Absolutely terrific column from Thomas Friedman today on the appropriate approach to Iraq from the left:
- I stood on the sidewalk in London the other day and watched thousands of antiwar, anti-George Bush, anti-Tony Blair protesters pass by. They chanted every antiwar slogan you could imagine and many you couldn’t print. It was entertaining – but also depressing, because it was so disconnected from the day’s other news.
Just a few hours earlier, terrorists in Istanbul had blown up a British-owned bank and the British consulate, killing or wounding scores of British and Turkish civilians. Yet nowhere could I find a single sign in London reading, “Osama, How Many Innocents Did You Kill Today?” or “Baathists – Hands Off the U.N. and the Red Cross in Iraq.” Hey, I would have settled for “Bush and Blair Equal Bin Laden and Saddam” – something, anything, that acknowledged that the threats to global peace today weren’t just coming from the White House and Downing Street.
….First, even though the Bush team came to this theme late in the day, this war is the most important liberal, revolutionary U.S. democracy-building project since the Marshall Plan. The primary focus of U.S. forces in Iraq today is erecting a decent, legitimate, tolerant, pluralistic representative government from the ground up. I don’t know if we can pull this off. We got off to an unnecessarily bad start. But it is one of the noblest things this country has ever attempted abroad and it is a moral and strategic imperative that we give it our best shot.
….On Iraq, there has to be more to the left than anti-Bushism. The senior Democrat who understands that best is the one not running for president – Senator Joe Biden. He understands that the liberal opposition to the Bush team should be from the right – to demand that we send more troops to Iraq, and more committed democracy builders, to do the job better and smarter than the Bush team has.
Second, we are seeing – from Bali to Istanbul – the birth of a virulent, nihilistic form of terrorism that seeks to kill any advocates of modernism and pluralism, be they Muslims, Christians or Jews. This terrorism started even before 9/11, and is growing in the darkest corners of the Muslim world. It is the most serious threat to open societies, because one more 9/11 and we’ll really see an erosion of our civil liberties. Ultimately, only Arabs and Muslims can root out this threat, but they will do that only when they have ownership over their own lives and societies. Nurturing that is our real goal in Iraq.
….For my money, the right liberal approach to Iraq is to say: We can do it better. Which is why the sign I most hungered to see in London was, “Thanks, Mr. Bush. We’ll take it from here.” [NY Times]
If the liberal attitude toward Iraq were that of Friedman and Hichens I would have no problem dumping Bush’s dead ass next year. But until I see it – clamoring for more troops rather than fewer, insisting upon seeing this through to its functional, democratic finish in Iraq and then continuing the process of terrorism-smashing and nation-building throughout the region – I am stuck with Bush.
As usual, the left is its own worst enemy.