- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2006

Joe E. Lewis had a shtick which went like this. The vaudeville comic would march across the stage and a voice would cry out: “Hey, Joe, how’s your wife?” And quick as a flash he would shout back: “Compared to what?”

I never thought I would have a kind word to say about Josef Stalin but it is tempting to do so when you compare Stalin to Osama bin Laden. In condemning Stalin, I think of the Gulag and the millions of Soviet citizens and East Europeans he killed, imprisoned or maimed for life. So far as we know, however, Stalin reserved his terror for the Russian people and their neighbors, just as Mao Tse-tung reserved his terror for the Chinese people. There were no Soviet backpack bombs on European planes, trains or buses.

Today’s Islamic jihadists are not quite so discriminating. They have inflicted their terror in New York, Madrid, London, Amman and Karachi. Compared to the horror of September 11, 2001, and the Islamofascist jihadists, the Cold War was rather benign. Stalin’s attack on the democracies was through the ballot box where possible as in France and Italy, through espionage by loyal Communist Party members in target countries, or by distribution of “Moscow gold” or through all three.

In fact, the Cold War was winnable because nation-states were involved. There was a Kremlin and a White House; there were embassies and negotiations between trained diplomats, mutual acceptance of rules of behavior. The 1962 U.S. ?Soviet confrontation over Soviet missiles in Cuba was settled by diplomacy — open diplomacy at the United Nations and secret diplomacy at various levels in Washington and Moscow.

The confrontation between democracy and its Islamic enemies is a new phenomenon in world affairs: How do we defeat the onslaught of Islamofascism, a faceless foe, in any recognizable way? Iraq is a good example of a faceless enemy.

Saddam Hussein is in jail yet the war goes on — directed by whom? Islamofascism is transnational, the battlefield is everywhere. In a war between nation-states, there is a uniformed victor and a uniformed loser. A believable armistice or peace treaty is possible. The loser accepts defeat, signs a paper to that effect on behalf of the defeated state and both sides go home. Sometimes, the loser is a loner like Slobodan Milosevic, who dies in a prison cell.

With Islamofascism however, there is no one on the terrorist side to sign a piece of paper on behalf of anybody. In any case, the signature would be valueless, the contents unenforceable.

There is one state, Iran, which is a recognizable enemy. Its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has thus far talked big, big, big but avoided confrontation with anybody. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s behavior has turned him into a wholly owned subsidiary of Osama bin Laden. What Iran will not risk, bin Laden will.

Arnold Beichman is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

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