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When Cynicism Meets Fanaticism (Today's Victor Davis Hanson)

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  • gmd10ms
    When Cynicism Meets Fanaticism Critiquing the critique of the war in Iraq. Victor Davis Hanson March 31, 2006 Opponents of the war in Iraq, both original
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      When Cynicism Meets Fanaticism
      Critiquing the critique of the war in Iraq.
      Victor Davis Hanson
      March 31, 2006

      Opponents of the war in Iraq, both original critics and the mea
      culpa recent converts, have made eight assumptions. The first six
      are wrong, the last two still unsettled.

      1. Saddam was never connected to al Qaeda, the perpetrators of 9/11.

      2. There was no real threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

      3. The United Nations and our allies were justifiably opposed on
      principle to the invasion.

      4. A small cabal of neoconservative (and mostly Jewish)
      intellectuals bullied the administration into a war that served
      Israel's interest more than our own.

      5. Saddam could not be easily deposed, or at least he could not be
      successfully replaced with a democratic government.

      6. The architects of this war and the subsequent occupation are
      mostly inept ("dangerously incompetent") — and are exposed daily as
      clueless by a professional cadre of disinterested journalists.

      7. In realist terms, the benefits to be gained from the war will
      never justify the costs incurred.

      8. We cannot win.

      First, notice how the old criticism that Saddam was not connected to
      al Qaeda has now morphed into a fallback position that "Saddam was
      not connected to September 11" — even though the latter argument was
      never officially advanced as a casus belli.

      Opponents have retreated to this position because we know that al
      Qaeda cadres were in Kurdistan, and that al Zarqawi fled to Baghdad,
      as did a mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center,
      Abdul Rahman Yasin.

      The Clinton administration in 1998 officially cited Iraqi agents as
      involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. That is part of the
      reason why the U.S. Senate, not the Bush administration, authorized
      a war against Saddam in October 2002: " Whereas members of al-Qaeda,
      an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United
      States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that
      occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq."

      From the slowly emerging Baathist archives, we are learning that for
      more than a decade Saddam's agents had some contacts with, and
      offered help to, al Qaeda operatives from the Sudan to the

      The issue is closed: Saddam Hussein's regime had a mutually
      beneficial association with al Qaeda. All that remains in doubt is
      the degree to which Iraq's generic support enabled al Qaeda to pull
      off operations like September 11. It may be that Saddam and Osama,
      in their views of Islam and jihad, were as antithetical to one
      another as Japanese and Germans were in attitudes about racial
      superiority. But in both cases, rogues find common ground in their
      opposition to hated Western liberalism

      Second, we know now that worries over Iraqi weapons of mass
      destruction were both justified and understandable. Postwar
      interviews with top Iraqi generals reveal that Saddam's own military
      assumed that his stockpiles of WMDs were still current — confirming
      the intelligence estimates from Europe and most of the Arab world.

      In addition, Iraqi arsenals of WMDs, in the judgment of both the
      Clinton administration and the United Nations, were still
      unaccounted for in March 2003. And even if the stocks were moved or
      destroyed, the prerequisites for the rapid mass-production of
      biological and chemical agents — petrodollar wealth, scientific
      expertise, alternate-use facilities, and a will to produce and use
      them — were met in Saddam's Iraq.

      Third, the opposition of the United Nations to the invasion lacks
      any moral significance, given the postwar revelations that the $50
      billion Oil-for-Food scandal not only led to thousands of starved
      Iraqi civilians, but also enriched both Saddam's family and U.N.
      insiders themselves. Europe's opposition may have seemed ethical,
      but when one learns of French and Russian oil deals with Saddam, and
      German construction projects that fortified Saddam's own
      Führerbunker, European principle too evaporates into nothing.

      Fourth, the charge of neocon plotting has now reemerged under a
      patina of academic respectability in a recent paper by Professor
      John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Harvard Kennedy
      School of Government academic dean Stephen Walt. "Some Americans
      believe that this was a war for oil, but there is hardly any direct
      evidence to support this claim. Instead, the war was motivated in
      good part by a desire to make Israel more secure." At the tip of
      that Jewish spear was a "band" that was "small," but of course
      still "a driving force": "Within the US, the main driving force
      behind the war was a small band of neo-conservatives, many with ties
      to Likud." Instead of silly allegations of conspiracy theories, we
      are lectured ad nauseam that an "Israeli lobby" got us into Iraq.

      This recrudescence of blaming Israel first is false for a variety of
      obvious reasons. Likud opposed much of American strategy. That is
      why Ariel Sharon was hated by his former base — and why there is now
      a new political party in Israel that suffers the same charge that it
      caves to American pressures all too easily. And far more influential
      than Israel in American academia and politics is the role of Gulf
      State petrodollars and worry over Middle East oil.

      There is no need for an Israeli lobby in the United States, not when
      nearly 70 percent of the American people support Israel because it
      is an atoll of Western democratic values in a sea of theocracy and
      dictatorship. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice — no Jews there,
      just plenty of hard-headed veterans who are not easily hoodwinked by
      supposedly clever Straussians in the shadows.

      Our point man in Iraq, who prior to the war urged the removal of
      Saddam Hussein, is Ambassador Zalmay M. Khalilzad — a Muslim and an
      Afghan-American. And our current general in charge of all American
      troops at Centcom in the Middle East, General John Abizaid, is an
      Arab-American. Meanwhile, the U.S. pressured Israel to get out of
      Gaza, to support elections on the West Bank that led to the victory
      of Hamas, and to dismantle more settlements.

      Fifth, after the three-week victory of April 2003, we have now
      forgotten the earlier prognostications of millions of refugees, oil
      wells afire, and thousands of dead that were to follow in Iraq.
      Twenty-three hundred American fatalities are grievous losses, but
      must be weighed against three successful elections, and the real
      chance that such sacrifice might result in the first true Arab
      democracy emerging in Iraq, with ramifications beyond the Middle
      East for generations to come. Currently, tens of thousands of Iraqis
      are the only Arabs in the world who daily risk their lives to fight
      al Qaeda terrorists — something that just may be in America's

      Sixth, we have not had another September 11. Two-thirds of the
      leadership of al Qaeda is dismantled. Fifty million people have
      voted in Iraq and Afghanistan. Syria is out of Lebanon. The Middle
      East is in democratic turmoil from the Gulf to Egypt and Libya, not
      mired in the old autocratic stasis. The Europeans are waking up to
      the dangers of Islamism as the Western world seeks to deal with a
      nuclear Iran.

      Weigh that success against the behavior of the media that sees
      mostly American incompetence. At CBS, Dan Rather insisted to us that
      a clearly forged memo, but one that fit his own ideological agenda,
      was authentic. Michael Isikoff relied on one anonymous — and
      unreliable — source about the purported desecration of a Koran that
      had serious consequences for thousands in the Middle East. CNN's
      executive Eason Jordan admitted that his network passed on coverage
      of a mass-murdering Saddam Hussein — and later he wrongly alleged
      that the American military deliberately targeted journalists in

      Now we hear Time Baghdad Bureau Chief Michael Ware, in a drunken,
      live interview ("In fact, I'm drinking now…I try to stay as drunk
      for as long as possible while I'm here") from the heart of dry
      Muslim Iraq, recklessly throwing around charges that American
      soldiers are guilty of manhandling Iraqi women ("We've seen
      allegations that women have been mishandled or roughly handled. That
      always inflames passions") and terrorizing civilians ("We've also
      seen insurgents criticize other insurgent groups, 'cause you're not
      doing enough to get the chicks out! I mean, that's how important it
      can be, this is a matter of great honor, and it's a spark"). Ware's
      are precisely the lies and fantasies that feed the Islamists.

      Indeed, the better example of ineptitude in this war lies with the
      media that demands from others apologies for incompetence that it
      will never offer itself. Few professions today ask so much of so
      many others and so very little of themselves.

      Seventh, we won't know the ultimate judgment of costs and benefits
      in Iraq until its parliament convenes and the executive government
      is formed and operates. If we leave now and a Lebanon follows, then,
      of course, the invasion was a costly mistake. If we secure the
      country for a constitutional government that brings freedom, order,
      and prosperity to its long-suffering people, then it will be the
      most welcomed global development since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

      Had the British and Americans quit in 1943 — after Pearl Harbor, the
      fall of Singapore and the Philippines, the Kasserine Pass, Tobruk,
      and other assorted disasters — then the carnage of 1939 to 1943
      would have properly been seen as a tragedy that led not to emergence
      of a free Europe and a reborn Japan, but as needless sacrifice
      against the unstoppable juggernaut of Asian and German fascism.

      As for the eighth complaint that we cannot win (or "the war is
      lost"), the verdict is still in the future and depends mostly on us.

      Our military cannot be defeated by either the Islamists or their
      autocratic supporters. We have the right strategy of hunting down
      terrorists, securing the homeland, and insidiously, but carefully,
      promoting democratic reform in the Middle East (an impossible
      notion, by the way, with the sinister presence of an oil rich and
      genocidal Saddam Hussein, given his history of attacking four of his

      We have even articulated, at last, an exegesis of the dangers of
      radical Islam — why it hates Western freedom and how it thrives on
      the oil, misery, and dictatorship of the Middle East.

      There remains this last unknown — how well can a liberal democracy,
      in its greatest age of affluence, leisure, and self-critical
      reflection, still fight a distant war against emissaries of the Dark
      Ages who seek to behead apostates, blow up democrats, and silence
      with death writers, journalists, and cartoonists. It is not just our
      democratic values versus their IEDs, but whether our idealism still
      has the resilience to defeat their nihilism.

      Or put more directly: Can Western enlightenment and power, embedded
      in deep cynicism, still prevail over ignorance and self-inflicted
      pathology energized by fanaticism?

      — Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
      He is the author, most recently, of A War Like No Other. How the
      Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War.



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