Monday, April 18, 2005

But for the Grace of God

VDH reminds us of the wise men who have predicted failure. Scowcraft, Brzezinski, and Albright are three he highlights:

For the last year, such well-meaning former "wise people" have pretty much assured us that the Bush doctrine will not work and that the Arab world is not ready for Western-style democracy, especially when fostered through Western blood and iron.

But too often we discuss the present risky policy without thought of what preceded it or what might have substituted for it. Have we forgotten that the messy business of democracy was the successor, not the precursor, to a litany of other failed prescriptions? Or that there were never perfect solutions for a place like the Middle East — awash as it is in oil, autocracy, fundamentalism, poverty, and tribalism — only choices between awful and even more awful? Or that September 11 was not a sudden impulse on the part of Mohammed Atta, but the logical culmination of a long simmering pathology? Or that the present loudest critics had plenty of chances to leave something better than the mess that confronted the United States on September 12? Or that at a time of war, it is not very ethical to be sorta for, sorta against, kinda supportive, kinda critical of the mission — all depending on the latest sound bite from Iraq?

VDH also reminds us of those who have counseled that we change course in Iraq lest we fail miserably:

We are at the crossroads of history, thanks largely to the resoluteness of the United States military and its commander-in-chief. Contrary to the advice of D.C. pundits, CIA apparatchiks, and the beltway brain trust, the president grasped that Islamic fascism was not a criminal justice matter. Nor was the plague of fundamentalism to be redressed through a Marshall Plan of American largess. Stopping bin Laden was certainly not grounds for appeasing Yasser Arafat or Wahhabist Saudi Arabia.

Rather, al Qaeda was best understood as an inevitable symptom of a larger Middle East disease, endemic to the region's failed autocracy and cured only by real transparency that follows from democratic reform. Note too that all the past expert advice — set a time-table for withdrawal, delay the elections, trisect the country, invite in "moderate" Sunni participants from neighboring countries, and turn over the "occupation" to the U.N. — has in retrospect proved flawed and is now quietly abandoned.

When some complain about the mistakes we have made in this war--as if mistakes in war are unique--remember the mistakes these purists urged us to make these last years and decades. We are still winning despite our mistakes. I shudder to think where we'd be if we made the mistakes they advocated. I hope we continue to give their advice all the consideration it's due.

We make mistakes when we fight. But at least we fight. And by finally fighting and going after our enemies, we can finally win.