My friend Lawrence Henry takes issue with “Endgame Conservatives, Chapter 2” this week. But Lawrence/>/>, like so many other well-intentioned people, gets it precisely wrong in describing the effect of our neo-Wilsonian democracy-building in the Middle East/>. To wit:
Larry first says that, “Where Jed and other administration critics have it wrong, I think, is that they conflate democracy-building with a soft-pedaled approach to making war.” The problem with that is not my statement of the administration’s policy, but the policy itself. Iraq/>/>, as I’ve often explained, is not a war: it’s one campaign in a much larger war. While we try to implant democracy there, the larger war is left unfought, and our enemy prosecutes it while we fail to. Iran's nuclear weapons program proceeds apace, and so does its involvement in terrorist operations everywhere. In Syria/>/>, Iran/>/> and now in
North Korea/>/> (which is, literally, a different war but by
Iran/>/>’s connection to NK’s missile program is becoming the same one) we are letting our enemies fight us without response.
This is my principle point: we are not prosecuting this war in a manner calculated to win it decisively. Were we doing so, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would no longer be composed of assembled atoms. And while the Israelis are turning Hamas into hummus, we’d be doing the same to the mullahs, al-Q and Hizballah in
Iran as well as to the Syrian dictatorship that sponsors terrorism (along with -- again -- Iran) against us in Iraq/>/>.
He next says that, “We cannot in good conscience defeat a terror-sponsoring state (say) and leave it with a leadership vacuum. Iran/>/>, for one, would not hesitate to step in to fill such a vacuum, whether directly or through its terrorist proxies.” No and no. We can in good conscience -- as Barry once said it, in the conscience of a conservative -- leave people to choose their own government. And if we were prosecuting the war properly, Iran/>/> would be in no position to implant terrorism anywhere. Larry, like most people, mistakes the Middle East/> as separate and distinct nations. Most are mere Brit exercises in map-drawing. You have to think about the region as a whole. When you do so, and eliminate the Syrian and Iranian regimes (which we should do forthwith) the problem Larry cites evaporates. No regime, however odious, is one we should be attacking unless it is a threat to America/>/> or its interests. And if some people revive another terrorist regime in the future? Well, we go and re-teach the same lesson.
Last, Larry says, “…we cannot simply exercise what John Derbyshire fondly calls "gunboat diplomacy" against states that threaten us, and then leave. We owe the world better. Indeed, we owe ourselves better.” Um, no. We owe ourselves security from foreign threats. And we owe the world nothing more than being true to our own Constitution and law, neither of which requires we establish democracy anywhere but here.
Finally, I am unwilling to spend American lives in pursuit of democracy anywhere else. To protect allied democracies is one thing. To try to create them where they have never existed, in a culture that -- even at its most beneficient -- makes impossible the separation of church and state is purest folly. Win the war, then come home. It’s what we used to call the American Way.
If we do not fight this war in a manner calculated to win it decisively, Larry, we will lose it inevitably. And while we concentrate on building democracy in Iraq, the enemy is concentrating on winning the war. The path you so fervently defend is the path to defeat.