Sullivan made this point last week:
What we have learned is that once Islamists actually wield power, their popularity collapses. Religious fanatics do not know how to run countries; their real interests lie elsewhere (you can apply that on a much lesser scale, of course, to the competence of the Bush administration). The place where Shiite Jihadism is least popular? Iran. And remember how al Qaeda managed to turn off the Jordanians after various atrocities; and how they lost the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis (with the brilliant and brave help of US troops) – after the Bush administration unwittingly gave them a lease of life in that country?
Now: if you’re a rational kind of person you might deduce from this that containing Islamism and letting it collapse under its own insanity is certainly a viable policy, given the unsavory alternatives. You might at least consider that taking the bait from these guys and reigniting religious wars might actually be giving them the oxygen they need.
Once again, I am struck by the parallel between Islamism and communism. The communists were all sexy and revolutionary when they were guerillas. The second they got into power, their ideology failed. Look at the Khmer Rouge. Or Mao. Or the Hollywood worship of Che Guevara and Casto vs. the reality of Cuba.
There are times when we have to fight, however. We couldn’t tolerate Communist incursion in central America. We had to bulk up our military in Europe to prevent a Soviet invasion. We funded guerillas in Afghanistan — eventually producing the Taliban as a side effect.
The current war differs from the last in that the enemy has no compunction about attacking us with small cells of maniacs. That doesn’t necessarily mean we have to go to war with every terrorist coddler out there. But it does mean we have to be more pro-active.