October 28, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Now that Cindy Sheehan turns out to be a disaster
for the anti-war movement -- most Americans are not about to follow
a left-wing radical who insists that we are in Iraq for reasons
of theft, oppression and empire -- a new spokesman is needed.
If I were in the opposition camp, I would want a deeply patriotic,
highly intelligent, distinguished establishment figure. I would
want Brent Scowcroft.
has been obliging. This week in The New Yorker he came
out strongly against the war and the neocon sorcerers who magically
foisted it upon what must have been a hypnotized president and
Scowcroft's opposition to toppling Saddam is neither surprising
nor new. Indeed, we are now seeing its third iteration. He had
two cracks at Saddam in 1991 and urged his President Bush to pass
them both up -- first, after Saddam's defeat in the Gulf War when
the road to Baghdad was open, and then, days later, during a massive
U.S.-encouraged uprising of Kurds and Shiites when America stood
by and allowed Saddam to massacre his opponents by the tens of
thousands. (One of the reasons for Iraqi wariness during the U.S.
liberation 12 years later was the memory of our past betrayal
and suspicions about our current intentions in light of that betrayal.)
is a trademark of this nation's most doctrinaire foreign policy
``realist.'' Realism is the billiard ball theory of foreign policy.
You care not a whit about who is running a foreign country. Whether
it is Mother Teresa or the Assad family gangsters in Syria, you
care only about their external actions, not how they treat their
prize stability above all, and there is nothing more stable than
a ruthlessly efficient dictatorship. Which is why Scowcroft is
the man who six months after Tiananmen Square toasted those who
ordered the massacre; who, as the world celebrates the Beirut
Spring that evicted the Syrian occupation from Lebanon, sees not
liberation but possible instability; who can barely conceal a
preference for Syria's stabilizing iron rule.
Scowcroft says, ``I didn't think that calling the Soviet Union
the `evil empire' got anybody anywhere.'' Tell that to Natan Sharansky
and other Soviet dissidents for whom that declaration of moral
-- beyond geopolitical -- purpose was electrifying, and helped
galvanize the dissident movements that ultimately brought down
the Soviet empire.
It was not
brought down by diplomacy and arms control, the preferred realist
means for dealing with the Soviet Union. It was brought down by
indigenous revolutionaries, encouraged and supported by Ronald
Reagan, a president unabashedly dedicated not to detente with
evil, but its destruction -- i.e., regime change.
such as Scowcroft, regime change is the ultimate taboo. Too risky,
too dangerous, too unpredictable. ``I'm a realist in the sense
that I'm a cynic about human nature,'' he admits. Hence, writes
Jeffrey Goldberg, his New Yorker chronicler, Scowcroft
remains ``unmoved by the stirrings of democracy movements in the
in Iraq. The difficulties there are indeed great. But those difficulties
came about not because, as Scowcroft tells us, ``some people don't
really want to be free'' and don't value freedom as we do. The
insurgency in Iraq is not proof of an escape-from-freedom human
nature that has little use for liberty and prefers other things.
The insurgency is, on the contrary, evidence of a determined (Sunni)
minority desperate to maintain not only its own freedom but its
previous dominion over the other 80 percent of the population
now struggling for theirs.
-- the overwhelming majority of Iraq's people -- have repeatedly
given every indication of valuing their newfound freedom: voting
in two elections at the risk of their lives, preparing for a third,
writing and ratifying a constitution granting more freedoms than
exist in any country in the entire Arab Middle East. ``The secret
is out,'' says Fouad Ajami. ``There is something decent unfolding
in Iraq. It's unfolding in the shadow of a terrible insurgency,
but a society is finding its way to constitutional politics.''
no fool, no naif, no reckless idealist, as Scowcroft likes to
caricature the neoconservatives he reviles. A renowned scholar
on the Middle East, Ajami is a Shiite, fluent in Arabic, who has
unsentimentally educated the world about the Arab predicament
and Arab dream palaces. Yet having returned from two visits to
Iraq this year, he sports none of Scowcroft's easy, ostentatious
cynicism about human nature, and Iraqi human nature in particular.
Instead, Ajami celebrates the coming of decency in a place where
decency was outlawed 30 years ago.
It is not
surprising that Scowcroft, who helped give indecency a 12-year
life extension, should disdain decency's return. But we should
2005, Washington Post Writers Group