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The end of the beginning

By Steven Martinovich
web posted April 14, 2003

The final cards of the American-led war in Iraq have yet to be played but some have already begun to put together their lists of the next targets for the Bush administration. The names are familiar ones: Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Even nominal American ally Saudi Arabia appears on some top-ten lists. Though one might be tempted to use the language of the left and declare them warmongers or imperialists fighting for Israel or oil, or both, the list makers seem to instinctively understand what Winston Churchill stated in 1942 about another war. The end of Saddam Hussein "is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Ex-CIA director James Woolsey made some waves earlier this month when he told students at UCLA that the United States wasn't simply at war with Iraq; it was fighting World War IV. This current war would last years, longer than the First and Second World Wars, but "hopefully" not as long as the Cold War, his Third World War. He argues that the free world's "new" enemies are Iran's religious leaders, dictatorships like Syria and Iraq, and terrorist groups like al-Qaida. It's a war, he said, that will make many people -- even allies -- in the Middle East nervous.

"We want you nervous. We want you to realize now, for the fourth time in a hundred years, this country and its allies are on the march and that we are on the side of those whom you -- the Mubaraks, the Saudi Royal family -- most fear: We're on the side of your own people," said Woolsey.

Whether or not you agree with Woolsey, elements in the Middle East have been fighting this war against the West for decades now. We just didn't notice until September 11, 2001. Since the late 1970s, certain Islamic nations and groups have targeted moderate nations of all religious and political persuasions with the United States and its allies leading the way on the enemies list. Distinguishing who our enemy is, however, is important. We are not, as U.S. President George W. Bush has repeatedly pointed out, at war with Islam. We are at war with tyrannical ideologies that have grafted themselves onto Islam. Our enemy, it turns out, is an old one.

Many of the tyrannies of the Middle East, and the rest of the world, are products of European philosophies and not Islam. As Bernard Lewis pointed out in a recent speech in Toronto, Iraq's Ba'ath Party was "a kind of clone of the Nazi and Fascist parties, using very similar methods and adapting a very similar ideology, and operating in the same way -- as part of an apparatus of surveillance that exists under a one-party state, where a party is not a party in the Western democratic sense, but part of the apparatus of a government." Though the Third Reich was destroyed its institutions, brought to African and Middle East nations through war, continue to live on.

Unfortunately for the West, Iraq isn't the only country infected by European philosophies based on Nazism or Communism or has given itself to militant Islam with fascist tendencies. Syria, Libya and Iran, among others, are little different from the Hussein government. They are nations governed by men who see Enlightenment values as a danger to their existence. As history as shown, they have little problem with subsidizing movements who aim a dagger straight at the heart of the values the West embodies -- or the hearts of their own citizens.

The drama currently unfolding in Iraq should gladden our hearts but it should also prepare us for the inevitable need to confront the other regimes, such as a soon to be nuclear-armed Iran, that endanger global security. We cannot allow ourselves, as the West did after World War I, to believe that one victory means an end to the danger. If we do, we might well remember another one of Churchill's statements, this one made in 1940 about the Great War. "We were so glutted with victory that in our folly we cast it away."

Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario.

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