- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 6, 2005

The other day in the Guardian, house journal of the British left, Martin Kettle wrote:

“The war was a reckless, provocative, dangerous, lawless piece of unilateral arrogance. But it has nevertheless brought forth a desirable outcome which would not have been achieved at all, or so quickly, by the means that the critics advocated, right though they were in most respects.”

Very big of you, pal. And I guess that’s as near a mea culpa as we’ll get: Even though George W. Bush got everything wrong, it turned out right. Funny how that happens, isn’t it?

In a few years’ time, they’ll have it down pat — just as they have with Eastern Europe. Oh, the Soviet bloc [the Middle East thugocracies] was bound to collapse anyway. Nothing to do with that simpleton Ronnie Raygun [Chimpy Bushitler]. In fact, all Raygun [Chimpy] did was delay the inevitable with his ridiculous arms build-up [illegal unprovoked Halliburton oil-grab], as many of us argued at the time: See my 1984 column “Yuri Andropov, the young, smart, sexy new face of Soviet communism” [see the April 2004 column: “Things were better under Saddam: The coalition has destroyed Ba’athism, says Rod Liddle, and with it all hopes of the emergence of secular democracy” — published, really, in the London Spectator.]

By the way, when’s the next Not In Our Name rally? How about this Saturday? Millions of NIONists can flood into the centers of San Francisco, New York, Brussels, Paris and proclaim to folks in Iraq and Lebanon and Egypt and Syria and Jordan and Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority that all the changes under way in the region are most certainly Not In Their Name.

Well, I’m glad they’re in mine. I got a lot of things wrong these last three years, but, looking at events last week, I’m glad that, unlike the Nionist Entity, I got the big stuff right. On May 8, 2003, a couple of weeks after the fall of Saddam, I wrote:

“You don’t invade Iraq in order to invade everywhere else. You invade Iraq so you don’t have to invade everywhere else.” And so it’s turned out.

Some of the reasons for starting to remake the Middle East in Iraq were obvious within a day or two of September 11, 2001: By his sheer survival, Saddam had become a symbol of America’s lack of will — of the world of Sept. 10, 2001.

But the other reasons weren’t all so clear. After the liberation, the doom-mongers dusted down the old Bumper Boys’ Book of the British Empire and rattled off a zillion pseudo-authoritative backgrounders about how Iraq was such an artificially cobbled together phony state, the slapdash creation of the Colonial Office in London, you can never make it work.

In fact, the artificially cobbled together country is one reason it has worked so well. The Shi’ites are the biggest group, but, even if they were utterly homogeneous, which they’re not, they’re not so large they can impose their will easily on the Kurds and Sunnis. When the West’s headless chickens were running around squawking there were more than 100 parties on the ballot, it was all going to be one almighty mess, they failed to understand that the design flaw of Iraq is paradoxically its greatest strength: the traditional Arab solution — the local strongman — was unavailable.

Instead, in the run-up to the election and in the month since, we have seen various groupings form, hammer out areas of agreement, reach out to other coalitions, identify compromise positions, etc: in a word, politics.

The sight of 8 million Iraqis going to the polls was profoundly moving to their neighbors in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, etc. But it was all the pluralist multiparty smoke-filled room stuff that caught the fancy of the frustrated political class in those other countries. It would have been possible to find a friendly authoritarian Pervez Musharraf type and install him on one of Saddam’s solid gold toilets, but it would have been utterly uninspiring to the world beyond Iraq’s borders. It would have missed the point of the exercise.

A couple of years back, I went to hear Paul Wolfowitz. I knew him only by reputation — the most sinister of all the neocons, the big bad Wolfowitz, the man whose name started with a scary animal and ended Jewishly.

In fact, he was a very soft-spoken chap, who compared the challenges of the Middle East with America’s experiments in spreading democracy after World War II. He said he thought it would take less time than Japan, and maybe something closer to the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe. I would have scoffed, but he knew so many Iraqis by name — not just Ahmed Chalabi but a ton of others.

Around the same time, I bumped into Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister and man of letters. He was just back from Egypt, where he had been profoundly moved when asked to convey the gratitude of the Arab people to President Chirac for working so tirelessly to prevent a tragic war between Christianity and Islam. You don’t say, I said. And, just as a matter of interest, who asked you to convey that?

He hemmed and hawed and eventually said it was President Hosni Mubarak. Being polite, I rolled my eyes only metaphorically, but decided as a long-term proposition I would bet Mr. Wolfowitz’s address book of real people against Mr. Villepin’s hotline to over-the-hill dictators. The lesson of these last weeks is that Washington’s Zionists know the Arab people a lot better than Europe’s Arabists.

Islamism, with its plans to destroy America, take back Europe, colonize Australia and set you up with 72 virgins, may be bonkers but it’s a big idea. And you can’t beat it with a small, shriveled idea like another decade or three of Hosni Mubarak or Bashar Assad or some such.

The Bush administration decided the only big idea they had to sell was liberty. On Jan. 30, Bush’s big idea squared off against the head-hackers’ big idea — you vote, you die — and we know which the Iraqi people chose and which the rest of the region, to one degree or another, is following.

With hindsight, the fellow travelers were let off far too easily when the Iron Curtain fell like a discarded burqa. Little more than a decade later, they barely hesitated a moment before jumping in on the wrong side of history yet again.

Not in your name? Don’t worry, it’s not.

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.

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