In the general condemnation of neo-conservatism, we forget, at least as it pertains to foreign policy, it arose from a variety of causes, not the least as the reaction against the moral bankruptcy of both rightist realism and leftist appeasement.
We were reminded of those poles these past few days with news that confirmed Arafat’s order to murder American diplomats in Khartoum. That apparently had made no affect on Bill Clinton, at least if it were really true as legend claims that such a terrorist much later was the most frequent overnight foreign guest to the Clinton White House.
Add in not just just the inaction after the first World Trade Center bombing, or Khobar Towers or the USS Cole, but all the other weird elements of appeasement, from Carter sending Ramsey Clark to beg for the hostages to Clinton dispatching Warren Christopher to sit on the Damascus tarmac and his own later praising of Iranian “democracy” as liberal.
But the antipode is just as bad, when we recall selling out the Kurds to appease the Shah, Turks, and the Iraqis, the deal for arms for hostages with the theocracy, arming the crazies in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets, playing off Saddam versus Khomeini, letting the Kurds and Shiites hang in the wind in 1991, the coddling of the Pakistani dictators and the House of Saud, and the infusion of Gulf money into the law firms, investment houses and arms consortia in Washington and New York, staffed with ex-administration “wise men” from both parties.
In that context, Iraq in the climate of post-9/11 was an effort to find a consistent US position of toughness with terrorists and murderous dictators, and principled consistent support for reformers.
For all the sorrow in Iraq, that vision is not over, and can still be realized if we stay calm and unyielding. I was reminded of what real woe was from reading today of Churchill in May-June 1940 learning that France was lost, Belgium lost, Holland lost, an entire British army trapped in Flanders and Dunkirk, told that there were no more RAF reserves, and about 200 tanks in all of Britain-and in great spirits eating breakfast at 4am, with cigar, trying to lecture the above, strengthen those at home, and without doubt of eventual victory.