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March 24, 2004
Reason: Administration Critics On Iraq Missing The Point

Michael Young, the opinion editor of the Daily Star in Lebanon, published a thoughtful column on the debate over Iraq in Reason today, reminding his readers about the overall strategy of Bush's approach to terror and why Iraq is central to its success:

The last pillar, however, was the most interesting, and went to the heart of the strategy adopted by Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and, ultimately, Bush. By intervening in the relationship between the brutish Iraqi regime and its long-suffering subjects, the US adopted a policy of enforced democratization. As far as the Bush administration was concerned, a democratic Iraq at the heart of the Arab world could become a liberal beacon in the region, prompting demands for openness and real reform inside neighboring states. Ridiculous you say? The Syrian regime, faced in the past two weeks with protests by individuals seeking greater freedom and a revolt by disgruntled Kurds, would surely disagree.

This is where Clarke's allegations, and those of critics who see a disconnect between Al Qaeda and Iraq, are misleading. Iraq always was essential to the anti-terrorism battle precisely because victory there was regarded as necessary to transform societies from where terrorists, spawned by suffocating regimes, had emerged. One can disagree with the practicability of such a strategy, but it is difficult to fault its logic.

Read Young's entire piece. It reminds readers of the fundamental reasons that terror exists, and it's not strictly about oppression; it's about the need for the autocracies to have an excuse for oppression, a scapegoat for the misery of the masses. Nowhere is this more true than in Gaza and the West Bank, of course, but it s equally true under the stifling rule of the Wahhabi Sauds and the Iranian mullahs.

In Iraq, the administration had the luxury of already being in a state of war (remember, the 1991 war had never been resolved, only a cease-fire agreement having been implemented and repeatedly violated by Iraq), and Iraq had not only used WMDs in its past, but it had sheltered Islamic/Palestinian terrorists and paid money out to others. Toppling the brutal Ba'ath regime set loose powerful forces of self-determination in the northern Kurdish areas that already operated under loose democratic structures, and the southern Shi'ite areas where Saddam's brutality and oppression reached its zenith after 1991. Creating a democratic Iraq, the administration thought, would change the dynamics of the entire region and motivate other oppressed peoples to pressure their governments for more openness and more self-determination. It's already begun in Syria with the Kurds and in Iran with just about everyone.

Iraq was not a distraction, in other words; it was a bold move to change the entire nature of the game in order to deprive al-Qaeda and others of their most precious resources: hate and despair.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 24, 2004 3:10 PM

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