Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Assault the Enemy, Not the Citizenry

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published November 26 by Grand Junction Free Press.

"It is TSA's policy not to hire sexual offenders," the Denver Post quoted the agency. Well isn't that reassuring!

But to many airline passengers TSA's full-body scans and "strip and grope" pat-downs feel a lot like sexual assault. Texas pilot Michael Roberts sued TSA over the scans and "enhanced pat-downs," telling Sean Hannity, "They wanted to see my penis... and I said, that's not okay, guys."

John Tyner told TSA agents, don't "touch my junk." Texas reporter Steve Simon captured a chilling video of TSA terrifying his three-year-old daughter as she screamed, "Stop touching me!"

Yet TSA defends its invasive procedures, claiming they are necessary for passenger safety, and at least some passengers agree with this. We regard the "security" procedures as a complete sham and a mockery of public safety.

Moreover, if we want to get serious about checking out people who may be a threat to us, it is perfectly obvious to anyone with a lick of common sense that a three-year-old Texas girl poses no danger. In our era threats come from a small minority of those with ties to the Islamic world.

Far more important than how airlines handle security, however, is the matter of why violent Islamists still want to kill us. The answer is that we have not broken the enemy's will to fight.

Historian John David Lewis writes in his new book, Nothing Less than Victory: "U.S. military doctrine since World War II has progressively devalued victory as the object of war... The practical result has followed pitilessly: despite some hundred thousand dead, the United States has not achieved an unambiguous military victory since 1945."

Yes, we sent troops into Iraq: a nation that posed no serious threat to us and where we spent untold resources on infrastructure and welfare programs for the Iraqis. Despite troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban continues to mock us and gain forces in various regions. Meanwhile, the oppressive Iranian regime continues to spit in our face and advance toward nuclear weapons.

It is worth remembering that the war in Afghanistan has now gone on for longer than the Vietnam war. Given the raw military might and technological advantages of the U.S. military over our Islamist enemies, this failure to achieve lasting victory is a failure of the will to win.

As opposed to tepid modern American military actions, Lewis reviews "six major wars in which a clear-cut victory did not lead to longer and bloodier war, but rather established the foundations of a long-term peace between former enemies."

Lewis reviews several great victories, such as the Greek victory over the Persians several hundred years before Christ and the U.S. victory over Japan in World War II. But perhaps more interesting (and more disturbing) for our purposes is Lewis's review of the fall of Rome.

Rome did well so long as it maintained internal strength and looked outward in terms of opening trade and fighting back "barbarians." But when Rome started to decay internally and look inward toward controlling its own citizens rather than taking the fight to the enemy, Rome self-destructed.

Internally, Lewis notes, Rome faced rioting and "decades of coinage debasement," that era's extreme version of "quantitative easing." Wracked by political instability, "barbarian invasions, ruinous monetary inflation, threats to water and grain supplies, and dependence upon provincial armies," Rome deteriorated.

The Romans began to build a defensive wall around the city around the year 271, and "Rome was now garrisoned by an army unit," Lewis writes. It is a bad sign whenever a nation turns to patrolling its own citizenry rather than taking the fight to the enemy.

Lewis contrasts the open roads with the closed walls: "The openness of Roman roads was true power, far stronger than mere walls. These roads were lines in the face of a confident city, the sinews of an invincible civilization with a people who admitted to no threats capable of striking their capital."

After our nation's capital was attacked on 9/11, we too turned inward in fear. We turned to assaulting our own citizenry on our modern roads, our airways, with intrusive TSA screenings. We built up barriers to the free movement of goods and people.

Moreover, Lewis writes, Rome's walls took a psychological toll on the city's people, for they reminded "every Roman, every day, that he was perpetually at risk." These "walls were an open admission of permanent weakness and vulnerability."

We have not deteriorated internally to the degree of Rome, though current "leaders" are striving mightily to achieve that end. Nor do we face enemies with the relative strength of Rome's enemies. Our problem is not lack of economic or military might, but lack of will to defeat those intent on harming us.

We have convinced ourselves that victory is neither attainable nor morally desirable. So long as that remains the case, we risk going down the same path as Rome.

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