World War IV

"Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen."

~ President George W. Bush

I know some people will dispute the fact that the Cold War was "World War III", but the neo-cons are referring to this whole deal as "World War IV", which is why this is noded here.

Some of you aren't listening to the President. This isn't about the economy. This isn't about oil. This isn't about the President's daddy. This is World War IV. You guys who want to stop it for whatever reason had better get clued up.

James Woolsey (former CIA director and a member of the Defence Policy Board) is notorious for saying that the U.S. is now engaged in World War IV. Paul Wolfowitz distanced himself from the remarks, but if we examine all the possible contingencies this could be just as bloody as World Wars I, II or III. There's a nuclear stand-off on the Indian subcontinent and another one brewing - if not already in existence - on the Korean peninsula. Tonnes of chemical and biological weapons are unaccounted for in South Africa, Russia and Iraq. What if nukes and bugs kill millions, and in decades people look back and say, "Yep, that was World War IV alright"? Says Dennis K. Mcbride of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies -

"We do not have to assume that a world war necessarily includes mobilization of millions of troops, exchange of millions of tons of explosives. . . . World War IV may end this way [but] it certainly might not germinate this way."

Already this war involves violent and nonviolent means, shifts in alliances, complacency in some quarters, and an ideological conflict. Sound familiar? So this is the first thing we have to acknowledge, and agree on: this is big. The President has always said it was going to be big, and everything points to it being big. This is not compatible with the claim made by some that the war on Iraq "aims for economic reinvigoration in time for the next elections". Nu-uh. This is going to be a drain on the economy and the American taxpayer1.

Pax Americana and the Bush Doctrine

American primacy in the world is not a fact anyone can dispute. With less than 5 per cent of the world's population, it has 30 per cent of the world's total economic product. Militarily (in terms of technology, doctrine2 and resources) their pre-eminence is even more remarkable. The only two entities that could possibly challenge the United States in a conventional way in the near future are the European Union or China. Jacques Chirac's dreams of a united Europe as a "seperate pole" to America have been dashed by his attempts to make this dream reality, and right now China has internal problems of its own3. So no-one can challenge the United States conventionally.

So what's to do? How can you cajole the United States into leaving you alone in your ambitions for regional hegemony? Well, you can always develop WMD and flirt with terrorist organizations. After all, isn't that how Syria and Hezbollah forced the United States out of Lebanon? Isn't that how North Korea secured the 1994 Agreed Framework? Provoking America isn't just a way of trying to achieve external ambitions, it's a way of satisfying internal pressure as well. In North Korea, the real enemy is the evil West - they must be driven away so that Korea can be gloriously reunified. Across the Arab World, the Great Satan must be driven from sacred soil, and he can take his evil doctrine of the seperation of Church and State with him.

So we've got a threat. Critics of the new war often assert that it's not a "war on terrorism" - what about FARC or the IRA or the ETA? And they're right. The "terrorism" aspect of this new war is mainly focused on radical Islamism, the extreme element represented by Osama bin Laden and those in Saudi Arabia who would finance him. After 9/11, there was a clear target to attack: Mohammad Omar's Taleban was hosting bin Laden and his terror camps, and was complicit in the attacks on America. So the war in Afghanistan could reasonably be portrayed as one with a cause that everyone could recognize. Even if they weren't sitting and taking it like Clinton, it was an easy case to understand. So that wasn't really the "Bush Doctrine."

The Bush Doctrine is about pre-emption, and this is what a lot of people don't like. Because then Uncle Sam can do what the hell he wants, right? Well, maybe, but then he always could. But why would he want to? The Bush Doctrine isn't about pre-emptive strikes so America can take control of places, it's about removing threats as they appear. To quote an example from an AEI publication, what if a radical regime overthrew the government in Pakistan? With its nuclear arsenal, that's a real threat to global security. Then the Bush Doctrine might come into play. Even Iraq wasn't really an example of the Bush Doctrine, because as e-hadj so eloquently pointed out, the United States was already at war with Iraq.

The Bush Doctrine is a departure from the Cold War era policies of containment and deterrence, but that's because the threat has demonstrably changed. The U.S.'s conventional military strength is still acting as a deterrence, especially now it has shown the will to use it, unilaterally if needs be. The Lord knows what he will eventually do, but for now Bashar al-Assad of Syria seems to have backed down. The threat of regime change is a potent one and can be used to force countries to back down over issues of WMD production and terrorist-supporting. Failure to heed this threat is why Iraq went down. The people dancing in the streets are just a potent warning to other Arab leaders as those 500,000 troops on Hussein's borders were to him.


"It is the right of every human being to have freedom, peace, and the right to pursue happiness."

Two democracies rarely war with each other. Successful democratic countries with capitalist economies have no need to direct their people's anger outwards when they can spend their lives in the pursuit of happiness and wealth. Let's not mince words over what Islamofascism is, what goes on in North Korean gulags, or how Hussein oppressed Iraq. Islam is a religion of peace. But Islamofascism is a force of malignant evil, the North Korean government is a force of malignant evil, and Saddam Hussein was a force of malignant evil.

These are not "cultural differences". No "cultural difference" justifies the brutal suppression of free speech, the forced labour of dissidents or racist murder. Freedom is not a Western value, it is a Universal one. And the West has to hope that eventually the Arab World is going to stop listening to its rulers' lies and accept this. They don't even have to like us (but the democracies in the area, Turkey and Israel, do) but once the people are in charge and their countries are no longer rogue states, things will (America hopes) be different. It doesn't matter if the Arab street doesn't like America much - parts of the European street doesn't seem to be that keen either. What matters is that right now totalitarian rulers feed their people lies that amplify hate and encourage them to express it. Westerners, Jews, whatever. Infidel. They're the problem, not the gangs of thugs and murderers running the country. We stand for Arab solidarity.

Solidarity against who and for what, brother? It's certainly not for the right of Muslim peoples to prosper and be free. People can debate the policy of American intervention in other countries until the cows come home, but it's hard to regard a dictator as being a legitimate ruler whose national sovereignty is something so sacred it can't be violated. By that logic, if America were to "take control" of these places and start exploiting them, then they would have the "sovereign" right to do so. The argument from force went out of fashion a long time ago. Just think on.

American Empire?

A common claim. America wants "an Empire" - whatever that means. But this is paradoxical with the other claim often made by the left (and one which has some merit to it) - that Arab resentment is fueled by intervention in the Middle East. So how exactly would America stop the problem of terrorism by "colonizing" the Middle East? I can only assume proponents of this view think that either America is too stupid to realize this (preposterous) or that terrorism isn't a real threat, rather an invented one (flying in the face of all empirical evidence.) It's typical kneejerk liberalism at its worse. It's impossible to draw any sort of historical analogy either - certainly not to the British Empire, which was run on the cheap and was about forcefully "enslaving" nations (which is precisely the opposite of what's going on in Iraq so far.)

Democratic nations, as noted above, do not tend to war with each other. Successful countries seek peace wherever possible - failed states are the ones that project their people's aggression outwards. It is the mentality of the downtrodden that straps explosives to itself and blows this life away for a promise of a better one in the next. As the National Security Strategy of the United States notes, this problem can be diminished by helping people develop and grow prosperous themselves. It suits the rulers of the Arab world to feed their people propaganda while they steal the wealth that rightfully belongs to those people. It suits America to give the wealth back to those people, to let them trade it on a free market, and to pull troops out of the Middle East. Look at the government that's currently sat on 25% of the World's oil reserves. Look like a good thing for civilization to you?

And yet, this is "Empire", apparently. By not interfering with these countries we leave them free, apparently. By letting their rulers lie to them as they rape their countries we're leaving their culture strong, apparently. By not interfering militarily we're leaving them in peace, apparently.

Tell it to someone else. The people of Iraq were at war every day of their lives.

1. Iraq has some $200 to $300 billion in debts. The American taxpayer might end up paying for this (Iraqi oil revenues are around $15 billion a year, and I can't see France, Germany et al. writing off Iraq's debts.)

2. "Many Russian generals truly believe that a bombing campaign that leaves some buildings still standing is ineffective. Precision-guided munitions are widely considered to be costly pranks -- not real weapons," reports The Moscow Times. In Basra, citizens realized they could safely wander the streets so long as they stayed away from government buildings after a few days.

3. Ok, eventually this is going to change. I don't know when, and when it does we're just going to have to see what happens. Right now, China has no interest in provoking the United States.


American Enterprise Institute

Project for a New American Century

The Moscow Times

"The War on Terrorism: a Strategic Survey" by Arnold Kling

The Washington Post