“We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
—Walt Kelly’s Pogo
Some months before the invasion of Iraq, a well-known neocon stopped by my office to stump for war. It would all be very easy, he said coolly. We just needed to eliminate a handful of people in Saddam Hussein’s government, and all resistance would crumble. He was so casual about such dirty work that I was moved to ask, in the words of an old western, how many people in Iraq “needed killin’.” He shrugged matter-of-factly and answered, “Two or three thousand.”
Well, we’ve killed many times that, and still more come at us every day with the same idea of driving the infidel Crusaders and Jews from the land of Islam. Ideas, after all, have consequences. Yet many books urging us on to an even wider war tell us less about the ideas of our enemies than about all the people who need killin’. When they do discuss ideas, they offer only ludicrously narrow refutations of terrorism or insanely broad attacks on traditional culture. Witness Michael Ledeen’s paean to “creative destruction” in Against the Terror Masters:
Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our own society and abroad. We tear down the old order every...