Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Newsweek's Epiphany; A Military Solution For Iran?

It even used the V word.
Ahead of schedule, the MSM has begun to recognize the revolutionary - there's no other word for it - transformation of Iraq from dangerous, tyrannical enemy to peaceful, democratic ally. Aside from a few reasonable caveats, Newsweek's 3/8/2010 cover story is generally enthusiastic and marred only by some drivel about Abu Ghraib and the obligatory slighting of President Bush. Not bad for the Journal of the Democratic Party. A couple of excerpts.

...something that looks mighty like democracy is emerging in Iraq. And while it may not be a beacon of inspiration to the region, it most certainly is a watershed event that could come to represent a whole new era in the history of the massively undemocratic Middle East.

As economist Douglass North pointed out last year in his influential book "Violence and Social Orders", the key to building stable societies is to create a web of institutions that people can fall back on when governments, or mere politics, fail. Iraq is beginning to do just that. The country not only has the freest press in the region, but the gutsiest. More than 800 newspapers and TV and radio stations have aggressively gone after politicians and sleazy businessmen. The country now has more than 1,200 trained judges, and courts have convicted senior officials on corruption charges, with more cases pending. Women's groups, too, have asserted themselves, pushing for 25 percent of provincial councils to be female and forcing the Education Ministry to roll back a proposal to separate boys and girls in school.


Iraq was only one of several foreign policy successes of the Bush administration as Conrad Black points out in a recent NRO column. Black excoriates President Clinton for leaving behind a strategic mess, but credits President Obama for keeping the pressure up in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Clinton administration bequeathed to the country the unmitigated strategic disaster of its quadruple boycott of the two main powers of the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Iran, and the two main powers of South Asia, India and Pakistan. This diplomatic quadrifecta ensured immaculate U.S. impotence across a broad arc from Saudi Arabia to Thailand. The world’s only superpower faced a Bahrain-to-Bangkok Bermuda Triangle, a U.S. no-influence area in the midst of which al-Qaeda busily planned and trained for its ever more ambitious outrages.

Despite many mistakes, the Bush and Obama administrations have largely filled that void. Saddam Hussein was probably the most horrible national leader in the world, and the Afghan Taliban the most retrograde regime, though both had rivals. Pakistan was playing footsie with the most odious Islamic terrorists, and India was flirting with Hindu exclusivism and discrimination against its 150 million Muslims, the world’s second-largest national Muslim population.

The Saddam outlawry was ended and a regime of some power-sharing is emerging. (On this one point, Joe Biden’s enthusiasm is a positive indicator.) The Taliban are being hunted down like rodents and Osama bin Laden is reduced to issuing videos from his cave to al-Jazeera crabbing about carbon emissions. India, the world’s next great power, and its largest democracy, with the largest English-speaking population, is now an American ally against Islamic extremism and, if needed, against Chinese and Russian misconduct as well.

The tireless efforts of Condoleezza Rice, in particular, assisted vitally in reducing tensions between India and Pakistan and bringing their relations to the most civil state they have enjoyed in the six decades since the dissolution of the British Indian empire and the death of Gandhi. Democracy has been precariously established in Afghanistan and reestablished in Pakistan, an ally of slowly increasing reliability. The frantic efforts of Islamic extremists to disrupt improving Indo-Pakistani relations, as in the spectacular terrorist attack on Mumbai in 2008, have failed.

The progress of these benign events has been so gradual, syncopated, apparently uncoordinated, and punctuated by miscues and fiascos, that its scale and importance have been widely overlooked.

These positive developments stretch across a region extending from the Near East to Central Asia. The missing piece of the geographic jigsaw is Iran. To prevent Tehran from becoming a nuclear power - clearly an intolerable situation - Black counsels a multilateral (U.S., U.K., France, Germany) military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. He believes that this is being currently considered by responsible members of the administration (e.g. - Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates). Far from causing regional or global instability, such a move, Black predicts, would reap unanticipated benefits.

The problems of the Tehran government would multiply, the U.S. would cease to be seen as a paper tiger, the Western alliance would come back to life, the Arab powers could be persuaded to take a stronger line against Iranian incursions in their region (especially by Hamas and Hezbollah), and the derelict peace process with the Palestinians might even be invigorated. Iran would lose its ability to meddle successfully in Iraq, including through the egregious former protégé of the Pentagon and of Richard Perle, Ahmad Chalabi. The streets of the world would be as calm as they were after the anti-nuclear strikes on Iraq and Syria, and The New York Review of Books might even cease to represent the Khomeini revolution as a great democratic breakthrough with some resemblance to 1776.


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