Not surprisingly, the first thing Objectivists get wrong is human nature. Lewis begins his screed by paraphrasing Thucydides: "Even though circumstances may change, human nature remains the same; and certain human elements—especially moral and psychological factors—are at the root of all wars." Lewis is here off to an auspicious start, much better than one would expect. Thucydides was a very wise man who understood human nature and, for that reason, grasped the motive forces of history. But Lewis immediately distances himself from Thucydides' wisdom by adding: " We can disagree with Thucydides about the identity of those factors, and reject his pessimistic view of human nature..." The question, however, is not whether Thucydides' view of human nature is pessimistic, but whether it is right. And if the course of human history is anything to judge by, Thucydides is in fact right. That is why he is still read nearly two and half millenia after his death.
Cut loose from the most important knowledge of all (i.e., knowledge of human nature), Lewis can proceed to advance his utterly clueless views about foreign policy:
History is clear [writes Lewis]: All-out force against fanatical killers is both practical and moral. It led us to our two most important foreign policy successes—the defeats of Germany and Japan in 1945—and to the permanent peace with those nations that we take for granted today. Such a course was practical and moral then, and it is practical and moral now—an affirmation, and a defense, of life and civilization.This is an example of foreign policy dictated by ideology. James Burnham defined ideology as “a more or less systematic and self-contained set of ideas supposedly dealing with the nature of reality (usually social reality), or some segment of reality, and of man’s relation (attitude, conduct) toward it; and calling for a commitment independent of specific experience or events.” That, in a word, is what is wrong with Lewis' analysis: it insists that we follow strict, inflexible principles regardless of the specific situation at hand. If we do a little simple analysis, applying intelligence and good judgment to the predicament faced by the United States and the West, we will quickly discover how absurd and misguided Lewis really is. Lewis wants us to give the Islamic world, particularly Iran, an "ultimatum" demanding "unconditional surrender." "When the enemy balks at the ultimatum," he counsels, "atomic bombs are dropped on his cities." Now let us consider what would happen if the U.S. attempted to follow this policy. In the first place, a nuclear attack on Iran would so horrify the rest of the world that the United States would find itself entirely isolated. We would almost certainly lose all our European allies, including Great Britain, and, even more critically, we would lose access to the oil in the Middle East. The social turmoil in the Islamic world caused by a nuclear strike against fellow muslims would force the leadership in Saudia Arabia and other oil producing countries to boycott the U.S. And even if (per impossible) no boycott occurred, the oil infrastructure in the Middle East is so fragile that even a nuked Iran could knock it out, especially given all the support they would get from muslim sympathizers in oil producing countries. Lewis, guided only by his simple-minded ideology, is under the illusion that the President Bush refuses to attack Iran because he is a pragmatic altruistic. This is nonsense. The United States has not attacked Iran for the simple reason that such an attack would pose a serious threat to the oil supply from the gulf. If that supply is cut off, the United State's economy -- indeed, the entire global economy -- would experience a serious downturn that could have catastrophic social and political consequences in the West. The turmoil here in America could be so dramatic that the government, just to get by, might very well have to declare martial law.
Lewis has absolutely no appreciation for how complicated the real world situation actually is, nor does he have a clue how many factors are involved in judging what would happen if the U.S. pursued the policies he and his Objectivist cohorts advocate. To take just one example, has he or anyone at the Ayn Rand Institute kept eye on the financial situation in the world? Does anyone there understand the extent to which banks in the United States, prompted by the Federal Reserve and an irresponsibly deregulated banking system, have extended credit and expanded the U.S. money supply? It's not clear that it would take much to bring the entire economy down, with our over-leveraged asset and real estate markets, and mountainous piles of debt ubiquitous throughout the whole system. There are very compelling reasons explaining why the U.S. has not bombed Iran. It is not currently a viable option. In the real world of fact, rather than the imaginary world of Objectivist ideology, there are oftentimes no easy solutions. Not all problems are soluble, even if we apply Objectivist "reason" to them. Life is tough. To try to evade this by describing it as "pessimistic" or the "malevolent universe principle" is merely to place one's head firmly in the sand. But, as Thomas Carlyle reminds us, "No Ostrich, intent on gross terrene provender, and sticking its head into Fallacies, but will be awakened one day,--and in a terrible a posteriori manner, if not otherwise!"
Ideology is almost always about evading hard facts. Part of the appeal of Objectivism is that it provides an over-simplified view of the world that explains all the ills of mankind as due to a failure to follow "reason," which in concrete terms means: a failure to follow Ayn Rand, a woman with no particular expertise or insight into human nature or the human condition and whom von Mises once described, so exasperated was he by her intransigent bullying nonsense, as a "silly little Jewish girl."