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Right Intention: Friedman Gets It Mostly Right

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Friedman Gets It Mostly Right

Thomas Friedman has finally written something I agree with:

In the past week, I've received several e-mail notes from Democrats about the Iraq elections, or heard comments from various Democratic lawmakers - always along the following lines: "Remember, Vietnam also had an election, and you recall how that ended." Or, "O.K., the election was nice, but none of it was worth $100 billion or 10,000 killed and wounded." Or, "You know, we've actually created more terrorists in Iraq - election or not."

I think there is much to criticize about how the war in Iraq has been conducted, and the outcome is still uncertain. But those who suggest that the Iraqi election is just beanbag, and that all we are doing is making the war on terrorism worse as a result of Iraq, are speaking nonsense.

He's right so far. It's funny how Democrats have positioned themselves so that they only benefit if America loses. And then they wonder why voters question their patriotism.

Here's the truth: There is no single action we could undertake anywhere in the world to reduce the threat of terrorism that would have a bigger impact today than a decent outcome in Iraq. It is that important. And precisely because it is so important, it should not be left to Donald Rumsfeld.

Right again. But I could do without the gratuitous slam against Rumsfeld. Why do lefties hate this guy so much? I don't get it.

There will be a lot of trial and error in the months ahead. But this is a hugely important horizontal dialogue because if Iraqis can't forge a social contract, it would suggest that no other Arab country can - since virtually all of them are similar mixtures of tribes, ethnicities and religions. That would mean that they can be ruled only by iron-fisted kings or dictators, with all the negatives that flow from that.

But - but - if Iraqis succeed in forging a social contract in the hardest place of all, it means that democracy is actually possible anywhere in the Arab world.

The fact that Friedman has to try to explain this rather obvious point to his fellow leftists says a lot about the state of the Democratic party. If the Democrats want to come on board at this late date, great.

Democrats do not favor using military force against Iran's nuclear program or to compel regime change there. That is probably wise. But they don't really have a diplomatic option. I've got one: Iraq. Iraq is our Iran policy.

But don't even try to co-opt the issue. Get on board, fine. But don't come along as we get to the goal line and try to pretend the idea of spreading freedom and democracy was yours all along. And yes, I know Friedman supported the war. I'm talking about those he might convince to see the errors of their ways with this column, or those who could see a political opportunity to outflank the Republicans. Trust me, anyone who has supported this effort throughout will not be fooled by those who have a sudden change of heart.

The war on terrorism is a war of ideas. The greatest restraint on human behavior is not a police officer or a fence - it's a community and a culture. Palestinian suicide bombing has stopped not because of the Israeli fence or because Palestinians are no longer "desperate." It has stopped because the Palestinians had an election, and a majority voted to get behind a diplomatic approach. They told the violent minority that suicide bombing - for now - is shameful.

Wrong. It was the fence. It was that, combined with the old axiom of war which only the Israelis seemed to remember, which is "when at war, kill your enemies". Building a fence so the bombers couldn't get in, wasting the Hamas leadership and Arafat's death are the reasons the Palestinians are in more of a mood to negotiate. I have trouble believing that if the Palestinians really could drive the Israelis into the sea that they would be negotiating now. It just doesn't work that way.

We have paid a huge price in Iraq. I want to get out as soon as we can. But trying to finish the job there, as long as we have real partners, is really important - and any party that says otherwise will become unimportant.

Spot on. Will the lefties listen? Why do I have my doubts?


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