I must give credit to the neocons (and certain paleocons such as Huntington) for recognizing the onslaught of World War IV. Commentators most frequently compare this World War to World War II, due to the supposed similarities between fascism and Islamo-fascism, among other things. In the buildup of the American empire over the course of the past 100 years, each successive World War has served to bring in enemy nations from the cold, domesticate them, and therefore ensure their dutiful participation in the Empire (as termed by Hardt and Negri) in the political, economic, and military spheres. American military basing went from being limited to the Caribbean and near Pacific to becoming a globally present phenom that has taken root from Djibouti to Jalalabad. The World War IV in which we are now embroiled has become the dominant paradigm with which to conceptualize global affairs. Perhaps we have fanned the flames of war by means of bellicose semantics, yet whether normatively good or bad, the war is here regardless.
Recent declarations by outgoing Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan buttress this point. He emphasized the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the morass of events within the Middle East. Though internationalists and leftists typically don't employ the same semantics as reactionary folks in qualifying the world they perceive, it has become evident that that clash between the West and Islam is truly of gargantuan proportions. For one, as I heard Colin Powell declare in Baltimore a few days ago, the United States was in need of a new enemy at the end of the Cold War. Without the Communists to orientalize and stigmatize, the American yearning for global domination needed an outlet. Out of a bipolar system in which American alliances often formed with those who were sworn enemies in the prior World War (Germans, Japanese) emerged a new World War IV alignment in which old pals overnight became transformed into mortal archnemeses. American World War III funding to the Taliban and Iraqi Baathists was intended to further American anti-Soviet agitation. The Soviets were the primary enemy in World War III, although Communists located everywhere else in the world, whether within America itself or in Vietnam, Korea, and Angola, were considered enemies.
The Cold War was thus the World War from which World War IV emerges. World War III has not completely subsided. World Wars in this postmodern epoch do not contain a clear-cut beginning or end because of the multi-layered nature of violent conflict and its sociological bases. There are World War III enemies that still gnaw away at American imperial might (Cuba, North Korea). The last vestiges of World War III won't be settled for some time now. Most notably, the superpower rivalry between the US and the USSR did not end in full reconciliaton and amity. Far from it, Russia is currently very adamantly opposed (understandably so) to the continuing American policy of encirclement, which has brought Western troops to Russia's doorstep in Estonia, Bulgaria, Uzbekistan, and beyond. The West will continue to enjoy only limited support from Russia in its attempts to rollback Iranian, Palestinian, and Chinese military potential.
World War IV's deep roots lie in Israeli independence, which itself was a process very similar to many other nationalist movements across the world ranging from Ghana to Slovenia. However, the Arab world couldn't stomach the imperialist foot of the West all the way up its hind quarters. Yet, World War IV did not really get heated until 1973's oil embargo. Amidst staggeringly high oil prices, it continued to escalate during the Islamic Revolution in 1979 Iran. Still World War III was raging, through the heightened pace of the arms race during Reagan's massive increase in defense expeditures, which led to the creation of massive American public debt. World War III came to a close as Communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe lost steam, and the Soviet puppet states in turn led to the Soviet Union's own demise. The 90's were solidified as an upbeat decade during which American hegemony expanded, and the lack of a significant external threat permitted some political hacks to declare that the end of history had been reached. Such was wishful thinking, as men with big guns eventually get tired of holding up their guns if they never get to fire them. Thus, the new Pearl Harbor occurred on a dreadful day in 2001. World War IV only then became the dominant paradigm for explaining the alignment of nation-states, as the "terrorist" soon replaced what had been known as the "communist." Straussian ideology had found its new emnity that could be employed to catalyze national action and mobilize the masses to redirect their hope, dreams, and fears. The catastrophic events of September 11th allowed for a subsequent shift in focus, and the big guns were soon drawn.
Anti-American regimes were soon replaced in Afghanistan and Iraq by puppet states, despite protracted violent strife in both of those nations. While much of Europe rested contentedly on its laurels, the Anglo-American coalition (plus a few others like Denmark and Tonga, which actually withdrew its 45 troops in 2004) took on the white man's burden. The Yankees gladly accepted their role as world policemen, and a fresh balance of power surfaced. World War IV, as the second postmodern World War, does not feature simplistic and and isolated battles between clearly defined nation-states. Rather, complex ideological and supranational agents carry out their plans on many different levels through a sophisticated system of financial, diplomatic, and military strategery. Actors are not bound by loyalty to constantly shifting national identities. Populaces often do not wish to fight on the same side of this World War as their governments. Such is the case in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Egypt, countries whose Sunni Muslim governments are theoretically on the American side of World War IV. The US contributes billions of dollars to the development of economic and political infrastructures in these nations, yet millions of people that reside therein swear each day to destroy America.
Therefore, in explaining the role of critical geopolitics in evaluating today's alignment of countries, we must realize that arbitrary borders between states and illusions of sovereignty make impossible the conventional ways of establishing truths about violent conflict. The dualism inherent in the traditional dichotomy of victory and defeat does not explain why nations, transnations, or supranations make war these days. Winners do not win wars like they used to. Protracted struggles entail that both sides must compute whether death toll, financial loss, and social destruction amount to sufficient negative "externalities" or "blowback" to turn off the war machine. A minority of citizens supports the actual and ongoing violent struggle, yet hordes of believers have lent tacit approval to various social, ideological, and professional programs that necessitate their complicity in carrying out jihad - on both sides. War is big business. Religion is for sale. Fundamentalist guerilla fighters govern better than governments.
This line of thought will be followed up at a later date. For now, it suffices to generalize by saying that Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezb'allah, al-Qaeda are on one site of World War IV and the U.S., Israel, EU, and a number of Middle Eastern regimes are on the other. A more nuanced picture will emerge graphically later.
The conclusion of this line of thought is that the West is ultimately going to place international keepers of the peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors at those points where no peace agreement has been cemented. By establishing a network of internationally-sanctioned Israeli insulation from Arabs, the Western security forces are shoring up the borders of their imperial space. Perhaps it is ultimately Europe's responsibility to physically protect Israel from the Arab aggressors? Is this the ultimate result of the Holocaust? American soldiers are in a position to fight on the brutal colonial frontier, where coveted geopolitical resources such as oil are at stake, while Europeans will be the guardians of peace.
The split between people and their governments is ever-lasting. Populist-Islamist forces vs. Capitalist-western-oriented regimes creates a looming Civil War within the Arab world in which the West is intervening. In fact, it is rather an imperial war, but the West merely has learned how to commission Arab manpower and assets in order to fight for the West. Given the current dichotomy, Baathist government, while nasty and brutish, doesn't seem that horrible. Are Arab nationalism and pan-Arabism more palatable than medieval Islamism or Islamo-fascism? Are Islamist governments even sincere? Or is religion just twisted to provide a form of systematic propaganda for despotic and anachronistic governmental methods of population control? Is Islamism more xenophobic and/or backward than medieval Christian rule? Bush, though revolting and rather ayatollesque, is a pawn submerged in a struggle amongst forces far stronger than himself. Though the Arab-Muslim world is divisively split and seemingly backward, it's more advanced that medieval Europe was during its intra-European Civil Wars, which raged on for decades. The intra-Arab Civil War has just begun. Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq are zones are peril. It's time to plant some olive trees.