Today’s installment is in a Wall Street Journal piece by the director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, Peter Wehner. He takes on William F. Buckley and George Will for saying that the war in Iraq is lost, and Francis Fukuyama for saying the president’s agenda for spreading democracy in the Middle East is dead. Here’s the money quote:
Critics of the Iraq war have offered no serious strategic alternative to the president’s freedom agenda, which is anchored in the belief that democracy and liberal institutions are the best antidote to the pathologies plaguing the Middle East. The region has generated deep resentments and lethal anti-Americanism. In the past, Western nations tolerated oppression for the sake of “stability.” But this policy created its own unintended consequences, including attacks that hit America with deadly fury on Sept. 11. President Bush struck back, both militarily and by promoting liberty.
In Iraq, we are witnessing advancements and some heartening achievements. We are also experiencing the hardships and setbacks that accompany epic transitions. There will be others. But there is no other way to fundamentally change the Arab Middle East. Democracy and the accompanying rise of political and civic institutions are the only route to a better world — and because the work is difficult doesn’t mean it can be ignored. The cycle has to be broken. The process of democratic reform has begun, and now would be precisely the wrong time to lose our nerve and turn our back on the freedom agenda. It would be a geopolitical disaster and a moral calamity — and President Bush, like President Reagan before him, will persist in his efforts to shape a more hopeful world.
But what Wehner ignores is the effect of the democracy plan on the wider war. By only restating the president’s idea, Wehner makes it clear that we have ceded control of the pace and direction of the war to those who control the progress of creating democracy in Iraq. And that, unfortunately, means our principal enemies (Iran and Syria) and our faux ally, Saudi Arabia. This is a strategic plan that can only lead to defeat. We who support the president expect better. If only he will reawaken to the global challenge he once defined.