Demonstrators and the media have been reminding us of the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. This may the beginning of the fifth year of this war, but it is only one skirmish in a conflict with a lengthier past and a long future. Pundits, politicians and protestors who want to isolate Iraq from the rest of the world war, of which it is just one part, suffer from tunnel vision.
This larger war did not begin on March 20, 2003. The first shot may have been fired in 1968 when three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked an El Al plane bound for Israel. Or, it might have begun in 1948 when Israel was officially reconstituted in its ancient homeland by the United Nations and recognized by the United States and other countries. The goal of Israel's neighbors is its elimination, a goal that has not changed despite promises, assurances and several ''peace'' agreements signed in the diplomatic equivalent of disappearing ink. Maybe the war started when the American Marine barracks in Beirut were hit with a truck bomb in 1983, killing 241 U.S. servicemen.
This war will not end in the next year, in another four years, or perhaps in 100 years, in spite of the meaningless ''Out of Iraq Now'' signs carried in last Saturday's protest near the Pentagon. The sentiment is meaningless because war opponents never say, nor will they take responsibility for, what would come next, which most assuredly would be disaster and a greater threat to America.
This war is unlike any the world has ever seen. It is without borders, though our enemy operates within and across borders; it is without a state, though al-Qaida would like to make Iraq its headquarters; and it is without reason. No theocrat wishing to impose his or her narrow vision of God and government on everyone ever debates politics and theology with dissenters; they simply slaughter those who disagree, ending debate before it begins.
That the war could have been planned and executed better is without question. More than ''mistakes were made.'' There were serious errors in judgment that have led to needless deaths and injuries. But that is for the historians to sort out. We must win this war, or Islamofascism will win it. There can be no turning back. The only thing the enemy understands is humiliation and defeat. They must be given a double dose of each so that they will abandon violence and oppression for generations to come.
Premature hope can be a dangerous thing, but hope can be like the first signs of spring: a foretaste of more pleasant things to come.
The British media, which have been more critical of the Bush administration's Iraq policy than the American media, are displaying some signs of optimism about the war. Sunday's Times reported the results of an Opinion Research Business Poll of more than 5,000 Iraqis. It said the majority is ''optimistic,'' despite their suffering in sectarian violence. This despite the fact that 26 percent of Iraqis report a family member has been murdered. In Baghdad, 33 percent has had a relative kidnapped and 35 percent said members of their family had fled abroad. And yet, when asked whether they preferred life under Saddam Hussein or elected Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, 49 percent of those polled said they were better off today.
Despite the regular use of the term ''civil war'' in the media to describe the continuing, but apparently diminishing, violence in and near Baghdad, only 27 percent of those polled described it as such; 61 percent did not.
There are other signs of budding optimism. In Karadeh, formerly an affluent shopping area of Baghdad, some shops have started to reopen and murderous sectarian checkpoints have begun to disappear, as Iraqi and American security forces dominate more of the capital.
If this surge continues to work and hopeful buds turn to blossoms of freedom for Iraqis, there will be many American politicians with more than egg on their faces. Congressional war opponents will deserve to lose the next election because of the worst possible display of bad judgment.
If stability is achieved and freedom preserved, March 20, 2003, will no longer be seen as the ''beginning'' of a war, but as Independence Day for a nation whose renaissance may just turn the tide of this world war in freedom's direction.
E-mail nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas at email@example.com.
Have any thoughts about this column? Share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters should be no more than 200 words and are subject to approval by the publisher. Letters may be edited for style and space requirements. Please sign your name and provide an address and a daytime telephone number. Address letters for publication to: Letters to the Editor, Gwinnett Daily Post, P.O. Box 603, Lawrenceville, GA 30046-0603. The fax number is 770-339-8081.