Monday, May 7, 2007

Duke Nukem

Loyal readers may have noticed that RandZapper's typical modus operandi is to excerpt quotes from message boards frequented by Randians. Naturally this raises the question: How representative are these comments of the Randian movement as a whole? Would more serious Randists, those who don't devote all their time to posting (and posing, and posturing) on newsgroups, agree with these over-the-top pronouncements, or not?

In some cases, it appears that even "real" Randists, the ones with academic credentials, do in fact agree with these crazed comments. Case in point: an article in the latest issue of The Objective Standard, titled "No Substitute for Victory," by John Lewis.

According to the min-bio appended to the article, "John Lewis is assistant professor of history at Ashland University and contributing editor of The Objective Standard. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of Cambridge as well as a fellowship from the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship. His research interests are in ancient Greek and Roman thought, military history, and their connections to the modern day."

So we are not dealing with one of intellectual lightweights normally seen in our pixelated pages. John Lewis is a card-carrying academic with a Ph.D. to his name. Even so, he seems to come down squarely on the side of the "nuke 'em" nut jobs who proliferate in Randian forums.

Oh, he's more civilized about it. He begins his essay with an extended meditation on America's war against Imperial Japan, which climaxed with mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He disapprovingly contrasts this approach to the namby-pamby half-measures taken in the War on Terror. To win against Islamist radicals, he says, we have to be as committed to total victory as the WWII generation was.

Now, it seems to us that this comparison overlooks many salient differences between the two conflicts, not least of which is that terrorism is a decentralized global phenomenon, and that while certain states do endorse terror, none of them, other than Afghanistan, is known to have sponsored al Qaeda. Japan was and is a state; al Qaeda and its allied movements are a network of clandestine terror cells. Japan was in plain sight; al Qaeda is in hiding. Victory over Japan was clearcut and easily definable; it consisted of pounding the enemy until they surrendered. Victory over Islamic terror is far more ambiguous; even if al Qaeda is subdued and defanged, other terrorist movements with similar goals and ideologies will come along to replace it. The Japanese ideology of emperor-worship was crushed once the emperor humiliated himself by surrendering; the radical Islamist creed, which is not centered on any one (living) person, is not nearly as fragile.

In other words, fighting the War on Terror as if it were WWII is a lot like those (possibly apocryphal) Polish generals who dug WWI-style trenches at the start of WWII, only to see them overrun by German tanks. Times change. Strategies must change too.

But none of this is the main issue. After his lengthy historical exegesis, what exactly does John Lewis propose that we do? Well, he tells us.

Totalitarian Islam, an ideology that merges state power with religious belief, must go.

But proponents of Islamic Totalitarianism have political power, to some extent, in dozens of nations. Should we attack them all, immediately? No. We need to aim for the political, economic, and ideological center of this movement—the core that embodies its naked essence and that fuels it worldwide ... Iran....

The road to the defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism begins in Tehran. America, acting alone and with overwhelming force, must destroy the Iranian Islamic State now. It must do so openly, and indeed spectacularly, for the entire world to see, for this is the only way to demonstrate the spectacular failure and incompetence of the Islamic fundamentalist movement as a whole....

[W]e must act decisively, and with all the force we deem necessary, to eliminate the Iranian regime as quickly as possible, and with the least risk to American soldiers. Only when the world sees this demonstration of American resolve will America begin to see peace and security.

Now, RandZapper doesn't know how you folks interpret this. But to us, when someone starts talking about "acting alone and with overwhelming force" to "openly, and indeed spectacularly" "destroy the Iranian Islamic State," while making comparisons with the atomic bombing of Japan that brought the war in the Pacific to a close, the inference is inescapable: Nuke 'em now.

It is true that Lewis does not quite say this. Nowhere in his article does he specifically call for bombarding Iran with nuclear missiles and bombs. But it is hard to read any other meaning into his words.

So for all those who thought the "nuke Tehran" crowd was confined to a small coterie of malcontents led by Stephen Speicher, RandZapper has news for you: This is mainstream Randism, people.

Lewis continues:
To remove this cancerous Islamic State loudly and forthrightly will have immediate benefits. We would avenge the thousands of American terror victims since the 1960s. We would reverse the pitiful image we projected when Iranians stormed our embassy in 1979, and when we fled from Mogadishu and from Lebanon—actions that the Islamic Totalitarians claimed as evidence of our weakness. We could even reverse a tremendous injustice by un-nationalizing the oil companies in Iran—stolen from their owners in 1951—and placing them back into private hands, under government protection....
Again, just as Randian posters on miscellaneous message boards call for giving the oil fields back to US industry, Lewis says the same. Annihilate Iran, confiscate their oil, and give it to Exxon-Mobil. That's not a caricature of Randian geopolitical strategy - it is their strategy.
Most importantly, by ousting the regime in Iran, we would send a clear message to the world: Political Islam is finished.... Allies we never knew existed would raise their heads with confidence and join the cause of freedom. The land of the free—rejuvenated as the home of the brave—would rejoice as the nation of the secure. We would truly be on the road to victory, freedom, and peace. By affirming the efficacy of reason and individual rights over incompetent dark-age theocracy, America could once again claim its place as a real world leader, and become a beacon for those who understand, and value, freedom.
Remember all those happy Iraqis who were going to shower us with kisses for liberating Baghdad? Now we're told that people around the world will be sending hugs our way for dropping nuclear bombs on Tehran. It's like that classic pop song from the '60s:

I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I'd like to end six million lives
Like Nazi Germany ...

Sadly, a world-warrior's work is never done. Lewis tells us what must happen next:
Once this central task is complete, further intransigent policies toward Islamic Totalitarianism will be necessary.... The Muslim world must be made to understand that any government that provides economic support to jihadists will be summarily destroyed. In order for this policy to be taken seriously, we must demonstrate its truth—by destroying the Iranian regime and stating why we have done so. Only the clear threat that “you will be next” can break the entangled network of Islamic economic support for jihad that masquerades as “economic development.” ...
We're back in Travis Bickle territory now. Any country that gives us the stink-eye is gonna get whacked. "You talkin' to me?"
After the regime in Iran is destroyed, the leadership in countries sponsoring such state training in Islamic jihad—especially Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt—must choose: Close the state-funded schools, or face the Iranian alternative....
Obey us, or we will nuke you into oblivion! Could the crazies on the message boards say it any better?
In the present situation, Americans must forcibly prohibit the dissemination of militaristic ideology and propaganda anywhere it rises. To make the point clear, Al-Jazeera—the fountainhead of Muslim taqiyya, or deception—must be shut down.... Every Muslim intellectual must denounce the Islamic State as an aberration and a monstrosity, as being contrary to the requirements of life on earth. Immediate, personal destruction can be the only alternative.
This actually goes somewhat beyond what we've seen in the forums. Apparently, Lewis favors killing any Muslim intellectual on the planet who does not denounce the Islamic State. Since there is no separation of mosque and state in Islam, this means that Muslim intellectuals must renounce their own religion or die.

The Democrats—the party that won World War II by dropping two atomic bombs—have an opportunity to regain a position of moral stature before the American people.

This is tolerably explicit. The Dems can regain their "moral stature" by "dropping ... atomic bombs" - or in this case, "nuclear bombs." No, he doesn't quite come out and say it. He's too chickenshit to call explicitly for nuking Tehran and other Muslim capitals. But he treads as near to the abyss as he can, and even sticks his pinkie toe over the edge.
Should [the Democrats] not do so—should they choose to retreat—then their unwillingness to value the lives of American citizens over the lives of foreign enemies will be made clear, and the Democrats will be seen as no better, no more principled, no more courageous, and no more American than the Republicans.
The Republicans aren't Americans because they won't drop Da Bomb! And neither are the Democrats, unless they can be persuaded to start nuking. A rain of radioactive fire - that's what being an American is all about. Right?

So there we have it. Mainstream, academic, credentialed Randism may couch its arguments in slightly more evasive language, may shrink from explicitly demanding the immediate nuclear incineration of the Middle East, may strive for a slightly more reasonable tone, may offer a one-sided refresher course in WWII history with plenty of scholarly citations - but at the end of the day, the policy prescription is the same:

Nuke 'em all.

At RandZapper, we have seen the Objectivist future ... and it glows.