For many of us, the 20th century ended in 1989 as communism and that bigger-than-life metaphor, the Berlin, Wall came crashing down. Twelve years later, a new century effectively began, dated by the sobering event of what is now simply called "9/11." The intervening years marked a world in transition as the global community dealt with the ambiguity and chaos brought on by new rules, different players, and changing alliances.

A major component of this transition was the very nature of conflict. International wars between states, fought on the basis of nationalism and ideologies, were replaced by intra-national slug-fests. The non-state actor emerged, challenging militaries still preparing to fight the last war. National boundaries meant little. Organizational charts, wire diagrams, and multi-billion dollar defense budgets were largely upstaged by a focused rage and purpose, driven only by identity.

Indeed, they were called "identity wars." Ethnicity provided a rationale, religion supplied the passion, and the brutality of conflict was driven skyward. Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats, and Muslim Bosniaks alternately ethnically cleansed the "other" in the Balkans. Aberrations of religious identity appeared in the terribly ironic title of Northern Uganda's "Lord's Resistance Army," as well as in the shadowy band of holy warriors known as Al Qaeda. Humanity was being brutalized by protracted and unpredictable conflict conducted in the name of a higher power.

In retrospect, it should not be surprising that the first two wars of the 21st century—Afghanistan and Iraq—are religious in nature. Certainly, our enemies feel comfortable with this analysis. Suicidal in the extreme and complemented by the intentional targeting of ...

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