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War Watch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card June 17, 2002

You Can't Have Peace When the Enemy Wants War

The coalition is killing us.

The trouble is, without allies, this war is going to be very hard to win -- not without turning it into a world war between Islam and America.

We don't want to fight that war.

But Osama bin Laden, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and their ilk -- that's what they'd like best.

Are they crazy?

Well, yes. I mean, they send suicide bombers to kill people who aren't doing them any harm. Of course they're crazy.

But that doesn't mean they're stupid. Their objective is to send the world up in flames. Why? Because right now, the Muslim world is pretty near the bottom of the hierarchy of nations, and it's very hard to reconcile that with the promises of the Qur'an.

God is supposed to be watching over the Muslim people as his chosen followers, leading them always to ascendancy over the infidel.

Of course, anybody who thinks God will always leave his Chosen People on top of things had better take a long hard look at the history of the Jews.

But when Muslims look at the Jews, all they can see is that even Israel, this nation of fellow Semites who are denounced over and over again in the Qur'an, is far more prosperous and powerful, its people far happier and more free, than any Arab Muslim nation.

Like the Aztecs of Moctezuma and the Incas of Atahualpa, faced with the Spanish conquistadores, the Muslims are not saying anything useful, like, "How can we change our own society to deal with this threat?" but instead are asking the ever-useless question, "What does God mean by doing this to us?"

And the answer, to these Muslims, is twofold: First, God is telling them that Muslims have been insufficiently righteous, and so all of the Muslim world must become truly converted and live under strict, ancient Muslim law.

(The result, of course, is a joke, a parody of Muslim law that only makes the people miserable and weakens their faith as it destroys any desire they have to be governed by Islamists.)

That's why the Islamists carry out a program of fomenting revolution in secular Muslim states. Afghanistan, Iran, and Sudan have had Islamist revolutions, and attempts ranging from election campaigns to assassinations have taken place in Algeria, Egypt, and Pakistan.

Other regimes, like those that govern Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria, live in terror of Islamist revolution and therefore try to either buy off or distract the Islamists.

Second, they believe that God expects them to wage holy war, not just inside the Islamic world, but outside it. After all, the reason Islam has become corrupted is because of the constant pressure of evil American movies and television (they have a point) and, above all, American money.

It's not just America. It's any nation or people that seem to be keeping Muslims down. So they can certainly unite in their hatred of Israel. And if they can provoke war between Pakistan and India, that would be cool, too, since those infidel Hindus keep resisting the idea that because India was once largely ruled by Muslims, it should live today under Islamic law.

Oddly enough, this means that we are in a way the natural allies of many Arab governments, who realize the danger of the Islamist movement to them and their people. It's not just that these Arab leaders want to remain in power (though they do); it's that they know that, far from bringing Muslim nations to ascendancy again, Islamist revolutions and holy wars will only result in the terrible suffering of Muslims everywhere as they lose what little progress they've made in the past century.

That's why we had the cooperation of Pakistan and some of the Turkic nations to the north in our war against Afghanistan.

And that's why we had a coalition of Arab nations supporting us in our invasion of Iraq.

What invasion?

The invasion that was already under way, our ships sailing into position, when Ariel Sharon sent his forces into Palestine to try to put a stop to the suicide bombings.

Absolutely understandable and worthy of our support.

But so inconvenient for us.

Because, of course, there was no way that the Arab nations who were ready to support us against Iraq could possibly continue their support while our ally, Israel, was openly at war with the Palestinian Authority.

If Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, or even Turkey (where Islamism has only a slim foothold) were seen to be supporting us in a war against a terrorist state, they could have survived the crisis and it would, in the end, strengthen their position and make their world safer.

But if those same nations were seen to be supporting us in a war against a Muslim state, they would be in grave danger of being destroyed in a popular revolution driven by Islamist imams who would harangue their congregations into pouring out into the streets.

The Palestinian War, in other words, changed the meaning of our invasion of Iraq and made it impossible to hold the coalition together.

Ironically, one reason for the invasion is to make Israel safer -- though at terrible risk to Israel.

You see, Saddam Hussein of Iraq has let it be known that if the U.S. goes after him in our war against terrorism, he will immediately launch nuclear weapons against Israel.

He might be bluffing. After all, he's never tested a nuclear weapon.

Then again, neither has Israel. But nobody doubts that Israel has nukes, and those who know something about Israeli science and technology have little doubt that those nukes will work.

Those who know Iraqi science and technology can entertain hopes that their nukes won't go off. But it's not as if, out of ten nuclear-tipped SCUDs, it will really matter if there's a ninety-percent failure rate.

If only one of them reaches Israel and goes off, it would be a holocaust.

So our invasion of Iraq involved a calculated risk to the Israeli people that Saddam would actually launch nuclear missiles and that some of them might actually do the job.

One nuke over Israel could murder a percentage of their population that would be the equivalent, in America, of slaughtering everybody in the states from Texas to California.

Iraq might not actually have nukes ready for launch. But every day our invasion is postponed is a day in which they can get closer to readiness, or build more nuclear-tipped missiles so they have a better chance of having one or two hit on target.

That's the tragedy of Israel's defensive invasion of the Palestinian Authority. Just a little more patience with the suicide bombers, and we might have been able to save them from the far worse danger of Iraq's nuclear weapons.

What about proceeding without the coalition?

How? Iraq is nearly landlocked. We can do a lot with our ships alone as a launching platform, but to put our soldiers ashore on the narrow coast of Iraq and have them fight their way right up through the most populated area of the country would mean devastating damage to the local population, enormous risk of defeat and destruction for our armies, and a steadily decreasing amount of air support the farther our troops advanced.

Ironically, the civilians who would suffer most would be Shi'ites who hate Saddam more than we do -- the very people whom we would be counting on to build a new Iraqi government after this one fell. And because they're not loyal to him, Saddam wouldn't worry about killing these Iraqi civilians if he used poison gas against our soldiers.

We could still win such a war. But it would be bloody, dangerous, and probably not short. Giving even more time for Iraq to ready its nuclear weapons, more time for American support of the war to fade (or for our resolve to stiffen, depending on the kind of people we are).

So when you watch the Bush administration struggling frantically to bring about some kind of settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, that's why. They're hoping that with peace between Israel and Palestine, we can come out of this as the good guys, and our coalition can be rebuilt in time to topple Saddam without destroying Israel in the process.

But the sad truth is that the Islamists know all this. They know that the only thing keeping us from attacking Iraq is the war between Israel and Palestine. And therefore they will do anything they can to keep that war going.

Meanwhile, they keep up their pressure on India and Pakistan.

Somewhere, they're sure of it, they can get somebody to launch nuclear weapons and begin the next world war. They don't care who it is, or how many innocent people are killed. The Muslims who die will go to heaven, and the non-Muslims deserve it.

But let's please remember the lesson of Hitler. The answer is not to try to give them what they want -- because what they want is war, and the more concessions we offer them, the more they'll attack us until finally, at some point, war is poured out upon all nations.

That's why I'm hoping that our government is not putting all its hopes in the coalition basket.

There are other plans that could work. Painful and difficult ones, including the possibility of an invasion of the nearly-as-evil-but-not-so-dangerous Syria in order to get a staging area to attack Iraq without relying on allies.

But the one plan that will lead most surely to disaster is to wait and wait and wait for our coalition partners to feel politically secure again. Because that may never happen. But Iraqi nuclear attacks against somebody -- those will certainly happen, if we don't topple the madman first.

Either way, one irony is certain: The completely justified but tragically timed Israeli war against the Palestinian Authority will probably end up costing more lives -- American, Israeli, and Iraqi -- than it could possibly have saved.

Copyright © 2002 by Orson Scott Card.

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