Podhoretz wrote a follow-up essay in Commentary titled: "The War against World War IV".
In this latter piece, Podhoretz discusses the forces of defeatism that threaten to overwhelm our resolve in this war.
First, the corrupt, totalitarian regimes of the Middle East:
In Iraq, the insurgents—a coalition of diehard Saddamists, domestic Islamofascists, and foreign jihadists—have a simple objective. They are trying to drive us out before the seeds of democratization that we are helping to sow have taken firm root and begun to flower. Only thus can the native insurgents hope to recapture the power they lost when we toppled Saddam; and only thus can the Iranians, the Syrians, and the Saudis, who have been dispatching and/or financing the foreign jihadists, escape becoming the next regimes to go the way of Saddam’s under the logic of the Bush Doctrine.
The despots tyrannizing these countries all know perfectly well that an American failure in Iraq would rule out the use of military force against them. They know that it would rob other, non-military measures of any real effectiveness. And they know that it would put a halt to the wave of reformist talk that has been sweeping through the region since the promulgation of the Bush Doctrine and that poses an unprecedented threat to their own hold on political power, just as it does to the religious and cultural power of the radical Islamists.
But the most important thing the insurgents and their backers in the neighboring despotisms know is that the battle for Iraq will not be won or lost in Iraq; it will be won or lost in the United States of America.
Then comes the defeatist voices of the "paleoconservative right":
Consider—to begin once more on the lowest rung of the ladder—the isolationists of the paleoconservative Right. Their line is that a conspiracy of "neoconservative" (i.e., Jewish) officials holed up in the White House and the Pentagon is dragging this country, against its own interests, into one conflict after another with the sole purpose of "making the Middle East safe for Israel."
And, of course, the isolationists of the hard Left:
These—exactly like their forebears in the late 1930’s who fought against America’s entry into World War II—have made common cause with the paleoconservatives at the other end of the political spectrum. True, the isolationism of the Left stems from the conviction that America is bad for the rest of the world, whereas the isolationism of the Right is based on the belief that the rest of the world is bad for America. Nevertheless, the two streams have converged, flowing smoothly into the same channel of fierce opposition to everything Bush has done in response to 9/11.
In the years before 9/11, Noam Chomsky, Buchanan’s counterpart on the Left, was very largely forgotten. After achieving great prominence in the 1960’s, he had come to seem too extreme—or perhaps too naked in his hatred of America—to serve the purposes of the New York Review of Books, through whose pages he had first made his political mark.
In like fashion he runs through the "Superhawks", the "Liberal Internationalists"; the so-called "political realists", and the mainstream media. This unholy, coalition of defeat has formed in parallel to the emergence of the Bush Doctrine after 9/11. Podhoretz points out something that, I think is important:
Suppose, then (as I do), that in a year or so, a duly elected coalition government is in place in Baghdad; that it is guided by a constitution guaranteeing political freedom and minority rights; that the economy is improving; that Iraqi soldiers and policemen have taken over most of the responsibility for dealing with a severely weakened insurgency; that the number of American troops has been reduced to the size of a backup force; and that fewer and fewer Americans are being killed or wounded. What then? Will the realists and their liberal allies bow to this reality? Will they be mugged by reality?
I think not. I think they will do unto a success in Iraq what they did when Hamid Karzai was sworn in as the president of Afghanistan this past December.
In other words, even if our efforts succeed in Iraq (as they finally appear to be doing), this coalition of defeat will not be appeased or comforted. They had the same defeatist attitude towards Afghanistan, and are unwilling to acknowledge the remarkable success that has occurred there and are not-so-secretely gratified that the Karzai government is still battling the Taliban in its various reincarnations. The freeing of millions of people and enabling Afghanistan to have the first democratic government in its history was not enough. Freeing millions is not enough. Liberating the women of two countries is not enough. Enabling Democracy and planting the seeds that is not enough. Preventing attacks on the homeland for 4 years is not enough.
No success will ever be enough for this coalition of surrender. They will never admit it is getting better in Iraq; nor will they acknowledge the reality of no attacks here in the U.S. since 9/11. Instead, they attribute this to (1) there never was any threat to begin with; or (2) pure dumb luck.
They will be happy if America loses. Period.
In a recent interview with Katherine Lopez at National Review, Podhoretz comments on a topic that I have dealt with extensively in this blog: the psychological denial of those who dismiss the threat of islamofascism. Here is an exchange from that interview:
Podhoretz: When people under threat are unwilling or afraid to fight back, they tend to deny that they are being threatened at all. We saw much the same thing in the early stages of World War III, when large numbers of Americans and even larger numbers of Europeans insisted that the real threat to the peace came from the United States under Harry Truman rather than from the Soviet Union under Stalin.Read everything to arm yourself for the war of ideas that is being fought right here, right now, in the U.S.
Lopez: I don’t get it. You point out that in his address to the joint session of Congress ten days after the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush got it. He got it was a world war. But because the Cold War isn’t conventionally called “World War III,” he probably figured he’d confuse people by calling this current war “World War IV.” But, come on, he’s a brave guy. If you build it they will come. Is that a leadership test he failed at a crucial moment? Because really, we’ve needed some clarity.
Podhoretz: I think that Bush will someday be recognized as a great president, much as it has been the case with Harry Truman, with whom he has a lot in common. Having said that, I will stipulate that we needed more clarity than he gave us both in naming the enemy and in naming the war. For this a very steep price has been paid in the coin of confusion about Iraq. Instead of being seen in its proper context as a single front or theater in a much broader conflict, it has been treated as a self-contained war in its own right. And instead of being understood as part of a long-range strategy to “drain the swamps” in which Islamofascism breeds, it has been misrepresented as the wrong place in which to fight terrorism.
Lopez: Speaking of mistakes: What’s gone wrong in Iraq? What’s gone right?
Podhoretz: The following things have gone right in Iraq: It has been liberated from a monstrous tyrant whose regime was the main secular face of the two-headed monster by which we were attacked six years ago. (The Taliban regime in Afghanistan was the main religious face.) And then the seeds of democratization were planted through three elections, the writing of a constitution, and the enjoyment of previously unimaginable liberties. Everything that has gone wrong stems from the desperate efforts of various forces, both indigenous and imported, to prevent those seeds from taking root. If the political transformation of Iraq were doomed to failure, why would these forces be fighting with all their might to turn it back? But it has taken us a while to figure out how best to defeat this so-called “insurgency.”
Lopez: It’s salvageable?
Podhoretz: Certainly — unless, that is, the Democrats, with a little help from pusillanimous Republicans, pull the plug. It has always been the case that the campaign in Iraq, and for that matter World War IV as a whole, will be won or lost not on the battlefields of the Middle East but in the war of ideas here at home.
UPDATE: 10/12 - I want to add this quote from Podhoretz which is posted at The Corner, which I think is pertinent:
It isn't that we don't have a strategy. As I try to explain in my book, the Bush Doctrine is to World War IV what the Truman Doctrine was to World War III. Nor—as I also try to explain (pp. 206-7)—did the Truman Doctrine achieve a truly national consensus until Eisenhower tacitly accepted it when he became president in 1953. Up to that point, it had been attacked both from the Left (as too aggressive), from the Right (as not aggressive enough), and from the Center (as having sounded, in Walter Lippmann's words, "the tocsin of an ideological crusade"). The difference is that the State Department under Dean Acheson supported the Truman Doctrine, whereas the State Department under Colin Powell, and even under Condi Rice (having reverted to her roots as a "realist" since moving from the White House to Foggy Bottom) has done everything in its power to subvert the Bush Doctrine; and so has the CIA. We aren't, then, "fumbling for a strategy." We are, rather, involved in a war of ideas that is being fought both within the government and throughout the nation as a whole between those of us who believe in the Bush Doctrine and those who desperately wish to return to the pre-9/11 attitudes and policies that the Bush Doctrine repudiated. Unless and until the Democrats do unto the Bush Doctrine what the Republicans under Eisenhower did unto the Truman Doctrine, the war of ideas at home will rage furiously on.