Thursday, December 2

The Real Humanists by Victor David Hanson

THE REAL HUMANISTS: Revolution from Afghanistan to Iraq.
by Victor Davis Hanson
Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

In September and early October 2002 we were warned that an invasion
of Afghanistan was impossible -- peaks too high, winter and Ramadan on
the way, weak and perfidious allies as bad as the Islamists -- and
thus that the invasion would result in tens of thousands killed and
millions of refugees. Where have all these subversive ankle-biters
gone? Apparently into thin air --or to the same refuge of silence as
all the Reagan-haters of the 1980s who swore that a nuclear freeze
was the only humane policy of dealing with Soviet expansionism.

After the seven-week defeat of the Taliban, these deer-in-the-
headlights critics paused, and then declared the victory hollow. They
said the country had descended into rule by warlords, and called the
very idea of scheduled voting a laughable notion. We endured them for
almost two years. Yet after the recent and mostly smooth elections,
Afghanistan has slowly disappeared from the maelstrom of domestic
politics, as all those who felt our efforts were not merely
impossible but absurd retreated to the shadows to gnash their teeth
that Kabul is not yet Carmel. Western feminists, homosexual-rights
advocates, and liberal reformists have never in any definitive way
expressed appreciation for the Afghan revolution now ongoing in the
lives of 26 million formerly captive people. They never will.
Instead, Westerners simply now assume that there was never any
controversy, but rather a general consensus that Afghanistan is
a "good thing" -- as if the Taliban went into voluntarily exile due to
occasional censure from The New York Review of Books.

The more ambitious effort to achieve similar results in Iraq is
following the same script, despite even more daunting challenges.
Fascistic neighbors rightly see elections in Iraq as near fatal to
their own bankrupt regimes. Some have oil; others have terrorists;
still more, like Iran and Saudi Arabia, have both. Unlike
Afghanistan, there is no neutral India or Russia nearby to keep
Islamists wary, only the provinces of the ancient caliphate to supply
plenty of jihadists to continue the work of September 11. Our
mistakes in the reconstruction of Iraq were never properly critiqued
as naïve and too magnanimous, but rather they were decried by the
Left as cruel and punitive -- as if being too lax was proof of being
harsh.

Yet, thanks to the brilliance of the U.S. military and despite the
rocky reconstruction and our own election hysteria, there is a good
chance that the January elections can begin a cycle similar to what
we see in Afghanistan. And at that point things should get very, very
interesting.

Just as the breakdown of a few Communist Eastern European states led
to a general collapse of Marxism in the east, or the military
humiliation in colonial Africa and the Falklands led to democratic
renaissance in Iberia and Argentina, or American military efforts in
Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Panama City brought consensual government
to Central America, a reformed Afghanistan and Iraq may prompt what
decades of billions of dollars in wasted aid to Egypt, Jordan, and
the Palestinians, the 1991 Gulf War, and 60 years of appeasement of
Gulf petrol-sheiks could not: the end of the old sick calculus of
Middle East tyrannies blackmailing the United States through past
intrigue with the Soviet Union, then threats of oil embargos and
rigged prices, and, most recently, both overt and stealthy support
for fundamentalist killers.

The similar effort to isolate Arafat, encourage the withdrawal from
Gaza, and allow the Israelis to proceed with the fence have brought
more opportunity to the Middle East than all of Dennis Ross's
shuttles put together, noble and well-meant though his futile efforts
were. The onus is on the Palestinians now either to turn Gaza into
their own republic or give birth to another Lebanon -- their call
before a globalized audience. They can hold elections and shame the
Arab League by being the embryo of consensual government in the
Middle East, or coronate yet another thug and terrorist in hopes that
again the United States will play a Chamberlain to their once-elected
Hitler.

If someone wonders about the enormous task at hand in democratizing
the Middle East, he could do no worse than ponder the last days of
Yasser Arafat: the tawdry fight over his stolen millions; the charade
of the First Lady of Palestine barking from a Paris salon; the
unwillingness to disclose what really killed the "Tiger" of Ramallah;
the gauche snub of obsequious Europeans hovering in the skies over
Cairo, preening to pay homage to the late prince of peace; and, of
course, the usual street theater of machine guns spraying the air and
thousands of males crushing each other to touch the bier of the man
who robbed them blind. Try bringing a constitution and open and fair
elections to a mess like that.

But that is precisely what the United States was trying to do by
removing the Taliban, putting Saddam Hussein on trial, and
marginalizing Arafat. Such idealism has been caricatured with every
type of slur -- from both the radical Left and the paleo-Right,
ranging from alleged Likud conspiracies and neo-con pipe dreams to
secret pipeline deals and plans for a new American imperium in the
Middle East shepherded in by the Bush dynasts. In fact, the effort
not just to strike back after September 11, but to alter the very
landscape in which our enemies operated was the only choice we had if
we wished to end the cruise-missile/bomb-'em-for-a-day cycle of the
past 20 years, the ultimate logic of which had led to the crater at
the World Trade Center.

Oddly, our enemies understand the long-term strategic efforts of the
United States far better than do our own dissidents. They know that
oil is not under U.S. control but priced at all-time highs, and that
America is not propping up despotism anymore, but is now the general
foe of both theocracies and dictatorships -- and the thorn in the side
of "moderate" autocracies. An America that is a force for democratic
change is a very dangerous foe indeed. Most despots long for the old
days of Jimmy Carter's pious homilies, appeasement of awful
dictatorships gussied up as "concern" for "human rights," and the
lure of a Noble Prize to ensure nights in the Lincoln bedroom or
hours waiting on a dictator's tarmac.

In the struggle in Fallujah hinges not just the fate of the Sunni
Triangle, or even Iraq, but rather of the entire Middle East -- and it
will be decided on the bravery and skill of mostly 20-something
American soldiers. If they are successful in crushing and humiliating
the fascists there and extending the victory to other spots then the
radical Islamists and their fascistic sponsors will erode away. But
if they fail or are called off, then we will see Days of Sorrow that
make September 11 look like child's play.

We are living in historic times, as all the landmarks of the past
half-century are in the midst of passing away. The old left-wing
critique is in shambles -- as the United States is proving to be the
most radical engine for world democratic change and liberalization of
the age. A reactionary Old Europe, in concert with the ossified
American leftist elite, unleashed everything within its ample
cultural arsenal: novels, plays, and op-ed columns calling for the
assassination of President Bush; propaganda documentaries reminiscent
of the oeuvre of Pravda or Leni Riefenstahl; and transparent bias
passed off as front-page news and lead-ins on the evening network
news.

Germany and France threw away their historic special relationships
with America, while billions in Eastern Europe, India, Russia, China,
and Japan either approved of our efforts or at least kept silent. Who
would have believed 60 years ago that the great critics of democracy
in the Middle East would now be American novelists and European
utopians, while Indians, Poles, and Japanese were supporting those
who just wanted the chance to vote? Who would have thought that a
young Marine from the suburbs of Topeka battling the Dark Ages in
Fallujah -- the real humanist -- was doing more to aid the planet than
all the billions of the U.N.?

Those on the left who are ignorant of history lectured the Bush
administration that democracy has never come as a result of the
threat of conflict or outright war -- apparently the creation of a
democratic United States, Germany, Japan, Italy, Israel, El Salvador,
Nicaragua, Panama, Serbia, and Afghanistan was proof of the power of
mere talk. In contrast, the old realist Right warned that strongmen
are our best bet to ensure stability -- as if Saudi Arabia and Egypt
have been loyal allies with content and stable pro-American
citizenries. In truth, George Bush's radical efforts to cleanse the
world of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, bring democracy to the heart
of the Arab world, and isolate Yasser Arafat were the most risky and
humane developments in the Middle East in a century — old-fashioned
idealism backed with force in a postmodern age of abject cynicism and
nihilism.

Quite literally, we are living in the strangest, most perilous, and
unbelievable decade in modern memory.

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