What does this war mean? The invasion of Iraq was intended to bring
clarity to the nature of the war and America's purpose,
but it has succeeded in muddying both. Yet it has also succeeded
in accelerating change in, and deepening America's relationship
with, the Muslim World, with consequences far beyond what we
have surveyed to date. These essays are a meditation on the
essential (if essentially untreated) theme of war as the ultimate
bringer of change.
About the Author
Dr. M. Vlahos is a member of APL's Senior Staff. Previously
he directed the Security Studies program at The Johns Hopkins University
School of Advanced International Studies and was Director of the
State Department's Center for the Study of Foreign Affairs.
Table of Contents
Defeating the Gods of War (May 1, 2003)
Iraq the United States ended the utility of classical war. Demonstrating
transformation" ironically ushered in a new paradigm of
war in which we can be defeated. Thus the "triumphalism" that
succeeded the initial Iraq campaign was premature. The real war
was yet to come.
Military Identity in the Age of Empire
(June 19, 2003)
wholly successful, total world security management, or "American
Empire," would be realized at the expense of the U.S. military's
very identity. Military societies serving an empire rather than
a republic, acting as enforcers rather than defenders, suggest
a terrible irony both to the concept of military transformation
and even victory.
"Enemy Mine" (July
Victory itself has been fundamentally misunderstood.
In war the relationship with the enemy and his world defines both
the narrative of the conflict and the parameters of victory. In
Iraq the United States ignored the centrality of its relationship
with the Muslim World and instead reflexively replayed its own
cherished story line of World War II. In doing so we are unconsciously
participating in—and legitimating—the
The Muslims Are Coming! The Muslims
Are Coming! (August 26, 2003)
American strategy fixates
on the majority Muslim World, but the future of Islam may be
shaped in the minority Muslim World, especially in Western Europe.
In France, Italy, and Spain, Muslims may reach a quarter of the
population by 2050. This not only suggests the prospect of religious
reform, but also the possibility of religious and social mixing
that could lead to a new cultural synthesis. A much more Muslim
European culture might have important strategic implications
for the United States in the pursuit of its long war.
The Six Dilemmas of the Moderate Islamist
(October 16, 2003)
The moderate Islamist is ignored—even denied—by
U.S. statecraft but the broader movement for change within Islam
has a strong and vital element that is pluralistic and non-violent.
Its quietude makes it vulnerable, however, to the radical Islamists,
who insist that theirs is the only way to defend a Muslim World
under attack from the United States. America needs to reach out
to peaceful Islamists or risk change in Islam that is wholly radicalized.
The Story of This War (November 6, 2003)
There was once a story,
a complete narrative on which the administration had come to rely.
U.S. war strategy, including planned campaigns, depended on the
proper unfolding of this story. But the American strategic narrative
failed, leaving confusion and uncertainty about even a local outcome
in Iraq. What happened to this story of the future? What new narrative
will succeed it?
Enemies of the Good (December 11, 2003)
The United States has become the bringer
of change to the Muslim World. However, rather than appealing
to the more moderate and pluralistic change forces within Islam,
America has adopted a strategy of destroying the radicals' notion
of Islam while attempting to impose the American vision of secular
democracy on all Muslims. We should rethink our longer-term relationship
with the Muslim World before we usher in the opposite of what we
The Soldiering Ethos (February 19, 2004)
Although America has fought a war for
more than two years with a peacetime military, the situation
is changing. Effective insurgency in Iraq is just the first step
moving our military into long-term wartime. Over the decades
that this war promises, an active U.S. engagement in the Muslim
World will mean nothing less than a profoundly altered military
establishment and military society—not, as assumed initially,
a supreme force running the world, but rather a "soldiering" society
and way of life.
The Muslim Renovatio and U.S. Strategy
(April 27, 2004)
If the Islamist trajectory
continues, in its elusive intertwining of violent and non-violent
forms, then America's intervention in the Muslim World will become
increasingly enmeshed in Islamist issues. The decisive factor
in the Muslim future will, in fact, be the relationship between
the United States and Islamism. American actions are even now
promoting change along Muslim trajectories rather than ours.
Thus the United States has set in motion a "world-historical" process
that will profoundly affect us as well.
Exhuming the "War of Ideas" (July
American ideas and
persuasion—what is now called "public
diplomacy" but was once known as propaganda—worked
reasonably well in the months after 9-11. Nevertheless,the invasion
of Iraq and its subsequent unraveling ruined the U.S. message to
the Muslim World. America has once again lost the "hearts
and minds" of Muslims and must now struggle even to communicate
with them, let alone persuade them. Yet the "war of ideas" is
perhaps the key to this war. What is to be done?
Full Text of Culture's Mask: War & Change After