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The war over history

By Jackson Murphy
web posted September 17, 2001

World War I was the war to end all wars but another one followed it. To be fair that was, as E.H. Carr described it, a "Thirty Year Crisis" book ended by two horrific conflicts. It didn't end war per se but it certainly has been the end of great power and worldwide conflict, as we know it.

War and conflict have turned into dirty civil and intrastate war. It also helps that his type of conflict seems to have left the west and is only thriving in the places where freedom and democracy are scarce.

Francis Fukuyama wrote an article in 1989 called "The End of History" and has been misunderstood ever since. The end of history meant that with the collapse of communism led to the triumph of capitalism. Was he right?

It wasn't so much that he was right, but that he still isn't wrong yet. He made an often forgotten point about those parts of the world who had conquered history and those others who were stilled living with it. He even outlines that "conflict between states still in history, and between those states and those at the end of history, would still be possible."

So there are two worlds. The post history area of the west where capitalism, liberty, and democracy have won the day and the vast regions of the world in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia where history is still at issue.

This week America was attacked. Some commentators in the wake of this reprehensible tragedy have been drawing some interesting conclusions. In the Daily Telegram Robert Harris wrote an article entitled, "Is this what the Romans felt like?"

"We have been reminded that history doesn't end, that claims of 'superiority in all matters' are illusory and that al empires-perhaps even this one-must eventually pass away," wrote Harris.

Harris thinks that America and her allies are Rome and that our actions in bringing these people to justice are akin to the crucifixions and that this is a siege of an 'imperial America'. The barbarians are at the gate and America, like Rome, will fall. This argument is more defeatist that even Fukuyama's end of history.

In the New York Times Thomas Friedman gets closer to the truth when he suggests that this is World War III. "It pits us-the world's only superpower and quintessential symbol of liberal, free-market, Western values-against all the super-empowered angry people from failing states in the Muslim and third world."

The West spent most of the post Cold War year, and in particular the Clinton years, toiling with our stock portfolios, talking about the President's sex life, watching Survivor and Jerry Springer. We had convinced ourselves that things were pretty rosy here so who really cared about what was going on in the rest of the world. We can thank Clinton and his pathetic foreign policy for leaving us open to this attack.

As Rome fell they were the smartest, most advanced society in the world and people who clearly were a thousand years behind defeated them. Sound familiar? The lesson?

Rather than roll over we must engage the other part of the world that is permanently stuck in the Middle Ages except they have cell phones, the Internet, and guns. If we value anything from civil liberties, freedom, democracy, capitalism, McDonald's and Starbucks we'll have to fight and defend it from anyone who doesn't want us to have them.

The world is divided into two camps and it will not be easy to deal with this new threat. Lobbing a few hundred cruise missiles one night is not going to do it. To fight a global Vietnamized guerrilla war we will have to use every means, even those undesirable to us. The use of spy games, double agents, intelligence, and secrecy will have to be used to ferret out these groups-and make no mistake it is going to be extremely ugly work. People are going to die but a price must be paid in the name of freedom.

I heard the head of Vancouver's Airport respond to the question of when things (air travel) would return to normal and he only replied that there is a "new normal". We have to be vigilant that these events don't rob us of our liberty and that terrorists don't rob us of our open society. We have to protect these liberties as if there were no terrorists, if we don't we have already lost.

The Attack on America on Tuesday September 11, 2001 isn't the beginning of the end for the west. This was the opening shot in a new war over history. ESR

Jackson Murphy is a young independent commentator from Vancouver, Canada writing on domestic and international political issues. He is a frequent contributor to Enter Stage Right and writes weekly at You can reach him at

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