There is nothing new or revelatory about what Richard Brookheiser says here about the forthcoming elections in Iraq and our general presence there, but he presents the case in an unusually concise and persuasive manner, addressing each one of the standard objections I have come across.
This is why we are there and why the elections must not be postponed:
- We are in Iraq for our own good. Saddam Hussein was an infection ever ready to spread. He harbored terrorists and paid for terrorism in Israel. He shot at American airplanes patrolling the no-fly zone. He plotted to murder a former President (George H.W. Bush on a visit to Kuwait). He invaded, without cause, an entire nation in the hope of dominating the world’s oil supply. We once thought we could make use of him, when we encouraged him to invade Iran. We learned, through bitter experience, that we couldn’t. He wanted weapons of mass destruction and had tried to build them. All the world thought he had them, and he would not allay our suspicions. One day we may find the remnants of his programs, dispersed in Syria or Iran. But maybe it would be better if he had had no traces of W.M.D. at all. Then the rogues of the world would know that they have to err well on the side of good behavior. Colonel Qaddafi seems to have learned that lesson.
We are also in Iraq for the good of Iraqis. What, they might ask, is so good about the post-Saddam world, with its attacks on markets, its ambushes of policemen, its assassinations of political figures? And it will get worse as election day comes, with the murder of voters. New Yorkers complain when the line at P.S. Whatever is long. Suppose the people in line were shot up by Republicans, the Marijuana Reform Party or some other disgruntled faction?
Yet the peace of Saddam’s world was the peace of the tomb. Its violence was the violence of hell: Athletes tortured for not winning soccer games; brides raped, then killed for catching the eye of Uday (or was it Qusay?); Kurds in mountains villages and Arabs in the marshes, harried and slaughtered for being less tractable than Sunni car dealers. This was a world worth ending. Maybe all Iraqis are not grateful to the United States for doing so; one of the greatest insults in any culture is help. That’s fine. We don’t want Iraq to be the 51st state; we want it to be its own state. People want a say in their own rule, as the lines at polling places wherever some old despotism has cracked prove. If the people’s say can be real, and if their rights can be safeguarded, then they should have a chance to try it. Who knows what effects an honest vote will have? Do Iranians like meaningless elections? Do Syrians and Saudis like none? Jan. 30 could be a cheaper engine of regional transformation than half a dozen invasions.
These hopes do not commit the United States to establishing republicanism everywhere. How could we do such a thing? But realism and modesty do not mean that we should not do anything anywhere. When our interests and our justice coincide, we should welcome the conjunction, and do the best we can. [New York Observer]
And that is what we are doing and must continue to do until the Iraqis can do it for themselves. There are many who argue that the elections in and of themselves mean little, that what counts is what happens after the election. I think it very unwise to minimize the importance of the election itself: – the terrorists don’t. Why do you think they are straining so muderously against it?