Sorry, I'm not relenting. I'm not listening to Bush and neo-conservative analysts because this isn't World War IV. Lemme tell ya why...
1. No enemies
Exactly who are we fighting in this purported world war? We certainly aren't fighting Islam, as Mr. Bush would be the first to tell you. We aren't fighting fundamentalist Islamic fascism, either, because then we would be invading Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, states we support. We're fighting North Korea (on bad days, at least), but not authoritarian communism, because Hu Jintao and Fidel Castro aren't making a peep.
In both world wars, as well as the Cold War, we knew who we were fighting. It was the Central Powers, or the Axis, or the Warsaw Pact. It wasn't an Axis of Evil that turned out to be incomplete and that included an enemy of questionable enemy status. Thus, you can hardly lump all of this together and call it a war.
2. Not a world war
Unless you consider the "world" to start in Tel Aviv and end in Lahore, this isn't a world war. Latin America, Africa, and East Asia are almost completely uninvolved, and all of the battles are taking place in the Middle East. In fact, the only Western Hemisphere state taking part in this war is the good ol' USA: not even Canada, our age-old ally, wants a part of the action, and the few countries in Europe that support us have done so at the expense of native popular support.
3. Unilateral military action
Calling this a "war" is hardly proper anyway. The precipitating attack on September 11, 2001 and the terrorist acts in Israel have been the limit of the actions against the Coalition of the Willing. While 9/11 was a highly visible and largely unanticipated attack, it pales in comparison to the amount of damage done in Baghdad and Kabul in retaliation. In World War II, on the other hand, you had London going up in flames, Paris living under the banner of the Nazis, and Singapore overrun by Japanese tanks, not to mention the death camps, the POW massacres, and the biowarfare experiments. Even Nam and the past Arab-Israeli wars were more two-sided. I don't know about you guys, but this war reminds me of cops beating up Rodney King more than it reminds me of a true global conflict.
Yes, our men and women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Largely from friendly fire, of course, and at the expense of about a hundred times as many enemy soldiers. But still, we call this smackdown a "war." Indeed.
Now, here's what I have to say to Noung's points. They're well-argued, but I have to disagree with them.
Pax Americana and the Bush Doctrine
First of all, let's make one thing clear. Either there never was a Pax Americana, or there was a Pax Americana from 1865 to 2001. The fact of the matter is that aside from Pearl Harbor (DASTARDLY JAPS ATTACK COLONIALLY OCCUPIED U.S. NON-STATE) and the World Trade Center, Americans haven't seen an outside attack in their homeland in anything approaching recent history. And the other side of this is that there hasn't been anything approaching world peace, ever. And I mean EVER. Basically, the Pax Americana is nothing more than an illusion we created in the wake of the Cold War. You remember the days of irrational exuberance, don't you? We made up a lot of illusions back then, while people in Yugoslavia and Rwanda and Colombia were being slaughtered for absolutely ridiculous reasons.
Which brings us to the Bush Doctrine. Bill Clinton was, and is, not a fool. Ignoring the ethics of non-intervention in foreign conflicts for a moment, his policy was to approach such problems from afar, only sending in the Marines when an international agreement was set up. Yes, people died as a result of this policy, but American interests were upheld. There was only minimal resentment from abroad, and most of it was from people like Osama bin Laden who were opposed to American support of Zionism. The Bush Doctrine, however, turns this policy on its head. If you believe in stopping cruelties overseas with military might, then it looks like a good policy on paper. At the same time, you're losing the part of Clinton's policy that kept America from being burned before: staying out of other people's business.
Our military strength, sadly, is not a deterrence to terrorists. It's a deterrence to hostile states. Since we still don't know where bin Laden is, we can't even begin to claim that terrorists will feel threatened by our military structure. Give me a CIA that's as good as the Mossad, and I might call that a deterrence. Shooting the bad guy's best friend, however, is not really a deterrent to the bad guy.
China is on a financial intravenous from the US right now, and they wouldn't even dream of going to war with us. If North Korea had its own special economic zones, as Kim Il Sung had planned in the seventies, they wouldn't want to go to war with us, either. The fact is that you don't have to have popular rule or a free economy to feel the security harness of interdependence: what you need is a great deal of foreign trade. For our halfhearted friends around the Persian Gulf, most of whom are nothing approaching democratic, the oil trade they'd lose in a war on America far outweighs any desire to attack.
"Freedom is not a Western value," you say. I can buy this. After all, Japan got it to work. However, find a good example of "freedom" outside of the West and Japan (and maybe South Korea, given the last few years), and I'll give you a cookie. It just ain't there. You're either dealing with a single-party oligarchy with rigged elections, or an outright junta, or a combination of the two. Some countries happen to be socially malleable, but I would wager that most countries aren't.
Not even Westerners agree that freedom is a good thing. Remember Thomas Hobbes? I've heard hardcore American neocons and hardcore European liberals argue that Hobbes is the way to go. And while I disagree with the idea of authoritarianism, I don't think it's our place, or anyone's place, to go around smacking it down in selected points.
No, America isn't an empire in the traditional sense. It's more like a giant squid. The US, Europe, China, and perhaps Japan are all giant squids, with big, goopy tentacles of trade agreements, daughter corporations, and supply lines stretching out and latching on with giant suckers of capitalism. Rome and Britain were not giant squids: they were big gobs of color on the map. This is why some people don't want to call America an empire.
However, checking Webster for a second, you can see that an empire doesn't have to be a big sovereign entity. It can also mean any arrangement where a central person, family, or corporation controls an entire social or economic organization. Given this definition, how can you not characterize the United States as the emperor of the international economic and political order? Granted, it's not some sort of statal superstructure dictating commands... but it's damned close, and the nuclear navy and the air force both help to keep that status alive.
Colonization is not the name of the game here. Dosh is. America might not be the British Empire, but it's definitely a corporate empire that wants all it can get from everyone it can get it from. And this isn't necessarily a bad thing, until the big guns roll out and people start dying for their countries.
Yes, the people of Iraq were at war. They're still at war. They're gonna be at war for a while. Once they get their fill of Starbucks and Britney Spears, their state of war will subside. They'll get rose-colored glasses like ours, and then decide to take out the terrorists in Tehran.
And as Shirley Bassey once said, it's all just a little bit of history repeating.