Fighting the Last War in Iraq and the Middle East

The perils of using Cold War analogies in the twilight struggle against Islamic extremism

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This last point may explain why the citizens in New Europe have been more lukewarm than their governments about supporting Bush's Iraq policy, even while maintaining their strong support for native dissident movements elsewhere. Former Czech president Vaclav Havel may have supported the war against Saddam Hussein, but his successor and rival Vaclav Klaus did not, and in any case the former playwright expends much of his considerable international clout not shilling for the exhumed Committee on the Present Danger, but rather championing the causes of Burma and Cuba.

Maybe Iraqis will take advantage of their opportunity to build a democratic tradition from scratch; I sure hope so, and the massive election turnout is certainly reason to smile. But to base United States foreign policy on the idea that they or their immediate neighbors will act like Czechs any decade soon, and therefore respond similarly to the same still-disputed Washington tactics that were deployed during the Cold War, is a recipe for bloody disappointment abroad, and illiberalism at home.

The United States, and the world, are much freer places than they were in 1972. That happy trend will not be accelerated by mouthing Ronald Reagan, while imitating Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, and J. Edgar Hoover. And it won't be accomplished by declaring a confused, open-ended World War IV against an enemy that doesn't even have a state, let alone an empire.

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