World War IV:
The Long Struggle Against Islamo­fascism
Norman Podhoretz
Doubleday, 2007, 230 pages
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Created Sept 19, 2007

D oes it really matter whether we call it the War on Terrorism or World War Four? Norman Podhoretz, the editor-at-large of Commentary magazine, thinks it matters a great deal. This book is an extended version of his 2004 Commentary article of the same title (or a similar one; I loaned my copy to some Democrat and never saw it again. No doubt its ashes are buried in the bottom of some suburban Maryland fireplace). Podhoretz explains in great detail why we were attacked, but it can be boiled down to one simple sentence: we were attacked because we were weak. Both Republicans and Democrats had pursued a policy of neglect and appeasement. The Democrats under Frank Church had crippled the CIA. Political correctness was running rampant. The same forces threaten to lead us to defeat in this war. Indeed, surrender is now the official platform of the Democratic Party.

Contrary to what some believe, the terrorists didn't attack us because they hate freedom and democracy. Nor do they hate us because they disagree with our foreign policy, or because we buy their oil and support Israel, or because we sell them hamburgers and export crappy movies with stupid plots and shallow characterization, or because our starlets French-kiss each other and run around with no underwear. They attack us because we stand between them and power.

The problem is, calling the War on Terror World War IV is more than just one man's quixotic crusade to name not one but two wars at the same time. There are good reasons why we don't call it World War IV. Calling it World War IV would make it our war; it would amount to comparing it to the colossal struggle for survival that was World War II. We are nowhere near that stage yet. In fact, the war is not even primarily about us; it is a struggle over the future of the Middle East. Our role in the Middle East in the past was as a force for stability and maintenance of the status quo. Our $2.1 billion a year in foreign aid to Egypt was precisely for that purpose. After 9/11, it became clear that maintaining the status quo was no longer a viable strategy.

Is our survival at stake in this war? The question is not as simple as it sounds. One could just as easily argue that our survival was not at stake in World War II. We could easily, without much risk to our own survival, have allowed Europe to be overrun with Nazis, and we could have written off Pearl Harbor as a "tragedy" much as some people now write off 9/11 as a "tragedy." We didn't, because we believed that other people's freedom was worth fighting for. What has changed since those days is that the press has lost its sense of patriotism along with its respect for the truth, and the politicians have found it convenient to argue that the war is lost. What right, they ask, do we have to interfere with dictators, let alone remake the whole Middle East? How quickly they forget.

Norman Podhoretz is an unrepentant admirer of President G. W. Bush. He calls the second Bush Inaugural Address "luminous", applauds the Bush Doctrine and compares Bush to our two greatest Republican Presidents, Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln. In contrast, the Democratic party has become so infected with hatred for Bush that some Senators work feverishly for the defeat of their own country and the failure of democracy in the Middle East, just to get back at President Bush and those who put him in office. Their hatred is so strong that they see evidence of America's impending defeat in every story that comes out of Iraq---a clear case of seeing what one hopes to see.

Norman Podhoretz patiently explains that the reason for such hatred is that the Bush Doctrine repudiates all the ideas and policies on which they have based their view of the world. This gives them an enormous stake in ensuring that America fails in Iraq and in the war on terrorism. Our 'domestic insurgency,' as Podhoretz calls it, is composed of four groups: the journalistic devotees of the Vietnam syndrome, the isolationists, the liberal internationalists, and the realists, for whom the twin holy grails are stability and balance of power.

Whether you want to call it World War IV or not, there is no great mystery about how to win this war. Eventually, after enough jihadist bodies pile up, even the dumbest potential terrorist will recognize that the cost-benefit analysis just doesn't work out in his favor---even counting those 72 virgins he's been promised. Like any other radical group, the jihadists want power, and they will slaughter people and bomb innocents to get it. Their attacks against the United States were attempts to convince their fellow Muslims that the jihadists could be powerful. When their fellow Muslims realize that jihad will not deliver power to them, but only death and destruction, they will turn against jihad and try something else. Radical Islam has no more intrinsic appeal to Muslims than Communism or Nazism had for 20th-century Europeans. These ideologies, like radical Islam, are only tools to gain power. Muslims will follow Islamists only if they believe the Islamists will win. All we need to defeat them is leadership.