Wars have a habit of rearranging the world. They also tend to lead to further conflict. After World War I the Treaty of Versailles, which supposedly ended the war to end all wars, only established “the peace to end all peace,” as British field marshal Archibald Wavell put it. He was proved correct. Two decades after the First World War, Europe was at war again as a direct consequence of the punitive treaty imposed on the German-speaking powers of Central Europe.
On the other side of the world, the Japanese invasion of Indochina led in turn to war with France, which led to the Vietnam War. It was to be 40 years before peace returned to the peoples of Southeast Asia.
The Persian Gulf War of 1991 led to the present confrontation with Iraq. The conflict 11 years ago did not end the threat from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, so now the United States and Britain feel justified in using military action to bring about “regime change.”
But war with Iraq may not be so simple.
Few doubt that the United States and its allies have the military muscle to defeat Iraq and bring about a change at the top. Fresh from having accomplished the same in Afghanistan, Americans in important leadership positions are confident about repeating their success in Iraq.
However, in the same week in early September that controversy over an Iraqi invasion dominated the headlines, Afghanistan’s capital suffered two bomb blasts that killed more than 20 people, and the U.S.-backed president survived an assassination attempt. The new government in Kabul is far from secure. American troops will surely be there for many years if Washington is intent on keeping Islamic fundamentalists out of power.
Afghanistan has historically been largely ungovernable. The various tribal rivalries coupled with the national penchant for fighting, combined with an inhospitable terrain, have made the country a death trap for domestic leaders and foreign invaders alike.
Much the same can be said for Iraq, a country that did not even exist before the 1918 Treaty of Versailles. It was in Paris after World War I that the victorious Allies divided the spoils. The Arab territories of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire were divided between Britain and France. The League of Nations gave Britain mandates over Palestine, Jordan and Iraq and France over Syria and Lebanon. Britain was to remain in Iraq until 1932.
Democracy alien to the Arab world
Britain laid what appeared to be a solid foundation for Iraq. American historian Phebe Marr, in The Modern History of Iraq, states: “As state builders the British created or developed an impressive array of institutions —a monarchy, a parliament, a Western-style constitution, a bureaucracy and an army” (1985, p. 29).
She then explains how today’s situation began to develop: “The bureaucracy and the army—both of which predated the British—still remain, but the monarchy and the Western-style democratic institutions have since been swept away. This is perhaps not surprising. Britain’s stay in Iraq was one of the shortest in its imperial career” (ibid.).
Regrettably, democracy was alien to that part of the world—and still is. The constitutional monarchy was overthrown in 1958, and eventually Saddam Hussein became dictator of Iraq. Any desire on the part of the United States to establish a democracy in Iraq is not likely to succeed long-term any more than it is in Afghanistan.
Interestingly, the Saudi ambassador to London recently confirmed this. Under attack for writing an ode to a suicide bomber, poet and author Ghazi Algosaibi was interviewed by The Spectator’s Boris Johnson in a Sept. 7 article titled “Bush Is Leading Us to Tragedy.”
“Democracy is a Western phenomenon,” said Mr. Algosaibi. “If you look now and say 142 governments in the world have elections, that’s a disgusting lie. If you exclude the West, there are no democracies …”
There is a great deal of truth to this.
Sometimes under pressure from the West, economically poor nations temporarily embrace a facade of democratic rule, but rarely do they pass the test of peaceful transference from one elected administration to another. Even when a country has a parliament, the president or other ranking official often takes dictatorial powers to himself, and the legislative body acts purely as a rubber stamp, its members content simply to sit in office and receive the financial benefits of their positions, both legal and illegal.
The match and the powder keg
Mr. Algosaibi’s comments are particularly pertinent to the Middle East, where only one nation is a functioning true democracy, the tiny Jewish state of Israel. In contrast, the 22 members of the Arab League are all dictatorships of one sort or another.
This is a primary reason that support from Arab governments for American action against Iraq is virtually nonexistent. Because many Arab leaders lead lives that imitate Westerners in their customs and values— which conflict with the national religion, Islam—they are afraid that a ripple effect from war with Iraq could lead to the violent overthrow of their governments.
Early wars between Arab armies and Israel led to the violent overthrow of the Egyptian and Iraqi monarchies, which were replaced by radical Arab nationalist governments that wanted Westerners out. Today the radical threat comes from Islamic fundamentalism, the same force that overthrew the pro-Western shah of Iran in 1979.
So the biggest danger from a war with Iraq is that it will actually encourage the spread of Islamic fundamentalism throughout the region as rampaging mobs overthrow their westernized leaders. The public’s anger is inevitable as it witnesses the sufferings of the Iraqi people on satellite television, a service not available to them during the earlier Gulf War. All suffering, of course, will be blamed on the United States and Britain rather than on Saddam Hussein.
Already, daily newscasts of Palestinian suffering intensifies hatred of Israel, which in turn leads to greater hatred of the United States, without which Israel could not survive. As the Saudi ambassador put it: “All countries have different reasons [for hating America], but in the Muslim world there is one issue with America, and that is Israel.”
Not only could revolution spread throughout the region, but war itself is likely to spill over into other countries. From all accounts, Saddam Hussein is remarkably calm while faced with the prospect of his violent overthrow and an abrupt end to his privileges. But there is a reason for this. Saddam Hussein’s strategy is to turn an American invasion of his country into a wider conflict between the Arab world and the West, perhaps even the Islamic world vs. the West.
He may do this by provoking Israel into a war with Iraq—perhaps by showering Israel with chemical- and germ-laden missiles—which will then mean the United States, Britain and Israel would be on one side against the Arabic nations. Unlike the 1991 Gulf War in which Israel, under tremendous pressure from the United States, didn’t retaliate against a rain of Iraqi missiles, Israel has promised a harsh and swift response if Hussein pursues a similar strategy this time around. Regrettably, this could set up the Islam-vs.-the-West strategy Saddam Hussein apparently wants to encourage.
Throughout the region, the United States is already perceived as being one-sided in the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. A wider conflict involving Israel would only confirm America’s role as the Great Satan intent on destroying the Islamic world.
But why the wider hatred of the United States in the non-Islamic world?
Lessons from the World Summit
At the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg Aug. 24 to Sept. 4, delegates from around the world seemed to spend much of their time condemning the United States and Britain. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was booed and heckled when he got up to speak. World poverty was blamed on the two Anglo-Saxon powers, the same two countries that have between them dominated the world’s economy for three centuries.
Again, let us hear from Mr. Algosaibi as to why there is so much hatred of the West, and America in particular: “First of all there is great jealousy, of the financial and military power of the West, the gap between rich and poor. There is a common perception that the wealth of the West is the result of looting colonies.” This is far from reality, but perception is what counts.
Mr. Powell brought up the controversial issue of Zimbabwe, a Southern African nation that is evicting thousands of white farmers of British descent even though their eviction will bring famine throughout the region. The secretary of state could not continue his speech because delegates obviously did not want to hear what he had to say. After all, it’s far simpler to blame everything on the West than to look closer to home and deal with corruption, mismanagement and incompetence at the highest levels of government.
Demands that the rich Western world share its wealth with poorer countries are only likely to increase as the gap widens. But this is no solution. As has been the pattern for decades, any such redistribution of wealth would only benefit the elite tyrants of the third world who would take the money for themselves.
Why America is hated
Of great concern to the West should be the common thread linking the war on terror, the war with Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, Sept. 11, Osama bin Laden and the World Summit. Quoting Mr. Algosaibi once again: “… If you go around the Muslim world, you will find the vast majority of people will support Osama bin Laden, and this is more tragic than the attack itself. Why would such a crime like this find such support, not just on the streets of Riyadh, but on the streets of Turkey, the streets of Tunis, the streets of Britain? That comes to the question of why people hate America. And people definitely do hate America …”
In the Islamic world, as Mr. Algosaibi said, a major reason is America’s support of Israel. But another reason, in both the Islamic world and the non-Islamic world, is the great gulf that separates the rich Western world from the mass of mankind.
On frequent visits to West Africa I see pictures of Osama bin Laden for sale, even in areas with few Muslims. I have even seen his picture in people’s homes. Why is he so popular? In the last issue of The Good News I quoted from an African Christian pastor whose family is Muslim. “Muslims feel that America is trying to take over the world,” he explained. “They see Osama bin Laden as the man who will stop them.”
But Bin Laden also appeals to non-Muslims. To them, he often represents the poor nations, increasingly frustrated by what is often called American cultural imperialism. Although the United States is not a colonizing power like Britain was, American culture is pervasive. Wherever you go in the world it seems you can buy American products and watch American TV shows, while young people pick up the materialistic, hedonistic attitudes expressed in Hollywood movies. Many people deeply resent this. And, above all, there is America’s great wealth contrasting with near-universal poverty in many other nations, fueling even more resentment.
Islam is the fastest-growing religion in Africa—and also, as it happens, in the United States and Western Europe. Islam appeals to the poor and downtrodden. In Western countries, conversions in prisons are high. In Michigan’s Jackson Prison, one third of all the prisoners are Muslims, most of them converts. In Western Europe, Islamic militants often come from poor neighborhoods. Throughout the Middle East, fundamentalists work with the neglected poor in big cities, who then support their radical agenda in opposition to their corrupt, often westernized, leaders.
Ironically, Osama bin Laden and most of the 19 hijackers responsible for 9-11 came from affluent backgrounds. But that doesn’t alter the fact that tens of millions of the world’s poor are being recruited to Islamic fundamentalism. A high birth rate among Muslims, coupled with limited economic development, will ensure a continual source of suicide-bomber recruits for decades to come.
Greater Arab unity likely outcome
Chapter 11 of the book of Daniel, written in the sixth century B.C., contains a detailed prophecy of events in the Middle East, most of which was fulfilled in ancient times. But the last few verses are to be fulfilled “at the time of the end” (Daniel 11:40 Daniel 11:40And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.
American King James Version×). A future “king of the South” is prophesied to “push against” (King James Version) the “king of the North.” This could be a military attack, more terrorism or even an economic “push” such as cutting off oil supplies. At that point, the king of the North will come against the king of the South with the result that “many countries shall be overthrown.”
The king of the North in ancient times was the Seleucid dynasty of Syria, and the king of the South” was the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt. Seleucus and Ptolemy were both generals of Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world in the fourth century B.C., well after Daniel recorded his prophecy. The terms “North” and “South” reflect their locations in relation to Jerusalem, the Jewish capital that suffered greatly during the constant conflicts between the two powers.
Because of the nonexistence of a Jewish nation for almost 1,900 years, we see a great time gap in Daniel 11, with the last few verses remaining unfulfilled. With the restoration of many Jews to their former homeland in 1948, the last few verses of the prophecy can now be fulfilled. New kings of the North and South are yet to appear on the political horizon, leaders who will impact the modern nation of Israel. A prophesied king of the South will “push” against a king of the North, likely the 10-nation European-centered “Beast” power prophesied in Daniel 2 and 7 (and Revelation 13 and 17). This move will pose a significant threat to the European power represented by the king of the North.
At this point the Islamic nations of the Middle East are too weak to accomplish anything like this. One reason for that weakness is that the Arab world is divided into 22 nations. Including the 22, 56 nations make up the Islamic Conference, most of whose governments are Islamic.
For these nations to become effective in threatening another geopolitical power, the king of the North, they will have to come together. This has been a dream of the Arab world for centuries. It is also a dream of Saddam Hussein, who sees himself as a latter-day Saladin, the Arab leader who drove the Europeans out of the Middle East during the Crusades. Curiously, he also sees himself as a modern-day Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who figured prominently in one of Daniel’s prophecies (Daniel 2:36-38 Daniel 2:36-38 36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
37 You, O king, are a king of kings: for the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
38 And wherever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven has he given into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all. You are this head of gold.
American King James Version×).
Hussein’s plan is that a U.S. invasion will backfire and bring about a united Arab front against Israel and the United States. At the same time, America faces the risk of increased hatred abroad against itself and Britain as the two nations go to war with Iraq—hatred that may translate into condemnatory votes at the United Nations.
Certainly a great deal is at stake in this vitally important region of the world. GN