Bobby Jindal’s candidacy may be pointless, but he made a statement in his announcement speech today that was very useful for understanding how many hawks think about foreign threats and the threats from jihadist groups in particular. He said:
Containment is a strategy for losers.
Jindal is badly wrong about this, but it’s worth noting because this has become something of a common refrain among the most vocal hawks in the 2016 race. Like advocates of “rollback” sixty years ago needed to portray anti-Soviet containment as weakness and appeasement, today’s hawks need to find a policy that is more aggressive against jihadists than whatever the current administration is doing so that they can attack Obama in the same way. In this case, Jindal insists that the U.S. must commit to “destroying” what he calls “radical Islam.” “It is time that we play to win again,” Jindal said, as if this were possible with the far-fetched goal he just established.
It’s odd to believe that it is within the power of our government or any collection of governments to “destroy” an ideology, but more to the point it is such an open-ended and overly ambitious goal that it commits the U.S. to perpetual war. Jindal’s goal is absurd and fantastical, and it is one that is bound to end in failure at great expense to the U.S. In fact, it is Jindal’s idea that the U.S. can “destroy radical Islam” that will put the U.S. on a path to suffering many unnecessary conflicts and many unnecessary losses. It’s not clear that something like a containment policy is the best response to the threats from various jihadist groups (and the comparison with Cold War-era containment can mislead us into thinking that the threat we face today is as great as it was then), but it is certainly preferable to the impossible mission that Jindal would set for us.