Wednesday, July 19, 2006

World War IV?

News this week from and about the Middle East ranges from the worrisome to the ridiculous, all leading to the question: are we headed for World War IV?

When was World War III, you ask? That was that long, intermittently hot and cold war between the USA and the USSR, with fronts in Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, the horn of Africa, Angola, Nicaragua, etc., the war we once thought would never end ... or would end in a mushroom cloud.

We may still get a mushroom cloud, but it won't be deployed from a superpower's silo (unless Dubya does it ... all bets are off on that). Most likely it will be a "dirty bomb" set off by a Muslim zealot ... or an atomic bomb in the nuclear arsenal that Israel is said to possess.

But that comes a bit later than now. That's what Israel could do, in desperation, when Washington and Jerusalem finally succeed at uniting all the Arab nations and, with the grand jihad on, the Arabs are at the gates. That day is no longer very far away, but right now we're still at the beginning of a conflict.

This one, it seems to me, is very similar to the beginning of World War I in the late summer of 1914. For about a month or so barely a day passed without one European country declaring war on another. These days, instead of war declarations we have the fireworks of car bombs, home-made missiles, and aircraft and artillery counterattacks.

But then, does any Arab nation have the bomb under wraps? Then what?

In World War I, Europe fought from trenches and in relentlessly insane advances of mere meters until 8.5 million lives had been expended, 21 million had been wounded and an added 7 million went missing in action.

Twenty years after the end of the war to end all wars, the world went into another paroxism of murder and we, humanity, managed to kill, over nearly 6 years, an estimated 65 million people -- that's about 30,000 people killed every day.

About 40 million were killed in wars between 1945 and 2000, including World War III. And that's a picnic compared to the coming war, since death tolls per atomic bomb are counted in megadeaths (equal to 1,000,000 deaths).

So I'm beginning to think that the term "terrorist" has been misapplied altogether. The odd bomber here and there, even the Sept. 11 suicide attackers, haven't been really all that terrifying.

All they did was wreck a couple of the world's ugliest buildings (and, yes, more lamentably kill about 2,000 people), or in several foreign cities wreck a couple of trains (and, more lamentably again, kill several hundred people). But if you weren't there, or if you don't believe everything on television or radio, their impact was not all that significant.

In the grand scheme of things, these events were tiny. For example, most people in Afghanistan, where the Sept. 11 attacks were planned and directed, had no idea about the planes crashing into -- "What's that you say? Buildings a hundred storeys tall? Nice fairy tale, ha, ha ha." -- the World Trade Center.

So, the main effect of these "terrorists" has been annoyances about the truly stupid things done in the name of security, such as checking everybody's shoes after the one real shoe-bomber sailed through checkpoints even though he was a known suspect.

The real terrorists, I would contend, are sitting in the Oval Office and the Israeli prime minister's office. They're the ones launching World War IV with insane warring that will, as sure as the cows eventually come home, goose some lunatic to start using an A-bomb to show his is bigger than the other guy's.

On that score, Dubya makes me very scared.

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