For A Cold War On Jihadism

Andrew Bacevich proposes a policy of containment against radical Islam:

When confronting the Soviet threat, the United States and its allies erected robust defenses, such as NATO, and cooperated in denying the communist bloc anything that could make Soviet computers faster, Soviet submarines quieter or Soviet missiles more accurate. Containing the threat posed by jihad should follow a similar strategy. Robust defenses are key -- not mechanized units patrolling the Iron Curtain, but well-funded government agencies securing borders, controlling access to airports and seaports, and ensuring the integrity of electronic networks that have become essential to our way of life. As during the Cold War, a strategy of containment should include comprehensive export controls and the monitoring of international financial transactions. Without money and access to weapons, the jihadist threat shrinks to insignificance: All that remains is hatred.

It seems to me that pre-emptive war is an option that should be kept in a small box in a glass cage that should be broken only in the direst emergencies. The one recent example of it, Iraq, has been a catastrophe that has not yet reached a conclusion. Very few foreign policy initiatives did more to destroy American power than that open wound still sucking in money and lives and attention. Containment, a policy that, in contrast, has had huge success in the past and was once backed by a bipartisan majority remains under-rated.

I suspect that containing Islamism is far more effective than giving it oxygen by attempting to defeat it in its own lands, where its popularity is sinking anyway under the weight of its own brutality and nihilism.

We didn't invade the Soviet Union to destroy communism. We were self-confident enough to let it destroy itself, while never relenting on exposing its moral bankruptcy, political poison and economic failure. In Iran today, there exists a more vibrant and empowered popular opposition than ever existed in the Soviet heartland. And yet we remain fixated on military options and stay unmoved by the possibility of a nuclear stand-off in the Middle East between Israel and Iran.

The right has abandoned its previous support for deterrence, the benefits of mutually assured destruction, the maintenance of a moral high ground, and the slow power of containment. It's time conservatives looked at these options again.