How do you defeat an ideology?
Ronald Reagan won the cold war by essentially refusing to accept the premise, long held and touted as policy by the left, that the US was equal to the Soviet Union. No better, no worse, just a different system.
Reagan refused to believe that and refused to treat the Soviet system as a system on par with ours.
He delegitimized the USSR in the minds of many in America and around the world.
Today Soviet Communism has pretty much been relegated to the ash heap of history just as Reagan predicted.
Lately I have noticed some using "scare" or "mocking" quotes (not that this is new, I just started noticing it in this context) when referring to the War On Terror. This is something I imagine might have happened at the beginning of the Cold War. However, long before the fall of the Soviet Union these had fallen by the wayside as the realization of the historic situation penetrated the elite media classes.
Following 9/11 President Bush realized that we had entered a new era in dealing with terrorism. As such he formulated the only course of action that had any hope of relegating that ideology to the same ash heap of history that the USSR ended up on. Unfortunately those who insist on using the "scare" quotes have failed to understand the reality of today's historic challenges.
President Bush formed a strategy premised on delegitimize terrorism by treating any nation that harbors terrorists as terrorists themselves. He pushed for a worldwide crackdown on sponsors of terrorism, froze the funds of terrorists, cracked down on the trade of weapons on the open seas and removed the governments in two of the worlds worst nations. Winning the hearts and minds was secondary and only possible by the continued demonstration of and the threat of a willingness to take action to force the issue. In essence you had to convince governments supporting terrorism or harboring terrorist that it this was too costly. Thus forcing an active change in their policies from supporting terrorism toward one where terrorism was no longer supported or ignored and quietly accepted.
This delegitimization policy is very similar the one Reagan used to end the Cold War, halting the spread of communism in the world and pushing it back to a point where today many communist nations practice some form of capitalism.
Through the history of this new policy and throughout the Bush Presidency I have observed the conventional wisdom (which is wrong more often then not) following the same pattern it did during the eight years of Ronald Reagan. As we know today, and was evident within the term of his successor, the policy worked and the USSR disintegrated forthwith.
That leads me to the future of the current incarnation of the delegitimization policy. One of the reasons the policy succeeded against the USSR is time, the policy survived the man legitimizing it as the policy of the nation.
With the election of George HW Bush there was no longer any hope that the Soviets would be able to wait out the policy until a more open administration took office. That knowledge had an impact on their decision making and on their actions.
Would the USSR have survived had Dukakis succeeded and worked with what he called the 'new thinking' in the Soviet Union?
Will the terrorists hold out? Even more importantly, will those on the cusp of accepting that the terrorists, who have been knocked back on their heels worldwide and left isolated by the Bush policies, are truly illegitimate hold out for the prospect of 'new thinking' here at home?
Will the policy that can and is delegitimizing the terrorists be given enough time to succeed as it did with the Soviets?