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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another


Second Best for Iraq

So it is time, perhaps, to stop thinking about the best imaginable outcome, and instead settle for the best possible one, considering the state of world politics and the moral limitations free societies like ours place upon their war-fighting in the age of instant communications. Arab society will not become free and tolerant and self-critical, and much of the Islamic world will remain mired in ignorance and posturing and paranoia for the foreseeable future.
Jack Birnbaum has looked the Iraqi challenge in the face and blinked. So, according to Robert Kagan writing in the Washington Post, has the Bush Administration,
All but the most blindly devoted Bush supporters can see that Bush administration officials have no clue about what to do in Iraq tomorrow, much less a month from now. Consider Fallujah: One week they're setting deadlines and threatening offensives; the next week they're pulling back. The latest plan, naming one of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard generals to lead the pacification of the city, is the kind of bizarre idea that only desperate people can conjure. The Bush administration is evidently in a panic, and this panic is being conveyed to the American people.
washington post
The issue in Iraq has always been whether or not America had the will to stick out the process of building a democracy in Iraq. The problem with that process was it was never going to be easy. Thirty years of Saddam, the active hostility of Iran and Syria, the belligerence of much of the Arab world and the limits of the Americans when it came to civil administration all contributed to the difficulty of creating a genuine democratic alternative.

Worse, the relentless political correctness which has characterized the American handling of the Falluja and al-Sadr challenges, has tended to encourage a belief that the American power can be successfully challenged. If I were an Iraqi democrat I would be more than a little dismayed at the American reluctance to use main force to crush anti-democratic forces.

The implicit message which the Bush administration seems to be sending is one of limits. Limits to American power, limits to American resolve and, most of all, limits as to how far America is prepared to go to actually radically reorder the Middle East.

Steve den Beste takes a tour d'horizon of the implications of a sudden recognition of limits. From Pakistan to Saudi and all over the Arab Street, a retreat, however disguised, from a commitment to democracy in Iraq will suggest a return to business as usual in the Middle East. While Saddam will still be gone - a good in itself for the Iraqi people - the bigger issues the Iraqi action was meant to address will remain unresolved.

Birnbaum goes on,
From time to time we will have to again step forward and do whatever is necessary to protect ourselves and our children; perhaps it is now time to think about reserving our treasure and the lives of our youth for those future times. That will have to be enough, and there would be nothing even remotely immoral about it.

Someday, if and when there are Arab historians who can look back with an honest eye at the events of the first decade of this century, they will surely conclude that this was their chance, and they didn't take it.
The point of the Iraq action was to begin to reduce the number of times America would have to step forward. It was to actually create and maintain the conditions in the Middle East in which an alternative to the al-Qaedas and the Wahhabis could begin to grow.

Having expended blood and treasure overthrowing Saddam and quelling the anti-democratic forces in Iraq, to settle for second best now would, in fact, be immoral as well as a strategic blunder of the first order. No one who is a tiny bit familiar with the process of creating a democracy will, for an instant, have thought that a year after the defeat of Saddam, there would be anything like a full on democratic state in place in Iraq. That there are the beginnings of one is remarkable. But those beginnings need to be protected from both the enemies within Iraq and the nations such as Syria and Iran which are threatening the Iraqi democracy for fear it might spread.

To go from a climate of terror to a civil society is about tens of thousands of small things adding up to a sense of security and freedom. But for those small things to begin to accumulate, the thugs of Falluja and the fat little trouble maker in Najaf need to be taken down hard. If the Bush administration is unwilling to use main force then it should indeed get out of Iraq with Spanish efficiency.