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Jewish World Review June 29, 2004 / 10 Tamuz, 5764

Michael Ledeen

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The Iraqis and the Neocons: Arab democracy is a work in progress | In that wonderful way the old media have for admitting error, the Washington Post last week announced in breathless tones that many "anti-American" Iraqi leaders have been busily denouncing the "insurgents" for the constant attacks on Iraqis. The "anti-American" bit is misleading. It would be more accurate to say "anti-occupation," which would make it possible for the American public to appreciate one of the two great things about Iraqi liberation: namely, the Iraqis themselves (the other great thing is the American military).

The Iraqis have a fine understanding of their situation, as reflected in many polls and anecdotes. In big majorities, here is what they think:

  • Happy to have been liberated from the monster Saddam, thus grateful to the Coalition forces, especially the Americans;

  • Unhappy to be occupied, thus angry at the Coalition Provisional Authority, especially the haughty Ambassador Bremer, who rarely missed an opportunity to present himself as the savior of the country and bridled at the very idea that Iraqis — especially anti-Baathist Iraqis — should be entrusted with the management of the country;

  • Eager to have the occupiers leave, but also:

  • Eager to have Coalition forces remain to help protect Iraq against the onslaught of terrorists (can we stop calling them "insurgents" finally?), both from the ranks of the Baathists, and from abroad.

Good attitudes, don't you think? Rational, sensible, and mature. And along with their clear-eyed views, the Iraqis have shown a toughness and resiliency that few expected. The more common forecast was that the Iraqis were exhausted and broken after the long, harsh dictatorship, and that it would take quite some time, a generation anyway, before they would be capable of self-government.

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In short, the Iraqis are providing exactly what the doctor ordered, and it's particularly gratifying because the Iraqis have been given an enormous, perhaps even historic burden. The Iraqi people are the test case of the conviction that people everywhere, even the much-despised Arab people, want to be free and are capable of governing themselves. If the Iraqis succeed, they will surely inspire a vast democratic revolution throughout the region. If they fail, the tyrannical terror masters in Damascus, Tehran, and Riyadh will live to kill yet again.

So far, at least, they are exceeding expectations, and they are saying things that our own leaders seem afraid to say: namely, that the wave of terrorism in Iraq is in large part the work of foreigners. Unlike, say, the Department of State, Iraqi leaders — most definitely including some top Shiites — are quite outspoken about Iran's vigorous actions supporting the terror network inside Iraq. It's quite likely that the new Iraqi Government will bring some much-needed clarity to discussions of the terror war.

Of course there are things that don't inspire me. I'm worried about Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's ugly past, and I'm very worried about the return of so many Baathists to positions of considerable power — this last the result of Bremer's ill-judged turnaround on DeBaathification. I'm not impressed with Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, but I think we've made enough errors about the training of the new Iraqi security forces so that some of the most egregious ones will be avoided henceforth. Said Iraqi security forces seem to be fighting much better, especially in the recent victory over Moqtada al Sadr. Let's hope they perform as well in the upcoming battles in and around Fallujah.

But the bottom line is that it's getting increasingly difficult to maintain the old racist doctrine that Arabs can't govern themselves, and that our job is therefore to pick the best available tough guy to run the place. Those of us who argued from the beginning that there were plenty of Iraqis capable of governing the country, and therefore that our plan for liberation needed to be much more political, have every reason to think we were right.

And one more thing, never mentioned in the old media. Who was that Iraqi Shiite politician who spent days negotiating the agreement in Najaf that sent Moqtada out of the city and into abject defeat? It was Ahmad Chalabi, the State Department's and CIA's most despised Iraqi. And for those of you who still think that Chalabi might secretly be the Iranians' key agent inside Iraq, ask yourself how the mullahs felt when Moqtada tucked his long forked tail between his legs and limped off to lick his wounds. They hated it. And Chalabi was the key figure in the negotiations. Some agent he turned out to be!

So the conventional wisdom has failed once again. The Iraqis turn out to be much better than the pundits thought, there is a real hope for an Iraqi model for the rest of the region, and the idea of Arab democracy is not a fantasy but a work in progress.

Maybe somebody might give some credit to President Bush for intuitively understanding what the bureaucratic gurus rejected out of hand: that the surest way to defeat the terror masters is to support democratic revolution in the Middle East.

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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.


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06/02/04: Reagan Seen Plain: He changed the world 06/02/04: Quattrocchi's Killers: We are dealing with a truly international terror network
05/25/04: The Agency Rides Again: Angleton on Chalabi
05/24/04: Lying into the mirror: Misunderstaning the war on terror
05/18/04: Kristof’s Iran
04/19/04: The Iranian Hand: Regime change in Tehran is necessary for peace in Iraq
04/15/04: Dealing with the Libyans: Is Khaddafi about to cash out?
04/08/04: From Tyranny to Freedom: Democracy in Iraq has precedent
03/18/04: Drifting, Dangerously: We must support freedom
03/02/04: Once Upon a Spymaster, Part II: Returning to a conversation
02/24/04: The Great Iranian Election Fiasco: What actually happened; what we must do
02/20/04: Stalinist Mullahs: The Iranian regime is in open battle with its own people
02/11/04: The Jihadis' Primal Scream: Zarkawi's "Yaarrrhhh!"
02/04/04: Inelegant Lies: Making sense out of mullahs
02/03/04: Potemkin WMDs? Really?
01/27/04: The Jihad on Iraq: Bad analysis and bad policy
01/20/04: Our Moment of Vainglory: A p.c. mess
01/06/04: Aftershocks: The West must read the meter in Bam and Tehran
12/02/03: Managing Iraq: We can't continue this way
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11/25/03: The Turks, Italians & us — never again
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09/18/03: The Ayatollahs’ bomb: An invulnerability strategy
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09/11/03: Ron Paul, dishonorable congressman
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08/27/03: Angrier and Angrier: Self-deception, big-time
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07/02/03: Looking Toward July 9: Independence Day in Iran?
06/24/03: Iran: Back the freedom fighters
06/17/03: The Iranian Revolution, 2003: Regime change in the air
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04/02/03: French Lies: Take the foreign minister at his word
03/31/03: Why muzzle Saddam's foes?
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02/19/03: The willful blindness of those who will not see
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12/20/02: A Prophecy for the New Year --- Faster, please!
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11/26/02: How Tyrannies Fall: Opportunity time in Iran
11/22/02: The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis
11/13/02: The Temperature Rises: We should liberate Iran first --- now
11/05/02: End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out
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10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
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09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
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08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
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07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
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03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
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01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
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11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
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09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
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08/15/01: Bracing for war
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07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
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01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen