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“Psychosocial malaise”

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In an effort to combat the ongoing and largely partisan efforts to paint the status of the War on Terror in the bleakest possible light, coupled with the media’s tendency to focus on the the abrupt and the horrible vs. the procedural and the positive, I offer up these words from Victor “Bombs Away” Hanson:

    After the spectacular victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, public ardor for the conflict is temporarily cooling. Because of the past recession, the effects of 9/11, the tax cuts, and the cost of the war, we are running up billions in projected annual budget deficits. Our own McClellans and contemporary Copperheads deride the president as a miserable failure cheek by jowl with major newspapers.

    Few stop to appreciate that 50 million are now liberated with the first chance of real democracy in the history of the Middle East. We almost take for granted that the Taliban and Saddam Hussein are gone and that 90 percent of Iraq is functioning under local democratic councils – in an irreversible process that is taking on a culture and logic of its own. We are angry not that the situation in the occupied countries is stabilizing – so far at a cost of less than 300 – not 300,000 – American dead, but that they are not yet normal societies. Few Americans ask why and how Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran are suddenly whining privately rather than shouting defiance.

    So beneath the hysterical headlines of quagmire, Vietnam, and stalemate, we have sorely hurt our enemies. We have driven the remnants of the Taliban into the Pakistani coffeehouses, the terrorists into caves, Saddam Hussein into a low-rent apartment, his sons into the Inferno – and replaced them all not with dictators, but real opportunities for freedom and consensual government. Instead of more skyscrapers exploding in American cities, 7,000 miles away jihadists and Islamic terrorists are being hunted down in their own once sacred enclaves.

    ….Our real challenge is not the conduct of the war, not the money, not even the occasionally depressing news from Iraq. After all, if the problem is manpower, there are tens of thousands of idle Iraqis. If the problem is money, Iraq will shortly be a very wealthy oil-exporting country. If the problem is know-how, no one better than the United States understands how to establish a free market, democratic society.

    No, it is more a psychosocial malaise, a crisis of confidence that is beginning to creep back into the national mood a mere two years after September 11, fueled by election politics. Too many of us have forgotten that we are in a global war, and that victory demands tenacity, sacrifice, and adherence to unpopular beliefs and values. [NRO]

This isn’t imperialism, corporate machination, racism, adventurism, cowboyism, oil-related, a neocon conspiracy, filial piety, or penis envy. This is a war of self-defense not of our own making, a war we have no choice but to fight and win. Persons of good will can honestly disagree with the details of how that war might best be prosecuted, but not that the war is real and must be won.

Coincident with Hanson’s message is this interview with Bernard Lewis from the WSJ:

    The professor leaned forward, his face, briefly, a picture of fun: “Pay attention to the joke,” he said. “The joke is the only form of political comment that is authentic in the Middle East–and for the most part uncensored.” He then told a joke now doing the rounds in that part of the world: “Two Iranians lament the state of their country. Finally, one says to the other, ‘What we need here is a bin Laden.’ ‘Are you crazy?’ his friend gasps. ‘No!’ the first Iranian says. ‘That way the Americans would come and rescue us.'”

    The professor, on a roll, then told another joke: “What is the real slogan in the Middle East?” he asked, then paused. “It’s ‘Yankee go home . . . and take me with you!'”

    There you have it–a pithy lesson, worth hours of CNN, in modern Middle Eastern truths.

    ….Speaking of Iraq, he says, “I have different moods on different days. But overall, I’m cautiously optimistic. Some days there’s more caution than optimism.” U.S. troops had come under fire again on the day we met, and he was impatient to stress that it’s time that “we put into effect an Iraqi government in Baghdad.” He doesn’t, emphatically, mean elections; those “should be the culmination of a political process, not its beginning.” Instead, he’d like to see in place an administration of Iraqi “notables,” responsible for overseeing the rule of law and freedom of expression. These last concepts, he says, “are not alien notions” in the Middle East. “What is alien is the idea of representation, and the notion of corporate or majority decision.” Instead, there is a “tradition of consensus and consultation,” one which was, in Iraq, devastated by Saddam’s tyrannical rule.

    ….Mr. Lewis offers a refreshing contrast to the doom-mongers who extrapolate feverishly from every shootout in Fallujah, every dustup in which an American soldier is shot, or an Iraqi killed. Mr. Lewis has high hopes for Iraq. Why? Their “cultural and intellectual standards”–set high in the years before Saddam–have “miraculously, if precariously, survived his ravages.” Also, the status of women is high in Iraq. As Mr. Lewis puts it–perhaps paraphrasing a desert proverb–“women are half the population and mothers of the other half.” In the early formative years, it makes “a great deal of difference to have an educated mother.” But his main reason for optimism is that “Iraqis have gone through everything, and are much less likely to be taken in by the fanatical groups in the region.”

We can only fail by giving up.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.well.com/~srhodes Steve Rhodes

    He should have learned from Carter that it is best to find a synonym for malaise and not use crisis of confidence (though Carter’s speech is interesting to read now).

  • Eric Olsen

    YOu may be right Steve, but at least Victor isn’t running for anything.