Thursday, October 30, 2003

Reasons to be cheerful

It might seem odd, but this past week has made me more optimistic about the chances of success in Iraq. I didn’t see it that way at first, because the news of the Ramadan suicide bombing campaign seemed so dispiriting. But, onreflection, thesehideous murders mark a new era. For the first time, the Islamist forces of terror are targeting Arabs. They are targeting innocent civilians in Iraq; and they are doing so with no concern for any religious propriety or military decency. They have bombed mosques and the International Red Cross. At some point, Iraqis will see something that was obscured before. These terrorists are the enemies of Arab self-government, of Arab democracy, of Arab freedom and of Islam itself. While they targeted Western targets and murdered Westerners, this truth was obscured. Now it isn’t. Iraqis are beginning to see this more clearly; and the free press in that country will help illuminate it even more.

The Iraq liberation has therefore changed the dynamic in the Middle East in dramatic ways. It has opened the first real front for democracy in recent Arab history; it has separated Islamist terror from Arab interests; it has moved the battle from America’s streets to Arab streets. If you believe, as I do, that Arabs have as much interest in and need for representative government as anyone else, then this is a deep and important turn-around.

Without the invasion of Iraq, it could never have happened. And without such a turn-around, our prospects for defeating Islamo-fascism were dim. Now they are real. And the credit goes to Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair — and, in due course, to the beleaguered Iraqi people themselves.

Krugman’s nightmare

It’s not been a good week for the New York Times columnist and former paid Enron adviser, Paul Krugman. First off, he found himself scrambling to defend his rationalization of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed’s anti-Semitic outburst. Mr. Krugman had tried to explain Mr. Mohamed’s assertion that the “Jews control the world” by blaming it in part on President Bush. Because Mr. Bush had inflamed anti-Western Islamic sentiment, Mr. Krugman argued, he was partly responsible for the rise of anti-Semitism. Never mind the fact that Mr. Mohamed had been spewing hate for years before Mr. Bush became president. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch told the New York Post yesterday, “There is a French expression, ‘To understand everything is to forgive everything.’ Using Krugman’s logic, we should understand Hitler’s needs and forgive him as well. He needed to blame Germany’s defeat in World War I on the Jews. Krugman’s defenses are lame and his column is lame-brained.”

And then the real blow: yesterday’s astonishing GDP figures. Mr. Krugman has been predicting economic catastrophe ever since the Bush tax cuts took effect. But it looks increasingly likely that those tax cuts were the only thing that rescued us from what might have been a deflationary, recessionary spiral. And real growth — with more jobs — now looks likely in Mr. Bush’s re-election year. Poor Mr. Krugman. All he can hope for now is calamity in Iraq.

What he said

Here’s another fast-accelerating meme: The president led the American public to believe that the postwar reconstruction of Iraq would be easy, he never anticipated these problems and can only blame himself for not lowering expectations.

The one true aspect of this seems to me to be the gratuitous symbolism of the USS Lincoln landing and that hubristic banner: “Mission Accomplished.” I think I’ve been proved right about the over-reach there. But rhetorically, the White House is right to insist that the president did indeed refuse to sugarcoat the postwar. Here’s what the president said on Feb. 26:

“The work ahead is demanding. It will be difficult to help freedom take hold in a country that has known three decades of dictatorship, secret police, internal divisions, and war. It will be difficult to cultivate liberty and peace in the Middle East, after so many generations of strife. Yet, the security of our nation and the hope of millions depend on us, and Americans do not turn away from duties because they are hard. We have met great tests in other times, and we will meet the tests of our time.”

That was Feb. 26, before the war. This was on April 16:

“American and coalition forces still face serious risks in Iraq. Scattered enemy is still capable of doing harm to our forces and to the innocent. But we’ll stay focused. We will finish what we’ve begun. We will press on until our mission is finished and victory is complete … With all the hardships of this transition, the lives of the Iraqi people will be better than anything they have known for generations. The journey from a totalitarian, brutal dictatorship to a free society is not easy. It will take time to build the institutions of democracy and the habits of freedom.”

Yes, time.

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