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by John Lewis


Differences in technology, politics, or economics will always remain secondary to the ideas that motivate aggressors to launch bloody attacks and that empower -- or restrain -- defenders opposing those attacks.

[Suppose an attack by a group with] a militaristic, religious-political ideology that values war as a demonstration of loyalty to a deity, demands obedience to its spokesmen, and imposes its edicts over millions of people.

How should Americans respond to this attack?

  1. The full application of our military power, backed by our resolve, will mean the inevitable and complete destruction of the enemy armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the enemy homeland.


  2. We act with great restraint, establishing rules of engagement that limit the use of force by our military. We apologize when we hurt civilians, prosecute our soldiers if they humiliate prisoners ... When captured Americans are beheaded on television, we do not close down the broadcasts or attack the governments financing them -- we search for the particular killers.

Which of these two responses -- the all-out, merciless, military offense, or the restrained, diplomatic, semi-military approach -- should we choose?

Let us evaluate them, according to several ideas widely accepted today.

According to multiculturalism, a serious military offense would be anathema. We must allow peoples of other cultures to express their "cultural identities" -- whether that involves eating falafels, chanting "Death to America," or detonating their children in Israeli restaurants.

Perhaps we should try "shuttle diplomacy": appeasing one dictator here, buying off one over there, making deals with others, calling on allies to "put pressure on" another. The only absolute is that we must not engage in focused, principled military action toward a firm, self-interested, pro-American victory. The second, flexible, response is, again, the right choice -- according to pragmatism.

On the premises of pragmatism and altruism, the first response should ... [lead] to escalating hostilities and a new generation of war against America, and the second should ... [end] ... the attacks. The results, however, have been precisely the opposite.

[In World War 1, when attacked by the Japanese, we] chose the ruthless, offensive response. [In response to 9/11, we chose] the pragmatic, altruistic, limited-military response. [The result?] We are losing the war by institutionalizing the loss of our freedoms, searching the sneakers of senior citizens in wheelchairs in order to avoid confronting bellicose dictatorships overseas.

[To win, we need to revise our ideas:]

Rights-respecting people, those who do not initiate force against others, have a right to defend themselves for their own sakes -- because they have a right to live.

Only after we understand that we should defeat these enemies, can we ask how.

The sine qua non required to end the [current] spiral of indoctrination, jihad, and suicidal attacks on the West -- is to do what was done against Japan: to break the political power of the state religion. State Islam -- Totalitarian Islam -- rule by Islamic Law -- must be obliterated.

Our military capacities are not in doubt today. It is our moral self-confidence that is in question. The best thing Americans did for themselves (and, incidentally, the kindest thing for the Japanese) was to burn that regime to the ground. So it is today. The Islamic State -- Totalitarian Islam -- must go. And it is the moral responsibility of every American to demand it.

Dr. John Lewis is assistant professor of history at Ashland University and contributing editor of The Objective Standard. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of Cambridge as well as a fellowship from the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship. His research interests are in ancient Greek and Roman thought, military history, and their connections to the modern day. He also writes for Capitalism Magazine.

This article is from the Winter 2006-7 issue of The Objective Standard (TOS): Vol. 1, No. 4

Thanks are due Michael Travis, Milton Fried and others for sending it to Think-Israel.


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