I would encourage everyone who has paid any attention to the situation in Iraq to read “The Real Iraq”, by Amir Taheri. He says there are some uniquely positive things happening there that have not happened for 50 years. The overall theme that came through is that despite their troubles and the violence, Iraqis have guts. They have spunk. Despite the threats of the insurgents the Iraqis continue to defy them. What I drew from reading it is that most Iraqis see an opportunity in the toppling of Saddam Hussein, and they are going to go to whatever lengths to grab that opportunity to try to forge a better future for themselves. They are more afraid of their past than they are of their future.
The critics of Bush’s policy on the War on Terror have never liked or understood his policy of “draining the swamps”. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Bush made the now famous statement “I am tired of swatting at flies. We need to drain the swamps where they live.” This has puzzled me, because shortly after the attacks there were many liberals (perhaps on the far-left, though I’m not trying to cast aspersions here, just drawing a possible distinction on the left) who said, “We need to address the underlying causes of terrorism.” Okay, well what about that? In a seminal speech before the National Endowment for Democracy in 2003, Bush made his own determination about the causes of terrorism:
Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe — because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo.
Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before. And it will yield the same results. As in Europe, as in Asia, as in every region of the world, the advance of freedom leads to peace.
Further, the despotic regimes in the Middle East have had a history of encouraging extremists to divert people’s anger away from the regime that’s oppressing them, and direct it towards the U.S., thereby creating ideological breeding grounds for terrorist organizations. In freer countries, the ruling governments would have less incentive to do this. If they were not meeting the people’s needs, the people can take them out of power via. election, thereby not giving unscrupulous leaders much time to try and divert attention away from their incompetence, negligence, or malfeasance.
It seems to me that Bush has been making an effort to address the underlying causes that fed these extremist movements. Yet in the last couple years, all we’ve heard from opponents is that you cannot force democracy on people (What about Japan, I ask, after WWII?), and that there’s no hope that democracy will succeed in Iraq, due to significant sectarian differences. Hmmm. So I guess they figure it’s best if we just put Saddam Hussein back in power. He kept the country stable, yes? The problem is such a move would be the ultimate betrayal of the Iraqi people. Most hated Saddam and were glad that we got rid of him. Iraqis love being able to speak freely, to not have spies and secret police monitoring their every move and bringing retribution upon them if they step out of line. Who wouldn’t? They also love the fact that they’re able to practice their respective religions as never before. As Taheri says, more people are coming into Iraq to go to some of Islam’s most sacred shrines to learn about their faith. From a strategic perspective we are also more secure with Saddam out.
I don’t believe we’re forcing democracy on the Iraqis. We’ve introduced them to it, but as Benjamin Franklin said long ago about our republic, they will only have a democracy if they can keep it. I think the Iraqis have bought into democracy, by and large.
I say let’s not give up on them. They may not have the same objectives as we have, but the more progress they make towards fashioning a government that’s to their liking, and I’m confident they will not choose a dictatorship–they know what that’s like, the safer we will be in the long run from the islamofascists who have greater ambitions. We are draining the swamps, so to speak.