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Dec. 5, 2005
/ 4 Kislev, 5766
Dems determined to ignore progress in Iraq
Sen. Joe Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, came out with a big statement on Iraq last week. Did you hear about it? Probably not. Everyone was still raving about his Democrat colleague, Rep. Jack Murtha, whose carefully nuanced position on Iraq is: We're all doomed unless we pull out by next Tuesday! (I quote from memory.)
Also, the United States Army is "broken," "worn out" and "living hand to mouth." If the reaction to Murtha's remarks by my military readers is anything to go by, he ought to be grateful they're still bogged down in Iraq and not in the congressional parking lot.
It's just about acceptable in polite society to disagree with Murtha, but only if you do it after a big 20-minute tongue bath about what "a fine man" he is (as Rumsfeld said) or what "a good man" he is (as Cheney called him) or what "a fine man, a good man" he is (as Bush phrased it). Nobody says that about Lieberman, especially on his own side. And, while the media were eager to promote Murtha as the most incisively insightful military expert on the planet, this guy Lieberman's evidently some nobody no one need pay any attention to.
Here's why. His big piece on Iraq was headlined "Our Troops Must Stay."
And who wants to hear that? Not the media and certainly not Lieberman's colleagues in the Defeaticrat Party. It must be awful lonely being Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Party these days. Every time he switches on the news there's John Kerry sonorously droning out his latest pretzel of a position: Insofar as I understand it, he's not calling for a firm 100 percent fixed date of withdrawal like, say, Feb. 4, 2 p.m.; meet at Baghdad bus station with two pieces of carry-on. Don't worry, it's not like flying coach on TWA, you'd be able to change the date without paying a surcharge. But Kerry drones that we need to "set benchmarks" for the "transfer of authority." Actually, the administration's been doing that for two years setting dates for the return of sovereignty, for electing a national assembly, for approving a constitution, etc, and meeting all of them. And all during those same two years Kerry and his fellow Democrats have huffed that these dates are far too premature, the Iraqis aren't in a position to take over, hold an election, whatever. The Defeaticrats were against the benchmarks before they were for them.
These sad hollow men may yet get their way which is to say they may succeed in persuading the American people that a remarkable victory in the Middle East is in fact a humiliating defeat. It would be an incredible achievement. Peter Worthington, the Canadian columnist and veteran of World War II and Korea, likes to say that there's no such thing as an unpopular won war. The Democrat-media alliance are determined to make Iraq an exception to that rule. In a week's time, Iraqis will participate in the most open political contest in the history of the Middle East. They're building the freest society in the region, and the only truly federal system. In three-quarters of the country, life has never been better. There's an economic boom in the Shia south and a tourist boom in the Kurdish north, and, while the only thing going boom in the Sunni Triangle are the suicide bombers, there were fewer of those in November than in the previous seven months.
Meanwhile, Iraq's experiment in Arab liberty has had ripple effects beyond its borders, pushing the Syrians most of the way out of Lebanon, and in Syria itself significantly weakening Baby Assad's regime. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who's spent years as a beleaguered democracy advocate in Egypt, told the Washington Post's Jim Hoagland the other day that, although he'd opposed the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, he had to admit it had "unfrozen the Middle East, just as Napoleon's 1798 expedition did. Elections in Iraq force the theocrats and autocrats to put democracy on the agenda, even if only to fight against us. Look, neither Napoleon nor President Bush could impregnate the region with political change. But they were able to be the midwives."
The Egyptians get it, so do the Iraqis, the Lebanese, the Jordanians and the Syrians. The choice is never between a risky action and the status quo i.e., leaving Saddam in power, U.N. sanctions, U.S. forces sitting on his borders. The stability fetishists in the State Department and the European Union fail to understand that there is no status quo: things are always moving in some direction and, if you leave a dictator and his psychotic sons in business, and his Oil-for-Food scam up and running, and his nuclear R&D teams in places, chances are they're moving in his direction.
Toppling Saddam was worth doing in and of itself. Toppling Saddam and trying to "midwife" (in Ibrahim's word) a free society would be worth doing even if it failed. But, as it happens, I don't believe it will fail, not just because of Bush but because enough Iraqis Shia, Kurds and even significant numbers of Sunnis are determined not to let it fail.
And here's where the scale of the Bush gamble becomes clear. Islam and "the West" have a long history. And, without rehashing the last millennium and a half, the Muslim conquest of Europe and then the Crusades and the fall of Andalusia, if you take out a map of the world and look at the rise of the European empires you notice a curious thing: in conquering the world the imperial powers for the most part simply bypassed the Islamic world. They made Africa and South Asia and Latin America and everywhere else seats of European power, but they left the Middle East alone. And, even when they eventually got their hands on the region, after the First World War, they made no serious attempt to reform the neighborhood. We live with the consequences of that today.
So Bush has chosen to embark on a project every other great power of the last half-millennium has shrunk from: the transformation of the Middle East. You can argue the merits of that, but once it's underway it's preposterous to suggest we need to have it all wrapped up by Jan. 24. The Defeaticrats' loss of proportion is unworthy of a serious political party in the world's only superpower. In next week's election, the Iraqi people will shame them yet again.
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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator. Comment by clicking here.
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