With the 2006 election approaching and the War on Terror still at center stage, it is worth taking stock of whether our invasion of Iraq was worthwhile or whether it has become a misbegotten adventure.
My judgment is that in certain respects the invasion can now be called a mistake. But it was a mistake worth making. We have learned a lot. We are going to be in confrontation with Islam for a long, long time, perhaps the better part of this century, and it isn’t surprising we should get a few things wrong in the opening rounds. The invasion hasn’t made things worse, as some people are now contending. But there have been misjudgments and we shouldn’t make them again.
The biggest mistake was to romanticize the Iraq Shi’ia and convince ourselves that they were a population ready to adopt democracy as soon as they were liberated from Saddam Hussein. Go back through the pages of the Weekly Standard and you will find Stephen Schwartz and Reuel Marc Gerecht making the same old argument — the Shi’ia will welcome us as liberators. Even in Sunday’s New York Post, Schwartz was still portraying the Shi’ia as the good Muslims while the Sunni are the bad Muslims, financed, of course, by Saudi Arabia.
All bad wars begin with the sense that there is some mystical ally on the other side waiting to be liberated. During the Crusades, Christian Europe had the myth of Prester John. My favorite example is the Spanish-American War, which was fueled by the Hearst newspapers’ lurid tales of Evangelina Cisneros, a 17-year-old Spanish beauty lying in a Cuban prison.
It is true that the Iraq Shi’ite spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has labored mightily to guide his followers on a peaceful course. He should have easily won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. In the end, however, the Shi’ia have preferred Muqtada al-Sadr and his armed militia. It is much more traditional in Muslim culture. And so we have civil war instead. (Remember, our supposed Shi’ite allies are the same people who gave us the Ayatollah Khomeini and nuclear Iran.)p>Another mistake was illustrated in the statement President George Bush made last month at the New York Public Library. Celebrating a world literacy program at the New York Public Library, the President said: br> /p>
One reason radicals are able to recruit young men…to become suicide bombers, is because of hopelessness. One way to defeat hopelessness is through literacy, [which gives] people the fantastic hope that comes by being able to read and realize [their] dreams.br> Sorry, Mr. President, but a fair number of recruits for Al Qaeda already have their Ph.Ds. Read Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower and you will find highly educated scholars from all over the Arab world showing up in Afghanistan to fill the jihad brigades. Alongside them were oil millionaires with suitcases full of money, eager to join the cause. Islamic fundamentalism has nothing to do with poverty or lack of education. Just the opposite, it is an ecstatic spiritual pilgrimage for people unsatisfied with banality of ordinary life — very similar to the glorified ambitions of affluent student radicals in our own culture.
So we are in a long-term battle with another civilization, one that is remarkably different from ours, has a strong penchant for endless violence, and isn’t going to leave us alone.p> THE LAST TIME WE WERE in this kind of confrontation was with Japan during World War II. Although it is not much remembered, Americans in the Pacific Theater perceived themselves to be fighting a completely different breed of human being. Joseph C. Grew, the former ambassador who was imprisoned by the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, told audiences on his return to America: br>
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?