Politics & Policy

Doomsday Debunked

The Middle East is not falling down.

Something quite strange is happening: Despite all the bad news about the Middle East from the European and American media, things actually seem to be improving.

Iraq is getting better, and the opposition to the war is, in the current campaign cycle, is starting to shift away from the “war is lost” to something more like “stabilizing the government over time would not be worth the cumulative cost in American lives and treasure.”

All sober Democrats realize not only that the Moveon.org ad was a political disaster, but more importantly, that the Moveon.org/Michael Moore/Cindy Sheehan/Hollywood ticking bombs actually scare off Americans, even as they demand more influence among the candidates.

In the Middle East, Bin Laden’s approval ratings are way down; polls show that the tactic of suicide bombing has suffered a similar fate of declining popularity. Bin Laden’s latest dyed-beard rant was pathetic, and ultimately only hurt him. For all the slurs about ”neocons” and “democratization” there, reform perseveres. The Lebanese government has not fallen, but instead has moved against terrorists. Hamas has isolated itself, and suicide bombing from the West Bank has fallen sharply; the two factions in Palestine are clarifying things in a positive way, and the anti-Hamas Palestinian “Authority” could, in theory, start to resemble mutatis mutandis the realignments taking place in Anbar.

Pakistan seems to be ever so gradually and carefully inching back to constitutional elections. The next generation in Libya wants change. Something happened in Syria as a result of that air strike, which emphasizes that the Syrian-Iranian-North Korea axis is real (in spite of all the visits by Dennis Kucinich and Nancy Pelosi), and makes one wonder not just about Korea and Iran, but perhaps even about the role of Saddam’s exiled technicians and/or their equipment in all this.

While the media talks only about the supposed impending strikes on Iran, the real news is that the theocracy is tottering as never before. The threat of ’constitutional governments nearby, in Afghanistan and Iraq, is intolerable for Iran. Syria and Iran, far from being the “real winners” from our “debacle” in Iraq, are actually more isolated than ever before, and are winning a new host of enemies, most notably in the Arab world.

If this were to continue, and I think there is a good chance it will, then the Democrats need to start once again readjusting, especially on Iraq. They might want to consider a tactic along the following lines: their initial votes for the removal of Iraq were sound and not to be apologized for; then their timely constant haranguing led to the necessary changes that came kicking and screaming; and now thanks to their vigilance there is some hope of resolution–combined with reminders that they always supported principled aid for Middle East reformers.

Geopolitically, the face of European leaders seems almost unrecognizable from its 2003 visage. Sarkozy and the French on Iran sound like the U.S. on Iraq in the late 1990s. Fear of Islamism has made the Swiss, Danish, and Dutch appear almost as 16th-century Europeans fearing the Ottomans. Even anti-American Greece, amid the forest fire outrage, reelected a conservative government.

Russian thuggery has scared its neighbors to the west. China has been terribly tainted by its manufacturing scandals and reminded the world that it is an autocratic state after all. China, India, Europe, and the U.S. are all getting tired of $80 per barrel of oil, and especially of the notion that those who work hard to produce are forced to fork over their profits to those who simply pump and cause mischief.

All in all, the world is in flux as never before, and the tired adjectives “disaster,” “fiasco,” and “blunder” just don’t describe the present state of global affairs, or the U.S. role in them.

In truth, the future dangers — aside, perhaps, from an Iranian bomb–are not so much political or military as fiscal: a protectionist EU that racks up surpluses with a strong Euro but has too high unemployment and entitlements for an aging population; skyrocketing energy prices; and alarming U.S. debt and trade imbalances.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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