This is a partial transcript of a speech by James Woolsey about WW-III and WW-IV. It makes a significant point I felt worthy of presentation. It is followed by his main thesis, that "The War on Terror" is in reality: "World-War IV"
Democracies on Earth:
   1917: Less Than 12
   2003: Well Over 120

--James R. Woolsey

If you look at the world a little over 85 years ago, in the spring of 1917 when this country entered World War I, there were at most about a dozen existing democracies: the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, France, Switzerland, a few countries in Northern Europe (and almost all of those were only democracies for the male half of their populations). It was a world of empires, of kingdoms, of colonies, and of various types of authoritarian regimes.

Today, 120 out of the 192 countries in the world, are democracies.

In the 20th century, The United States of America "imposed" democracy on exactly three nations, all opponents in astonishingly bloody wars. The vast majority of these nations, over 100 of them, have become democracies by the will of their people. That is an amazing change, literally an order of magnitude change, within the lifetime of many individuals now living.

Needless to say, we, the USA, have had a lot to do with it. We helped win World War I. Along with Britain, we prevailed in World War II; and we prevailed in the Cold War, which some also call: World War III.

The democratic world is divided between free nations like the United States, and democracies like Russia, which are partly free. But still, there are 120 countries with parliamentary institutions, contested elections and some elements, at least, of the rule of law. No dramatic systemic political change like this has ever happened in world history.

Along the way, a lot of people said, very cynically, "The Germans will never be able to run a democracy; the Japanese will never be able to run a democracy; the Russians will never be able to run a democracy; no nation with a Chinese culture is going to be able to run a democracy." Today, the "forced" democracies of Germany, Japan and Italy are thriving. It will be the same with Iraq.

It took some help, but the Germans and the Japanese and now, even the Russians, the Taiwanese, and many other nations and cultures have figured it out.

In spite of vast cultural differences, people with backgrounds very different from the Anglo-Saxon world of Westminster and the founding fathers of the United States are on their way to democracy.

In the Muslim world, the 22 Arab states have no democracies. Some reasonably well governed states are moderating and changing, such as Bahrain and Qatar. But still, there no democracies among them. There are another 16 Muslim-predominant non-Arab states. Half of these are democracies, including some of the poorest countries in the world: Bangladesh, & Mali. Well over 100 million Muslims live in a democracy in India. Outside of one province, they are generally at peace with their Hindu neighbors.

The problem is not Islam. There is a special situation in the Middle East attributable to historical and cultural factors. Outside of Israel and Turkey, the Middle East essentially consists of no democracies. It has, rather, two types of governments: pathological predators and vulnerable autocrats. This is a bad mix. Five of those states: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Libya sponsor and assist terrorism in one way or another; and all five are working on weapons of mass destruction.

The Middle East thus presents a serious and massive complex of problems: all financed by the revenues of two-thirds of the world's oil. I don't believe this terror war is going to go away until we change the face of the Middle East the way we have changed the face of Europe.

I say to the terrorists and the pathological predators such as Saddam Hussein, as well as to the autocrats, the Mubaraks, and the Saudi Royal family:
You must realize that now, for the fourth time in 100 years, America has been awakened and our country is on the march. We didn't choose this fight, but we're in it to win it.
There is only one way to win. It's the way we won World War I: fighting for Wilson's 14 points. It's the way we won World War II: fighting for Churchill's and Roosevelt's Atlantic Charter. It's the way we won World War III: fighting for the noble ideas most eloquently expressed at the beginning by President Truman and by President Reagan at it's end.

These were not wars between countries or civilizations. Our alliance won these wars because we made on thing clear: It was not "us" against "them." These were wars of freedom against tyranny.

We have to convince the good people of the Middle East that we are on their side. This will be difficult. It will take time. For some countries the development of lasting democracy will take many years.

World War - III and World War - IV
--James R. Woolsey


James Woolsey has been presenting variations on this theme on the lecture circuit since just after 9/11/01 . There are no official texts of any of the speeches. He seems to do them from a mental outline, customizing for his audiences and what’s in the news.

This writer first saw the presentation at an event sponsored by Columbia University and presented on C-SPAN February 14, 2003.

No transcript of that speech exists. A transcript that appears to have been from closed captioning of a later speech is presented here, with a fair bit of editing to remove artifacts typical of such transcription. Because it has been edited by persons other than the speaker, this should not be taken as the actual words spoken.

I have had dozens of communications with people who work with and for Mr. Woolsey and this is the best reconstruction I can build. Hopefully it will be a fair representation of the ideas presented.

Posted: 9/11/2003
June– 2003

JAMES WOOLSEY: Thanks Dan. I was quite honored when the Netanya Center asked me to be with you today.

But to tell you the truth in the 35 years I have been out of law school I have spent twenty two of them as a Washington lawyer. Since I spent some time out at the C.I.A. in the Clinton administration, I am actually pretty honored to be invited into any polite company for any purposes whatsoever.

I believe we won't know how to win the war on terror unless we take it seriously. I think taking it seriously means regarding it as a world war.

I think The War on Terrorism is in fact, World War Four.

World War III, "The Cold War" also had a good deal to do with the wars of independence for colonies. I think that it is important to see what we are engaged in now, as something that combines many aspects of the threat that we faced during world wars one and two and the cold war in terms of their seriousness, in terms of their murderousness, in terms of ideology.

There are three major groups in the Middle East who regard themselves as being at war with the United States.

The first is the Islamist Shia, the mullahs who control the instruments of power of the State of Iran and those who are in their pay or control, such as Hizbullah. They have been at war with us for nearly a quarter of a century, since they seized our hostages in Teheran in 1979 and continued on blowing up our embassies in Beirut and marine barracks in '83, and many terrorist attacks since.

The second group is the fascists. These are the Baathists. The Baathist parties of Iraq and Syria are fascist parties, modeled after the totalitarian parties of the 1930s. Saddam's speeches about his role in the Arab world sound very much like Hitler's selling the thousand year Reich. They are anti-Semitic and they are fascist in the classic political sense. They have been at war with us for about twelve years, since the beginning of the Gulf War in 1991. It is has continued through the attempt to kill former President Bush in '93, a number of attacks on American & British aircraft during the no-fly zones, various other liaisons with terrorist groups and the like.

The third group is the Islamist Suni, their cutting edge being Al Qaida and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. They have been at war with us in a real sense since around '94 give or take a year or so, when they began to turn their focus from what they called the near enemy, the Mubarak regime in Egypt, plus the Saudi royal family and a focus on us: the crusaders and the Jews, as they call us.

These three groups, have been at war with us in the United States, for a number of years and several of them even longer with Israel. They were at war with us, but we weren't really at war with them until September eleventh. What happened September 11th is that this country woke up. It is a shame that that's what it took, but I believe that is in fact what occurred. As a result, I think we are now in spirit ready to continue the fight of what I think we must really regard as a world war.

Are these three groups working together? Well, close enough for government work.

One group of fascists have tried to take on an Islamist facade. Saddam wrote allahu akbar across the face of the Iraqi flag in 1991. Even Stalin at his most cynical, when he needed the support of the Russian Orthodox church in World War II, did not write across the face of the Soviet flag: "In the name of the father, of the son and the holy spirit." But Saddam has done what he can to take on an Islamist character and certainly the religious fanatics of mullahs in Iran,

Al Qaida and the others have totalitarian political features as well. Bin Laden says that what he means by democracy is one vote once and then from then on he and god will rule. That is as totalitarian as you get.

These three groups cooperate. Does one control the other? Is Al Qaida sponsored by the Baathist regime of Iraq? No, I don't think so. Al Qaida is too wealthy to be sponsored by anybody. In the two countries where they have been present, Sudan and Afghanistan, you more or less had terrorist sponsored states rather than state sponsored terrorism.

Their relationship is more like that of one Mafia family to another. They hate each other, they kill each other from time to time, but they are certainly quite capable of helping one another here in their war against us.

The most important reason I think that we need to consider this as a World War is that unless and until we do, we will not adopt the right long run strategy and the right long run strategy is, in my judgment, that we have to move to change the face of the Middle East.

The first three world wars were wars for democracy. Wilson understood that it had to be fought for the fourteen points.

Roosevelt and Churchill understood from the beginning of our involvement in World War Two that the Atlantic Charter, freedom for the people of the North Atlantic community had to be the heart of our objective in World War Two.

World War Three, the Cold War, was fought heavily for the ideas and the speeches of Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and others. We won it in no small measure because we did not let it become a clash of Americans and others against Russians and others. We did not let it become a clash of civilizations, because it was a war for freedom against tyranny. In time we convinced the Sakharovs the Solzhenitzins, the Vaclav Havels, the Lech Walessas, the Solidarities, that we were on their side and they on ours. That too is in no small measure the reason we won.

We have to make this world war a war of freedom against tyranny and we have to make common cause with the hundreds of millions of wonderful and decent Moslems, such as President Wahid and many who agree with him about the importance of Islam continuing to reinterpret life and how to progress and live and be more moral human beings in the midst of the change that history brings, rather than freezing thinking at the time of pre-Islamic center of the Saudi Arabian desert and its culture.

We have to make this war a war in which good and decent Moslems and Christians and Jews and everybody else who wants freedom and peace are on the same side. By making democracy our objective we are doing something that I think reaches into the hearts of many, many people in the Muslim world and elsewhere, but it is also a practical matter. It has to do with peace.

Democracies don't fight one another. It is almost without precedence in human history to find democracies going to war against one another. They argue, they have problems, but they generally do not go to war.

Democracies go to war with dictatorships and vice versa. Dictatorships go to war with one another. When people control the future of their own government, the last thing they want to do is go to war unless they have to and they normally do not see the wisdom of doing that against other democracies.

Some eighty-nine years ago, at the outbreak of World War One, Europe was a continent largely of kingdoms and empires and various types of dictatorships. Today, except for Belarus and the Ukraine, it is a continent of democracy. That is the reason it is at peace.

The most effective non proliferation that has taken place, reversing actual government programs to develop nuclear weapons and long range ballistic missiles has been in the 1980s, for example, principally a triumph of democracy. The changes that took place in Brazil, Argentina, South Africa took place not because of some international treaty. It took place because those countries became democracies and gave up their nuclear programs. So moving in this direction, I think, is a movement toward peace.

It is not necessarily moving in a direction of countries that agree with the United States. Democracies disagree. We disagreed by a few votes unfortunately, with our old friend and ally Turkey some weeks ago and therefore the war in Iraq has been somewhat harder than need be. That's fine. That's Turkey's decision. Turkey is a democracy and gets to decide those things. Democracy does not mean: "Do what the Americans want."

Another reason why we need to regard this as a "world war four" and regard it as something in which we need to change the face of the Middle East, is that other than Israel and Turkey, the governments of the Middle East consist of two types, pathological predators and vulnerable autocracies.

The pathological predators are working closely with various terrorist groups. All of them are developing in one way or another, weapons of mass destruction. We tried sitting back and watching this from afar and occasionally interfering a bit here and there by taking a defendant and trying him, or dropping a bomb or two. That didn't work. What we got was September eleventh. We have to do something fundamentally different.

I would be the first to agree that we need to recognize that democracy in the Middle East is going to be difficult.

The brave and extraordinary well written report by Arab intellectuals for the United Nations some six months or so ago, pointed out some of the really serious problems, particularly in the Arab world. The fact that over half of the women in the Arab world are illiterate. The fact that a substantial share of the economies of the region as a whole are devoted entirely to pumping oil and gas and not to other useful enterprises in which people can learn and build up a middle class. The fact that fewer books are translated into Arabic every year than are translated into Greek, some three hundred or so. All of these create serious problems for the introduction of democracy in the Middle East. But they are problems that can be overcome.

Certainly the underlying problem is not Islam. Well over half of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims live in democracies like: Indonesia, Bangladesh, and the large Muslim population of India, Turkey. There are special difficulties in the Middle East. But they are difficulties we need to work on.

As far as I am concerned the view that Arabs can never run democracies can have only one word to characterize it and that word is racist.

Over the course of the last eighty to ninety years, since the era of World War One we have seen the world move from about a dozen democracies, U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, France, Switzerland, a few countries of northern Europe. Those were democracies for only the male halves of their populations at that point.

Freedom House, where I have been elected chairman, publishes research that says there are 121 democracies in the world, today. 89 of them fully free and another thirty or so, like say Russia, are partly free. During that time we imposed democracy on only three countries, all former enemies in hot shooting wars: Germany, Japan and Italy. The rest got there on their own.

Going from a dozen or so democracies to over 120, is an order of magnitude increase. Over 62% of the governments in the world. That has taken place in the lifetime of many individuals still alive. Anyone 89 years old or older was born into the previous world before World War One. Along the way we and our allies have worked on bringing more democracy into the world. On a number of occasions the "smart money," and I use that term in quotes, has said "X" will never be able to become a democracy. Fill in the blanks.

Germany. The Morgenthau Plan in Washington at the end of World War Two would have kept Germany perpetually a supplier of raw materials and army goods and so forth to the outside world.

A lot of people thought MacArthur was crazy in giving the Japanese that constitution.

During the 1970s it was said Catholics can't really run democracies because Iberia and Latin America, and Catholic countries of eastern Europe such as Poland weren't democracies.

Various Asian dictators would say, Asian values are incompatible with democracy in a somewhat self serving way.

The same was said of course of Russia. My goodness, they missed the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment! They are not like us in northern Europe a lot of people said. How can they become a democracy?

But you know over the years the Germans have figured it out, the Japanese have figured it out. Catholic countries of Latin America, most of them figured it out. Certainly Iberia and Poland have figured it out.

The Thais, the Taiwanese, the Mongolians, the Filipinos. A lot of people of whom it was said they will never be able to figure it out somehow seem to understand. After an election, if you lose you get to go off and perhaps start think tanks or at least go into business or something. You don't have to worry about the jackboots and the knock of the door in the middle of the night. A lot of people have figured that out and they seem to be able to understand how to work it.

This effort to bring democracy to the Middle East, is going to require the United States to behave in a somewhat different way than we have in the last few years.

In terms of our engagement with the world, we are going to have to behave much more the way we did after World War Two with the Marshall Plan, rather than the way we did after World War One and after the Cold War. After World War One in the 1920s and after the Cold War in the 1990s we more or less we went on a beach party in this country.

We figured that it was the war to end all wars -- the war that made the world safe for democracy. Time to party. The 1990s rather resembled the 1920s in the United States in our not taking some of the steps we should have taken in Afghanistan and others to preserve some of the victories of the Cold War.

We also spent as fair amount of time hanging a "kick me" sign on our back in dealing with the Middle East. When our hostages were seized in 1979 we tied yellow ribbons around trees. When our embassies and our marine barracks were blown up in '83 we left. When in 1991 we had succeeded phenomenally in the first Gulf War we signed a premature cease fire agreement. Having encouraged the Kurds and Shiites to rebel against Saddam we stood back an watched them being massacred while the Republican Guard happily flew their helicopters around doing so.

In 1993 we had a helicopter shot down in Mogadishu and we left. In that same year Saddam tried to assassinate former President Bush. President Clinton fired a few cruise missiles into an empty Iraqi intelligence headquarters in the middle of the night in Baghdad thereby showing solemn resolve, I suppose, against Iraqi cleaning women and night watchmen, but not a great deal against Saddam Hussein.

We need to take that kick me sign off of our back and I think progress is being made in that regard.

We need to stop regarding the Middle East as only our gasoline station. This requires some rather fundamental changes that we don't have time to talk about today. But I hope that with some of these changes we will fulfill with respect to the Middle East, Churchill's wonderful dictum about the United States: That Americans always do the right thing, but unfortunately only after they have exhausted all other possibilities.

We have to focus hard on the five rogue regimes of the Middle East, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Sudan. That does not mean that we need to use force against all of them.

Nothing would be more foolish, in my judgment today, than moving militarily against Iran. The crazy mullahs who operate the instruments of power of that country have lost the allegiance of the young people and half of Iran is teenagers and below. They have lost the young people, they have lost the women, they have lost the brave reformers who are being tortured in prison.

And one by one they are losing the ayatollahs. Not only brave Ayatollah Matasari, but Ayatollah Tohari, one of their very conservative supporters in Isfahan turned against them last summer. If they have a brain-cell working, they will look out on the horizon and see the storm clouds gathering. They will realize that they are in the same position as were the inhabitants of the Kremlin in 1988 or Versailles in 1788. Specifically the storm isn't overhead yet, but it's out there. Nothing would be worse than to drive all these wonderful students and women and reformers into the arms of the crazy mullahs by some sort of military attack.

Leverage of one kind or another is needed against some of the other rogue states. In my judgment the first candidate should be Syria. It has demonstrated as recently as the last few days that it does not understand. It is the source, of course, of much of the situation on Israel's northern border. Peace between the Israeli state and the Palestinians will I hope come about soon. It requires, I think, both the democratic reform that Ehud Barak talked about with respect to the Palestinians and a greater sense of security along the northern border, and that in turn means that we need to see some different, very different policies out of Syria.

Let me close with just one thought. There is a wonderful quote from Ali Salam who is a liberal Egyptian playwright, a very brave man, who said: "Please defend the idea of America as you go about doing what you are doing because we" - he meant himself and other Moslem moderates – "are working to embody this idea."

A big footnote here. What they should be working on is not the idea of America. We are merely the most recent custodians of the instruments of power to help foster two very old ideas that are older by several millennia than this country. One of them was born in Athens and is of the fifth century BC and is probably best summarized by Pericles' extraordinary funeral oration that we all read in college about the nature of the Athenian state and its democracy.

The other is even older. It comes originally, I think, from the Covenant of Abraham, but its most dramatic manifestation for me has always been the wonderful story of Nevot's vineyard. Many of you know it. It is in the First Kings, it is in the Northern Kingdom around four, five hundred years before Athenian democracy took fruit.

What happened was that King Ahab coveted the vineyard near the castle of Nevot and Jezebel found out about it. So she arranged for some false witness to be borne against Nevot and for him to be convicted and stoned to death and then happily presented the vineyard to Ahab. Ahab was quite pleased with this until the Prophet Elijah showed up at his court.

In some of the most powerful verses in the Bible Elijah said, "Would you murder and then steal? The dogs will drink your blood outside the walls just as they have drunk Nevot's." Now any normal dictator king of three millennia ago faced with that situation is going to take this prophet and string him up by his thumbs at least. That's not what happened.

What's interesting about this story is not Elijah who was acting like a brave prophet, or Jezebel who was acting like Jezebel, but Ahab. Ahab was not your brightest light as a king. What Ahab did, understanding what had happened, is cover himself in sackcloth and ashes and repent. The Lord gave the Northern Kingdom another generation.

What's interesting about that story is that three millennia ago, even the mind of an Ahab understood that the law was above the king. That idea, that the law is above the king, is really from the Covenant of Abraham and Athenian democracy. It is this idea that gave root to the more modern formulation: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, Jefferson pulled together ancient Athens and the Covenant of Abraham. That is what we are fighting for.

Thank you.

R. James Woolsey is a former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (1993 - 1995) and a distinguished advisor to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The "World War IV" address also appears in the February addition of the IACSP Journal.

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies

See also: