who said that America - and perhaps even the world at
large - would never be the same after September 11 turn
out to have been right only in part. American legislators
have not found any anthrax in their recent mail, and so
some of them, encouraged by recent remarks from officials
of previous administrations, wonder openly whether further
combat in the Middle East is even necessary.
are insisting not only that President George W Bush provide
them with a convincing bill of particulars regarding Saddam
Hussein, but also that they approve any future action.
This despite their full endorsement of such action on
September 14 last.
short, business as usual. Some other things have certainly
changed. The pre-September 11 George W Bush was a relatively
colourless figure, uncomfortable with international affairs
and, despite his strong religious faith, largely bereft
of what his father famously referred to as "the vision
thing". The post-September 11 President is decisive,
fully engaged in his mission, and quite eloquent on the
war against terrorism, with an economy of language that
we have not heard from a president since Truman.
Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, who had been tagged
as the cabinet member least likely to succeed, has become
a matinee idol. Colin Powell, the Secretary of State,
may score higher in the polls, but nobody races to the
television to watch his press conferences; they do Rumsfeld's.
The transformation began immediately after the first aircraft
hit the World Trade Centre, and Mr Rumsfeld told his staff:
"I've been around for a while, and, believe me, this
is not the last one we'll see today."
greatest change has come among the American people themselves.
Americans are the first people in history to believe that
peace is the normal condition of mankind, but this reassuring
conviction was effectively shattered, for this generation
at least, on September 11. Americans now believe, with
Machiavelli, that there are many people who are more inclined
to do evil than to do good, and the only way to deal with
them is to dominate them. They hope and believe that Saddam
will not be the last terrorist tyrant to fall at their
are traditionally in a great hurry, but they have shown
great patience with this president. They recognise that
the war will be long and they trust that they have somehow
struck lucky with their leader at a moment of peril. Recent
drops in the President's popularity suggest that the people's
patience may be wearing a bit thin, but now it seems that
action is imminent and they will soon find out if Mr Bush
is up to this challenge.
Americans may have been patient so far, but, as General
Patton once reminded his troops, Americans can't stand
a loser. Yet it is hard to imagine America will lose.
So long as the people are convinced they are well led,
and the war goes well, they will support it. One has a
tendency to forget that, in the Second World War, it took
nearly two years after Pearl Harbor before decisive victories
were achieved, yet the American people did not waver.
are not fond of realpolitik; they are a people of crusades
and spasms. They almost never fight limited wars for limited
objectives (most Americans now believe the 1991 Gulf war
was excessively limited); as Ronald Reagan said, the country
is too great to have small ambitions. Few have noticed
that President Bush has in fact outlined a war of vast
dimensions. Lurking behind the awkward phrase "regime
change" is a vision of a war to destroy the Middle
Eastern tyrannies and replace them with freer societies,
as was done in Japan and Germany after the Second World
on after the September 11 attack, it was widely said that
America would have to fight a new kind of war, conducted
in large part in the shadows, with covert instruments
and secret warriors. In the event, it turns out to be
a very traditional sort of war, because they have found
that the common denominator of their enemies is tyranny.
states that undergird the terror network are Iran, Iraq,
Syria and Saudi Arabia. They do not share ethnicity (Iranians
are not Arabs) or even religious conviction (both Saddam
and the Assad family in Syria came to power as secular
socialists), but they are all petty tyrants. And the most
lethal weapon against them is the people they oppress.
Iranians demonstrate almost ceaselessly against the mullahcracy
in Teheran; in recent days, there has been street fighting
in Isfahan, political demonstrations in Teheran, and the
petroleum pipeline has been shut down in Tabriz. Student
leaders have called for a nationwide demonstration today,
a clear sign of the Iranian people's desire for freedom.
Iraqis were willing to risk everything in the final weeks
of the Gulf war, and the unreliability of Saddam's armies
is well known. If Iranians and Iraqis are freed, the Syrian
dictatorship cannot possibly survive, and the Saudi royal
family would have to choose between shutting down its
worldwide network of radical Wahhabi mosques or facing
the same destiny as the others.
war on such a scale has hardly been mentioned by commentators
and politicians, yet it is implicit in everything President
Bush has said and done. He has directed the creation of
an Iraqi government-in-exile that is committed to democracy,
and he has promised the Iranian people that America will
support them in their desire for freedom. He has recognised
that democracy is essential for peace between Palestinians
and Israelis, and that requirement surely extends throughout
the entire region.
one of those delightful paradoxes in which history so
delights, America's enemies sought to destroy it on September
11, only to find their own survival at mortal risk. And
all those who said the world would never be the same,
thinking that America had been fundamentally shaken and
demoralised, will soon find that, instead, America's enemies
will be the subject of revolutionary change at its hands.