The "War on Terror" is winnable.

I am currently watching Eric Alterman on C-SPAN this morning. If you don't know him, Alterman makes the case that the mainstream media is not "liberal." His assertion: rightwing propagandists manufactured the "liberal media" myth to give the conservative media (which does exist) a raison d'etre. He also makes the point (not original to him), among myriad others--coming, seemingly, at the speed of light, that a "war on terror" is impossible. That is, the word "terror" describes a phenomenon, which makes prosecuting a war on terror unlike fighting a war with England, Mexico, Spain, Germany or Japan--all nations with seats of government and conventional armies.

Actually, Alterman's point is not completely incompatible with the conservative complaint that "terrorism" is an unhelpful euphemism for "Islamofascism." Okie Gardener has argued that this "sloppy terminology relates to sloppy thinking: and we must be clear-headed" in this all-important appointment with destiny.

However, I am not nearly as disturbed by the imprecise terminology. As long as we know what we mean, we are fine. (Of course, whether we know what we mean is an entirely different question.) Notwithstanding, I have written privately, even if we don't call an Islamofascist an Islamofascist, their rotting corpses will smell just as putrid by any other name. But that assumes that we can kill all the terrorists, which is impractical (and not in keeping with the American personality). We are an evangelical and evangelistic people. We prefer to convert rather than eliminate. We generally have the stomach to strike out in anger against an offensive dictator or an "axis of evil," but, once our blood cools, we prefer to make peace with our enemies and convert them to our point of view. As a people, we have never demonstrated stamina for war or an ability to maintain a protracted vendetta against a malefactor.

How will we win the war on terror? By that I mean, how will we put out the fire in the Middle East that threatens American lives and interests? Perhaps the cruelest component of the President's War on Terror is that, ultimately, we must infect the world with the disease that is killing us, consumerism and indulgence and self absorption. Once the potential Islamofascists get a "whiff of the free markets" (a phrase our President was fond of using during the campaign of 2000), the erstwhile Islamic fundamentalists will be too busy paying off credit cards and watching MTV to kill us.

I still believe we can win the war on terror. It will be a long journey. As I have argued recently, Iraq must be pacified quickly (the clock on Iraq is running out). But the greater Middle East project is attainable in the same way that the Cold War was achievable, with a bipartisan concerted effort over a series of presidential administrations.

However, the President's initiative in the Middle East has always been a gamble. What if this does not work? What are our options?

Part II & III.