue-like rabble-rouser or omen of apocalypse. Rather he is more of a have-a-go-hero exhibiting perspicacity and moral strength. If Adlai Stevenson, dubbed by Richard Nixon, was a graduate of the "Cowardly College of Communist Containment" then Norman Podhoretz must be Chancellor of the Intrepid Institute against Islamofascist Intimidation. Podhoretz is a near-isolated voice of reason among a moral-relativist, Islamist-appeasing, industry of defeatism (the West over).

A repertoire of authors in the six years since the Islamists severed the skies of blue have endeavoured to set 9/11 and the subsequent battles into a broad historical context. Such is the sheer importance of history (bearing in mind History Today's masthead: "What Happened Then Matters Now") that postgraduates through professors have undergone a historical journey - from the American War of Independence and Sudanese Mahdi to the precocious Gertrude Bell and battles on the Tigris - to better understand the present.

As disciples of Harry Potter's sworn adversary - He Who Must Not Be Named - fully comprehend, the powerlessness to label the foe stinks of psychological feebleness. Why such an unwillingness? Do policymakers fear that such an exercise would bring them bad luck; the same bad luck to fall upon those Shakespearian actors who refer to Macbeth as opposed to The Scottish Play (as side-splittingly portrayed in Blackadder the Third)?

The prologue sets the scene explicating the semantics behind "World War IV". Podhoretz provides an unyielding defence of President Bush (on par with Fred Barnes and his Rebel-in-Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush):

But the one mistake which he can justly be charged was his refusal from the outset to give both the enemy forces and the struggle against them their true and proper names.
Bush's team, even the most infrequent observer of international affairs can testify, branded the struggle as a "Global War on Terror" (GWOT):
But GWOT… made no more sense than calling the enemy in World War II "the blitzkrieg" rather than "Germany", or "the dive bomber" rather than "Japan".
The corollary?
The price would prove especially heavy in the acrimonious debates to come over Iraq. For the president’s failure to call the enemy and the struggle by their true names would allow his political opponents to rip the battle for Iraq out of its proper context as only one front or theatre in a much broader conflict and then to portray it instead as a self-contained war with no connection to 9/11 or anything else.
Indeed the gravest strategic miscalculation, according to a vast array of commentators, relates to intervention in Iraq rather than pressing Iran. Joshua Muravchik historicizes in the latest edition of Commentary:
But if it was indeed a mistake to concentrate on Iraq first, the mistake had nothing to do with neoconservatism. Rather, it was the kind of strategic error that abounds in war. In World War I, our side may have concentrated too much on the central front; in World War II, too much on the periphery. In the cold war, we met disaster in Vietnam, where we either should not have fought or should not have allowed ourselves to lose. In each case, however, we won the larger war.
Candidly speaking, what was all the hullabaloo surrounding Bush's use of the word "Crusade" - for was Osama Bin Laden not the heir to Saladin and, true to form, did not the late Saddam Hussein identify himself with his twelfth-century avatar? Anyhow, Podhoretz is preaching to the converted, for I am a fully paid up member of the "War" thesis - though not necessarily "World War IV" in toto.

Podhoretz, citing Eliot Cohen of Johns Hopkins, matches up the "key features" of "World War IV" with "World War III" (Cold War):

a mixture of violent and non-violent efforts instead of multimillion-man armies and conventional front lines; a duration measured in decades rather than years; and deep ideological roots.
Accordingly, would Podhoretz's "World War IV" not be more appositely termed "Cold War II", or "Cold War: Part Deux"? Concomitantly, the enemy's designation would require fine-tuning - rendering the subtitle ("Islamofascism") obsolete. Niall Ferguson reminds us that although:
Islamo-fascism [akin to Nazism] has violence and anti-Semitism in common… The Fascist movements of the 1920s and 1930s were never especially adept at terrorism, preferring to seize control of existing nation-states and to make war using traditional military forces.
"Islamo-bolshevism", on the other hand, Ferguson reasons, may prove a more fitting union:
for we should not forget that in their early years Lenin and Stalin were also terrorists. Indeed, there is more than a passing resemblance between "Hereditary Nobleman Ulyanov", as the young Lenin liked to style himself, hatching his plans for the overthrow of tsarism from dingy Swiss hotels, and the renegade Saudi millionaire, orchestrating the downfall of America from a secluded Afghan cave.
Podhoretz, himself, even concedes that:
Since the Cold War had never been widely recognized as World War III, to speak now of World War IV would inevitably lead to the question, "What happened to World War III? Did I miss it?"
Exactly. It is far too late in the day to revise the global psyche.

Whether it be Podhoretz's "World War IV" or "Cold War: Part Duex", we are at war. Naturally, this war must have started on September 11, 2001 - yet another "Day of Infamy" in American history. Only those busy potholing in Transdniestr would deem otherwise, for history illuminates (World Wars I and II, though to a lesser extent, the Cold War testify) that world-shattering events (the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Germany’s invasion of Poland and the Berlin blockade) are midwife to a global conflagration. Only, "World War IV" was not waged on America in 2001 - not even in 1993 with the earlier attempt on the World Trade Center - but in 1973, under Richard Nixon's presidency! Tracing the genesis of Islamitancy in his chapter "How we emboldened the terrorists", reads very much like M. Lawrence Waxler's The Truman Legacy: American Foreign Policy 1945-2004 - Fascism - Communism - Terrorism. Notwithstanding such attacks - against all forms of American personnel for near on a generation - "World War IV" was only launched in 2001, 28 years after it was first waged.

World War IV is penned so glibly that the reader will glide effortlessly between prologue and epilogue. Labelling Podhoretz's text "a straight forward narrative leading from 9/11/2001 to 9/11/2006" would be a great disservice. Yet, on reflection, and after a second reading, perchance the editor at large of Commentary has not accomplished what he so unambiguously wanted to avoid. Put simply, the narrative is not interrupted, or broad, enough in setting the historical context. In other words, behind the hamming-up there is not much beef.

The book is made up largely of articles that have featured over the past three to five years in Commentary. Being a Podhoretz reader, I was most disillusioned to find little with which I was not already familiar.

In spite of the title the book is not primarily concerned with "World War IV" (or "Cold War: Part Deux) and "Islamofascism" (or "Islamo-bolshevism") so much as with American institutions. From the first chapter - "The 9/11 Blame Game" - to the penultimate - "Defeatism on the Right" - Podhoretz is all too preoccupied with "isolationists", "liberal internationalists", "realists" and the "mainstream media". All of which constitute a domestic insurgency. This is all about a war of ideas on the home-front (following in the footsteps of his '83 literary trademark, Why We Were in Vietnam); in New York as compared with Nuristan and Massachusetts instead of Maysan. Put crudely, this reads like an incarnation of Robert G. Kaufman's In Defense of the Bush Doctrine.

Saying that, the book’s polemical excesses should not, and will not, detract from Podhoretz's main achievement: making people conscious that a war is being fought. World War IV will break the literary bank, bringing him millions of readers and zillions of dollars, causing people to shout admiringly or scream abuse at him in the street. This book is "vital" in the most profound meaning of the word. Reading World War IV underscores the urgency for all westerners to come to grips with the reality of Islamitancy. It is copper-bottomed. It will be left to future historians to explore the rooms whose doors this hallmark new text has smashed open.

Norman Podhoretz needs to be taken seriously. For not only does he tell the truth - a revolutionary act - but, Rudy Giuliani, in his campaign for the US presidency, has called upon his services (this in tandem with headhunting our very own Mr Douglas Murray). If only I could vote…

Lee P. Ruddin is currently an occasional student at SOAS. Ruddin holds an LL.B (Liverpool John Moores); an MRes in International Security and Global Governance (Birkbeck); and a PgCert in History: Imperialism and Culture (Sheffield Hallam).

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