At stake in the Iraq war: survival of a way of life
Unless the English-speaking peoples step up, they'll lose the great struggle against radical, totalitarian Islam.
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Almost all were sudden, unexpected, not predicted by the intelligence services, and they left the English-speaking peoples at a disadvantage in the opening stage of the coming conflict.Skip to next paragraph
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The next common factor was how badly the English-speaking peoples were faring even up to three or four years into the first three great assaults on their primacy. The most dangerous moment of World War I – at least after Paris had been saved by the Battle of the Marne in 1914 – came as late as March 1918, during Germany's massive spring offensive.
In World War II, Germany's Adolf Hitler seemed to be winning the war both in Russia and the Middle East until September 1942. And had it not been for the Battle of Midway the same year, the Japanese might well have rolled up the entire Pacific theater. Just three years into the cold war – 1948 – Mao Zedong had won control of China, Hungary's Communist opponent József Cardinal Mindszenty had been arrested, and the USSR's blockade of Berlin was in place.
Simply because a victorious exit strategy is not immediately evident in Iraq or Afghanistan today does not invalidate the purpose or value of winning either conflict, as so many defeatists and left-liberal commentators argue so vociferously.
Importance of English camaraderie
The comradeship of the English-speaking peoples during the first three assaults was inspirational. On Aug. 1, 1914 – three days before Britain declared war on Germany, the New Zealand parliament voted unanimously to raise an expeditionary force to join the fight half way around the world, even though Germany posed no conceivable strategic threat to her.
It was a myth that Britain stood alone in 1940. After the successful evacuation of Allied forces at Dunkirk, France, the only two fully armed infantry divisions standing between London and a German land invasion were two Canadian divisions. Although the United States was under no direct threat from the Nazis, she far-sightedly chose to pursue the seemingly counterintuitive policy of "Germany First," even though she had actually been attacked in Hawaii by Japan.
The massive American contribution to victory in World War II has sometimes been ignored during the present bigoted frenzy of anti-Americanism spearheaded by the BBC and liberal newspapers in my country. Yet it is when the English-speaking peoples stand together that they are victorious, and only when they do not – as at Suez and in Vietnam – that they are not.
President Bush's foreign policy is denounced as neoconservative because of its reliance on preemption. Yet was George Canning a neocon when he ordered Admiral Horatio Nelson to destroy the Danish fleet at the Battle of Copenhagen to prevent it falling into Napoleon Bonaparte's hands in 1801? Was Winston Churchill a neocon for having bombarded the Dardanelles Outer Forts in November 1914, before Britain declared war on the Ottoman Empire?
The right of self-protection from such threats is, as the British historian Enoch Powell has pointed out, "inherent in us" since it existed "long before the United Nations was ever thought of."
By far the most justifiable war in recent history is the one in Afghanistan against the Taliban, the government that hosted and protected Al Qaeda when it killed nearly 3,000 innocent people – and attempted to kill many more – on 9/11.
Today the war there is principally being fought by Americans, Britons, Canadians, Australians, and special forces contingents from New Zealand. Germany has confined its troops to the quiet north. French troops guard the Khyber Pass. Much of the rest of NATO has refused to send significant forces to the region. Once again, therefore, the English-speaking peoples find themselves in the forefront of protecting civilization.
We are told that a future US administration led by President Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would be keen to reorient foreign policy toward France and Germany, which might indeed be in America's short-term, passing, commercial interests.
The US should never forget, however, that in those moments when she is looking for true friends, it is the English-speaking peoples who stand shoulder to shoulder with her, not her fair-weather friends.
Above all, however, the American people can take great solace from the fact that they have been in this situation – or something very closely analogous to it – three times before in the last century. And each time, because of their fortitude and their refusal to accept anything less than outright victory, they have prevailed.
• Andrew Roberts is the author of "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900."