EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appears in the Nov. 24, 2003, issue of National Review.
In late October and early November, the Iraqi capital of Baghdad had some horrible days, with terrorist attacks that claimed scores of victims. The attacks put the usual what-is-to-be-done industry into overdrive in Washington and elsewhere. There has been no dearth of ideas, some outrageous, others amusing. One is to impose a 24-hour curfew in Baghdad. Another is to abandon democratization, and appoint a military junta to restore calm. (The calm, that is to say, of the graveyard.) We are told to court tribal sheikhs, to cuddle the mullahs, or to crown this or that aspiring despot as “strongman.” The avalanche of ideas includes other gems: get a new U.N. resolution, put Kofi Annan in charge, call Jacques Chirac to the rescue, and even beg the mullahs of Tehran for help.
The best short answer to the question, however, is to do nothing. Doing nothing is often better than knee-jerk reactions and panic measures. A longer answer, however, will have to start by establishing what it is that we face in Baghdad today. To present the attacks as “the Iraq problem” falsifies the issue. Iraq does remain a problem, not only for the U.S.-led coalition but also for the Persian Gulf, and, beyond it, the whole world. But to reduce that problem to the terrorism that we have witnessed since May would be to miss the point.
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