Peace in our time

By Craige McMillan

All of us are guilty at one time or another of thinking the world shares our view of it. Certain rare people have a vision of the world that intersects with the hopes and dreams of many others, and together they ride this common wave to high political office, cinema stardom, sports fame, business wealth or one of the many of other rewards Western society bestows upon life’s popularity winners.

Often, however, the intersection is a brief one. The visionary’s path crosses that of the crowd, but the two quickly go their own way. The new hero is left dangling in the darkened limelight, abandoned by former fans and supporters as they search anew for someone to express their latest hopes, dreams and fears.

Politicians know well that brief, bright intersection point. Reputations, careers, and even family dynasties have been built upon the care and feeding of such an inspirational moment. John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill are among the names that come to mind. For most of us, however, such inspirational flashes are rare, and should they occur, even more fleeting. The Internet has given us the companionship of others who share our hopes and fears – I suppose we could call it our worldview ‘buddy’ list.

As individuals, we float in a sea of opinion, amidst the choppy wake from spindoctors on media jetskies circling about us. Sometimes, shipwrecked – as the Democrats now are after the election – survivors can be found clinging to stray bits of fact or splintered pieces of once healthy worldviews. But many simply flounder and thrash around, while others cling quietly to a bit of wreckage in hopes of rescue.

Peace. How can there be so many different views of such a simple subject? Or, expressed at its most basic by a battered and beaten Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Mr. King’s philosophical opus seems to be the unspoken question that most liberals are now asking about Saddam Hussein and Iraq, al-Qaida terrorists, and North Korea’s self-confessed nuclear-weapons program.

Twentieth-century American citizens experienced a material prosperity unparalleled in human history. We had so much prosperity that it allowed us to ignore the world as it really is, and entertain the multitude of fantasies that each of us carries around in our heads. These were our substitute realities. We formed into political parties and a thousand special-interest groups to advance our common fantasies about the world. Together we acted as if stocks could rise forever, we could eradicate poverty, and the rest of the world would never catch up to our technology.

Today, we are confronted with a stark reality. Those whose worldview includes our destruction as part of their path to political and cultural ascendancy are, to the best of our knowledge, within a few months to a couple of years of obtaining nuclear weapons.

Some of us may take comfort from the fact that the world survived during our lifetimes with a policy of Mutual Assured Destruction. None of the nuclear powers attacked one another with these weapons of mass destruction. But the world’s nuclear club was tiny, consisting mainly of the U.S., the Soviet Union, China, Britain and France. Although we disagreed often and loudly with one another, we held to fundamentally similar views of the world. Perhaps the most important of those views was that nuclear weapons would never be used as a first strike against a civilian population for military gain.

That policy served us well. The fact you and I exist is proof enough. But the impending new members of the nuclear club – Middle Eastern dictators, Islamic terrorists and drug cartels – have already provided ample evidence that they do not share our values. Put another way, the reality inside their heads is vastly different than the reality inside ours. Mass murder in support of political goals has been the technique of choice among Palestinian Islamic terrorists fighting against Israel for decades. With 9-11, that technique was repackaged and successfully exported to the U.S. Much of Europe cannot be far behind.

The first U.S., Canadian or European city incinerated by a terrorist nuclear device will mark either the capitulation of Western civilization to Islam, or the end of Islamic states in a retaliatory nuclear strike of massive proportions.

The West has a brief window of opportunity to forestall that future at the price of perhaps wrongly toppling a dictator who insists he has no desire for regional conquest, but has already attacked one of his neighbors without provocation. The insights gained from his fall will allow us to follow the rabbit trails from Baghdad to the world’s terrorist leaders and drug-cartel kingpins.

It is possible, perhaps even likely, that such action will buy us and the rest of the world another generation or more of peace. The cost of inaction is too awful to contemplate.