August 03, 2003

So Close, and Yet So Far

Tom Friedman's off the wagon again drinking the Kool-aid with The War Over the War:

History may one day record that maybe the most honest speech about why we invaded Iraq was given by Prime Minister Tony Blair, addressing the filing cabinets in an empty hallway just outside his office at No. 10 Downing Street.

History may also one day record the foolishness and duplicity of so many learned people who really should have known better concerning the liberation of Iraq.

On March 13, six days before the British Parliament would be asked to vote for war, Mr. Blair was stewing in his office, worrying about whether he would win the vote.

Kind of scary isn't it, to realize how close we really are to losing Western Civilization since so few are now willing to stand up for it and defend it.

Mr. Blair knew the real and good reasons for ousting Saddam Hussein: First, he was a genocidal dictator, who aspired to acquire weapons of mass destruction even if he did not have them yet. And second, removing Saddam and building a more decent Iraq would help tilt the Middle East onto a more progressive political track and send a message to all the neighboring regimes that Western governments were not going to just sit back and let them incubate suicide bombers and religious totalitarians, whose fanaticism threatened all open societies. These were the good reasons for the war, and Mr. Blair voiced some of them aloud that day.

This is what really bugs most people about Tom Friedman. You see, he really does understand the issues.

As Mr. Stothard recalled the scene outside Mr. Blair's office: "the prime minister takes a walk out into the hall and stands, shaking out his limbs, between [his political adviser] Sally Morgan's door and a dark oil painting of Pitt the Younger. . . . Morgan is away from her desk. [Mr. Blair] looks into the empty interior as if the answer to the latest state of the vote count will emerge from her filing cabinets nonetheless. He comes back out, disappointed, and looks around him. `What amazes me,' [Mr. Blair says,] `is how many people are happy for Saddam to stay. They ask why we don't get rid of [the Zimbabwean leader Robert] Mugabe, why not the Burmese lot. Yes, let's get rid of them all. I don't because I can't, but when you can you should.' "

I've been reading Herodotus lately, and one of the key themes to The Histories are the calamities that befell great empires when their leaders refused to recognize their limitations. It just isn't possible to succeed if we set out to cure all the world's ills at once and to demand that we do so is a reliable indicator of simple-minded utopian thinking at best, and knee-jerk anti-Westernism at worst. So why doesn't Mr. Friedman label this foolishness for what it is?

Alas, Mr. Blair never really made this case to his public. Why not? Because the British public never would have gone to war for the good reasons alone. Why not? Because the British public had not gone through 9/11 and did not really feel threatened, because it demanded a U.N. legal cover for any war and because it didn't like or trust George Bush.

Cause and effect Mr. Friedman. The reasons offered here are only rationalizations of a deeper disease infecting Europe and most of the left, with the last reason offered being closest to the mark. But one could easily substitute anyone on the right for President George W. Bush, and not much would have been different.

Yes, what takes me aback here is the degree of European-style anti-Americanism and anti-Bushism in Britain which Mr. Blair's personal and overt pro-Americanism has disguised. "Blair had a real George Bush problem," says John Chipman, director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "George Bush is disliked by a large segment of the British public. He offends the European sense of nuance. The favorite European color is gray and the only colors President Bush recognizes are black and white. So in supporting the war, Blair was not just going against European public opinion, he was going against his own."

Like I said, Mr. Friedman can see clearly. If only he would shed his deep-set prejudces that influence his reasoning and conclusions.

Unless real W.M.D.'s are found in Iraq, Gulf War II will for now and for years to come be known as "the controversial Gulf War II" and the hyped reasons for the war will obscure the still good ones. Only future historians will be able to sort out this war's ultimate validity. It is too late or too early for the rest of us.

Oh please. The war was valid Tom -- you said so yourself above. As has been so often noted by others, an absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But, of course, considering how blithely the mass graves, torture videos, continuous violation of UN resolutions, and past use of chemical weapons by Iraq have been ignored while the word "quagmire" has become ubiquitous in Big Media, I don't think this war would have been considered anything but "controversial" by the NY Times or Europe since it was led by President George W. Bush. After all, we can't have him doing anything right with an election on the horizon, now can we?

It's too late, because no one will ever know what Saddam would've done had Messrs Blair and Bush not acted.

Oh? And yet, the handwringing over why 9/11 wasn't prevented continues unabated. Well, which is it Mr. Friedman? Do we become purely reactionary and adopt some variant of Mutual Assured Destruction as our policy for dealing with state sponsored terrorism or do we plan and act to prevent acts of great terror before they occur? You can't have it both ways. Well, you can't have it both ways if you want to be taken seriously.

And it's too early, because the good reasons for this war to unleash a process of reform in the Arab-Muslim region that will help it embrace modernity and make it less angry and more at ease with the world will take years to play out.

A nice utopian finish there Mr. Friedman. Despite the clear intention to reshape the Mideast as one of the goals of the liberation of Iraq, this wasn't the primary goal. The primary goal was to protect the United States, and by extension the rest of the world, from state sponsored terrorism. Saddam Hussein and Iraq were guilty as charged and their demise was a very good thing. Whether the people of Iraq can seize this opportunity to improve their lot is primarily their task -- not ours! We will help, but if they fail, we still did the right thing. The war over the war in Big Media is merely a partisan sideshow that wouldn't be happening had Al Gore managed to steal the last election -- even assuming that he would have acted as clearly and forcefully to protect and defend the future security of the United States as has President George W. Bush. And please, I'm not attacking Al Gore's patriotism or love of the United States, but noting that his propensity to further the goals of transnational progressivism would have made the liberation of Iraq well nigh impossible.

I look forward to the day when Mr. Friedman can dispense with his knee-jerk anti-"rightism" and offer his insights and analysis without having to toe the party line or cater to the elite left's prejudices. Leave that to Paul Krugman, et al.

Posted by Charles Austin at August 3, 2003 01:49 PM

The best way to protect America and the rest of the world from terrorists in the long run is to reform the dysfunctional Arab political culture that gives rise to this terrorism. Such reform is what the liberation of Iraq is all about, and why President Bush committed the US to doing so. Now it may be that this will fail, and that Arab culture is so out of tune with the modern world that consensual government cannot take root there. I feel more confident about the reform program since the war than I did before it, but I could be wrong. In such a case we can fall back on the "he's a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch" strategy beloved of the CIA and the State Department. This strategy is a much less satisfactory one, and may not succeed in ensuring the demise of terrorism, since it tends to perpetuate the dysfuntional political culture I mentioned above.

Posted by: Michael Lonie at 02:28 AM