John Podhoretz fears that we may be too civilized to win asymmetric conflicts, and proposes (behind the poltroonish veil of the question mark) that we become somewhat less civilized. If his prose means anything, it means that we erred in not slaughtering as many “Sunni males between 15 and 35” as possible after we conquered Iraq.
There is a technical term for that approach to war-fighting. It’s called “genocide,” and it’s punishable by death.
Aside from his moral mistake, Podhoretz makes a fundamental strategic mistake: he likens the current fight against the movements of violently politicized Islam — Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda — and the states that support them — notably Iran and Syria — as if it were the same sort of civilization-threating conflict as World War II or the Cold War. In this regard, John Derbyshire’s unapologetically racist contempt for the people he refers to in public as living in “worthless countries” (and no doubt refers to in private as “wogs”) gives him clearer vision, though no greater moral elevation.
Our civilization is not at risk. To think so reflects cowardice. To persuade others that we are at risk is to spread cowardice. Podhoretz’s tough-guy persona hides either a man too terrified to think like a civilized human being or a man who hopes to terrify his fellow-citizens into supporting policies he favors for other reasons. He’d make a good teller of scary stories around a Boy Scout campfire. As a strategic thinker, he’d have to improve a lot to be contemptible.