Simply a superb column by the great Canadian columnist Mark Steyn:
Iraq is going to be just fine
January 30, 2005
BY MARK STEYN SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
In Europe, the wise old foreign-policy ‘‘realists’’ scoff at today’s elections in Iraq – Islam and democracy are completely incompatible, old boy; everybody knows that, except these naive blundering Yanks who just don’t have our experience, frankly.
If that’s true, it’s a problem not for Iraq this weekend but, given current demographic trends, for France and Belgium and Holland a year or two down the line.
But, as it happens, it’s not true. The Afghan election worked so well that, there being insufficient bad news out of it, the doom-mongers in the Western media pretended it never happened. They’ll have a harder job doing that with Iraq, so instead they’ll have to play up every roadside bomb and every dead poll worker. But it won’t alter the basic reality: that today’s election will be imperfect but more than good enough. OK, that’s a bit vague by the standards of my usual psephological predictions, so how about this? Turnout in the Kurdish north and Shia south will be higher than in the last American, British or Canadian elections. Legitimate enough for ya?
But look beyond the numbers. When you consider the behavior of the Shia and Kurdish parties, they’ve been remarkably shrewd, restrained and responsible. They don’t want to blow their big rendezvous with history and rejoin the rest of the Middle East in the fetid swamp of stable despotism. The naysayers in the Democratic Party and the U.S. media are so obsessed with Rumsfeld getting this wrong and Condi getting that wrong and Bush getting everything wrong that they’ve failed to notice just how surefooted both the Kurds and Shiites have been – which in the end is far more important. The latter, for example, have adopted a moderate secular pitch entirely different from their co-religionist mullahs over the border. In fact, as partisan pols go, they sound a lot less loopy than, say, Barbara Boxer. Even on the Sunni side of the street, there are signs the smarter fellows understand their plans to destroy the election have flopped and it’s time to cut themselves into the picture. The IMF noted in November that the Iraqi economy is already outperforming all its Arab neighbors.
You might not have gained that impression from watching CNN or reading the Los Angeles Times. The Western press are all holed up in the same part of Baghdad, and the insurgents very conveniently set off bombs visible from their hotel windows in perfect synchronization with the U.S. TV news cycle. But, if they could look beyond the plumes of smoke, they’d see that Iraq’s going to be better than OK, that it will be the economic powerhouse of the region, and that the various small nods toward democracy going on in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere suggest that the Arab world has figured out what the foreign policy ‘‘realists’’ haven’t: that the trend is in the Bush direction. When Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, warned that the U.S. invasion of Iraq would ‘‘destabilize’’ the entire region, he was right. That’s why it was such a great idea.
The ‘‘realpolitik’’ types spent so long worshipping at the altar of stability they were unable to see it was a cult for psychos. The geopolitical scene is never stable, it’s always dynamic. If the Western world decides in 2005 that it can ‘‘contain’’ President Sy Kottik of Wackistan indefinitely, that doesn’t mean the relationship between the two parties is set in aspic. Wackistan has a higher birth rate than the West, so after 40 years of ‘‘stability’’ there are a lot more Wackistanis and a lot fewer Frenchmen. And Wackistan has immense oil reserves, and President Kottik has used the wealth of those oil reserves to fund radical schools and mosques in hitherto moderate parts of the Muslim world. And cheap air travel and the Internet and ATM machines that take every bank card on the planet and the freelancing of nuclear technology mean that Wackistan’s problems are no longer confined to Wackistan. For a few hundred bucks, they can be outside the Empire State Building within seven hours. Nothing stands still. ‘‘Stability’’ is a fancy term to dignify laziness and complacency as sophistication.
If you want a good example of excessive deference to the established order, look no further than Iraq. I’m often asked about the scale of the insurgency and doesn’t this prove we armchair warriors vastly underestimated things, etc. I usually reply that, if you rummage through the archives, you’ll find that I wanted the liberation of Iraq to occur before the end of August 2002. The bulk of the military were already in place, sitting in the Kuwaiti desert twiddling their thumbs. But Bush was prevailed upon to go ‘‘the extra mile’’ at the United Nations mainly for the sake of Tony Blair, and thanks to the machinations of Chirac, Schroeder and Co., the extra mile wound up being the scenic route through six months of diplomatic gridlock while Washington gamely auditioned any casus belli that might win the favor of the president of Guinea’s witch doctor. As we know, all that happened during that period was that the hitherto fringe ‘‘peace’’ movement vastly expanded and annexed most of the Democratic Party.
Given all that went on in America, Britain, France, etc., during the interminable ‘‘extra mile,’’ it would be idiotic to assume that, with an almighty invasion force squatting on his borders for six months, Saddam just sat there listening to his Sinatra LPs. He was very busy, as were the Islamists, and Iran, and Syria.
The result is not only an insurgency far more virulent than it would have been had Washington followed my advice rather than Tony’s and gone in in August 2002, but also a broader range of enemies that learned a lot about how ‘‘world’’ – i.e., European – opinion could be played off against Washington.
I don’t believe Bush would make that mistake again. Which means he wouldn’t have spoken quite so loudly if the big stick weren’t already in place – if plans weren’t well advanced for dealing with Iran and some of the low-hanging fruit elsewhere in the region. Bush won’t abolish all global tyranny by 2008 – that might have to wait till Condi’s second term – but he will abolish some of it, and today’s elections are as important in that struggle as any military victory.