March 08, 2005

Max Boot Vindicated

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Max Boot wrote in the Weekly Standard that the fall of Baghdad "may turn out to be one of those hinge moments in history — events like the storming of the Bastille or the fall of the Berlin Wall — after which everything is different. If the occupation goes well (admittedly a big if), it may mark the moment when the powerful antibiotic known as democracy was introduced into the diseased environment of the Middle East, and began to transform the region for the better."

Read the rest of his linked LA Times article. It's not quite a gloat-piece but maybe it should be given the nascent trends in the region.

What's sure to happen nowadays is that the EX-antiwar types will seek to deprive the prowar types of any real connection to the victories in the Middle East of late - exactly like those who try to deprive Ronald Reagan of any real success in the end of the Cold War.

They'll say that the credit for the Lebanese Cedar Revolution and the Syrian pullback belongs to the Lebanese themselves and to the Orange and Rose Revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia. They won't be wrong, either - until they try to suggest that the Iraqi election and the rhetoric of Bush at the second inaugural were irrelevant. That is most incorrect. In their attempts, already underway no doubt, to deprive Bush and war supporters of any credit for democracy they will try to separate the Orange/Rose/Cedar Revolutions off to the side and give them the lion's share of the credit.

The fallacy in thinking here is twofold: first, those who work for freedom and democracy anywhere are working in the same cause of those working for freedom and democracy anywhere. You cannot truly separate the Ukrainian and Georgian revolutions from the Lebanese and Iraqi successes. Second, they will have forgotten the mood of the world after the Iraqi elections.

In ten years it will be understandable for people to forget the mood that took hold of the world around the Iraqi elections. Ten weeks out, it is nothing but creative fiction. There is no doubt that the Lebanese took heed of the Iraqi elections and when they saw the abject condition under which educated, once-affluent Lebanon was ruled from Damascus they demonstrated. It was the mood of the elections and Bush's widespread call for freedom that took hold of the Lebanese imagination.

Nothing was created from the elections; the universal desire for dignity, freedom and respect was encouraged.

However a new trend definitely came about. Mass non-violent protests in the Middle East rarely target their own governments. The principal form of civil disobedience in the Middle East is strapping a bomb to something and taking out a few innocents. So there is definitely a new trend starting in Iraq and Lebanon.

In the 1950s, the Republicans wanted a foreign policy strategy known as Rollback, or sometimes called Liberation. Rather than simple Containment of the Soviets, the Rollback/Liberation theory wanted to free people currently enslaved under communism - whether the Hungarians and Poles or the Koreans and Vietnamese. Eisenhower gave a number of speeches encouraging revolution and rebellion from those subjugated by the Communists.

The Hungarians did rebel, believing they could count on the US for more than words. Unfortunately, there was not a lot the US could do without a massive confrontation with the USSR. The Hungarian Revolution was quashed by the Soviet tanks. The US' words were heard and heeded, but never followed through.

Bush had some words in his second inaugural, and it's clear the Lebanese heard them. The Bush Administration has been following up the words without military force, but with the full diplomatic credentials that can make a difference against Syria (but that would've fallen flat, perhaps, against a Soviet-strength aggressor). By pushing aggressively for pull-out, by criticizing the pullback measures as incomplete, and by banding together with the French to get a UN resolution condemning Syria the US is backing up the second inaugural address.

People will want to rewrite history to rob the Iraqis and the Bush Administration of any real influence on the trends unfolding before us. The facts will write themselves, but the trends and moods of history are difficult to prove. It's our job to recognize and put to paper those trends now, as many have been doing, so that in ten or twenty years hence people will remember the strength of a few reformers can embolden all the rest.


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