In October 2001, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy held a conference to discuss the terror attacks in the preceding month. A score of distinguished diplomats and other officials past or present, academics and journalists, some from the West and others from the Arab Middle East and Israel, were united in the conclusion that a war had begun and action against the Taliban and al-Qa‘ida was merely phase one. Information and argument fuse very successfully in these discussions. Better intelligence, regulation of money transfers, and preparation for defense against bio-chemical weapons are immediate recommendations. Force, however, is the ultimate arbiter.
The shape of phase two stretched the collective imagination. It seemed probable but not certain at that point in time that there would have to be a preemptive strike to prevent Saddam Hussein from deploying weapons of mass destruction. European and Arab states might well stay clear of any coalition for the purpose. The consequences of such a momentous step were discussed only in rather well-worn terms of exactly what version of democracy the United States could or should introduce into a post-Saddam Iraq. Kanan Makiya, the Iraqi dissident, advocated an Iraqi confederation and further urged that "America has to think big." Other Arabs present wanted an urgent American-led resolution to the Palestinian issue. The Israelis, notably Moshe Arens and Ehud Ya'ari, concentrated instead on the war against terror and the political bankruptcy of Yasir Arafat. Bernard Lewis concluded the conference with a historical overview into which hopefulness crept, though shyly. This short book gathers impressive expertise on all aspects of its subject.