Gut Check For World War IV
It seems to me that by any reasonable standard, we are winning and winning big. Our forces deposed the Taliban regime that harbored our al-Qaeda enemies in a matter of weeks. Two-thirds to three-fourths of the al-Qaeda leadership is dead or captured. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, a state sponsor of terrorism, is no more and is being replaced by an accountable government that will focus on exporting goods instead of murderers. No further attacks have taken place on our soil. Our embassies and ships are intact. Our public holidays and special events happen without the kind of panic and turmoil that seized that school in Russia last week.
In Iraq schools are open and local governments are forming. Millions of people are preparing to vote in free elections in Afghanistan. Women and religious minorities enjoy freedoms and rights unknown in that part of the world.
What successes have our enemies had? They’ve managed some bombings in night clubs and hotels in isolated spots around the world. They’ve kidnapped and murdered journalists and contractors. They’ve killed some of our soldiers, showing they are still dangerous in the same way a beheaded rattlesnake can still poison the unlucky. But they have won no territory, conquered no states, and enslaved no people since we began to take the war to them.
Norman Podhoretz calls this conflict World War IV (the Cold War, which we won, would be World War III.) Viewed as a world war, it is clear we are winning. But there are many who don’t want to view it as a world war. A world war is too big, too permanent, too encompassing. It’s so much more comforting to limit its scope, to say that this conflict is necessary but that one could have been avoided. Maybe if we don’t call it a world war, they must think, it will all go away. Maybe if we slander those who direct it and fight it as a world war, some must believe, we can shrink it to something manageable we can shrug off.
But it is a world war, and the only war of choice is the option to fight it on our terms and timing rather than the enemy’s.
So as this anniversary approaches, let us salute and honor those who fight this world war for us. A particular person comes to mind for me. My neighbor’s son-in-law went to Iraq for a year and returned only recently. In the meantime, my baby son was born. In my mind, he took that year away from his little daughter and gave it to me to enjoy my son. I thank him and all like him deeply, and I honor them for holding the front lines against the enemy in this latest world war that we must win.
(A shorter version of this appeared in my local paper, the Springfield News-Leader)