´Realists´ have it wrong (WASHINGTON TIMES COMMENTARY) By Mark Steyn 01/31/05)
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In Europe, the wise old foreign-policy "realists" scoff at the Iraq
elections Islam and democracy are completely incompatible, old boy;
everybody knows that, except these naive blundering Yanks who just
don´t have our experience.
If that´s true, it´s a problem not for Iraq but, given current
demographic trends, for France and Belgium and the Netherlands a year
or two down the line.
But it happens to be untrue. The Afghan election worked so well that,
there being insufficient bad news out of it, the Western media´s doom-
mongers 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 the election may be imperfect but more than good
OK, that´s a bit vague compared with my usual psephological
predictions. So how about this: Turnout in the Kurdish north and
Shi´ite south probably was higher than in the last U.S., British or
Canadian elections. Legitimate enough for ya?
But look beyond the numbers: When you consider the behavior of the
Shi´ite 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.
Naysayers in the Democratic Party and the U.S. media are so obsessed
with Donald Rumsfeld getting this wrong and Condoleezza Rice getting
that wrong and President Bush getting everything wrong that they´ve
failed to notice just how surefooted both the Kurds and Shi´ites have
been which in the end is far more important.
The Shi´ites, 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,
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 International
Monetary Fund 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 the hotel windows in perfect synchronization
with the U.S. TV news cycle.
But, if the reporters could look beyond the plumes of smoke, they
would see Iraq is going to be better than OK. It will be the region´s
economic powerhouse. And the various small nods toward democracy in
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere suggest 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 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 birthrate 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 that oil wealth to fund radical schools and mosques
in hitherto moderate parts of the Muslim world.
Cheap air travel and the Internet and ATM machines that take every
bank card on the planet and the freelancing of nuclear technology
mean 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 am often asked about the scale of
the insurgency and whether this doesn´t prove we armchair warriors
vastly underestimated things, etc.
I usually reply that, if you rummage through the archives, you´ll
find I wanted Iraq liberated before the end of August 2002. The bulk
of the military were already in place, sitting in the Kuwaiti desert
twiddling their thumbs.
But President 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 Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder and company, 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
witchdoctor. All that happened in that time was that the
fringe "peace" movement vastly expanded and annexed most of the
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 listened 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 if Washington had followed my advice rather than Tony´s and
invaded in August 2002, but also a broader range of enemies who
learned a lot about how "world" i.e., European opinion could be
played off against us.
I don´t believe Mr. Bush would repeat that mistake: 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.
Mr. 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
Iraq´s elections are as important to that end as any military
Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc.
Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain´s Telegraph
Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally
syndicated columnist. (Copyright 2005 News World Communications, Inc.
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