In an article in the Corriere della Sera of August 28 2021, Ernesto Galli della Loggia poses the following question:
Are our societies still capable of waging war? Of bearing psychologically the terrible impact of a, so to speak, voluntary dimension of death? Are we still capable of accepting the possibility of knowingly giving or receiving death, as it has always meant to ‘wage war’?
The Italian political scientist responded to this crucial question by examining the military significance that the so-called contractors have taken in the operations against the Taliban. Used by the United States in all theaters of operation (from the Balkans to Iraq), these civilian combatants are hired by private companies that have entered into special contracts with the Pentagon. They are the expression of an underlying historical fact: the end of the national army in the West, replaced with a real and proper outsourcing of the war entrusted to an army of specialists who in Afghanistan have lost their lives in greater numbers than soldiers of the US Army. But, as Galli della Loggia observes, “with an army of specialists and mercenaries one can at most carry out police operations; and even these inevitably end up as the most ruinous defeats if one insists on passing them off as something else.”
A people fight if they are willing to sacrifice their lives for the ideals they believe in. Today, however, the common good seems to coincide with that of maximum “security.” The West claims to be fighting a zero-death war, and if that does not happen the reaction is not controlled, but anxious and emotional.
As Alessandro Sallusti observes in the newspaper Libero on August 28, the image of the president of the United States crying on live TV is not an encouraging sign for the Western world. The commander-in-chief of the first world power cannot get caught up in emotion like any elderly retiree, but must be able to mask his frailty. The psychological datum of this scene, Renato Farina observes in the same newspaper, “not only corresponds in full to the harshness of the catastrophe we are experiencing, but is also a prophecy for the future.” A future of tears precisely for the West.
When Winston Churchill said he had nothing to offer but “Blood, toil, tears and sweat,” he added: “You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us.”
Who is able to face enemies with such determination today? The West has not yet understood what is the external enemy it is facing. As Maurizio Molinari observes in La Repubblica of August 29, the jihadist feud for control of Kabul between the Taliban of Abdul Ghani Baradar and the ISIS of Khorasan contrasts two rival models for Afghanistan: “The Taliban with the reissue of the their Islamic Emirate aim to become the most rigid example of a fundamentalist state.” The ISIS of Khorasan “is instead pursuing the creation of a ‘Caliphate’ in the territories of Afghanistan and large neighboring regions in Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, up to the borders of Xi Jinping’s China.” Both projects
arise from the jihadist thinking of Abdullah Azzam, the Palestinian fundamentalist assassinated in Peshawar in 1989 and considered the mentor of Osama Bin Laden, according to whom the ‘war against the infidels’ in Afghanistan marked ‘the beginning of the global Jihad’ leading to the submission of the whole world to Islam. But they aim to achieve it in the opposite manner: by building a national Emirate or by creating a regional Central Asian Caliphate.
Collaborating with the Taliban “moderates” in order to isolate ISIS would mean failing to understand those with whom one is dealing. Contemporary Islam, as all its scholars observe, has its core in the doctrine of jihad. This is expressed in the new war of world religion that, under the guise of the Taliban or of ISIS, has its combative party in radical Islam.
In the face of this ideological enemy war is inevitable, but it must be fought without tears, with dry lashes, with the determination to win. But what are the ideals and values to which the Western ruling class refers? Is it capable of discerning a “just war,” and of conducting it with credibility to the end? Wars can be occasions of great rebirths or great catastrophes, depending on the men and the historical contingencies. What trust should be given to those who cannot even call wartime events by their name?
As the Second World War drew to a close, Pius XII indicated the main lines of reconstruction in the return of societies and nations to the order established by God, that is, “to a true Christianity in the State and among the States” (Address to the Consistory, December 24 1945). And in the aftermath of the conflict, the pope identified the root causes of the war in the abandonment of and contempt for the law of God, which constitutes the only foundation of peace within states and of international peace (Radio message to the world, December 24 1941). Today not only does no politician speak this language, but the very leaders of the Church have abandoned it and are calling for a false peace that leads to defeat.
What prevails in war is not military but moral strength. If the attack of September 11, 2001 was a declaration of war by Islam on our Western civilization, the shameful flight from Kabul proclaims, after twenty years, the military and above all moral defeat of the West. Only extraordinary divine help can reverse the fate of a planetary conflict whose outcome is otherwise sealed. This is why it is time for struggle and immense trust.
Roberto de Mattei is an Italian Catholic historian and the President of the Lepanto Foundation, an international organization based in Rome that aims to defend the principles and institutions of Christian Civilization. He directs the magazine “Radici Cristiane” and the “Corrispondenza Romana” News Agency, and was Director of the “Nova Historica” international journal from 2002 until 2013. He is the author of many books, including “The Second Vatican Council – An Unwritten Story.” His books have been translated into several languages, and have earned him an international reputation.