April 23, 2002

No Permanent Enemies

No Permanent Enemies: Much of the conservative war party in the press has been pushing the idea recently that Arabs and/or Muslims are America's permanent enemies. A quick look at the historical record, however, shows that in the 104 years since American became a world power in the Spanish-American war, we have had dozens of temporary enemies, but not a single permanent one. Here is an incomplete list of all the countries that have been our enemy at some point over the last 104 years:

Afghanistan - 2001; Angola - 1975 CIA involvement; Austria - WWI, WWII; Bulgaria - Cold War; Cambodia 1975-1979; China - 1949 - 1972; Croatia - WWII; Cuba - 1959 on; Czechoslovakia - WWI, Cold War; Finland - WWII; France - WWII Vichy; Germany - WWI, WWII, East Germany in Cold War; Grenada - 1983; Guatemala - 1954; Hungary - WWI, WWII, Cold War; Iran - 1954, 1979-on, Axis of Evil; Iraq - Desert Storm, Axis of Evil; Italy - WWII; Japan - WWII; Laos - 1975 -; Libya - 1986; Mexico - Pancho Villa Raid; Mongolia - Cold War; Nicaragua - 1980s Cold War; North Korea - Korean War, Axis of Evil; Panama - 1989; Philippines - Insurrection of 1900; Poland - Cold War; Romania - WWII, Cold War; Russia - Cold War; Somalia - 1993; Spain - Spanish War, sort of during WWII; Syria - 1970-on; the rest of the Soviet republics - Cold War; Turkey - WWI; Vietnam - Vietnam War.

I'm sure I'm missing a few.

Permanent friends over that period? Well, as Lord Palmerston would have predicted, not many: basically just Britain and its offshoots of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

I doubt that there is anything that dooms us to be permanently at daggers drawn with Islamic nations. In fact, the nation that has enjoyed cordial relations with America longer (at least when it wasn't colonized) than any other is Arab - that's Morocco, which was exchanging ambassadors with us since long before Britain burned down the White House. And we get along swimmingly with Oman, a Muslim country that was in the Dark Ages until about 1970.

Obviously, there is something to this clash of civilizations stuff, but the trendy notion that we must be at permanent war with a billion Muslims sounds like an idea that will seem terribly outdated in a decade or two.

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