How many divisions has the pope?

Posted by lex, on December 1, 2006

Fewer than he used to have, argues Daniel Henninger in the WSJ:

It is somehow appropriate that amid the confusions of the U.S. involvement with the sectarians of Iraq, Pope Benedict XVI, fresh from his own “engagement” with contemporary Islam at Regensburg, should come to Turkey, which has sought membership in the European Union for 20 years. The theologian Michael Novak said recently of Benedict, “His role is to represent Western civilization.” I’d say Benedict is more than up to the task. What remains to discover is whether Western civilization is still up to it.

We have been in this spot before, and won.

When Stalin famously asked how many divisions the pope had, he assumed that the brute force of military power would be everywhere decisive. That belief led to a four-decade standoff between the Soviets’ tank armies and NATO. Finally in the 1980s, John Paul II, the Polish pope, gave intellectual hope and heft to anticommunist dissidents. Ronald Reagan and his allies prevailed over Europe’s marching pacifists and installed Pershing missile batteries in Europe. By decade’s end, the long Cold War with communism was dissipating. The pope’s engagement mattered.

One may assume that in some Himalayan redoubt, history’s latest homicidal utopians, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, believe that coupling their ideology to Islamic suicide bombers–in New York, London or Baghdad–is more than a match for the will of a morally diminished West. Are they wrong?

Read on and make your own conclusions about Western Civ 101. Which I’m not sure they’re teaching in schools anymore, so you’ve got to go to the Wall Street Journal, as it turns out.

Pity, that.

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Filed under by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, GWOT

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