Politics & Policy

Civilization Vs. Trivia

Sometimes life's choices are simple.

Last week, the carnivore Saddam Hussein faced the world in the docket. There was none of the usual Middle East barbarity. The mass murderer was not hooded and then beheaded on tape, in the manner of al Qaeda. Civilization has come to Iraq.

#ad#Nor was the destroyer of Iraqi dissidents hitched–Saudi-style–to a Humvee and dragged to pieces through the streets of Baghdad. The pillager of Kuwait did not lose a limb on the precepts of a sharia-inspired fatwa. A young Saddam-like Baathist assassin did not break in and shoot the desecrator of the Mesopotamian marshlands in the back of the head. And a West Bank-like mob did not lynch the torturer of dissidents in the public square. Even al Jazeera, an enthusiast of the usual barbarity, was wondering what the heck was going on in its own neck of the medieval woods.

Surely, the slow emergence of real civilization in Iraq is one of the seminal events in the history of an Arab and Muslim Middle East that has had no prior record of either consensual government or an independent judiciary. Unlike Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, a global criminal is facing his victims in a legitimate court administered by the beginnings of a free republican government. The more Washington, D.C., insiders insist that the transfer of power was a meaningless construct, the more we are beginning to see the future shape of an autonomous, free, and civilized Iraq. Don’t listen to cynical American reporters and played-out professors who laugh at the idea of civilization. Watch instead how dictators and monarchs in the region recoil at it all. After all, such autocrats have lots to worry about: 70 percent of the world is democratic; excluding Israel, 0 percent of the Middle East is.

In response to the historic events of the week, one columnist for the New York Times decried George Bush’s pronunciation of “Eye-rack.” Another pundit trumped that profundity by whining that Bush had written “Let Freedom Reign,” rather than “Ring”–a verb that, had Mr. Bush employed it, she would most likely have denounced as a hackneyed cliché.

At a time when tens of thousands are risking their lives to end the barbarism that has spawned a quarter century of worldwide terror, the New York Times wishes us to know that its columnists can properly pronounce Iraq and really do remember that freedom “rings” more often than “reigns.”

Meanwhile, an even smugger Billy Crystal was introducing the billionaire John Kerry at a millionaires’ banquet in L.A. with similar gravitas–comparing 9/11 to the president’s SAT scores. Oh yes, 3,000 incinerated on September 11 add up to the president’s combined SAT score. Analyze that: comparing charred corpses to multiple-choice tests taken by high-school seniors.

The message of this out-of-touch, spoiled idiotocracy seems to be something like, “How embarrassing for us to have an inarticulate president who has freed Iraq and inaugurated democracy in Saddam’s place.” Are all these people crazy and ignorant of history–or do they simply want a free civilized Iraq and the American soldiers who brought it about to fail?

Do the trivialists want Saddam and the Taliban back in power? Does a Mr. Allawi repulse them? Do they wish 10,000 American troops back in Saudi Arabia? Perhaps they want Libya to resume its work on nukes? Do they care whether Dr. Khan returns to his lab? Or do they think it is child’s play to hike back through the Dark Ages into the Pakistani borderlands looking for bin Laden? And is it all that easy to have prevented another 9/11 attack for almost three years now of constant vigilance? Perhaps they would like to deal with the corrupt, duplicitous, and tottering Saudi Royal family, which just happens to sit on 25 percent of the world’s oil reserves–without whose daily production the economies of Japan, Korea, and China would almost immediately grind to a halt.

Only belatedly has John Kerry grasped that his shrill supporters are often not just trivial but stark-raving mad. If he doesn’t quickly jump into some Levis, shoot off a shotgun, and start hanging out in Ohio, he will lose this election and do so badly.

The war that Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards once caricatured as a fiasco and amoral is now, for all its tragedies, emerging in some sort of historical perspective as a long-overdue liberation. At some point, one must choose: Saddam in chains or Saddam in power. And the former does not happen with rhetoric, but only through risk, occasional heartbreak, and the courage of the U.S. military. If Iyad Allawi and his brave government succeed–and they just may–the United States will have done more for world freedom and civilization than the fall of the Berlin Wall–and against far greater odds. Deanism is dead. Moorism is a fatal contagion that will ruin anyone it infects.

Kerry is only now starting to grasp that a year from now Iraq more likely will not be Vietnam, but maybe the most radical development of our time–and that all the Left’s harping is becoming more and more irrelevant. Witness his talk of security and his newfound embrace of the post-9/11 effort as a war rather than a DA’s indictment. It is not a good idea to plan on winning in November by expecting us to lose now in Iraq.

So John Kerry is starting to get it that the conventional ignorance of Michael Moore, the New York Times, and George Soros is already anachronistic. You can see that well enough when a grandee like Tom Brokaw, Christiane Amanpour, or a Nightline flunky starts in with the usual cheap, cynical hits against Iraq reformers–only to be stunned mid-sentence, like deer in the headlights, with the sense that they are berating noble and sincere men and women–far better folk than themselves–who at risk to their lives are crafting something entirely new in the Middle East.

There is a great divide unfolding between the engine of history and the dumbfounded spectators who are apparently furious at what is going on before their eyes. Mr. Bush’s flight suit, Abu Ghraib, claims of “no al Qaeda-Saddam ties,” Joe Wilson, and still more come and go while millions a world away inch toward consensual government and civilization.

For over a year now, we have witnessed a level of invective not seen since the summer of 1964–much of it the result of a dying 60’s generation’s last gasps of lost self-importance. Instead of the “innocent” Rosenbergs and “framed” Alger Hiss we now get the whisk-the-bin-Laden-family-out-of-the-country conspiracy. Michael Moore is a poor substitute for the upfront buffoonery of Abbie Hoffman.

The oil pipeline in Afghanistan that we allegedly went to war over doesn’t exist. Brave Americans died to rout al Qaeda, end the fascist Taliban, and free Afghanistan for a good and legitimate man like a Hamid Karzai to oversee elections. It was politically unwise and idealistic–not smart and cynical–for Mr. Bush to gamble his presidency on getting rid of fascists in Iraq. There really was a tie between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein–just as Mr. Gore and Mr. Clinton once believed and Mr. Putin and Mr. Allawi now remind us. The United States really did plan to put Iraqi oil under Iraqi democratic supervision for the first time in the country’s history. And it did.

This war–like all wars–is a terrible thing; but far, far worse are the mass murder of 3,000 innocents and the explosion of a city block in Manhattan, a ghoulish Islamic fascism and unfettered global terrorism, and 30 years of unchecked Baathist mass murder. So for myself, I prefer to be on the side of people like the Kurds, Elie Wiesel, Hamid Karzai, and Iyad Allawi rather than the idiotocrats like Jacques Chirac, Ralph (the Israelis are “puppeteers”) Nader, Michael Moore, and Billy Crystal.

Sometimes life’s choices really are that simple.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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