Towards A Good Samaritan World

Sunday, January 30, 2005


Mark Steyn. Hard right? Or just common sense? Or is there a difference anymore? When even the New York Times (!) is reporting like this--

if the insurgents wanted to stop people in Baghdad from voting, they failed. If they wanted to cause chaos, they failed. The voters were completely defiant, and there was a feeling that the people of Baghdad, showing a new, positive attitude, had turned a corner.

No one was claiming that the insurgency was over or that the deadly attacks would end. But the atmosphere in this usually grim capital, a city at war and an ethnic microcosm of the country, had changed, with people dressed in their finest clothes to go to the polls in what was generally a convivial mood.

"You can feel the enthusiasm," Col. Mike Murray of the First Cavalry Regiment, said outside a polling station in Karada, who added that the scene in Karada was essentially true for the whole area...

"We now have our freedom," [Qasim Muhammad Saleh, 45] said. "After 35 years, we finally got rid of Saddam and now we can vote for whoever we want.

--the question now is: what do those who continue to oppose Operation Iraqi Freedom have to say for themselves?

Meanwhile, Steyn risks pushing his luck, first by blaming the insurgency on the Bush administration's too-sustained diplomacy and use of the UN channel:

If you want a good example of excessive deference to the established order, look no further than Iraq. I'm often asked about the scale of the insurgency and doesn't this prove we armchair warriors vastly underestimated things, etc. I usually reply that, if you rummage through the archives, you'll find that I wanted the liberation of Iraq to occur before the end of August 2002. The bulk of the military were already in place, sitting in the Kuwaiti desert twiddling their thumbs. But Bush was prevailed upon to go ''the extra mile'' at the United Nations mainly for the sake of Tony Blair, and thanks to the machinations of Chirac, Schroeder and Co., the extra mile wound up being the scenic route through six months of diplomatic gridlock while Washington gamely auditioned any casus belli that might win the favor of the president of Guinea's witch doctor. As we know, all that happened during that period was that the hitherto fringe ''peace'' movement vastly expanded and annexed most of the Democratic Party.

Given all that went on in America, Britain, France, etc., during the interminable ''extra mile,'' it would be idiotic to assume that, with an almighty invasion force squatting on his borders for six months, Saddam just sat there listening to his Sinatra LPs. He was very busy, as were the Islamists, and Iran, and Syria.

The result is not only an insurgency far more virulent than it would have been had Washington followed my advice rather than Tony's and gone in in August 2002, but also a broader range of enemies that learned a lot about how ''world'' -- i.e., European -- opinion could be played off against Washington.

In short, the Bush administration's big mistake was not the lack of post-war planning, still less a "rush to war;" rather, it was too much delay, not enough pre-war boldness. I haven't heard this argument before, but it sounds right to me.

Steyn adds:

I don't believe Bush would make that mistake again. Which means he wouldn't have spoken quite so loudly if the big stick weren't already in place -- if plans weren't well advanced for dealing with Iran and some of the low-hanging fruit elsewhere in the region. Bush won't abolish all global tyranny by 2008 -- that might have to wait till Condi's second term -- but he will abolish some of it, and today's elections are as important in that struggle as any military victory.

Is Steyn right? Iran is a lot like the Soviet Union in the late 1980s: a totalitarian regime has gone through partial liberalization; it lacks legitimacy in the eyes of the people, whose sympathies lie with the "Great Satan"; the mullahs' power is a bubble that could be pricked at any time. But that doesn't mean it will be pricked. A velvet revolution in Iran is possible, perhaps probable, but not, I think, inevitable. But Bush's re-election, and now the elections in Iraq, have made it much more likely.

More eloquent reflections here from a columnist at the Daily Torygraph, indignant at European anti-Americanism:

To European intellectuals, the term "American democracy" is probably an oxymoron. Though such sophisticated cynicism is contradicted by events in Iraq, where – just like in France 60 years ago – US soldiers have been sacrificing their lives to liberate a people from tyranny, anti-Americanism is now written into the European psyche, the last acceptable prejudice in a culture that makes a fetish of racial equality.

The European position is increasingly untenable. They celebrate their own liberation and deny it to others. There is an absolute contradiction between their professed belief in liberal principles of freedom, democracy, anti-totalitarianism and the moral imperative to prevent genocide, and their disdain for the action that realized all these principles in Iraq. Will the bubble of cognitive dissonance pop? How "deep" is the opposition to the Iraq war that shows up in the poll numbers? Will Europeans take another look at America and understand what America is, what America is doing, what America stands for? Will more pro-American leaders like France's Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Angela Merkel come to power?

My deepest congratulations to Iraq on this historic day! We are proud that we were able to help you rid yourselves of Saddam. We admire the courage, the love of freedom you have displayed today, as you defied terror by voting. We hope we have been friends to you in need, and already, as the moral influence of Sistani and the Shia faithful, who have rejected radical-Islamist nihilism and are embracing an honorable and humane form of your faith, you are proving to be friends in need to us. We realize that there have been many causes for disappointment in our conduct, both in our competence and in our moral standards. You have to come to know the best and the worst in us, and we hope that you will credit the former and forgive the latter. We wish you the best, and hope that this is the beginning of a long and deep Iraqi-American friendship.


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