French Lessons

France invaded Algeria in May 1830, captured Algiers in only three weeks, and issued the following proclamation:

The exercise of the Mahometan religion shall remain free. The liberty of the inhabitants of all classes, their religion, their property, their commerce, their industry, shall be inviolate; their women shall be respected: the General-in-chief promises this upon his honour.

Seventeen more years would be required for French victory over Algeria, which had provoked war by harboring the terrorists of the day, pirates and slave-traders preying upon European lands and shipping. The "anti-war party," which "hoped to shorten the war," actually "prolonged" it, according to Geoffrey Blainey in The Causes of War. "France's relative tolerance toward Algerian civilians who aided [resistance leader] Abd-el-Kader or who engaged in terrorist activities in French-occupied towns enabled the enemy to resist more effectively."

Can France really have given the world the wise and witty saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same? Everywhere France goes, stirring words and music are in the air and death and destruction on the ground.

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, always expecting a different result, France is certainly insane. We, of course, are not insane: we watch others do the same thing over and over again and always expect them to do something different.

The third edition of The Causes of War was published in 1988, too long ago to comment on the current phase of our war. The analysis focuses, moreover, on wars among European states in the last three hundred years. Nevertheless, the principles Blainey derives from his examination of these wars are so reasonable and so grounded in actual evidence, unlike the cliches of the clicheing class, that they provide indispensable lessons for us today. Blainey watches people do the same thing over and over again and expects them to keep on doing it.

War is not caused by enmity or conflicting interests, which are quite compatible with peace. For a war to take place, both sides must expect victory. If one side expects to lose, it will capitulate. War is almost always preceded by "sheer fantasy" on one side or the other or both.

The "prelude to a war" is characterized by "conflicting estimates of which nation or alliance is most powerful." The uncertainty of the likely outcome allows both sides to expect victory and enter into war. Only at the end of the war can "the distribution of military power between warring accurately measured."

At the beginning of a war both sides believe they will win; the end comes when the expectations of one side have been proven false. War results from contradictory expectations of the likely outcome; peace comes from agreement on the outcome.

At the beginning of a war the outcome is not known, and the combatants can enjoy illusions as to its likely outcome; at the end they cannot. If they end the war without a clear victor, they will probably soon fight again: the war has not yet completed its task of destroying their illusions.

We get into wars, then, when we think that we will win and our enemies think that they will. We are at war today because the terrorists think that they will win. To end the war, we must convince them that they will lose. We will end it, not by making them hate us less, but by making them fear us more.

The war did not begin with 9/11 or even with earlier terrorist attacks. It began 1,383 years ago. (See this and this.) It only resumed in recent decades after an intermission of obvious military superiority of the West over the Islamic world. It resumed when enough fact and fantasy accumulated in the minds of the terrorists to lead them to expect victory.

Notice that the anti-war movement, that creep of a thousand legs and one tiny head, implicitly accepts Blainey's analysis by its incessant predictions of United States defeat. It tries to keep us out of war by preventing us from thinking that we will win, and it tries to get us out of war by bringing us into agreement with the enemy on our eventual defeat. It may say that we provoked war, as if the cause of war were anger instead of false expectations of victory, but its main weapon is defeatism.

The idea that wars can take place only when both sides expect victory so conflicts with what passes for wisdom that the evidence Blainey supplies is startling. It is also a testament to the human capacity for folly, both on the part of the nations entering into wars that in retrospect they seem obviously destined to lose and on the part of the advocates of peace, who rely on one foolish theory after another, all of them contrary to the repeated experience of mankind.

Before World War I, Colonel-General von Moltke predicted victory in France within six weeks. Count von Lerchenfield thought a month would be sufficient for German victory. Bethman Hollweg was less optimistic: he thought four months might be required. When Germany blockaded Great Britain, Admiral Bachman predicted British capitulation in six weeks.

On the third day of the war, Viscount Esher of Britain's Committee of Imperial Defence thought that Russia would advance into Germany within a month. On the tenth day, General Sir Archibald Murray envisioned British victory in three months with luck and eight months without it.

Six months before the war, France, which had lost to Germany in 1870, planned an offensive into German territory at the outbreak of war. A month later General Soukhomlinov predicted a Russian offensive into Germany, and "most of the Russian ministers agreed" that victory could be had within months. Every side built a "complicated trellis of hope--a criss-cross of military and financial fact and fantasy."

Nor was such promiscuous optimism unusual. "An analysis of the hopes and fears held on the eve of earlier wars reveals a similar optimism." British Major John Pitcairn said of the American colonists: "The deluded people are made to believe that they are invincible."

Blainey's calm, understated style would make for hilarious reading if the product of the misguided leaders of at least one side of every war were not disaster:

One [colonial] journal even argued that the American armies on their own soil could defeat all the armies of Europe. Major Pitcairn disagreed; he thought the cheap rum which his battalion was drinking was a greater danger than American firearms. "I am satisfied," he wrote in March 1775, "that one active campaign, a smart action, and burning two or three of their towns, will set everything to rights." Three months later his letter was shown to King George III whose endorsement was emphatic. By then the major was dead, one of the tens of thousands of casualties of what proved to be another seven years' war.

French expectation of victory in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 was so great that its officers were issued maps of Germany, but not of France: "Alas, maps of the roads leading to Paris would have been more useful, so fast was the enemy's advance."

"So irrational was" the "confidence" of India in its war with China in 1962 that its commanders

decided on the eve of war to evict the Chinese troops from a stretch of border where the Indians were outnumbered by more than five to one, where the Indian guns were inferior, where the Indian supply route was a tortuous pack trail, and where the height of the mountains made breathing difficult and the cold intense for the Indian reinforcements who marched in cotton uniforms.

The lesson of Blainey's book for us is that we should grind our boot into the neck of our prostrate enemy until every last delusion flees his demented mind, whether that takes three centuries or three millennia. We are going to be hated; let us also be feared.

Not even the fool's errands of Napoleon and Hitler in Russia could match the futility of Israelis walking into negotiations with Palestinians or of Europeans and Americans pressuring them.

One would like to believe that generous terms of peace yielded a dividend of international goodwill....Nevertheless the weight of evidence suggests that a severe treaty of peace was more likely to prolong the peace; and there is a powerful reason why that should appear to be so. A harsh treaty was mostly the outcome of a war which ended in a decisive victory. And...a decisive victory tends to promote a more enduring peace.

Blainey does not make the false assumption that peace is the normal state of mankind and war an aberration. Thus, peace has its causes as much as war does: it comes from victory in war, the more decisive, the better. Here Blainey develops the fragmentary thought of Carl von Clausewitz, who believed, as Blainey puts it, "that a clear ladder of international power tended to promote peace."

No cocksure redcoat or impetuous Nazi tank commander felt as stupidly safe as Democrats who think that this country can afford a major political party's hostility to its defenders.

The force of Blainey's analysis is multiplied by the nature of Islam, which holds that everything that happens is caused directly by Allah. There are no secondary causes in Islam. It stands aside from the nearly three millennia of Western effort to reconcile divine omnipotence and divine goodness, a reconciliation perhaps stated best and most succinctly by John Milton, whose Satan says:

                       ...If then his Providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labor must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil;

Without some such reconciliation, in the Christian case attributing the evil that takes place in the world to the corruption of human nature by the sin freely committed in Eden, one must either deny the omnipotence of God, as some liberal theologians in the West do, or deny the goodness of God, or at least human ability to understand the goodness of God, the Islamic solution, and accept thereby great evil.

The superficially reasonable idea that everything is directly determined by God's arbitrary will has had its adherents in the West. There were Calvinist manuals advising parents how to discover whether their children were predestined for Hell. Fortunately, few Christians would subscribe to such a cruel doctrine today.

Not so with our Islamicists. I have several times seen television interviews with them proceed along the line taken by a London mullah who railed against Israeli and American perfidy and then when asked about 9/11, smiled with self-satisfaction, as if he were about to make an irrefutable argument, and said that if God did not want those attacks to occur, they would not have occurred. I wanted to scream, "So if God did not want Israelis and Americans to oppress Muslims, I guess they wouldn't be able to do it, would they?"

One reason that its armies were able to conquer vast territories within a few years of the founding of Islam is that early victories seemed to confirm claims that Allah fought on the side of Islam. Victory encouraged Muslim soldiers and discouraged their enemies, and victory fed upon victory. As the London mullah might have said, "If God did not want Islam to prevail, why do its armies keep winning?"

The problem for the London mullah and for Islam in general is that selective application of the idea that everything that happens happens because it is willed by God is untenable in the long run. If God wills military victory, then God must also will military defeat. If God wills the ascent of Islam, God must also will its descent. Muslims are bound to wonder, "If God wants Islam to prevail, why do its armies keep losing?"

And descend Islam did. Its lands became mere colonies of Europe, its armies weak and demoralized, its economy backward, its people poor and uneducated.

Hence we have the rise of Islamofascism. Most Muslims reacted to the descent by withdrawing in one way or another, to one degree or another, from Islam; the Islamofascists blamed this withdrawal for the descent.

Nationalism is not Islamic, but there is nationalism in the Islamic world. Socialism is not Islamic, but there is socialism in the Islamic world. The legacy of Islam's colonial period is, for good or ill, much that is not Islamic, along with the Islamofascist reaction to this apostasy.

Unlike Christianity, which has often gained strength from defeat, the crucifixion of its founder and the martyrdom of its early leaders being essential to its nature, Islam is peculiarly vulnerable to defeat since it must consider defeat to be evidence of its own falsity.

Most Muslims are reacting the only way they could reasonably react to centuries of evidence that God does not will their victory or reward their worship; the Islamofascists want to kill them for it.

Contrary to what every dog and its fleas tell us, Islam is a religion in decline. Islamofascism is an attempt to reverse the decline. Both the withdrawal of a majority of Muslims from Islam into moderate Islam, which is watered-down Islam, and the radical Islamofascist reaction to that withdrawal are understandable, even predictable, responses to the decline.

We cannot arrest the decline, nor should we try, though it brings with it a dire threat to us and our way of life. Multiculturalism, political correctness, and appeasement will neither resolve the crisis of Islam nor ensure the victory of moderation. We should not promote moderate Islam or Islam of any kind, but share American ideals, such as freedom, democracy, and peace through superior firepower.

The Islamic world is thus rent by ideological replacements for Islam, such as freedom and democracy or Marxism, and reactionary Islamofascism. We can win the war, it would seem: Islam is divided, and most Muslims are our potential allies. Bin Laden and Zarqawi are the deluded leaders of a losing cause.

Maybe, maybe not. Do not forget the millipede. Someone has illusions for war to destroy. Who that might be is not obvious.

I first began to doubt that we would win when Newsweek published its false and defamatory story of Koran abuse, which, according to the Secretary of State, did grave damage to the national security of the United States. Since then Michael Isikoff, the author, has appeared on numerous cable news shows as if nothing had happened, and when Patrick Fitzgerald held a press conference to announce his indictment of Scooter Libby for not telling the truth, Isikoff was on hand to ask questions. No one expressed surprise that a man whose falsehoods precipitated the deaths of dozens of people should take part. This is no way to fight a war.

After 9/11, Democrats made a vow never to repeat the mistake they had made in the Cold War of appearing to side with the enemy. Seconds later they broke it. As things stand now, a vast swathe of American society has a vested interest in United States defeat. If we win, Bush wins--and Democrats lose. The mainstream media has been maximizing bad news from Iraq and minimizing good news. United States victory would harm its credibility and terrorist victory enhance it. The ignorant academic world, the corrupt educational establishment, sick Hollywood liberals, freedom-hating civil libertarians, inhuman human rights advocates, corporate sellouts, State Department bureaucrats, CIA shadows: all will lose power from United States victory and gain power from United States defeat.

The millipede has no plan for victory and a thousand plans for defeat. We cannot defeat Bin Laden without first defeating the millipede. Tiny as its head is, it knows that victory in the war will come only with its demise; knows that the war is defensive and thus impossible for us to end without an unnecessary and horrific surrender; knows that we are as a result forced to make a choice between stepping on the bug and accepting death and subjection; knows that we can accept its continued existence only temporarily, until the next attack reminds us of the mortal threat it poses to us; knows that it is doomed because if it loses the battle with us, it dies, and if it wins the battle with us, it dies with us.

Blainey is wrong about one thing: there are Americans, many Americans, who will fight the bug and its masters with or without hope of victory, because life is a battlefield and we are alive.

Jonathan David Carson, Ph.D.

This essay appeared in the November 8, 2005, edition of The American Thinker.