October 15, 2007

Question and answer...the new “Long Telegram”

Something I noticed at NRO's The Corner...

A Question for Norman Podhoretz [Peter Robinson]
In his magnificent new book, World War IV, Norman Podhoretz compares the beginning of the Cold War with our present-day struggle against Islamo-fascism, George W. Bush with Harry Truman. That got me to thinking.

At the beginning of the Cold War, State Department diplomat George Kennan laid out nearly all the essential elements of what became our fundamental strategy throughout the conflict—namely, containment—in the famous “Long Telegram” (so-called because it ran to some 5,000 words) on February 22, 1946.

Now just think about that date.

By the beginning of 1947—the date by which it had become clear to the West that Stalin was supporting a communist insurgency in Greece, and hence the date usually given as the beginning of the Cold War—Kennan had already framed the way we would think about the struggle for decades to come. And—a critical point—his thinking had very quickly found widespread acceptance throughout the senior levels of the government.

Yet here we are today, more than six years after 9/11. Does anyone believe a new “Long Telegram” has yet been written? And accepted throughout the senior levels of the government? Norman Podhoretz’s own book represents a darned close approach to the “Long Telegram,” providing an intellectual framework for the current struggle that’s rigorous, compelling, and accessible. But something tells me it’s not being passed approvingly around the State Department....

And Norman Podhoretz answers:

It isn't that we don't have a strategy. As I try to explain in my book, the Bush Doctrine is to World War IV what the Truman Doctrine was to World War III. Nor—as I also try to explain (pp. 206-7)—did the Truman Doctrine achieve a truly national consensus until Eisenhower tacitly accepted it when he became president in 1953. Up to that point, it had been attacked both from the Left (as too aggressive), from the Right (as not aggressive enough), and from the Center (as having sounded, in Walter Lippmann's words, "the tocsin of an ideological crusade").

The difference is that the State Department under Dean Acheson supported the Truman Doctrine, whereas the State Department under Colin Powell, and even under Condi Rice (having reverted to her roots as a "realist" since moving from the White House to Foggy Bottom) has done everything in its power to subvert the Bush Doctrine; and so has the CIA. We aren't, then, "fumbling for a strategy." We are, rather, involved in a war of ideas that is being fought both within the government and throughout the nation as a whole between those of us who believe in the Bush Doctrine and those who desperately wish to return to the pre-9/11 attitudes and policies that the Bush Doctrine repudiated. Unless and until the Democrats do unto the Bush Doctrine what the Republicans under Eisenhower did unto the Truman Doctrine, the war of ideas at home will rage furiously on....

I should by now have written more about Podhoretz's book, World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism. It's very good; I recommend it.

Posted by John Weidner at October 15, 2007 7:10 AM
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