The Long View 2004-09-01: The Real War, Billy Jack, Cold Fusion

I'm surprised no one has yet resurrected Billy Jack to punch Nazis

I'm surprised no one has yet resurrected Billy Jack to punch Nazis

John prediction record on this post is almost zero. The only thing in here I can find that didn't get disproved by subsequent events is the statement that the Islamic terror attacks on the US and European nations was another theatre of an Arabian civil war.

The Real War, Billy Jack, Cold Fusion

If you are running for president, and the only real reason to vote for you is your promise to successfully prosecute a war in progress, you don't want to see headlines like this one in The New York Times today:

In Retreat, Bush Says U.S. Will Win War on Terrorism

It is not hard to see what President Bush meant last Monday when he said that the United States would never defeat "terrorism": terror is a tactic, not an enemy, but we might hope to defeat the current crop of enemies who favor it. The president's spin doctors have been occupied in explaining some version of this distinction since the president failed to make it, and in fact, the statement probably did negligible harm. However, this will not be the last time we go through a drill like this, and the reason is not George Bush's relaxed attitude toward semantics.

One can only repeat that "The War on Terror" is not just a misnomer; it's an evasion. The real war is an Islamist offensive launched against the West, with the collapse of the morale of the United States as its main strategic objective. Anonymous calls this war a Jihad, which is what its current principal proponents call it, but in many ways it is also an Arabian civil war being fought in part on Western territory. "Jihad" will do. "Islamist Offensive" will do. What will not do is "War on Terror," which turns the conflict into a long, twilight struggle, in which victory is not just impossible, but unimaginable.

* * *

Reports about the WMD question in Iraq continue to appear. Consider this one from The Washington Times of August 16:

Saddam Hussein periodically removed guards on the Syrian border and replaced them with his own intelligence agents who supervised the movement of banned materials between the two countries, U.S. investigators have discovered.

The recent discovery by the Bush administration's Iraq Survey Group (ISG) is fueling speculation, but is not proof, that the Iraqi dictator moved prohibited weapons of mass destruction (WMD) into Syria before the March 2003 invasion by a U.S.-led coalition.

Sooner or later, it will no doubt be proven that the Baathist government exported substantial weapons stocks, and the industrial plant to produce them, as soon as it was certain that the invasion would occur. That, however, will only begin the debate we would have begun to have in the summer of 2003, if the stocks had been left in place: was the United States really threatened by some tons of obsolete chemical and biological munitions, much less by a mothballed nuclear program?

Answering that question would require quite as much subtlety as the Bush Administration has had to deploy in the current situation, in which only traces of the WMD programs have been found. The fact is that those stocks, whether in Syria or Iraq, were never more than a token of the Baathist government's refusal to forgo weapons of that class, even after half-a-generation of UN sanctions. That persistence showed that the regime itself was the problem, not the regime's policies.

We have by no means heard the last of this argument.

* * *

Speaking of things we have not heard the last of, I had an epiphany after reading this recent critique of John Kerry's Neo-Vietnam Strategy (forgive the lack of a link):

"Kerry may be judged naive to have thought that Vietnam would be a golden credential . . . and not an inevitable source of controversy," [David] Broder [of the Washington Post] writes. "In a 2002 conversation, Kerry told me he thought it would be doubly advantageous that 'I fought in Vietnam and I also fought against the Vietnam War,' apparently not recognizing that some would see far too much political calculation in such a bifurcated record."

Whether or not the strategy was naive, I could not shake the feeling that it was familiar. Finally I remembered: this was the premise of Billy Jack (1971). That was, of course, just about the time that John Kerry was beginning to craft his political personna. The synopsis for the film goes like this:

Plot Outline: Ex-Green Beret karate expert saves wild horses from being slaughtered for dog food and helps protect a desert "freedom school" for runaways.

The theme song for the film was actually a successful single, with lyrics whose aggressive moral smugness characterized the era:

Billy Jack and its sequels occasioned a memorable parody by Saturday Night Live, in which Billy Jack, played by the singer Paul Simon, beats up everyone in an ice-cream parlor who insults his runaway students. Then one of the students makes an ice-cream cone with scoops of vanilla, chocolate, and cherry. Glaring into the camera, she says: "See: white, black, and red. If the whole world could be like this ice-cream cone, Billy Jack would not have to kill so many people!"

But I reminisce.

* * *

On a happier note, it's not impossible that we could soon be pleasantly surprised on the energy front:

Later this month, the U.S. Department of Energy will receive a report from a panel of experts on the prospects for cold fusion--the supposed generation of thermonuclear energy using tabletop apparatus. It's an extraordinary reversal of fortune: more than a few heads turned earlier this year when James Decker, the deputy director of the DOE's Office of Science, announced that he was initiating the review of cold fusion science. Back in November 1989, it had been the department's own investigation that determined the evidence behind cold fusion was unconvincing. Clearly, something important has changed to grab the department's attention now.

An interesting point is that, like the Internet, Cold Fusion seems to have been one of those low-priority government projects that have created so much of the modern world:

THE FIRST HINT that the tide may be changing came in February 2002, when the U.S. Navy revealed that its researchers had been studying cold fusion on the quiet more or less continuously since the debacle began. Much of this work was carried out at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego, where the idea of generating energy from sea water -- a good source of heavy water -- may have seemed more captivating than at other laboratories.

One lives in hope.

Copyright © 2004 by John J. Reilly

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