June 16, 2004


The New Defeatism: Are we giving up, even as we're succeeding? (Victor Davis Hanson, June 4, 2004, National Review)

For those who think that we are either incompetent or disingenuous in Iraq, look at Kurdistan, where seven million people live under humane government with less than 300 American troops. How did that happen? The people of Kurdistan are Islamic, often quarrelsome folks - in the heart of the Middle East - now residing in relative safety and autonomy, and expressing good will toward the United States. They accept that we don't want Kurdish oil any more than we want to take over the sands and slums of the Sunni Triangle. So the problem in central Iraq is not us, but rather the fact that unlike Kurdistan - which had a decade of transition toward consensual society thanks to Anglo-American pilots - the country is reeling from 30 years of autocracy, in which Islamic fascism offered an alternative of sorts to an ossified Soviet-style dictatorship.

We have always had a "plan" in Iraq - it was to leave the country something like its northern third in Kurdistan. Precisely because it was costly, idealistic, and dangerous, we should expect a lot of killing and bombing in the next few months as an array of opponents tries to derail the upcoming
transition and elections. Anyone who thinks thousands of Islamic fascists and out-of-work Baathists won't want to stop the region's first consensual government is unhinged. But, again, for all our mistakes of omission there was and is a plan - and it is now slowly coming to messy fruition. Even after the spring nightmare, we do not hear many Iraqis saying, "Leave right now and take your stinking $87 billion with you," much less, "Give us back Saddam" or "Quit stealing our oil for your cheap gas." [...]

Partisanship about the war earlier on established the present sad paradox of election-year politicking: Good news from Iraq is seen as bad news for John Kerry, and vice versa. If that seems too harsh a judgment, we should ask whether Terry McAuliffe would prefer, as would the American people, Osama bin Laden captured in June, more sarin-laced artillery shells found in July, al-Zarqawi killed in August, al-Sadr tried and convicted by Iraqi courts in September, an October sense of security and calm in Baghdad, and Syria pulling a Libya in November.

These depressing times really are much like the late 1960s, when only a few dared to plead that Hue and Tet were not abject defeats, but rare examples of American courage and skill. But now as then, the louder voice of defeatism smothers all reason, all perspective, all sense of balance - and so the war is not assessed in terms of five years but rather by the last five hours of ignorant punditry. Shame on us all.

Historic forces of the ages are in play. If we can just keep our sanity a while longer, accept our undeniable mistakes, learn from them, and press on, Iraq really will emerge as the constitutional antithesis of Saddam Hussein, and that will be a good and noble thing - impossible without America and its most amazing military.

Two weeks away from this becoming conventional wisdom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 16, 2004 7:08 AM
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