Sunday, September 07, 2003
The weight of the entire war rests on our shoulders. This campaign in Iraq is decisive, and yet the entire Left and, unfortunately, many Libertarians and members of the Old Right, appear to wish for failure. Now this is understandable from them: the Left despises the President and the Old Right has hated his family since the early nineties. Yet while it is understandable, it is also unacceptable, as it cedes as legitimate the argument that the liberation of a people was a bad thing.
Saddam was a vicious and cruel bastard. If we never find any weapons of mass destruction, this war will have been worth the candle, if only because this generation of Iraqis have a chance at worthwhile self-rule. Before we invaded, they did not. All the Iraqis ever knew was the boot of Saddam and his willing toadies, grinding them down into the dust for a thousand lifetimes. Now those on the left proceed as if their liberation was a fool's errand. They cast the entire effort as illegitimate based on the argument that since no weapons of mass destruction have been found, Saddam never had them. This is a bit like saying that if the Allies never discovered Auschwitz, no extermination program ever took place (or, as one wag put it shortly after the war; we haven't found Saddam, therefore he never existed).
The Left always answered with the assertion that if we had to liberate the Iraqis, why shouldn't we liberate everyone? Well, that bit of sophistry is designed to win an argument by presenting politics as a set of absolutes, when in fact, it is the art of the possible. Western democracies do what they can, sometimes do what they must, and fail to do what they must when they take counsel of their fears. In this case, Iraq was eminently doable, and long overdue. Saddam had violated evey codicil of the 1991 ceasefire. Saddam had diverted U.N. foodstuffs and money to his personal use. He had robbed his country blind. And he was pursuing a weaponization program for chemical and bilogical weapons. He had long range nuclear ambitions, if only to keep up with his Iranian neighbors. The Allies had more than enough reasons to go in.
But I keep coming back to the future of the Iraqi citizenry, and why that didn't appear to matter to the opponents of this war. Many cited the proposition that if we had simply contained Iraq, we wouldn't be in this mess. That is a falsehood. Sanctions were falling apart prior to September 11th, 2001. Secretary of State Colin Powell was pushing for something called "smart sanctions", designed to keep only the most sensitive materials out of Saddam's hands. Other than that, all bets were off. In short, "smart sanctions" were an unofficial way for the UN to throw in the towel and for Saddam to enrich himself once more.
Saddam also understood that the local princely states were tiring of the American presence, and that all he had to do was to wait the U.S. out.
But it was not to be. Saddam's fate was sealed one September morning, when American policymakers understood that Saddam's wealth married to Usama bin Laden's fanaticism could bring about a terror far worse than what they had witnessed that terrible day. Of all the reasons we went to war, fear of the consequences of Arab fanaticism was paramount. However, that discussion is for another post.
In the end, the Iraqis will be freer than they could ever have dreamed of being before the war. They will have the United States and Great Britain to thank for that. And in the end, the historians will write that we did a great and noble thing. But what troubles me, and should trouble everyone, is the inability of both liberals and leftists to acknowledge, nay, to celebrate the fall of a fascist regime. It is troubling that they cannot perceive a connection between Middle Eastern state fascism and Wahabist obsessions of Usama bin Laden and his cohorts.
Of course, they have yet to experience the terror, or to take it to heart. If we took their prescriptive measures of withdrawl, I fear that it would not be long before they could have that experience firsthand. However, I suspect that we will not. The benefits of success are too profound to be measured, while the price of retreat and failure is too terrible to comprehend.