Since the Gulf War and until recently, I have agreed with and defended the decision made by George H. W. Bush not to pursue the end game with Saddam Hussein in 1991, for all the usual reasons (coalition support, the 52-47 vote in the Senate, the U. N. resolution, etc.). However, with the obvious benefit of hindsight, I am now convinced that this decision, exacerbated by the feckless policies of the Clinton administration, produced the enabling conditions that led to the current war. OK, maybe it took a 9-11 event to shock us to the realization that civilization is at stake and maybe the Gulf War couldn’t have been fought or justified on such terms. Whatever the philosophical or practical confusion then, there should be none now. I repeat: there are no acceptable “root causes” for terrorism or its sponsorship, ever. Pluralism, multiculturalism, tolerance, moral equivalence, whatever their postmodern adaptations, don’t extend to a defense of nihilism. So I now find myself in complete agreement with Joe Lieberman—we need no more evidence; after the defeat of the Taliban, Saddam Hussein must go.
Having established moral clarity, there remain questions we have not been forced to consider at least since the end of World War II because the nature of the Cold War gave us some comfort of clarity, except in the circles of leftist “fellow travelers”. Now we face evil of the kind that is nihilistic in the same sense as Nazism, however, we face it in a world that has been structured to deal only with the East/West confrontation of the Cold War. So now we must deal with, for example, the split-mindedness and duplicity of the Saudi Arabian royal family, and we must re-examine all of the “deals” and accommodations we made over the past 50-60 years in defense of our strategic interests that were defined through the East/West prism. Even more difficult, we must do this in an environment that has been compromised by a half-century of the “hollowing” of the moral core of the West, primarily by our intellectual class.
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. In too many instances in the past, U. S. foreign policy has supported stability as the ultimate objective, where revolution would have been preferable, albeit messy. Might this mean transitional occupation in some instances? Possibly. A return to some semblance of colonialism, as some have suggested? Maybe. After all, we’re dealing with a region with no core nation-state leadership, and societies that did not have a Magna Carta, a Reformation, a Counter-Reformation, or an Enlightenment. True, these are the unique experiences of the West, but they produced the universal values of successful civilization that most of the world is struggling to emulate in their own way. In fact, if you’re watching closely, the stirrings of unrest are already bubbling in the streets of Iran. Vive la revolution!