Jewish World Review April 8, 2002/ 6 Nisan, 5763
Different strokes for the allies
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | LONDON An American is barely off the plane before he's aware of a different war, as seen through English eyes.
The television images of tanks rumbling though Iraqi streets are the tanks in Basra, where the British are tightening their grip on the city, and not the Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, probing the alleys and avenues of Baghdad, that have become so familiar to American viewers.
The newspapers are full of the continuing good news, and the emphasis has a British accent: "British Troops Storm Basra," goes the banner across Page One of The Times. Large numbers of Iraqis, reported The Times, "begged to join the fight against Saddam Hussein." Says one senior British officer: "The regime could collapse once the people in Baghdad realize that Basra has been taken. The uprising has finally happened."
Like their American cousins, the Brits a visitor meets in the restaurants, shops and pubs - in "the British street," you might say - take pride in the accomplishments of their arms, and particular pride that the seizure of Basra might be the tipping point the allies have sought so assiduously over the past 19 days. But there's very little of the anger, the rage just beneath the polite surface of conversation, that has become so familiar in the United States. September 11 was just another damp early-autumn day here, after all, and John Bull, unlike Uncle Sam, has no score to settle. George W.'s critics, so far, inflict only mosquito bites. Tony Blair's critics have teeth. This is not your grandfather's London.
The anti-war movement here is much bigger, louder and more coherent than in the United States, and the argument is considerably rowdier, and occasionally even raunchier, unrestrained by political correctness and fear of hurting someone's tender feelings. Julie Burchill, a columnist in the Guardian, the voice of the prissy left, examined the specimens in the "peace marches" and discovered a few who are "not nice at all." Some - and you would never find such a concession in an American mainstream newspaper - are even "pervs," who think that if you haven't killed a man, "you're only half a man, and they envy and admire Saddam, because he has. Lots.
"Just a very few pervs in the anti-war movement are like this. But we've always had such men, especially when it comes to the Anglo-Arab thing: think Lawrence of Arabia, taking it and liking it.
"Then there's Prince Charles, the ultimate dumb Islam-groupie, dressing up in Arabic robes to welcome visitors to Highgrove and carrying the Koran in a mad bid to be Defender of All Faiths. Englishmen may be the worst for freaking out over the Sheik of Araby/Fry's Turkish Delight cliche, but such useful fools come in all types."
Nevertheless, Tony Blair will feel pressure that George W. won't, despite some of the voices raised in Congress demanding that the United Nations administer the spoils of war, such as they may be. In part, this is an inevitable do-good impulse of Mr. Blair's Labor Party, in part a fear of what may be the next disaster to deal with in the Middle East. Mr. Blair has to contend with a much larger, louder and violent expression of "the religion of peace." The Islamists, who are only a threat to the United States, are the here and now in Britain.
The loose talk about how an Iraqi war would be the spark to ignite an unstoppable wave of Arab nationalism has frightened many British pols, some of whom have large immigrant constituencies and are eager to be frightened. They're terrified that another Nasser will rise to electrify the Muslim masses. Saddam Hussein once imagined himself to be the new Nasser, but in the end, the electrification project foundered on the man's inherent evil and greed that far outran his grasp.
Many of Mr. Blair's friends and a lot of his critics worry that despite the great pains - pains cheerfully accepted at considerable cost - the coalition forces have taken to minimize civilian casualties, the humiliation of the Arabs poses grave dangers for the future. The British, with much longer and richer experience in the Middle East than the Americans, may be more eager to assuage humiliation than George W.'s men if it means letting the Europeans in for some of the postwar swag.
The only thing that could assuage Arab humiliation, if only for a little while, is the annihilation of Israel. The "road map" to lasting peace (do not laugh) in Palestine is what brought George W. to these isles yesterday, to reassure Mr. Blair (and Mr. Blair's friends) that after the war is over, the coalition will resolve the dispute between Israel and Palestine. (Sure it will.)
Anyone who believes this will happen envisions not only a
different war, but a different world. Israel has made quick
work of a half-dozen Arab states on three occasions, and
now Israel's great friend has led the way to demolishing
Arabia's largest army. The leaders of the coalition believe that
victory in Iraq changes everything. Alas, that's only one way
of looking at it.
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