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A Call for World War IV

September 12, 2002

One 9/11 wasn’t enough for some people. A well-known opinion leader has found the formula for many more, for many years to come.

Not content with making war on Iraq, Norman Podhoretz of Commentary magazine, the highbrow Zionist monthly, calls on the United States to launch World War IV. Yes, World War IV. Lest you think he’s running a little ahead of history, we should explain that he counts the Cold War as World War III. But this time he has a very hot war in mind — what he describes as “the war against militant Islam.”

Podhoretz thinks we have just the right leader to conduct a world war: George W. Bush. And what qualifies Bush for this tremendous role? He has restored “moral clarity” and rejected “moral relativism.” Moral clarity means the “concept that some nations [are] evil and others good.”

Alone among commentators, Podhoretz finds Bush a singularly eloquent man. Bush’s speeches inveighing against the “axis of evil” (Iraq, Iran, and North Korea) are, Podhoretz says, “enormously impressive”: one of them — the one announcing “war on terrorism” and the so-called Bush Doctrine — scaled “heights of sublimity” and “deserves to live forever.” Every president receives fulsome sycophancy, but this must set some sort of record. (Podhoretz admits that these speeches were probably the work of speechwriters, but “it hardly matters.”)

How did Bush achieve this moral clarity? After the 9/11 attacks, “a kind of revelation ... lit up the recesses of Bush’s mind and heart and soul.” He suddenly knew, says Podhoretz, “that the God to whom, as a born-again Christian, he had earlier committed himself had put him in the Oval Office for a purpose. He had put him there to lead a war against the evil of terrorism.”

Yes, God had given George W. Bush a “personal revelation”! World War IV will be, as it were, a faith-based initiative.

Meanwhile, in Israel — which Podhoretz ranks supreme among the “good” nations — Ariel Sharon has been fighting terrorism with the same moral clarity as Bush, albeit without a personal revelation from the Almighty. Podhoretz laments that it took Bush a while to grasp his moral consanguinity with the Israeli prime minister; at first he sank into a “bog of confusion,” “courting and coddling” evil (Arab) regimes. Then he realized that Israel, under Sharon, was up against the same enemy he was. Bush had regained his moral clarity!

If we’re going to have a genuine world war, Podhoretz sensibly argues, we can’t stop with victory and “regime change” in Iraq. We have to clean up the whole evil Middle East and change all its regimes.

[Breaker quote: When "moral clarity" becomes evilLest the reader suspect that Podhoretz’s views are being caricatured here, let us quote his own words:

“The regimes that richly deserve to be overthrown and replaced are not confined to the three singled-out members of the axis of evil. At a minimum, this axis should extend to Syria and Lebanon and Libya, as well as ‘friends’ of America like the Saudi royal family and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, along with the Palestinian Authority, whether headed by Arafat or one of his henchmen.”

“At a minimum”! If making war on Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority (not to mention North Korea) would be the “minimum,” what would the maximum be? Overthrowing and replacing every regime on earth?

Apart from Iran, none of these regimes represents “militant Islam,” the alleged target of Podhoretz’s World War IV. The only thing they actually have in common, obviously, is that they are Israel’s enemies. World War IV would be a war to destroy Israel’s enemies — fought, of course, by the United States.

Podhoretz has unconsciously exposed the Manichaean fantasy world of so many of those who are now calling for war with Iraq. The United States and Israel are “good”; the Arab-Muslim states are “evil”; and those opposed to this war represent “moral relativism,” ostensibly neutral but virtually on the side of “evil.”

This is simply deranged. The ability to see evil only in one’s enemies isn’t “moral clarity.” It’s the essence of fanaticism. We are now being counseled to fight one kind of fanaticism with another.

And a man who actually clamors for a world war, with all the millions of violent deaths it would entail, is himself evil.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2002 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
Internet publications without express permission
of Griffin Internet Syndicate

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