This Is World War IV
James Woolsey is a former director of the CIA. His comments are adapted from a speech at UCLA on April 2.
Washington — As Johns Hopkins Prof. Eliot Cohen has noted, we have entered World War IV. More than a war against terrorism, this is a war to extend democracy to those parts of the Arab and Muslim world that threaten the liberal civilization we worked to build and defend throughout the 20th century in World War I, World War II and the Cold War—World War III.
I hope it will not be as long as the 40-plus years of World War III but it will certainly be longer than either World War I or World War II. It will probably take decades.
Eighty-six years ago, in the spring of 1917, when America entered World War I, there were about 10 democracies in the world: the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, France, Switzerland and a couple of countries in Northern Europe. It was a world of empires, kingdoms, colonies and various types of authoritarian regimes. Today 120 out of 192 countries in the world are democracies.
These 120 countries all have some parliamentary contested elections and some beginnings, at least, of the rule of law. That is an amazing change in the lifetime of many individuals now still living. Nothing like that has ever happened in world history.
Needless to say, America had something to do with this, both in helping to win World War I, in prevailing, along with Britain, in World War II, and eventually prevailing in the Cold War. Along the way, a lot of people said very cynically at various times that the Germans, Japanese, Russians or those with a Chinese Confucian background would never be able to run a democracy. It took some help, but the Germans, Japanese and now even the Russians and Taiwanese seem to have ?gured it out.
In the Muslim world, outside the 22 Arab states, which have no democracies, there are some reasonably well-governed states that are moderating and changing, such as Bahrain. Of the 24 Muslim-predominant non-Arab states, about half are democracies. They include some of the poorest countries in the world, such as Bangladesh and Mali. Nearly 200 million Muslims live in a democracy in India. Outside one province, they are generally at peace with their Hindu neighbors.
There is a special problem in the Middle East, however. Outside of Israel and Turkey, there are essentially no democracies. Rather, there are two types of governments: pathological predators and vulnerable autocrats. This is not a good mix. Saddam is now gone from Iraq, but Iran, Syria, Sudan and Libya continue to sponsor and assist terrorism in one way or another. All five have sought weapons of mass destruction.
Clearly, the terror war is never going to go away until we change the face of the Middle East, which is what we are beginning to do in Iraq. That is a tall order. But it’s not as tall an order as what we have already accomplished in the previous world wars.
Change remains to be undertaken in that one part of the world that has historically not had democracy, which has reacted angrily against intrusions from the outside—the Arab Middle East.
Saddam Hussein, autocrats from the Saudi royal family and terrorists alike must realize that now, for the fourth time in 100 years, America has been awakened. This country is on the march. We didn’t choose this fight — the Baathist fascists, the Islamist Shia and the Islamist Sunni did—but we’re in it. And being on the march, there’s only one way we’re going to be able to win it. It’s the way we won World War I, fighting for Wilson’s 14 points. It is the way we won World War II, fighting for Churchill and Roosevelt’s Atlantic Charter. It is the way we won World War III, fighting for the noble ideas best expressed by President Reagan but also very importantly at the beginning by President Truman.
This war, like the world wars of the past, is not a war of us against them. It is not a war between countries. It is a war of freedom against tyranny.
America has to convince the people of the Middle East that we are on their side, just as we convinced Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel and Andrei Sakharov that we were on their side. This will take time. It will be difficult.
We understand we are making the terrorists, dictators and autocrats nervous. We want them to be nervous. We want them to realize now that America is on the march, and we are on the side of those whom they most fear—their own people.