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Waging the War of Non-Ideas

“It wasn’t real, was it?” – “We seem to have heard it.” – “We couldn’t help it.” – “We don’t have to believe it, do we? Do we?” – “Tell them to go on as if nothing had happened.” [1]

Ayn Rand was always there first. She articulated the fundamentals of metaphysics and epistemology that govern the continuance of human existence. The statements above are spoken by some villains after they have heard John Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged. They reveal the dead-end of the kind of consciousness that refuses to acknowledge the existence of anything and everything, including speeches, of a consciousness that wishes A to be non-A at the same time, to be militantly certain of nothing in order to reshape reality to the need of the moment.

That same species of consciousness has also been charged with the security of the U.S. against Islamic jihad. It was formulating policy long before 9/11, decades before that, as jihadists of various gangs hijacked and blew up planes, murdered Americans and other Westerners, and extorted concessions from us throughout the years from the 1960′s. But one of its benchmarks is President Bush’s so-called “war against terrorism.”

What is a policy? According to the Oxford Concise Dictionary, it is “prudent conduct, sagacity; course or general plan of action (to be) adopted by government, party, person, etc.”

What we have had for the last twenty years could be called an anti-policy, because there seems to be no general plan of action that has ever been adopted by any Western government, particularly the U.S. government, except one of abject, pragmatic appeasement and pseudo-conciliation.

An Accuracy in Media report of May 21, “Unresolved U.S. Strategy on Jihad and the War of Ideas,” perfectly demonstrates the anti-ideological nature of our foreign policy.

“Last fall, Sen. Joe Lieberman questioned the FBI, the DHS, the Director of National Intelligence, and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) about their organizations’ role in the ‘war on ideas’ against Jihadists. The answer was a giant shrugging of shoulders.

“…FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III revealed during the hearing that the FBI has no counterideology response other than its ‘outreach’ to Muslim-American communities so they ‘understand the FBI and ‘address the radicalization issue.’ Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff also said nothing is being done domestically to battle Islamist extremist ideas….Retired Vice Adm. Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, said the intelligence community does not conduct any battle of ideas against terrorists…unless there is a foreign connection.”

If a “war of ideas” is a legitimate way to combat a mortal enemy, why should a “foreign connection” make a difference? It is the “foreign connection” – Islam – that is the root of the “war.” It gets worse.

“…[W]hen the NCTC Acting Director Michael Leiter had a confirmation hearing with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Mr. Leiter brought up the issue of a ‘war of ideas,’ a reasonable person might have expected some discussion as to organizational responsibilities and goals. Mr. Leiter stated ‘we must have an equally robust effort in what many term the “War of Ideas.”‘ But Mr. Leiter offered no organizational ownership or goals other than seeking to respond to al Queda’s use of mass media and Internet technologies, ‘we must engage them on this front with equal vehemence – and we can do so in a way that makes quite clear how bankrupt their extremist ideology is.’”

“What some term the ‘War of Ideas’?” To Mr. Leiter’s mind, this “strategy” is as subjective and arbitrary as a choice between card games, say, between canasta and bridge. It is completely optional, more like a public relations campaign to put something over on a recalcitrant opponent. But, which ideas does he propose to engage the enemy on with “equal vehemence”? None were discussed at the hearing, nor have any ever been discussed anywhere in Foggy Bottom, except to “win the hearts and minds” of Muslims everywhere by expending blood and treasure on good intentions.

Well, that campaign had a partial success. The Iraqis certainly bought the idea of “democracy,” and voted themselves a mongrel government based largely on Sharia law, complemented by a smidgen of secular statist legislation.

Further, Leiter is the pot calling the kettle black when he claims that Islam’s “extremist ideology” is bankrupt. One can imagine that he regards the philosophy of life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness as an “extremist ideology” that was “hijacked” by the Founders. (Historically, that was more or less the position taken by the Crown and American Loyalists in the Revolutionary period.)

The Senate Select Committee did not think it relevant to question Leiter on the wisdom of the NCTC’s recommendation that the government refrain from using “insensitive,” “provocative,” or “counterproductive” language when referring to jihadists, “nor did it have any questions on the NCTC Extremist Messaging Branch recommendations on not defining the enemy…” (See “State Department Goodthink,” April 29). Nor did it think it pertinent to delve into the agency’s function.

“At Mr. Leiter’s confirmation hearing, there was little reported discussion of what ‘strategic operational planning’ NCTC provides, or what NCTC’s role in the ‘war of ideas’ is.”

Leiter, of course, was confirmed by a panel of politicians whose non-extremist ideology is compatible with his own. Committee chairman John Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), told Leiter, “You’re kind of an ideal of what a public servant should be.” Leiter is also a lawyer, more concerned with “civil liberties” than with defeating and eradicating the enemy.

The AIM article, commenting on the purged lexicon of terms which Leiter is now editor of and which his agency promulgated, and which Bush endorses, wrote, “we continue to have an enemy whom we won’t define and whose ideology we won’t understand.”

Our anti-policy claims that the enemy and his messages aren’t real, although the policymakers seem to have heard something, they couldn’t help it, but they don’t need to believe it, and neither should Americans, who should just go on as if nothing had ever happened.

So, apparently every federal agency charged with the responsibility of defending this country is party to a game of blind man’s bluff. In the meantime, our jihadist enemies, soft and hard, are fully focused on what they want to accomplish: the conquest and subjugation of the West. (And that is aside from what any of the three presidential candidates propose in the way of their statist solutions to all the government-caused problems within the country.)

1. Atlas Shrugged, pp. 978-979, Signet Centennial edition, paperback.