October 7, 2014

A New 30-Years’ War: Panetta’s Sobering Prediction

by Hal Gershowitz

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Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsPredictions of a new 30-Years’ War between the West and radical Islam should send shivers down any sane person’s spine, especially when that prediction is made by someone of Leon Panetta’s stature.

Former Secretary of Defense Panetta has taken strong exception to the Obama notion that the threat of war has been receding. Quite the contrary, Panetta warns that Americans should prepare themselves for the country to be at war with the Islamic State and other terrorist groups for decades to come (emphasis added).

No one would (or should) ever accuse Leon Panetta of being self-serving, or of playing politics when it comes to our national interest or welfare, even if he has just published his memoires. Democrat Panetta is, by any standard, a great American patriot and an honorable public servant who has served his country with incredible distinction. President Obama appointed Panetta to serve as Director of the CIA where he oversaw the successful hunt for Osama bin Laden before tapping him to be Secretary of Defense in 2011. Panetta, who is now 76 years old, had served in Congress for 16 years before being asked to serve as Director of the Office of Management and Budget by President Bill Clinton and then as Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff. If anyone’s perspective on radical Islam or the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) should be taken very seriously, Panetta would be the perfect “go-to” guy.

Already, members of the Obama Administration are calling him disloyal, as have a few talking heads and some Administration sycophants in the press. But as Panetta replied in responding to such criticism, “you can’t put history on hold.” His point is a valid one. There are but a few truly qualified Americans who can provide meaningful perspective to an America desperate for such perspective as it faces threats on many fronts from Radical Islam. Leon Panetta has done so in his newly released memoire, “Worthy Fights.”

“I think we’re looking at kind of a 30-year war,” he says, one that will have to extend beyond Islamic State to include emerging threats in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere. Panetta blames President Obama for decisions he made over the past three years that have made that battle more difficult.

Panetta writes (as have we) that threats from other terrorist networks in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya as well as other countries will engage U.S. military for the foreseeable future. “The fight will not end when the U.S. defeats ISIS in Iraq and Syria.”

This corresponds with statements of other US officials including James Comey, Director of the FBI who believes the al-Qaeda offshoot Khorosan Group will, in fact, strike the United States very soon.

Panetta’s use of the conflict that history describes as the 30-years’war as analogous to where America finds itself today is, we think, quite significant. The Thirty Years’ War was an awful series of wars in Central Europe between 1618–1648. It was largely a religious war between Protestants and Catholics, and one of the most destructive conflicts in European history, and one of the longest. Radical Islam is at war with Christians, Jews, Hindus Shiites and even Sunni Muslims who are not Muslim enough for them. The current conflict with Radical Islam is every bit as gruesome as the historical 30-years’ War. Beheadings, crucifixions, firing squads, rape, kidnapping, forced conversions to an extent not seen since the inquisition, and pillage are all acceptable tactics.

The Thirty Years’ War, like the war the Islamic State is waging, saw the devastation of entire regions, with famine and disease significantly decreasing the populations of the conquered territories. And just as the forces of the Islamic State steal treasure, food and property, warriors in the armies during the historical 30-years’ war were expected to fund themselves by looting or extorting tribute at great cost to the inhabitants of occupied territories.

In an interview with USA TODAY’s video newsmaker series, Panetta says Obama erred:

– by not pushing the Iraqi government harder to allow a residual U.S. force to remain when troops withdrew in 2011, a deal he says could have been negotiated with more effort. That “created a vacuum in terms of the ability of that country to better protect itself, and it’s out of that vacuum that ISIS began to breed.”

– by rejecting the advice of top aides — including Panetta and then-secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — to begin arming Syrian rebels in 2012. If the U.S. had done so, “I do think we would be in a better position to know whether or not there is some moderate element in the rebel forces that are confronting (Syrian President Bashar) Assad.”

– by warning Assad not to use chemical weapons against his own people, then failing to act when that “red line” was crossed in 2013. Before ordering airstrikes, Obama said he wanted to seek congressional authorization, which predictably didn’t happen.

The reversal cost the United States credibility then and is complicating efforts to enlist international allies now to join a coalition against the Islamic State, Panetta says. “There’s a little question mark as to whether, the United States is going to stick this out? Is the United States going to be there when we need them?”

Showing leadership in the fight against ISIS is an opportunity “to repair the damage,” he says. It’s also a chance for Obama to get a fresh start after having “lost his way.”

Somewhat telling is the extent to which Panetta’s criticism parallels that of others who have left the Obama Administration including Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton and others who have no further aspirations for public office or lucrative book deals. Gates, who was generally complimentary of Obama, especially in his pursuit of Osama bin Laden, lamented, nonetheless, that “getting anything of consequence done (within the Administration) was so damnably difficult.”

Gates, was also critical of Obama’s handling of Afghanistan, feeling that Obama made military decisions based on political considerations, a criticism shared by other former White House officials.

As we have written in a recent essay, America cannot simply declare peace when our enemies are bent on war. Budgeting for our defense as though the threat of war has been receding, as the President has opined, is dangerous. The world has rarely been a tranquil place. Only 8 percent of recorded history (268 years out of 3400 years) has been free of war (NY Times, July 6, 2003). We do not seem to be living in a time characterized by those tranquil 268 non-consecutive years. The sooner we understand that the better.

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9 responses to “A New 30-Years’ War: Panetta’s Sobering Prediction”

  1. steve hardy says:

    You state, “James Comey, Director of the FBI who believes the al-Qaeda offshoot Khorosan Group will, in fact strike the United States very soon.” I am curious as to how they might do that considering that they are 10,000 miles away and don’t have a navy or air force. As to the theory that American Jihadists with US passports will return to the US, when Mr Comey was asked on 60 minutes how many of these people have been identified his answer was “12”. The popular idea that we must kill them there before they kill us here reminds me of the cold war “domino theory” except that at least made more sense.

    • Of course, the radical Islamists who brought down the World Trade Center came from thousands of miles away with no navy or air force (other than the passenger planes they highjacked). We would think that killing the 19 9/11 terrorists “there” rather than “here” would have been just fine. The Fort Hood Massacre only required one radicalized Islamist. As to the actual number of Americans who have become, or who will become, or who are in the process of becoming radicalized by the likes of ISIS, we’ll quote FBI director James Comey, “we don’t know what we don’t know.” We have not suggested that America is in danger of falling to Islamic invaders as it was once feared nations would fall to Communists under the “domino theory.” What we have suggested is that deadly and disruptive random attacks against Americans, American allies, and American interests will grow in frequency and intensity if left unchecked.

  2. Donald Borsand says:

    Can the U.S afford a 30 yrs war, while China, now our arch competitor for world domination, sits back & plows its excess revenue into growing its economy & at the same time improving its military (i.e. ,building a new navy)& implying to its neighbors that its now a new game in S.E Asia & America may be broke, or at least poorly managed?And what about Iran? Has Obama tacitly agreed to allow them to have the bomb?
    I agree that the world has rarely been a tranquil place, but never until 1945 did the world experience nuclear weapons. Will we or Iran, or others, be faced with having to use them again?
    Finally, do we have the leadership in place now, & probably again in 2016 ,to stand up to all of the issues facing us & the world?!

  3. steve hardy says:

    It seems to me the critical question is, does fighting wars overseas eliminate or reduce the threat of terrorists attacks in the US? And if so, at what costs? I don’t know how many more terrorists attacks we would have had had we not fought two wars in the last twelve or so years but I doubt not many. I suggest that we let the people in the Mideast fight their own wars while we beef up our intelligence.

  4. Irwin Yablans says:

    THANK YOU MR. HARDY FOR SOME CLEAR THINKING .
    WHAT IS INFERRED IN THIS ESSAY IS THAT A CONFRONTATION WITH THE ISLAMISTS,BY WHATEVER NAME THEY CHOOSE THIS WEEK, IS UNAVOIDABLE.
    IF SO,THEN LET’S TALK ABOUT WHAT INEVITABLY WILL REQUIRE A LARGE EXPEDITIONARY FORCE VERY MUCH LIKE THE FIRST IRAQI INCURSION,PROBABLY MORE TROOPS AND OUR PRESENCE IN GREAT NUMBERS FOR MANY YEARS,…30 MAYBE?
    IT WILL ALSO REQUIRE MOBILIZATION. THAT WILL PROBABLY MEAN A DRAFT. ARE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE READY FOR AN ALL OUT WAR FOOTING? CERTAINLY NOT NOW.
    THIS COLUMN KEEPS NIBBLING AROUND THE EDGES OF A CASSANDRA LIKE BEAT …THE MUSLIMS ARE COMING,THE MUSLIMS ARE COMING…
    MAYBE THEY WILL AND MAYBE THEY WON’T BUT UNTIL THE FIRST CAMEL CORP SHOWS UP ON LONG ISLAND LET’S KEEP OUR HEADS (WHILE WE CAN) AND AVOID OVER REACTION…
    REMEMBER THAT’S HOW THIS WHOLE THING STARTED IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS OBUSH,CHENEY AND CO.

    • Of course we believe, as does Mr. Panetta, that a confrontation with radical Islamists is unavoidable. In fact, it is, and has been, in progress for 35 years preceding Bush 43, Clinton, Bush 41 and Reagan. Mr. Panetta hasn’t called for massive mobilization. He has merely described the reality as it exists today and is apt to exist for years to come.

  5. Irwin Yablans says:

    And so it goes.There isn’t much anyone can do except watch and wait, or is there something specific you would have Obama,or for that matter ,any one else,do….
    The world is going thru a historical, cataclysmic shifting of the balance of power, post world war two, and the U.S. will probably be just another player..American exceptionalism notwithstanding.

  6. Jerry Kaufman says:

    The number of deaths in America from terrorist attacks pales in comparison with the number of deaths in our 12-year old war on terrorism; even in comparison to the number of civilian deaths we have caused in this never-ending war.
    Maybe, just maybe, we should stop for a while; stop fighting other’s battles and stop creating more terrorists.
    Or, maybe, we should take Panetta’s advice and elect Hillary, who “would make a great president.”
    I am reminded of the “drug war” which, I believe, does more harm to society than the drugs.

  7. Ellen Glass says:

    Please explain to me how this radical Islamist (terrorism} problem relates to the antisemitism creeping up all over the world. Because it seems to me that is what should be of prime importance to some of us. This radical Islamist movement has grown exponentially primarily due to their recruitment policies, financing from other Arab countries, robbing banks and pillaging etc. Perhaps now the UN will find a way to blame Israel for all of the above.

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