GHADA HASHEM TALHAMI
It is not all that uncommon to endow a nation's foreign war with moral qualifications, viewing the enemy through the eternal dichotomy of good and evil. During the First World War, the Germans were dubbed the Huns, evoking images of pre-Christian barbarism and primitive force. When the Germans faced off against the Western powers during the Second World War, they earned the title of Nazis and the eternal enemies of democracy and international law. Indeed, following the discovery of Germany's genocidal policy towards the Jews and other minorities, Hitler's Germany became synonymous with evil. Germany and its allies became known as the Axis powers, implying a senseless alignment of states with nothing in common but their hostility to the Allies.
This same Germany, however, was allowed to shed its evil characteristics following its acceptance as a NATO ally and was allowed to transform itself into a beacon of democracy and a valued partner in the war on communism. When the Soviets replaced the Axis powers as the fulcrum of a new evil empire dedicated to the elimination of economic freedom and the enslavement of freedom-loving nations of the world, they replaced the Nazis as the new satanic power in the world.
Recently, a new axis of evil has been identified, and was also assigned characteristics and alien values and beliefs just like the former Communists. A new US foreign policy emerged which was christened the 'war on terror', and was described as a holy crusade. The enemy, once again, was painted in moralistic hues and dressed in religious garb. A religion, Islam, of one-sixth of the world's population is now the new enemy, the incomprehensible evil, evoking terror and bewilderment in the minds of most humankind.
Why, one may ask, are the real concerns of successive American administrations never shared with the public at large in a forthright and realistic manner? No simple answer exists although it has been made abundantly clear by now that this indulgence in excessive moralization not only deters the public from a badly-needed appreciation of foreign policy issues, but also makes it extremely difficult to reverse positions when the need arises. It is not enough to point to America's Puritan past as an explanation for the tendency to paint cosmic events in shades of black and white. It does not suffice to draw attention to the masterpieces of American