The Corner

Ajami’s Dreams, Chalabi’s Ambitions, Bush’s Imperatives

Kathryn: Fouad Ajami did

indeed get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Never having

shared his dream, though, I can’t be much affected by its air of gloom.

Here is what I said back in

February:

“The key issue in the Iraq war, it seems to me, is the degree to which the

administration believes its own rhetoric about bringing democracy to the

Middle East. Completely, says Ms. Pond. The Europeans, she notes, would have

been happier if they could discern some cynicism beneath the Bush team’s

crusading zeal. They saw none, only ‘a Manichean perception of good and

evil.’ Those childish Americans, so obsessed with their outdated moral

categories! So unlike us worldly Europeans, who can perceive a hundred

different shades of gray!

“I don’t myself believe this picture, though. When I contemplate Donald

Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and George W. Bush, the phrase ‘naive

moralizers’ is not the one that first leaps to mind. If, following the

pullout our administration seems determined on, Iraq should lapse into

anarchy, I doubt much sleep will be lost in Washington. The despots of the

world will have been taught a useful lesson: that if they make themselves a

serious nuisance to us, we will go and smash up their regimes and humiliate

their leaders. The satisfaction of having delivered a punitive lesson is the

least we should hope for, and we can hope for more. For the American people

at large, however, the knowledge that we ended the career of Saddam Hussein

and woke his fellow despots from their dreams of invulnerability may be

sufficient justification for the war of 2003.”

I stand by that. Now, it would be a very cynical asperity indeed to suggest

that the administration’s guff about “bringing democracy to Iraq” was just

colored smoke from the beginning. Probably senior admin. officials believed

it at some level. Perhaps they still do. And it is not impossible; it

might yet happen, and here is one cynical old Jacksonian who’ll be cheering

with the Wilsonians if it does. But let’s face it — as Ajami, to his

credit, has done in this Op-Ed piece — the Arabs are probably hopeless,

and despotic squalor is their natural order. If this is not so, it’s for

them to show us it’s not so, by building stable societies under

constitutional government, that are not a threat to each other, to our

allies, or to us directly. Until that day comes, let’s expect the worst

from them.

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