The Corner

Berating Our Presence in Iraq

K-Lo is, as usual, too nice about my article today on the question of whether the war in Iraq is, as Kerry argues, a “diversion.” I think, though, that Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi’s speech this morning requires re-thinking something I suggested.

I wrote that the American people are not likely to be persuaded to pursue the war against militant Islam in other countries if they think our main goal is to liberate those who “berate our presence, after we undertake the heavy lifting of wresting their countries from despots and terrorists.” To the contrary, Allawi was extraordiarily gracious and humble today about the enormous help Iraq has gotten from the United States.

The prevailing image of liberated Iraq in our country tends to be of Sadr, the terrorists, and those who seem constantly to be whining about the U.S. “occupation.” But I should have taken into account that this image could just as easily be a media creation as reality. The media stress the negative in Iraq, and we don’t see much coverage of the successes or of people who are thrilled with what the U.S. has done.

Allawi could not have been more grateful today, and he maintains that that is how the vast majority of Iraqis feel. He speaks for Iraq, and I know of no reason at this point not to take him at his word on this. Whether what he said will change many minds here, who knows? Even assuming he’s right, there are still a lot of malcontents. And it doesn’t change my basic argument — for Americans to support it, the war has to be predominantly about U.S. national security, not democratizing the Middle East. But today is not the first time Allawi has thanked the U.S., and, on reflection, I think it was wrong for me to over-simplify as if all the Iraqis are ingrates. I don’t think they are, and I should have made my point without such a suggestion.

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