Bret Stephens celebrates Iraq's transformation from dictatorship to democracy in an excellent op-ed in the WSJ today. He points to the contrast from eight years ago when,
...a presidential election was held in Iraq. Saddam Hussein won it by a margin of 11,445,638 to zero. "Whether that's because they love their leader—as many people said they do—or for other reasons, was hard to tell," reported CBS News's Tom Fenton from Baghdad.
You can't say they aren't fair and balanced over at CBS.
Several millions of voters participated in Iraq's recent election with the results "too close to call". Stephens stresses that this remarkable achievement, in the heart of the notoriously despotic Arab and Muslim world, cannot be overstated.
Paleontologists have described similar moments in evolution, when some natural cataclysm permits a nimbler class of animals to take the place of the planet's former masters.
Just so in Iraq: the Cretaceous period of the T Rex and the pterosaur is at last drawing to a close. George W. Bush, in all his subtlety, was their mass-extinction event.
Stephens notes that right from the beginning, even before the insurgency, Western liberals dismissed the importance of Iraq's liberation. Then as the violence increased, their disdain became a palpable joy.
...the insurgents murdered coalition soldiers and Iraqi civilians with equal abandon, right up to the morning of the election. Yet somehow the killing sprees (grotesquely replete with the cutting off of children's fingers) were treated by the world's great opiners not as the acts of evil men to be confronted and stopped, but purely as a function of the American presence in Iraq.
In this strange moral calculus, all the blood that was shed—including American blood—was on America's hands. It was also, by implication, a stain on America's "experiment" of "imposing" democracy on so obviously unwilling a people.
Here Stephens makes an important point. Leftists directed their outrage not at the insurgents but at those fighting them. Blaming the actual perpetrators of the violence did not advance their political agenda. It did not make Bush (and Cheney and Rumsfeld) look bad.
The correct moral response to the blowing up of markets, playgrounds, and mosques should be, "Let's put an end to this depravity. Let's destroy this ideology and its advocates and operatives." Instead, the left declared the U.S., (or more specifically, the Bush administration), culpable for the death and destruction. This deceit helped to fuel the insurgency. The insurgents - both the former Baathist Sunnis and the Iranian backed Shiites - were playing to a receptive audience. It was much easier to murder civilians than coalition troops. Perversely, the more civilians they murdered, the more political pressure was brought to bear on the forces arrayed against them. Still, a majority of Americans never bought into the 'blame the coalition' narrative. The war became unpopular not because it was seen as immoral but because it wasn't going well.
Stephens chastises those in the West who disparage democracy in general. Those that favor instead, a system led by a small group of self-described enlightened elitists. Previously tyrannized people, like the Iraqis, know better. That's why they braved the threat of violence to cast ballots in large numbers. Stephens quotes the late journalist Michael Kelly who wrote for the left-leaning publications The Washington Post and The New Republic and was killed during the U.S. invasion in 2003.
"Tyranny truly is a horror: an immense, endlessly bloody, endlessly painful, endlessly varied, endless crime against not humanity in the abstract but a lot of humans in the flesh. It is, as Orwell wrote, a jackboot forever stomping on a human face.
"I understand why some dislike the idea, and fear the ramifications of, America as a liberator. But I do not understand why they do not see that anything is better than life with your face under the boot. And that any rescue of a people under the boot (be they Afghan, Kuwaiti or Iraqi) is something to be desired. Even if the rescue is less than perfectly realized. Even if the rescuer is a great, overmuscled, bossy, selfish oaf. Or would you, for yourself, choose the boot?"