On Iraq, I am with Bush. Yes, I am repelled by how he and his crowd play fast and loose with the facts, by their elevation of their foreign policy reasoning into some kind of catechism. Still, Iraq without Saddam Hussein is like Russia without Josef Stalin: By no means perfect, but a vast improvement. Mahdi Obeidi, the former head of Iraq's nuclear centrifuge program, recently published an op-ed in The New York Times arguing that, were Saddam still in power and had international sanctions expired, as they inevitably would have, Baathist Iraq could easily have plunged back into the atomic game. The world has much to thank the United States for on this count.
The Bushies' big mistake was to take a far-too-hopeful view of Arab politics. They thought moderation and tolerance would be the inevitable legacy of Saddam's fall. But they underestimated the deforming injuries Saddam inflicted on the Iraqi population. And they underestimated the cultural gap between us and them. (In this, they were aided by generations of Arabist diplomats and professors who downplayed cultural difference. Ironically, it is just these types who are now saying this optimistic view is naïve, which it probably is.) The Bush administration underestimated the bloody zealotry of Iraqi factions, both secular and pious. It did not comprehend that Al Jazeera and much of the Arab media would root for the killers. It did not grasp sufficiently that Iraq's neighbors wished the Iraqis ill, that Syria--a brutal Alawite minority regime that has slaughtered thousands of Sunni militants--would give them free passage to do mayhem next door. But, by contrast, Kerry would have done nothing to disempower the Iraqi Baath, and, if by some miracle he had, he would have done nothing to disarm the murderous mobs that have arisen in its wake.
Notwithstanding both the administration's grievous lack of candor and its clumsy postwar planning, the use of force against Iraq was just. What kind of "just war" theory would see in the defeat of Saddam anything but a quintessential good? There wasn't in Iraq even the fantasy of an idealized Viet Cong. And, as for those who execute and behead the wretched and the miserable, who explode bombs and cars so that random poor people seeking work will die, who murder the insufficiently pious and ordinary shop owners and civil servants and happenstance patients in hospitals in the thousands and thousands, why would anyone cast these killers as hapless victims of empire? Indeed, the ruthlessness of the suicide bombers and the mercilessness of the decapitators are reasons, in and of themselves, for the United States to stay and fight. Before the toppling, Iraq was governed by the routine terrorism of a cruel regime. Now, it is under siege by terrorism, plain and simple. We will see whether Lieutenant General David Petraeus--placed in charge of building an Iraqi army that will fight--can overcome this. The gloating hypercritics may yet be astonished. But the very notion that there could be in Iraq, with its history of tyranny over eight decades since Gertrude Bell carved it out of whole cloth, a reasonably free election in 13 or 14 or 15 of the country's 18 provinces is a genuine, even astonishing, accomplishment.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Kerry's Bankrupt Foreign Policy
Martin Peretz of The New Republic reveals the moral bankruptcy of the Kerry foreign policy. He writes:
By Fritz - October 05, 2004