Many commentators have compared the current war on Islamism to World War II. "Like the Second World War," President Bush said in 2004, "our present conflict began with a ruthless, surprise attack on the United States. We will not forget that treachery, and we will accept nothing less than victory over the enemy."
Unfortunately, the War on Terror no longer resembles World War II; it looks far more like World War I. It will take a World War IV to truly correct the shortcomings of the War on Terror.
At the end of World War I, the Allies left a hollow Weimar Republic. They left German's armaments industry intact. They wanted to reach out to their enemies, to work with them through foolish institutions like the League of Nations. They saw war as an ultimate evil and felt that the right combination of kindness and appeasement could prevent conflict. They ignored the rise of Mussolini, the rise of Hitler, the rise of Stalin -- all of which replaced the nascent democracies of their nations. In fact, the West didn't merely engage in ignorance -- it praised these new leaders as scions of a new age.
H.G. Wells summed up the worshipfulness of the blind West toward the rise of Communism and German and Italian fascism: "The world is sick of parliamentary politics," he wrote. "The Fascist Party, to the best of its ability, is Italy now. The Communist Party, to the best of its ability, is Russia. Obviously, the Fascists of Liberalism must carry out a parallel ambition on a still vaster scale."
Fast-forward 90 years. Today's Italy, Germany and Soviet Union are Iran, China and Russia. We could have done something about them in the War on Terror. Instead, we ignored them, paving the way for a far greater conflict in the coming decades.
First: Iran. After engaging in a long and arduous war against Islamist terrorists ranging from Iraq to Afghanistan, the West is now firmly convinced that it can abandon nascent democracies in those countries without consequence. Iran is filling the void in both countries, at the same time developing nuclear weapons and flexing its muscles against Israel and Lebanon. Iran is on the rise, and the West continues to dally, pretending that a deal with the Islamist mullahs is on the way.