Take War to the Enemy, Lewis Urges

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Take War to the Enemy, Lewis Urges

by Ari Armstrong, January 25, 2005

"Take the war to those who start the war," and "do away with the Department of Homeland Security!"

That was the advise of John Lewis, a history professor at Ashland who writes about foreign policy for such publications as Capitalism Magazine. Lewis spoke at the University of Colorado at Boulder on January 21, offering an abbreviated version of a six-hour lecture on the subject. (The following evening, Lewis discussed the history of Greek colonies at a dinner sponsored by Front Range Objectivism.)

Lewis examined historical cases from Greece, Rome, and America's Civil War. He found that, when countries offer an anemic military response to an attack and instead focus inward on the homeland, the enemy eventually prevails. During the Persian Wars involving Greece, the Punic Wars surrounding Rome, and Sherman's invasion of the Southern U.S., victory was achieved by taking the battle into the heart of the enemy's homeland. (Those interested in a detailed account should refer to Lewis's recorded talk. He's also working on a book, though that probably won't be available for some months.)

Yet leaders of the United States, obviously the global superpower, have chosen not to beat the enemy. Rather, those leaders have created a "permanent state of siege at home." The new government bureaucracy, invasive searches at airports, and so on, are not seen as temporary measures to last only through a particular war. Instead, such measures are seen as permanent. Government leaders remind us constantly that another terrorist attack is possible and, eventually, even likely.

Meanwhile, Iraq has become a "slow bleed," with U.S. efforts hampered by the country's prosecution of its own troops, its crazy concern for enemy combatants and sites used for military operations by the enemy, and its appeasement of theocratic Islamists who wish to overtake the country through democratic means. Lewis said he opposed the war in Iraq because that country wasn't our central enemy. He pointed to Syria and Iran as bigger concerns, lamented North Korea's nuclear program, and said the government of Saudi Arabia is "utterly corrupt." However, now that war has been started in Iraq, Lewis said, U.S. leaders should do everything possible to win it decisively. Because those leaders have backed down from serious threats around the globe, "our enemies have taken this as weakness," Lewis said. He fears that a theocratic Iraq could become more friendly with Iran, an especially grave danger given the threat of nuclear proliferation in the region.

Lewis offered a program for turning American defense into a good offense. We must recognize that we are engaged in a war with militant Islamists, not some vague "war on terrorism," which mistakes a method for an enemy. The U.S. should declare formal war on the states that sponsor Islamic terrorism. People of the U.S. must have "moral certainty" that they live in a fundamentally decent country that has the right to fight against aggressors and "project its power outside its own borders."

Finally, Lewis urged Americans to accept nothing less than victory and throw off the yoke of perpetual fear. He said there is some role for the protective measures taken by Homeland Security, "but these issues are not central to the war." Lewis also noted the absurdity of forbidding trained pilots and police officers from carrying guns on planes. "I think the Department of Homeland Security is broken -- it is working against American interests," he said.

"This is not right to live in a state of siege," Lewis said. "We should never accept this -- get mad about this." Lewis asked, "Do we want our legacy to our grandchildren to be a national I.D. system?"

Lewis directly challenged pacifists, arguing that their tactics lead to perpetual conflict, constant threats, and, ultimately, much greater loss of life. Delay only gives an enemy time to gather strength and renew an attack. Pacifists are, "in fact, regardless of intentions, pro-war... they establish the conditions that lead to war," he said. "The true peacemakers are those who draw the lessons of history" and remove aggressive tyrants before they have a chance to solidify their power.

It is "vital to show that fighting for your side brings rewards, while fighting for the enemy brings only destruction," Lewis said. He offered Sherman as an example. Sherman marched through the South with few casualties among his troops, civilians, or enemy forces. Lewis argued that Sherman saved thousands of lives by reaching a quick resolution to the war. Indeed, Lewis continued, "Sherman saved more lives than any peace activist."

Lewis also argued that the focus on Homeland Security is a manifestation of a decadent culture, one that neither believes it is good nor that has the will to defend itself. For example, Lewis reviewed that, while Rome was historically an open city, eventually its leaders built defensive walls around it. "Every Roman could now see the defensive walls," and they felt perpetually at risk. "The building of those walls around the Roman Empire -- that's the fall of the Roman Empire," as Lewis counts it.

The focus on Homeland Security perpetuates a psychology of vulnerability among the populace. It reinforces "the idea that evil is powerful" and we are the weak, Lewis said.An emergency, Lewis argued, is properly limited in time. "End it and get back to normal." As for the permanent state of siege that is now the official policy of the U.S. government, Lewis said, "this is precisely what we must never, ever get used to."

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