Sunday, December 04, 2005

Mark Steyn on Iraq

The best thing about ANY day is reading a Mark Steyn essay. Here is the last part of his take on America in Iraq.

"Meanwhile, Iraq's experiment in Arab liberty has had ripple effects beyond its borders, pushing the Syrians most of the way out of Lebanon, and in Syria itself significantly weakening Baby Assad's regime. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who's spent years as a beleaguered democracy advocate in Egypt, told the Washington Post's Jim Hoagland the other day that, although he'd opposed the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, he had to admit it had "unfrozen the Middle East, just as Napoleon's 1798 expedition did. Elections in Iraq force the theocrats and autocrats to put democracy on the agenda, even if only to fight against us. Look, neither Napoleon nor President Bush could impregnate the region with political change. But they were able to be the midwives."

The Egyptians get it, so do the Iraqis, the Lebanese, the Jordanians and the Syrians. The choice is never between a risky action and the status quo -- i.e., leaving Saddam in power, U.N. sanctions, U.S. forces sitting on his borders. The stability fetishists in the State Department and the European Union fail to understand that there is no status quo: things are always moving in some direction and, if you leave a dictator and his psychotic sons in business, and his Oil-for-Food scam up and running, and his nuclear R&D teams in places, chances are they're moving in his direction.

Toppling Saddam was worth doing in and of itself. Toppling Saddam and trying to "midwife" (in Ibrahim's word) a free society would be worth doing even if it failed. But, as it happens, I don't believe it will fail, not just because of Bush but because enough Iraqis -- Shia, Kurds and even significant numbers of Sunnis -- are determined not to let it fail.

And here's where the scale of the Bush gamble becomes clear. Islam and "the West" have a long history. And, without rehashing the last millennium and a half, the Muslim conquest of Europe and then the Crusades and the fall of Andalusia, if you take out a map of the world and look at the rise of the European empires you notice a curious thing: in conquering the world the imperial powers for the most part simply bypassed the Islamic world. They made Africa and South Asia and Latin America and everywhere else seats of European power, but they left the Middle East alone. And, even when they eventually got their hands on the region, after the First World War, they made no serious attempt to reform the neighborhood. We live with the consequences of that today.

So Bush has chosen to embark on a project every other great power of the last half-millennium has shrunk from: the transformation of the Middle East. You can argue the merits of that, but once it's underway it's preposterous to suggest we need to have it all wrapped up by Jan. 24. The Defeaticrats' loss of proportion is unworthy of a serious political party in the world's only superpower. In next week's election, the Iraqi people will shame them yet again.

Italics Mine

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