Thursday, September 2, 2010
Sixty-five years ago today, World War II officially came to an end. On September 2, 1945, Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu boarded the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay and signed the Instrument of Surrender in front of American General Douglas MacArthur.
It was a formal and solemn ceremony, coming weeks after atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, concluding six years of warfare, with some 70 nations fighting on three continents.
Today, we find ourselves in another global conflict, and it is broadly understood that there will be no such official declaration if and when we win.
Who would sign the surrender, and where? Would Osama bin Laden apply his imprimatur to some document at Ground Zero, perhaps in the Great Hall of Faisal Abdul Rauf’s planned “community center”?
In 1945, Japan’s leaders, like countless signatories to surrenders of centuries past, were agreeing on behalf of an entire population that hostilities would cease. In today’s war, where terrorist cells attack civilian and military targets all over the world, no leader is empowered to make that peace, even if he cared to.
Without a surrender, how will we know when we have won? Victory will take years, if we can manage it, but what will it look like and how do we achieve it?
Military might alone cannot win this war. And so, the adage goes, we will conquer by the strength of our ideas. Swell – but what’s that mean?
Often, the delineation of “our ideas” takes one of two forms. First, there are people like me, banging on about “freedom,” whatever that might be. Or, we are told, standing up for “our ideas” means making some absurd concession to antagonistic forces, in hopes our good intentions and intellectual bio-diversity will green the souls and stay the hands of our enemies (Mayor Bloomberg, call your office).
Political correctness is no match for radical Islam. The latter has shown its commitment, time and again in locations around the world, to winning this conflict. The former, meanwhile, is a tiresome modern reflex, whereby poseurs take a quick assessment of common sense, then put all their energy behind the contrary view. This tic can manifest itself in straightforward fashion – as in, when people aver it is offensive to erect a nativity display at Christmastime – or abstractly – such as, you demonstrate how a cut in capital gains tax rates spurs the economy, then someone calls you a racist.
In either case, this is no way to win a war.
That brings us back to freedom. But the question remains: Just what would the victory of “freedom” mean to us? Would we breathe a little easier? Would the Kabuki dance of airport security be curtailed? Most important, would the brave members of our armed forces be spared from injury and death on foreign soil?
Intelligent and experienced people have struggled to define victory in Iraq, where the US combat mission has just ended, and Afghanistan, where human rights abuses abound and military casualties continue – to say nothing of the almost-nuclear, terror-sponsoring Iran. What does “freedom” look like for Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, and others?
There will be no top-hats and ceremonies when this war ends. And so I put the question to you, gentle readers – what does victory in the war on terror look like?
Theo Caldwell is the author of Finn the half-Great.