Does crushing al-Qaida mean we have won the war on terrorism? Not if we still live in fear of new terror, says Angelo Codevilla, professor of international relations at Boston University.
Codevilla says victory will only come when three regimes that sponsor terrorism are destroyed. He believes the U.S., backed by Israel and Turkey, could bring down all three in short order. Then and only then will the U.S. be free to live in peace, he says.
Codevilla is a senior fellow at The Claremont Institute. He is also affiliated with the Ariel Center for Policy Research and the Institute for Advanced Strategic & Political Studies, both based in Israel.
His most recent book is a translation of The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (Yale University Press, 1997).
He spoke with IBD at our Washington bureau about victory and what it will take to achieve it:
IBD: What do you make of the success so far in Afghanistan?
Codevilla: This looks to be much more like the unfocused Gulf War than it does any sort of conflict that the classics would describe as normally aimed toward victory.
An awful lot of military operations are going on, but none of them seem aimed at what the American people expect out of them, and that is the removal of security measures (at home).
We don't fight in order to change the way we live. We fight to not change the way we live and to be left alone. Nothing in our military operations promises that we will be left alone.
The war on terrorism is becoming an occasion for changing the way America lives. This should not be confused with victory. Indeed, it's the very opposite of victory.
IBD: Who's the real enemy?
Codevilla: The real enemy are those who give material, political, organizational support to terrorists. This does not mean shadowy organizations that infiltrate and manipulate states.
Such things exist only in James Bond movies. In real life, you have professional services working for governments that hire and commission terrorists.
This is a fairly common practice in the world. It used to be called "privateering." In fact, the U.S. Constitution has a reference to "letters of Marque and Reprisal" the hiring of privateers.
This is what we are up against. You have intelligence services Iraq, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Syria that have been in the business of hiring terrorists, and indeed of fighting through cut-outs.
Until we get rid of those governments and show peoples in that area that that kind of enterprise has no future, we are going to be vulnerable.
IBD: What about Iran?
Codevilla: Iran is a problem that's on the way to solving itself. There is no way that the repressive apparatus of the Iranian government is going to sit on top of that cauldron much longer. It's going to explode underneath it.
If you look at the oppressive apparatus of Iran and compare it with that of Iraq, Iran is a free country. It's not a free country by our standards, but it's most certainly a free country by the standards of Syria, the PLO or Iraq.
IBD: What will it take to win victory?
Codevilla: It will take primarily the determination to do so. All of history, all of political theory argues that regimes like that of Iraq are quite brittle. They're hard-shelled, but they are unloved and their subjects are always ready to turn against the chief provided that it is clear that at the end of the day the chief will be dead.
I don't think we would have to go all the way to Baghdad before someone came to us with his head on a platter.
IBD: What can Turkey do to help?
Codevilla: The Turks are the natural great power in the region, and the Arabs are quite frightened of them.
Cooperation by Turkey with the West to get rid of the Syrian regime would help Turkey settle its Kurdish problem in Syria. Kurdistan could be born out of the Kurdish areas of Iraq and Syria, leaving the Turks to hold what they hold. It would be an incomplete Kurdistan, but most nation-states are incomplete in that sense.
Syria is also a constant irritant to Turkey, so Turkey would have a strong interest in joining a Western push against Syria.
I do not believe that Syria could withstand such a push from the U.S., Israel and Turkey. A declaration of war by these three powers would cause a collapse of the regime, and Syria would sue for peace.
IBD: What about Europe's reaction to an expanded war?
Codevilla: A lot of people will become involved to the extent that it is clear that we are going to win. During the Gulf War, at the very beginning, the French were quite reticent and were pulling us back. The moment it became clear that we were going to do something militarily significant, the French were terribly eager to join.
IBD: What would happen to Saudi Arabia?
Codevilla: Saudi Arabia is a disaster waiting to happen, and it's not a disaster that I think is avoidable. U.S. policy has sacrifice much for the sake of attempting to safeguard the Saudi regime.
The Saudi regime is inherently so weak, so unstable, so corrupt and the forces arrayed against it are so superior that it is going to fall. The only question is which way, and that will be determined by events outside Saudi Arabia.
It will all be determined by which way the wind is blowing, and the best thing we can do to secure our access to oil is to make sure the wind blows our way.
IBD: How long do you think a complete victory would take?
Codevilla: Not very long. The great question is, what does the U.S. intend? Once that is decided, and especially if Russia is on our side, resistance will vanish as quickly as the Taliban or more quickly.
Might makes right everywhere, especially there. These are not places full of people who swim against the current.
We will know we have won when Mr. Tom Ridge (head of the White House Office of Homeland Security) packs up and goes home to Pennsylvania.
Nothing is more important than to keep that in mind: that our objective is to live without security measures, to live freely and with confidence in one another. It is confident that drives not only markets, but life itself.
Well, the Taliban has been vanquished, and Mr. Ridge is still around. The great question in any war has always been, when will it be over? This is the question that will press itself upon President Bush. When will it be over, and how will we know that it's over? Or won't it be over? If it won't be over, then we've been defeated.