Since the early years of the twentieth century, the world has been engaged in four world wars: World War I, World War II, the Cold War and the current war against Radical Islam. The first of those wars was a struggle against radical nationalism. The second and third were characterized by the struggle of Western civilization against secular totalitarian ideologies: Nazism and Communism. The current war pits the same Western principles against a radical and barbaric manifestation of the world’s second largest and fastest growing religion—Islam.
Four years before the first of these conflicts, the British author Norman Angell published THE GREAT ILLUSION, which definitively proved that another global conflict among the great powers was impossible due to economic and financial globalization. The guns of August 1914 put an end to the enormous popularity of Angell’s book.
Following the end of The Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989/91, the American academic Francis Fukuyama published his declaration that history, essentially a chronicle of battles and wars, had come to an end with the triumph of democracy and capitalism. A decade later his thesis went up in smoke and flames along with the twin towers and the Pentagon.
In the span of a Century, Western Civilization has been seriously threatened four times. Two-thirds of the past 100 years have been consumed by these conflicts, and much of the rest was occupied with the preparations for and the aftermath of those horrific struggles. It is now threatened by another world war which started in 2001 and is still raging, fiercer than ever. It is the most serious of all the conflicts because secular ideologies can only offer wealth and power in this life; radical Islam offers eternity to its followers.
Nazism and Communism differed in that the former had limited goals, whereas the latter had universal aims. World Wars I and II could thus be pursued by the West primarily through military action. The other elements of statecraft: diplomacy, propaganda, economic strategies and subversion, played subordinate roles. The Cold War was different, in that Communism had universal domination as its ultimate objective and the same is true of radical Islam.
This year Lt. General (ret.) Michael Flynn and Michael Ledeen have published the book FIELD OF FIGHT (New York, St. Martin’s Press). It is a short book and anecdotal rather than analytical, but it makes a very important point—the ongoing war against radical Islam cannot be won by military means alone—in fact, trying to do so is counterproductive because so many of its followers are actively seeking death, as well as dealing it out wholesale. All the other elements of statecraft must be actively involved, particularly propaganda, which has been very effectively used by the enemy.
Earlier this year another book was published, THE GRAND STRATEGY THAT WON THE COLD WAR: ARCHITECTURE OF TRIUMPH (New York & London, Lexington Books), co-edited and co-authored by myself, Doug Streusand and Frank Marlo. This volume details how the Reagan administration designed and executed the overall strategic plan that victoriously ended the Cold War, and a couple of years later, ended the Soviet Union itself. Written primarily by participants in the process of the planning of the grand strategy within the White House, as well as two historians of the Cold War to provide context, the book demonstrates that every element of statecraft was fully utilized in the final confrontation with Soviet Communism.
Effective diplomacy (conducted primarily by the president himself, due to the opposition of the State Department); a massive propaganda campaign directly confronting the U.S.S.R. and its satellites; a variegated set of economic tactics aimed at fatally weakening an enemy already economically challenged; a very effective program of subversion through active support of opposition movements both in the U.S.S.R. itself and more particularly in its satellite empire, and finally a brilliant application of the strategy of military display through the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and the astonishing doubling of the number of capital ships in the U.S. Navy in an incredibly short time.
Finally, meeting with President Reagan in Reykjavik, General Secretary Gorbachev offered the president concession after concession if he would only terminate SDI. The president, contrary to the advice of his entire staff, refused. Gorbachev returned to Moscow, convened the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R. and announced that it was all over. After that, it was only a matter of time and a very short time at that.
In several appendices the declassified National Security Decision Directives leading to the final statement of the grand strategy in NSDD 75 of January 1983 are published to decisively put to rest the erroneous but widespread idea that the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union were entirely driven by domestic events in the U.S.S.R. and by Gorbachev’s policies.
The lessons for the current world war, the fourth since 1914, are clear for all who understand what must be done and need cogent guidance on how it can be done.
Above all, a spade must be called a spade. After decades of “containment” and “détente” (appeasement by another name) Ronald Reagan and his collaborators put an end to what he called (to the horror of the foreign policy establishment) “an evil empire.”
Radical Islam will only be defeated by using against it all the elements of statecraft available to the West, based on the open declaration that it is “an evil religious ideology”.