This is LONDON
31/03/03 - Opinion section
A war without an end
By A.N.Wilson, Evening Standard
This war will probably not end in our lifetime. I do not say that because of the likelihood that some of us - you, reading, me writing this column - will be blown up by a suicide bomber at some London bus stop within the next few weeks.
I say it because most wars, on the whole, do not end. They merely have intervals of ceasefire.
The British and the Americans have been brought up on the dangerous analogy of 1945. There, they believe, after years of bloody conflict, was indeed an ending and a victory. Though cities burned and untold millions of civilians lay dead, the tyrant was conquered. Freedom was brought in by the brave and decisive alliance of the United Kingdom and the United States.
True, many brave Americans and British troops died to liberate Europe; and, true, many billions of dollars were spent on rebuilding Europe. But peace came to Europe, not because the British or the Americans paid for it, but because the French and the Germans decided that, in future, their ancient rivalries and conflicts must not be resolved by war.
Their decision to build the beginnings of the European Union was what brought peace to Europe, not the decision of the Pentagon to shower down bombs, then troops, then dollar bills.
The Americans could not understand, when this Iraqi war began, why the French and the Germans could not show their gratitude to the Star Spangled Banner by supporting any course of action George W Bush chose to pursue. It was precisely their experience of 1945 that told them how deadly, and how pointless, the war option is. Peace is not gained by fighting wars.
Since 1945, millions of our fellow human beings have died in wars. Almost none of these wars has been won, except a few very minor campaigns, such as the brilliant regaining of the Falkland Islands. In Cyprus, in Korea, in Vietnam, in the Belgian Congo, in Rwanda, in Ireland, conflicts have rumbled on and on, never reaching an all-out ending and never coming within an inch of being solved until the combatants themselves - not the Americans - have decided that enough is enough.
We were told that this war would be over in days or weeks. Even if Saddam dies today, even if his powerfully disciplined troops surrender, even if British and American troops do not find themselves marching into clouds of poison gas, even if TV audiences throughout the Arab world ceases to be inflamed by images of the killing of Iraqi civilians by US aircraft and British troops, the war will not stop.
The Kurds will not suddenly become safe, after decades of being threatened - on the contrary, they are now in greater danger than ever of attack from the Turks. The various factions within Iraq itself will almost certainly break into civil war. Surrounding nations such as Iran and Syria, which have been verbally assaulted by Donald Rumsfeld, will feel they have a right to continue the struggle by any means - propaganda, terrorism or actual war.
The mistake of this war was not sending too few troops, too late in the year - though these were catastrophic mistakes. It was imagining that it would all end like 1945. The Middle East is years away from being able to achieve the kind of peaceful political solution to its problems that was accomplished by those Europeans who drafted the Treaty of Rome.
Until the entire region is allowed to sort out its own problems, peacefully and politically, no number of American generals, their chests bright with service medals, will be able to achieve it for them.