The Usual Questions About Iraq

The Usual Questions About Iraq: I’m a big Victor Davis Hanson fan. In fact, I’m right in the middle of his fantastic book ‘Carnage and Culture.’ So when I saw that he’d written a column on something I was planning to address, ‘The usual questions about Iraq’, I thought it was better to link straight to the words of the master. Here are just a couple of the replies Hanson gives to some of the questions that have been often heard about our coming invasion of Iraq…

Won’t the Islamic world turn on us?

That constant refrain has now joined the annals of conventional ignorance alongside “the Arab street,” “a Ramadan ceasefire,” “universal jihad,” etc. We should have learned by now that anti-American fundamentalists find resonance with their countrymen only when they are not in power and can distort the people’s frustrations with autocrats. When they rule, they fail miserably, and incur hatred for themselves.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are an interesting pair of antitheses, are they not? The former has a hostile regime and a friendly populace; the latter has a purportedly friendly government and a hostile citizenry. Democrats are on the move against fundamentalists in Iran; fundamentalists are on the move against autocrats in Saudi Arabia. Surely that should tell us something – that fundamentalists like autocracy and hate democracy. Dictatorial Pakistan has an Islamic fundamentalist problem; democratic India, with its larger Muslim population, less so. The end of the Cold War, the rise of westernized Arabs, the spread of democracy, and instantaneous global communications all suggest that we may well be successful in crafting consensual government in Iraq – which could prove the most revolutionary act of the last 30 years. Should this war be couched in terms of the liberation of the Iraqi people, Iraqis may well react in jubilation, as did the Afghans – sending a message that we really are on the side of the region’s disenfranchised, and not of cabals like those of Arafat, the Saudi sheiks, or the Egyptian strongmen who have looted their countries and jailed and killed dissidents.

But didn’t we back Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran?

That is often alleged, but the record suggests that our amorality was more a question of hoping that both sides would wear each other out. Recall that the Iranians had just seized our embassy, taken hostages, and pledged death to Americans; under such circumstances, why wouldn’t we gain psychological satisfaction at seeing our enemies attacked, even if by equally odious thugs? Allying ourselves in 1941 with the Soviet Union – a regime that had just killed 20 million of its own people – to stop Hitler was a far greater moral quandary. Giving a third of a million trucks to the architect of the Great Terror and the Gulag seems as morally ambiguous as providing some helicopter training for Iraqi pilots. In war you rarely find allies with clean hands; and so, again, conflict is always a matter of bad and worse choices.”

You can read the rest of Hanson’s column by clicking here.

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