Whatever foreign policy we as a nation adopt in the future, let it not be "realism".
Yes, the situation in Iraq is such that it must distress even the most die-hard Wilsonian optimist. Whatever mistakes we have made after our invasion, if Iraq comes totally unglued it will ultimately the fault of the Iraqis. If enough of them cannot or will not appreciate what we are trying to give them, in the final analysis that's not our fault. We have handed them a republic, and it is up to them to keep it.
Today, however, there seems to be a growing chorus of voices saying that we should return to a sort of "realism". Jim Baker and his Iraq Study Group are seen as wise sages counseling the naive, stupid, or evil (or sometimes all three) neo-cons of the Bush Administration.
People who call themselves liberals sneer at democracy, chorteling that all it has achieved was Hamas in control of the PA and Shiite extremists in power in Baghdad. It is assumed by many that the natural state of the Arabs is to be governed by dictators of one sort or another. Not only natural, but safer. More stable.
Who better to shred such thinking than Victor Davis Hanson
Prior to Iraq, there was some American guilt over past realism, whether stopping before Baghdad in 1991, playing Iran off Iraq, cozying up to dictatorships, or predicating American Middle East foreign policy solely on either oil or anti-Communism.
Arab intellectuals and much of the Western Left once decried Bakerism and called for a new muscular idealism that put us on the side of the powerless reformers and not with the entrenched authoritarians. But if we fail in Iraq, then again, fairly or not, the verdict will be far more sweeping than simply the incompetence of the Bremer proconsulship or the impotence of the Maliki government.
Indeed it will be. But even more important than that is something else:
Democrats and liberals should likewise realize that for all their hatred of George Bush and the partisan points to be gained by coddling up to the libertarian and paleo-conservative Right, George Bush’s embrace of freedom was far closer to their own past rhetoric than almost any Republican administration in history. And such an effort to foster democracy was in the long run smart as well, since ultimately a free Iraq would be the worst nightmare of the Islamic jihadists — as we read repeatedly in the rantings of Dr. Zawahiri.
But it's true. George Bush is doing what liberals have always said we should do; spread democratic ideals instead of supporting dictators who would oppose the communists and/or sell us oil. The difference between them and him is that instead of giving speeches before Washington elites he put words to action.
We are in our current position precisely because of diplomats such as Brent Scowcroft and Jim Baker who value stability uber alles
. Preserve the status quo at all costs. Don't rock the boat. As long as we get our oil, who are we to care if they want to live in the 9th century? Human rights? That was useful against the communists, but they're gone now.
You don't have to believe everything Natan Sharansky said in The Case for Democracy
to believe that this policy was wrong. For too many years we ignored or pandered to whatever Arab or Persian dictator was in power as long as we got basing rights and a steady flow of oil. While such thinking held short-term benefits, you can only keep the lid on a pressure cooker for so long.
So we went into Iraq for a variety of reasons, WMD being the primary one but hardly the only. The resolution
passed by Congress on October 11 2002 listed many reasons, one of which was:
Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime;
Ok, so things haven't exactly worked out as planned. But all is not lost either, and readers of this blog know that I think it necessary that we give it our all to save the situation, and this means supporting the president's latest plan.
Once upon a time the left would have applauded, no, cheered, the thinking embodied in the Iraq Liberation Act. They're the ones, after all, who spent much of the Cold War denouncing the US policicy of supporting "authoritarian" regimes on the justification that they were better than "totalitarian" ones.
I understand that there's an anti-war movement. Leftist groups such as ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice will always be with us. Our media culture will create a Cincy Sheehan if none exist. What I don't understand, and what distresses me, is that so many in this country seemed to have joined with them.
In the article cited above, Hanson points out that whatever happens in Iraq, one day it will all be over. What then?
The Democrats are a strong and ever more vocal anti-war constituency. Some indeed, think Murtha or Rangel, are considered party leaders. The Republican party is flat-out in disarray, McCain and Leiberman seemingly being the sole voices of reason on the Hill.
Is it to be thought that Clinton's Kosovo adventure was the "perfect war"? Hanson again
Before Iraq, wild-eyed reformers talked of a new military paradigm of sanitized war, following from wins in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Panama, or Serbia. Bombing from on high with GPS ordinance and a few paratroopers or special forces were the supposed future — not old fashioned, everyday artillery, armor, and infantry. John McCain
That either/or dichotomy was, of course, absurd. But if we withdraw defeated from Iraq, like it or not, there will be the charge made that the United States should not commit sizable Army and Marine forces abroad on the ground — period, under any circumstances, at any time.
Vietnam and now Iraq will substantiate in greater detail what we tasted in Lebanon and Mogadishu — the impossibility of using large conventional forces in chaotic conflicts that will inevitably turn asymmetrical and terrorist. In that regard, an army on the shelf will fossilize, as we lose confidence that it can ever achieve anything worth its losses. Generals will promise victories in the sort of rare conventional wars they can easily win, and decline the more common messy ones they cannot.
puts some hard questions to the withdraw now crowd on his website. So far, I have not seen any serious answers. The left, the palecon right, and those simply out to save their own political skins are creating a monster, and if they succeed in their ambitions it is going to haunt us for a long time.