Wednesday, July 30, 2003

In it for the long haul

So now President Bush has indeed declared that the buck stops with him regarding the "16 words. At the same time, in the same breath, he has attributed credibility to the report that al-Qaida might be planning new attacks, possibly involving hijackings.

It's well and good that the federal government is taking this threat seriously, as it of course should. I'm certainly no conspiracy theorist, but it does strike me that another terror attack certainly would put an end to all this nonsense about yellowcake and Condi and who knew what and who let it slip through. Frightened Americans once again would rally around their president. In a timely fashion, if you're Karl Rove.

So maybe al-Qaida harbor Republican tendencies. Who knew?

Kidding aside, though, it strikes me that as we've been considering neoconservative duplicity today, it might be worth considering what Bush and all those behind our strike in Iraq really mean when they say, as Bush did today, that "The war on terror goes on, as I continually remind people."

In fact, it's becoming clearer that the war on terror may well go on, and on, and on.

For if, in fact, Den Beste's assertion is correct, that we went into Iraq not to root out WMDs, not to save the poor, oppressed Iraqis, not to enforce any United Nations resolution but in fact to establish a stable democracy in the heart of the Middle East that might serve as a beacon for the nations of Islam there, turn them away from the radicalism that lashed out on 9/11 and other times, we may be in for a longer haul than anyone has dared to mention.

For if this is our strategy, Iraq is necessarily only the beginning. Even if the neocon pipe dream of a liberal democracy modeled on our own, where Islamic radicalism is watered down by the lure of the secular good life, this and this alone will not cause the regimes in Tehran and Damascus and elsewhere to collapse. Rather, Iraq necessarily was the first of many armed interventions that we will have to undertake, if in fact we are going to root out terrorism where it grows and plant not just new regimes but an entirely different way of life in this troubled region.

That is what we mean by being in this for the long haul. We're not talking just one Iraq; we're talking two, three, maybe more Iraqs. And now, those in favor of such a thing will say, we must proceed on this course, for already we have begun the task in Iraq. We cannot abandon the effort now.

Which is why, perhaps, it would make more sense for those opposed to this adventurism, this grandiose scheme guaranteed to cost lives and untold billions of dollars, to stomp on the brakes.

Which is to say that Buchanan's suggestion that we get out of Iraq now and leave the rebuilding to the Iraqis - or whomever else might want to help them do the job - may be impractical. But let us not continue to follow the neoconservatives down this path of folly.

Let those who have opposed the war - let the Democratic presidential contenders - say that what we begun we must finish, but we shall not have a repeat of this fiasco, we shall not invent new reasons to invade new countries all in the name of some theory that Americans who must go and fight and die or at the very least pay for never got the chance to vote on.

For while those in favor of the war may insist that going on the Syria, Iran - Libya? Egypt? What if they stand in our way? - is necessary in order to eliminate the source of terrorism, the fact is that this is one gigantic crapshoot, a gamble that democracy as practiced by the United States will "take," that by doing away with the regimes that sponsor terrorism you will eradicate the hatred that causes young men to fly jetliners into buildings in the first place, that you can indeed cow or coerce or destroy all who oppose you.

Neoconservatives would say it's a goal we must embrace, a bet we must make, one we must win.

Sometimes the cards aren't worth a dime if you don't lay them down.

But sometimes they're worth even less if you do.

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