Looming threats--then and now.

Author:Mattox, Henry E.

Editor's Note:

Our former editor, now a contributing editor, compares the current terrorist threat facing the United States and the West to the challenges facing them during the twentieth century with its two world wars and the Cold War. He finds the dire warnings issuing from Washington to be overdrawn, and repeats Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski's concern that they may create a culture of fear and restrictions on personal liberties, which he believes unwarranted. (For a report on Dr. Brzezinski's speech, see: Global Security Challenges.)--Assoc. Pub

Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, in a recent talk before a large, attentive audience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, quoted President Bush: "We [the United States] are in the defining ideological struggle of the twenty-first century." Dr. Brzezinski then raised a question as to whether anyone could have predicted from the same vantage point with any accuracy what were to be the central struggles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He opined that the President's statement might become a self-fulfilling prophecy, creating a culture of fear and a loss of personal freedoms in the United States and other Western nations--if it has not already done so. It might well represent the politics of fear.

We do not presume to speak further for Dr. Brzezinski. Nevertheless, a stultifying aura of apprehension in light of the current radical Islamic threat does strike one as not only tragic and burdensome, but also as possibly not fully warranted. The reason: The United States and the West during the twentieth century faced challenges in turn from Imperial Germany and its allies, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan and their allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies. Each of those confrontations proved costly, and the first two were close-run victories. The third, too, involved the very real threat of mass destruction on an unimaginable scale, although it ended in complete collapse of the Soviet opponent without a nuclear holocaust.

Each of those prolonged twentieth century crises was successfully overcome, and each presented a far greater menace to America and its Western allies than the danger posed to the West today by Al Qaeda and its ilk. American entry into the First World War enabled the Allies to stave off German domination of Europe. In World War II, Britain's stubborn courage and Japan's strategic misjudgment in attacking Pearl Harbor (plus Germany's blunder in...

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