We’re Winning

Victor Davis Hanson has one of his typically perceptive essays in NRO on why we’re really winning the war on terrorism. Despite the ongoing violence in Iraq (led primarily by Arab militiamen rather than Iraqis), the situations is far better than before. Saddam’s death squads no longer have free reign. The torture centers are closed. The schools are open. These more prosaic issues often escape media attention, but they are still important steps to a free and independent Iraq.

VDH also writes:

Fourth, for all the doom and gloom we are making amazing progress. If on the evening of September 11th, an outside observer had predicted that the following would transpire in two years, he would have been considered unhinged: Saddam Hussein gone with the wind; democratic birth pangs in Iraq; the Taliban finished and Mr. Karzai attempting to create constitutional government; Yasser Arafat ostracized by the American government and lord of a dilapidated compound; bin Laden either dead or leading a troglodyte existence; all troops slated to leave Saudi Arabia — and by our own volition, not theirs; Iran and Syria apprehensive rather than boastful about their own promotion of terror; and the Middle East worried that the United States is both unpredictable in its righteous anger and masterful in its use of arms, rather than customarily irresolute and reactive.

Finally, do not expect to read headlines like "85% of Baghdad’s Power Restored," "Afghan Women Enroll in Schools by the Millions," or "Americans Put an End to Secret Police and Arbitrary Executions in Iraq." It is not the nature of the present generation of our elites — so unlike our own forefathers in postwar Japan or Germany — to express confidence in our culture, much less in the moral nature of our struggle to end the conditions that caused this war.

Between 1946 and today there are, after all, too many books, academic departments, careers, reporters, and anchormen who have institutionalized notions of moral equivalence, multiculturalism, and Western pathology from a safe and comfortable distance. But all that pessimism and self-doubt does not mean that we are failing, or that we should cease our present efforts. In fine, we are now engaged in one of the most ambitious, perilous, and radical undertakings in our history — and we are ever so slowly winning.

He raises a good point here. The idea that people should be proud of our countries actions is anathema to the leftist idea that Western civilization is innately corrupt. It matters little to the constant critics of the West that the people of Iraq are far better off now than the were just a few months ago. It matters little that Afghanistan has its first shot at normalcy after a generation of constant warfare. What matters to them is that the US is winning, and nothing can justify that in their eyes. It’s an attitude that totalitarianism under some "oppressed" group is better than freedom under the majority.

It is true that the mission in Iraq is going to be difficult. There will need to be efforts made to mop up the terrorists operating in the country and eliminate Saddam Hussein and his sons who are still believed to be alive. However, even the Iraqi people realize the necessity of a US presence to stablize the country even if they are not exactly comfortable with the idea.

Mr. Hanson is right, we’ve come a long way in a short time. Not only have Afghanistan and Iraq’s authoritarian regimes been toppled, but Iran is on the verge of democratic revolution, Syria is taking actions against terrorist groups, and Arafat is no longer able to prevent an Israeli-Palestinian peace. There is yet a long way to go, but the progress is undeniable and thankfully the doubters are not in charge.

5 thoughts on “We’re Winning

  1. Iran is heading towards democratization?? You’d better hope your crystal ball is giving you better answers on that than it did your repeated claims of “the smoking gun” being discovered regarding WMD’s that turned out to be fertilizer plants. Then again, the embarrassment of being completely wrong hasn’t deterred you from abusing your right to be wrong at the next possible moment, so there’s little expectation of you changing course now.

  2. Well, there’s that little matter of massive civil disobedience across the entire country led by pro-democracy advocates. But it’s not like such a movement has ever led to democractization before, especially not in such places as the Czech Republic, Russia, the Baltics, East Germany, etc…


  3. Jay,

    The left never, NEVER gets this part right!

    I find it ironic that when the “war” is on something like poverty, that 40 years of terrible results are “to be expected when dealing with an intractable problem” – but the war on terror, or the democratization of a nation like Iran that has NEVER had a democratic tradition is a “failure” if it’s not all wrapped up in 20 months.

  4. I’m suggesting that the War on Poverty and the War on Terror are doomed to failure because both are latent dysfunctions of the free market’s division of labor and the disparate religious traditions and worldviews across the globe. There are small victories for personal freedom here and there, but comparing the ex-Soviet bloc countries with the Middle East is a classic apples-and-oranges comparison. It looked as though an Isreali-Palestinian peace accord was in the works back when Ehud Barak was pretty much willing to concede the disputed territory to Arafat, but things haven’t exactly worked out for peace in that region. I wish the Iranians luck, but even if they are able to overthrow their existing regime through demands for freedom, I get the feeling their replacement government is gonna be just as bad as their current, and even if it isn’t, how long can a democratic government be expected to last in a region where the majority support Islamic theocracy in some way, shape, or form?

  5. Another problem with “the war on terror”- many of us think that, like most conservative reactions (as Nietzsche pointed out so well), it targets the symptoms, rather than the underlying causes. We can kill Osama and obliterate the al-Qaeda network, but there are still 100 Osamas waiting in the wings. Until we come up with a way to stop the emergence of those 100 Osamas, there’s no war on terror- only the same old game of “whack a mole”. Of course, this is good for the right wingers- just more incentive to increase millitary spending, buy more joint strike fighters, stealth bombers, carrier groups and missile-defense shields. As much as I dislike Gore Vidal (I’m not big on conspiracy theorists who take themselves seriously, or on insufferable elitist snobs), “perpetual war for perpetual peace” is the theory here in a nutshell. (Which also brings me to Kagan’s “Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order”, in which Kagan discusses the difference between “Kantian” Europe and the “Hobbesian” US- yet, without implicating that Europe is equally our lapdog in this situation.)

    Suffice it to say, we’re winning something- but what is it?

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