Short Telegram with Big Ideas

, Bethany Stotts, Leave a comment

With partisan conflict over the war on terror, a growing budget deficit, and continued vulnerability to domestic terrorist attacks, America seems to be reliving the ‘malaise’ years of the Carter administration. Editorials, articles, and books have proliferated, each declaring the twilight of American hegemony, and an ensuing decline in influence, power, and potential. In the face of such disheartening propaganda, it is easy to wonder whether Americans retain the will left to win an existential war against dedicated Islamic radicals.

Authors James Carafano and Paul Rosenzweig argue that America is facing the same enemies as it has in the past, such as Marxism or Fascism; terrorism springs from an ideology of “evil ideas” which will once again bring “hundreds of millions of people under [its] sway, leading. . .millions of victims to misery.” Because past is prologue, we can use these lessons to ensure an American victory in the long war ahead. Their 2005 book, Winning the Long War, ambitiously attempts to rekindle the seminal genius of historian and diplomat George F. Kennan’s long telegram on communist containment by writing a new, shorter telegram for the war on terror.

In a no-holds-barred manner, Carafano and Rosenzweig rip through common misconceptions of the war on terror. They defend the Patriot Act and preventive detentions, disparage Truman’s foreign policy leadership, and blame entitlements and earmarks for burdensome tax policies. They posit that America’s declining power results more from a lack of direction than imminent failure and compare our current situation to the indecisive years following World War II, before Eisenhower provided a “practical, coherent blueprint for fighting and winning a protracted war with the Soviets.”

The authors offer a truly unique perspective on the war on terror by eschewing false dichotomies such as liberty v. order and trade v. security. For Carafano and Rosenzweig, order is the means by which true liberty is preserved. The institutionalization of wiretapping, preventive detention, and interagency intelligence-sharing ensures continued civil liberties by creating the security necessary to preserve those liberties. For them, order does not preclude liberties—it enhances them. Legal checks and balances, such as those provided in Patriot Act, codify procedures which would otherwise be left to individual discretion, thereby preventing the abuse of new law enforcement powers.

The Long War
is clearly predicated on the assumption that the coming war will be long and protracted, and that America must developmentally outpace the opposition. The authors argue that America’s route to success is clear: We must to continue to be ourselves, to proudly and zealously pursue liberty and prosperity as a means to promote freedom at home and worldwide. With a laundry list of suggestions at the end of each chapter, the authors discuss the ideological, economic, and institutional changes necessary for the United States to win the war.

Some of their key conclusions include:

• Containment can only be successful when implemented in conjunction with strong economic policies. Winning the long war requires domestic policies which promote growth and prosperity, not just preventive foreign policies designed to constrain the opposition.

• The authors grapple with the difficult reality that “Rules requiring the disclosure of evidence can conflict with national security needs.” It is no longer acceptable to assume that criminals must go free rather than risk jailing innocents; the costs to society of freeing terrorists now overwhelm the costs of judicial mistakes.

• Carafano and Rosenzweig argue that the Department of Homeland Security is bogged down by “oversight overload,” attending 126 hearings in the 2004 legislative session. While the DHS has made signficant strides since its inception, it must continue to adjust to new challenges and optimize its policies.

• Stripping jihadists of their “religious sanctity” will expose terrorists’ power-hungry motives, and undermine mainstream Islamic support for terrorist activities. “Radical Islam is not terrorism in the name of religion; it is terrorism hiding behind a mask of religion,” claim Carafano and Rosenzweig. They stress the important of providing moderate muslims with the means to counterbalance extremist ideology.

• “Western legal systems fail to see that for terrorists, first comes the jihad of the tongue, then that of the purse, and finally that of the sword, which is supreme. Thus, jihad represents a continuum of action, not a single criminal act. . .,” assert Carafano and Rosenzweig. Therefore, the United States needs to target terrorist funding, eliminating the “enemy’s ‘center of gravity,’” it’s “ways and means” for conducting terror operations.

• The current national debt stems not from egregious military spending but from an explosion in entitlement spending and earmarks. The authors argue that after 1994, cutting spending was equated with dead-end policies, because “‘Remember the 104th’ became checkmate against anyone foolish enough to suggest spending cuts.” Entitlement spending could reach 20% of GDP in the coming decades.

With incisive reasoning and extensive research, Carafano and Rosenzweig forcefully express their opinions about the American response to the war on terror. But don’t be fooled by the bellicose tone: they have the facts to back it up.

Bethany Stotts
is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.