The war with Iraq has begun, and I think it is no exaggeration to say that the West’s entire future depends on this war. I believe President Bush sees this clearly, and has the resolve to carry through with what needs to be done. Indeed, I think the president has been using his time well and deliberately, and the delay has accorded nicely with his intention. The delay has allowed the president to look to attaining the main goal from several angles: It has allowed Colin Powell to persuade the hesitant, and has also allowed Donald Rumsfeld to rally the troops into a state of armed readiness. This strategy aims to scotch the snake’s evil head, so as to neutralize its venom as quickly as possible.
Why is the war absolutely essential? There are a number of reasons. First, we can only preserve our way of life in the West if we’re willing to be lions — if we’re willing to fight our enemies when they threaten us. Second, we must recognize that if this war were not to be carried through, our enemies — both the Islamist terrorists and the Arab tyrants who sponsor them — would view the U.S. and its allies as windbags mouthing empty threats. Third, if we do not fight, our enemies would not only be emboldened, they would be determined to throw at us everything they’ve got, because they would see us as easy prey, unable to stand up for our own principles and unwilling to lay down our lives for them if necessary.
And we must not doubt that we have such implacable enemies. This has been proven sufficiently by the events of the year and a half since September 11. But what they had learned about us in the preceding 12 years was that we have been hesitant to fight them — even though they have been trying to kill us, and even though they proclaimed their eternal hatred for us. These lessons were taught them by the wobbly Bush, Sr., who snatched shameful defeat from the jaws of most impressive victory in order to appease the Arab and Muslim world (by supposedly impressing it with American mildness); and by the feckless, cowardly, and vain Clinton, who closed his eyes to the need to defend America from its declared and active enemies even despite the attacks on the World Trade Center (1993), on the African embassies, on the Cole, etc. (One could even draw these conclusions from the last 24 years — beginning with the Ayatollah Khomeini’s seizure of power in Iran, as it was responded to by the perennially foolish Jimmy Carter; or from Ronald Reagan’s decision to abandon Lebanon and run, following the murderous attack on the U.S. army barracks in Beirut.) Indeed, our enemies have been growing fiercer and crueler: The less we resist them by arms, the more we confirm our ostrich-like unwillingness to face the threat they pose. The moment for choice has arrived; it can no longer be dodged.
The lesson of recent events, though, should be a simpler one. We are experiencing a strange repetition of the 1930s, but with one big difference: We get the chance to do things differently — if we absorb the right lessons of history. In fact, I believe that had the U.S. and its allies not made war on Iraq, World War III would have been upon us in very short order. Yes, you read me right — and I’m not being rhetorical: The choice is war now with Iraq, or World War III later. This war has been long in preparation, and yet we’ve been trying not to acknowledge it. Only by eliminating Saddam and his nuclear weapons program (linked closely, as he clearly is, with Osama’s al Qaeda and its secret army in the West) prior to its completion, can we hope to save ourselves from complete disaster.
This time, we get the chance to do things differently because the lesson of history is right there before us. It is the Rhineland once again. As Churchill said during those dark days, and as he reiterated in the clearer light that followed the last war, had we in the West acted together and defeated Hitler then, there would not have been a Second World War. It would have been a relatively easy job if the Western powers had acted in concert, since Hitler and Nazi Germany were still quite weak. By halting or even killing the “guttersnipe” (as Churchill called Hitler) and vanquishing the Nazis early on, we would have been spared all the later bloodshed and horror of World War II. Again we face a similar choice: It’s either a small war now, or a large, even massive, war later — but not much later, maybe two or at most three years (as it similarly was between Hitler’s seizure and illegal re-occupation of the Rhineland, in 1936, and the Nazi conquest of Poland, in 1939). And the massive world war we face if we do not fight Saddam’s Iraq will, it is almost certain, involve nuclear bombs — since historical experience with Saddam has shown us that he will not hesitate to use this or any type of weapon of mass destruction, if he thinks he can get away with it and if it will demoralize his enemy.
As for my Rhineland analogy, permit me to quote some of Churchill’s comments from The Gathering Storm (p. 190), which show several striking parallels with our own time:
There was, perhaps, still time for an assertion of collective security, based upon the avowed readiness of all members concerned to enforce the decisions of the League of Nations by the sword. The democracies and their dependent states were still actually and potentially far stronger than the dictatorships, but their position relative to their opponents was less than half as good as it had been twelve months before. Virtuous motives, trammeled by inertia and timidity, are no match for armed and resolute wickedness. A sincere love of peace is no excuse for muddling hundreds of millions of humble folk into total war. The cheers of weak, well-meaning assemblies soon cease to echo, and their votes soon cease to count. Doom marches on.
By the way, the alliance of Saddam’s secular national Arabist-socialists with the fundamentalist Islamists of Osama (also known as the Islamofascists) is not so strange as it might at first appear. Consider again the history of the past century. Hitler’s Nazi Germany made an alliance (the greater “Axis”) with Tojo’s miliarist-imperialist Japan, even though the Japanese were by no stretch of the imagination of the correct race, namely, “Aryans.” Yet race was supposedly the be-all and end-all of the Nazi ideological program, and of the Nazi state organized around it. How could it be? No difficulty: He solved the problem by sleight-of-hand. To get around the contradiction, Hitler simply made the Japanese “honorary” Aryans — just as Osama (or the dummy who fakes his voice and uses his slogans) has made Saddam a great servant of the Islamist cause — the veritable prophet of Allah. In other words, setting aside the fictions of propaganda (which are devised for the fools who will believe such stuff and nonsense), the “racially pure” Aryans of Nazi Germany and Tojo’s miliarist-imperialist Japan — suddenly racially redesigned as majestically tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed “Aryans” — were united by their mutual hatred of the West. That shared hatred was enough to make them join forces. The same thing is happening here.
The president has made the right choice for all of us — even for those of us like the majority of my fellow Canadians, who are in utter denial. But it is also for all of us — we who rely and who depend on the U.S. to preserve our way of life and to save us from the evil ones, from the likes of Osama’s al Qaeda and Saddam’s Iraq — to make a decision as to how we shall stand, whom we shall help, and in favor of which cause we shall speak in these troubled times: Do we stand with the evildoers, do we stand with the fools, or do we stand with the lions?
If we stand with, speak for, and lend aid to the lions, then we shall be justly gladdened by the victory, for we shall behold a righteous vision of the liberated people of Iraq waving U.S. flags in the streets of Baghdad, and singing and dancing for the joy of freedom.
— Kenneth Hart Green is a professor of religion at the University of Toronto.