“However long it takes. It isn’t a matter of timetable, it’s a matter of victory.”—George W. Bush
It is very difficult to focus on much of anything lately except the war in Iraq, so here are some thoughts on it I have been kicking around:
* There once was a responsible anti-war left in this country, but no more. In my essay, “And The War Came” (October 2001), I mentioned Tom Friedman’s reference to the concept of “systematic misunderstanding”, which arises when your worldview and the other person’s worldview are so fundamentally different that it cannot be corrected by providing more information. Such is the current condition of the relationship of responsible statesmanship with what passes for dissent on this conflict. It is difficult if not impossible to have a reasonable debate with such a cynical view of the world that presumes no good intentions on the part of the Bush administration or the unique role of U. S. leadership in the world. Even some leftists see the difference, as noted by Michael Walzer, who edits Dissent, a leftist magazine: “Many left intellectuals live in America like internal aliens, refusing to identify with their fellow citizens and regarding any hint of patriotic feeling as politically incorrect…”
* This disconnect is nowhere more evident than in our entertainment industry, wherein its centerpiece event, the Academy Awards presentation, held on the fifth day of the war with Iraq, was almost completely devoid of any hint of patriotism, nationalism, or feeling of gratitude for the men and women in uniform who defend its enormous privileges. The cultural gap between this crowd and ordinary Americans is glaring, and would be totally harmless except for the fact that much of the world (not to mention our own youth) derives lasting impressions of our country and its values from these celebrities and their product.
* In my discussions with those well-intentioned souls who sympathize with the anti-war movement, the point is made that nonviolence is not the same as pacifism, to which my response is that this is a distinction without a difference and, more importantly, that they are closely related and mainly serve as disguises for anti-Americanism and radical cultural relativism. So all of the Green Party flower children should remember that there is no justice without freedom, and there is no freedom or security without victory.
* If, as Daniel Henninger of The Wall Street Journal suggests, this war “will divide the world for the better”, we will know soon which way this world and the U. S. are headed, and it will be pretty easy to determine whose side you’re on. In my “A Transforming Event” (November 2001), I noted: “The ultimate outcome will be transformational, for I believe there is no way to avoid the massive restructuring of the Muslim world that will follow (and parallel) this conflict. The ruling elites in these societies, friend and foe alike, must choose which future they want, and the status quo ante is not acceptable for us or them.” Today, I would add that these choices also apply in many respects to our friends in Western Europe, in particular as they pertain to the mediating institutions such as the UN and NATO that were created by the victors in World War II and which have been rendered antiquated, if not totally irrelevant, by their failure of will demonstrated over the past six months.
* There is no question that the ultimate test of the success of the Bush Doctrine in Iraq will be winning the peace and, in this, the President must be very careful to avoid the American tendency to rely on quick fixes and to come home too soon. First, he must educate the American people on the necessity of a long-term commitment that could involve an extensive occupation, a la Japan after World War II. He must also heed the advice of Jim Hoagland and avoid the “Vichy French option” of relying on former Saddam Hussein collaborators in Iraq’s reconstruction. There are those in the State Department who would prefer this route, believing that democracy in Iraq is a pipe dream, but they should be ignored. Steve Forbes has suggested a constitutional monarchy as a transition to democracy, with the restoration of the former royal family and someone like Newt Gingrich as a MacArthur-like high commissioner to supervise the transition to the rule of law, property rights, a stable currency, and low taxes, without the intervention of the heavy hand of bureaucracies like the International Monetary Fund. And, very importantly, Iraq’s oil industry should be privatized through competitive bidding as soon as possible. Whatever the model, it should serve as an example for the rest of the Arab world.
* In winning the peace, we should be careful what we ask for, and what kind of democracy we export. The emphasis should be on the “constitutional” rather than the “democratic”, and this will require lots of education in core principles. For example, if it turns out to be the American bureaucratic “procedural republic”, with racial preferences and multiculturalism, we will not have succeeded. Another bad model, similarly derived from early 20th century progressivism, is the regime installed in India by the British Fabian socialists. Where is John Adams when we need him?
* Finally, for all the corporate conspiracy types who carry the “No War For Oil” placards, I love this advice from comedian and football analyst Dennis Miller: “Hire yourself a pit bull attorney and sue your school district for allowing you to slip through the cracks.”