Argue, if you want, with the decision to go to war in Iraq. Assert that the same kind of diplomatic efforts that have failed for 12 solid years would have worked if only given more time. Protest that war never solves anything.
But don’t throw around wild accusations that American leaders are imperialists, or grubbing for oil, or trigger-happy pyromaniacs.
This is a war, and we are a nation, with profoundly moral objectives. If the battles in Iraq are pursued for “enlightened self-interest,” the emphasis has been more on the enlightenment than on the self-interest.
Never in history have invading armies taken such care, even at greater risk to its own soldiers, to spare civilian populations and the infrastructure of services (electricity, water, etc.) they depend on.
Rarely, if ever, has humanitarian assistance been such a priority. When allied forces reopened the port of Umm Qasr (after using specially trained dolphins to clear its harbor of mines), the first order of business wasn’t ordnance or armor, but food and water for the Iraqi people.
The United States does not aim to own new territory. It — we — intend not to rule, but to provide the tools and the freedom for democratic self-rule.
We put American soldiers at risk, not just of bullets but of exposure to chemical weapons, so that those same chemical weapons will never be used to subjugate neighboring nations.
And for the last 100 years, at least, it has always been thus. In World War I, Americans tried to “make the world safe for democracy.” Having won that war, we withdrew to our own shores. (The rest of the world subsequently failed at democracy, but that wasn’t our fault.)
In World War II, we freed the world from three tyrannies — German, Italian, and Japanese — at once. And within just a few years, American aid played the crucial role in rebuilding all three nations we had just defeated.
In Korea, we stopped Communist aggression. Even in Vietnam, Americans aimed not at conquest but at defense of freedom.
And all throughout the Cold War, the United States bore the costs of freedom’s cause. It is no wonder that, aside from Great Britain, our most firm allies in the current struggle are those same Eastern European nations we freed from Soviet dictatorship. The Eastern Europeans know what Americans did for them, and they are grateful.
While the United Nations fiddled, the United States liberated Grenada. While the U.N. fulminated, we brought stable democracy to El Salvador and Nicaragua. We kicked a dictator out of Panama, and eased a tyrant out of the Philippines.
And while the United Nations wrung its oh-so-moral collective hands, the United States led NATO into ending years of bloodshed in the former Yugoslavia, bringing the tyrannical strongman Slobodan Milosevic to justice.
Year in and year out, when natural disasters strike other nations, Americans as individuals and as a nation lead the way in humanitarian relief. It is a statistical fact that, with food and medicine and treasure and its own blood, the United States is the most generous nation the world has ever known.
This current conflict is known, for quite good reason, as Operation Iraqi Freedom. The United States and its allies will win the war — and the Iraqi people will, in a much more profound way, win the peace.