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Reaction on the Left to President Obama’s announcement that the remaining 40,000 troops in Iraq would be coming home at the end of the year — with no residual force to counter the Iranian threat — has not been surprising. With a mixture of triumphalism and hate, leftists are celebrating their victory; not over al-Qaeda or the achievement of democracy in a totalitarian prison state, but over their domestic political enemies, while still advocating the prosecution of “criminals” who led the battle to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein.
Despite the fact that George W. Bush has been out of office for nearly three years, there are many on the Left who can’t shake their feelings of loathing and hate for the man who led the nation for 8 years, and who took us to war in Iraq. Bush Derangement Syndrome is alive and well among leftists and it colors their analysis and criticism of the Iraq War to this day.
Perhaps most remarkable of all is the surety with which the Left has pronounced history’s judgment on the war as a universal failure, a blunder, a waste. History doesn’t give out grades before the results are in. And Iraq, as it has been since the beginning, is a work in progress. That progress has been slow at times, but a foundation for democratization has been built in a sea of Islamist totalitarianism. Although not perfect, what we have today is nascent democracy where before there was only mass oppression and killing. For the US, Iraq today serves as a vital strategic asset for America in the Middle East — all now to be given away by Obama to Iran. And the Left applauds.
It is impossible for anyone today to see how the Iraqi experiment will play out over the next few years. Yes, some of the immediate results are not good, even if we had been able to keep a small force garrisoned for a few years. But to believe that this can’t change is to ignore the underlying historical forces that the liberation of Iraq has unleashed. Indeed, dismissing the idea that a struggling democracy on Tehran’s borders doesn’t constitute a threat to the mullahs’ total control is to ignore Iran’s own actions in seeking to destroy the Iraqi government in its cradle. The Saudis, too, were worried enough about contagion from Iraq to spend billions of dollars building a fence to keep the disease out. The Iraqi experiment, consequently, serves as a threat to Islamist totalitarianism in the region and, therefore, serves the interests of America and freedom.
But leftists are not interested in these humanistic endeavors or American achievements — which explains their celebration of Obama’s surrender in Iraq. Successful democracy in Iraq would have meant the discrediting of the Left’s ferocious opposition to the entire operation. In celebrating America’s willing defeat in Iraq, therefore, the Left is cheering the defeat of democracy and security in the fragile, developing country, which makes the progressives’ triumphalism and hate all the more disturbing and hypocritical.
This perversity could not have been more adequately expressed as when radical leftist Tom Hayden gleefully wrote in The Nation that the Iraq decision was a “stunning…victory for the American peace movement.” Not a victory for Iraq, but for Hayden and his allies. Hayden doesn’t exhibit the slightest concern for a fledgling democracy in need of support to preserve the precious gains it has already made; he shrugs off the reality that the country has been “delivered… to the orbit” of the fanatical, despotic mullahcracy next door. And this is a person who purports to care about human rights.
In “Good Riddance to a Woebegone War,” Paul Pillar, writing at The National Interest, encapsulates the view that history is so judgmental that it renders its verdict with blinders on; he refuses to acknowledge an unknowable future:
The return of the last combat troops from Iraq will be a good time to reflect on the nature and broader consequences of what future historians will regard as one of the biggest blunders in U.S. history. That reflection can consider how a small number of determined advocates of war were able to use the post-9/11 political milieu and scary themes about dictators giving weapons to terrorists to get enough people to go along with their idea. The reflection also can consider the full range of costs and damage to U.S. interests, from the more than four thousand Americans dead and tens of thousands wounded, to the trillions of dollars of direct and indirect fiscal and economic losses, to the tarring of America’s standing abroad and the boost the war gave to America’s extremist enemies.
Much of what Pillar writes is simply untrue. In the first place, it is not clear at all that our “standing abroad” could have gotten much worse than it was before the invasion. Whether we are loved or hated, despite notions of “soft power” to the contrary, the world can’t ignore us and must deal with us as we are, or as we choose to be.
The assumption that history’s judgment, flowing from the immediate past to the immediate future, is set in stone and unchangeable is disingenuous. The last Iraqi election saw a secular, nationalistic party, the Iraqi National Movement, out-poll the coalition of religious parties led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. A party not even in existence for a year had gained two more seats in the Iraqi parliament than Maliki’s coalition, a political power in Iraq since 2004. This was a huge success. Would a future Iraqi government made up of secular parties be able to resist Iranian influence and work to heal the nation’s sectarian divide? Perhaps the better question is: Does Pillar honestly believe that this objective could be better achieved if Iraq is left to twist in the wind?
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