Looking back on three weeks of Operation Iraqi Freedom, dozens of thoughts, vignettes really, about what has transpired create a mosaic that is nothing short of remarkable. And like at the end of the Cold War, one already hears rumblings from the chattering class as to the inevitability of it all — as if the months of uncertainty building up to war didn’t happen, as if the overwhelming international opinion against U.S. intervention were trivial.
“We were always going to win the war with Iraq,” wrote Maureen Dowd dismissively in The New York Times (P-I April 10). What a crock.
Faced with the simpler option of working endlessly through the convictionless United Nations, President Bush instead took the road less traveled and launched an attack more than 7,000 miles away against a tyrant ruling 24 million people in a land the size of California — to once and for all rid the world of the threat his regime represented.
France, Germany and Russia left us to our own devices and the lukewarm Turks backed out. Yet in 20 days from the war’s first strikes, the victory that is now nearly total has cost about the same loss of U.S. life as in the recent Rhode Island nightclub fire.
The president did not need to act, but he did. The troops need not have been so skilled and disciplined, but they were. And now, as Iraqis revel in the unmistakable joy of liberation, it is all too easy for some to say that this was all inevitable.
We all know better.
War creates its own truths. Much as the Civil War was fought initially by the North to save the Union before Lincoln transformed it into the higher calling of freeing the slaves, this war, launched to protect the United States from terrorism and its possible nexus with weapons of mass destruction, will almost certainly be most associated with Iraq’s liberation.
For it has made possible the real chance for a peaceful, sustainable Arab democracy.
War is also a great definer. And it has highlighted the cultural gap between the disciplined, team-oriented soldiers we see interviewed on the front lines and the careless, attention-seeking America-bashers best represented by Michael Moore on Hollywood’s biggest stage.
I think of Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder decapitating a Bush effigy in the safety of a U.S. stage, and compare it with the spirit of two U.S. soldiers who, after dodging bullets outside a Baghdad presidential palace, paused to hold up their University of Georgia Bulldog flag saying “It’s good to be a dog — hoo-uh.”
I think of France’s Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin’s promise to veto any U.N. resolution advocating force, and of the visceral joy of liberated Iraqis, freed as a result of the use of force.
And I think of the soft bigotry of so-called Middle East experts who have insinuated that Arabs are not cut out for democracy — as if something in their genes makes them crave rule by the boot. It sounds eerily similar to past prognostications about the Germans, Japanese and Koreans. Our president has it right: “Freedom is God’s gift to humanity.”
The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that for “everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven … a time for war, and a time for peace.” Since 9/11 it has been a time of war for this country.
But thanks to the courage of Bush’s conviction and to the bravery and skill of U.S. and coalition forces, it will soon be a time for peace in Iraq unlike they have ever known. Not a sham “peace,” an absence of fighting in a land ruled by a butcher, but a true peace with government rule of, by and for the Iraqi people.
Seven thousand miles away, 24 million people, nation the size of California, less loss of U.S. life than in the first Gulf War and more care taken to avoid civilian casualties than ever in modern warfare. And in three weeks the land of ancient Babylon is once again freed.
The United States is not a perfect nation, but we are a great nation. In the face of overwhelming opposition, Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair acted, regardless of the political consequences. With luck for us all, they have not only done the bold thing, but the right thing, and in so doing infused the world’s most contentious region with fresh hope that a lasting peace is within the world’s grasp.
It didn’t have to happen this way, but it has. Hoo-uh.
John C. Drescher is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute in Seattle.