February 1, 2005


A beacon is lit in Iraq. But not in your names, Robin, Douglas and the BBC (MICHAEL GOVE, 2/01/05, Times of London)

It was easy for most people to express their horror at the events of 9/11. It was natural for most, although not all, to feel sympathy for America. It was said that the world would never be the same again. But for all too many the world hadn’t really changed. As they proved by their opposition to the effort to change it for the better.

The September 11 attack underlined, in the most terrible fashion, the consequences of our not-so-benign neglect of the Middle East and the wider Islamic world. From Morocco to Iran a huge swath of humanity was sunk in oppression, denied not just democracy but freedom of speech, property rights, freedom of association, freedom from fear and freedom to hope. All that this region exported was oil, refugees and terror. Within this region dictators left their people in misery, pocketed Western aid and used their country’s natural resources to pursue, whenever they could, chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons programmes. Some of these regimes were direct sponsors of state terror. Others, such as Saudi Arabia, incubated terrorism by maintaining a corrupt and oppressive rule that gave fanatics a cause and then paid them to divert their energies elsewhere.

In the interests of the world, and especially the people of the Middle East, their countries could no longer remain thieves’ kitchens and political slums. Action had to be taken to tilt the balance in the region towards freedom. And there were very good reasons to start in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Taleban had provided the launchpad for 9/11. Saddam had made a career out of defying international order, had made a mockery of the United Nations, and was intent, as soon as possible, on making good his ambitions to acquire an arsenal of truly terrifying weaponry.

It has become a commonplace to assert that America squandered the world’s sympathy by going on to tackle Iraq after dealing with Afghanistan. But to wage war on Afghanistan without going farther would have been to squander something far more valuable, the moral high ground. Any old nation bent on revenge would have settled on Afghanistan. And left it there. But a nation determined to tackle the real root causes of terror had to go on. Because it is only by securing a decisive shift towards democracy across the region that the misery of the Middle East’s peoples can be relieved, and the threat to the rest of us brought to an end. Victory in the War on Terror depends not just on the elimination of regimes which sponsor terrorism, but on the nurturing of democracy’s roots in the hills of Kandahar, the banks of the Tigris and beyond.

Those of us who believe this to be a noble and worthwhile exercise, indeed the only strategy likely to offer a long-term answer in the War on Terror, have hitherto been relatively isolated voices. The leader writers of this newspaper, far-sighted liberals such as David Aaronovitch, Nick Cohen and Christopher Hitchens. Oh, and George W. Bush. We have not been without our critics. I’ve listed a few, just a very few, of their names above.

For the past few months, whenever discussion has turned to the wisdom of the Iraq war, or the prospects for Iraq’s future, in our newspapers and on our airwaves, the critics’ voices have been dominant. And their opposition to what has been happening doom-laden.

But there are other voices who were not heard, indeed had not been heard for many years. On Sunday they spoke at last.

You can practically here the intellectuals booting up their word processors to start writing George W. Bush out of the history of the democratization of the Middle East as they've tried to do to Ronald Reagan as regards the Cold War. Only problem is Saddam makes for an even less appealing Gorbachev.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 1, 2005 6:41 PM

It's kind of amazing to look back at the opportunity to prove its seriousness and gain international influence that the United Nations squandered in not blessing the Iraq war.

Thank G-d.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 2, 2005 7:46 AM
« CAUTION, FROST HEAVES: | Main | PAVE THE GULF (via James Taranto): »