Codevilla and Podhoretz Debate the War
Angelo Codevilla, a profound student of international relations, has written several articles in the Clairmont Review over the past year arguing that the only way to win the War on Terror is to destroy the enemyís center of gravity, namely the regimes that feed and support the terrorists. President Bush, of course, announced such a war on terror-harboring states as his purpose, but hasnít acted upon it. Several critics including Norman Podhoretz and William Buckley, were invited to critique Codevilla, and he has now replied.
Here are the main differences between Codevilla and Podhoretz. Codevilla says we must kill the regimes of Iraq, Syria, and the Palestinian Authority, execute their leaders, install replacement governments, and then come home. Podhoretz counters that we must also change the regimes of Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and then run those countries for some years to assure the survival of governments friendly to us. The Western powers, Podhoretz continues, created the modern Mideast, so they (or rather the U.S.) have the right to replace the terrorist thugs in power and fix the place through temporary imperial control, much as the U.S. did in Germany and Japan after World War II. Codevilla replies that even if that were a good idea in the abstract, the U.S. is not capable of realizing it. We can topple the bad regimes of those countries, but we donít have the ability to govern them; we canít change those people from what they are. Having made the terrible mistake of forcing Britain and France out of their colonial roles in the years following World War II, we have no disposition or training for imperial service, and besides, the values we have to impart are rife with cultural decadence. Also, Codevilla continues, when we have tried an imperial role, we have installed puppets like Nguyen Kao Ky in Vietnam, and now Karzai in Afghanistan. We canít alter the character of the Muslim countries or make them like us. But we can earn their respect by killing their bad leaders.
To sum up, Podhoretz assumes that America has the cultural health and wisdom to govern and reform the Muslim countries. Codevilla believes we are too decadent to govern them. A radically contrasting view is that of Jim Woodhill, who, while acknowledging our moral and cultural degeneracy, proposes that we turn it to our advantage by using it as a weapon to discombobulate and destroy the Muslim societies from within.