Minds Are Changing
years ago, I wrote that the liberation of Iraq was changing minds
in the Middle East. Before March 2003, the authoritarian regimes
and media elites of the Middle East focused the discontents of
their people on the United States and Israel. I thought the downfall
of Saddam Hussein's regime was directing their minds to a different
question -- how to build a decent government and a decent society.
I overestimated how much progress was being made at the time.
But the spectacle of 8 million Iraqis braving terrorists to vote
on Jan. 30 seems to have moved things up to be changing minds
now at breakneck speed.
abounds. Consider what is happening in Lebanon, long under Syrian
control, in response to the assassination, almost certainly by
Syrian agents, of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Protesters
have taken to the streets day after day, demanding Syrian withdrawal.
Post's David Ignatius, who covered Lebanon in the 1980s and has
kept in touch since, has been skeptical that the Bush administration's
policy would change things for the better. But reporting from
Beirut last week, he wrote movingly of "the movement for political
change that has suddenly coalesced in Lebanon and is slowly gathering
force elsewhere in the Arab world."
interviewed Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader long a critic of
the United States. Jumblatt's words are striking: "It's is strange
for me to say it, but this process of change has started because
of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But
when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million
of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people,
the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin
Wall has fallen. We can see it."
East expert Daniel Pipes writes, "For the first time in three
decades, Lebanon now seems within reach of regaining its independence."
changing in Europe, too. In the left-wing Guardian, Martin Kettle
reassures his readers that the Iraq war was "a reckless, provocative,
dangerous, lawless piece of unilateral arrogance" -- the usual
stuff. "But," he concedes, "it has nevertheless brought forth
a desirable outcome which would not have been achieved at all,
or so quickly, by the means that the critics advocated, right
though they were in most respects."
Claus Christian Malzahn in Der Spiegel. "Maybe the peoples of
Syria, Iraq or Jordan will get the idea in their heads to free
themselves from their oppressive regimes just as the East Germans
did," he writes. "Just a thought for Old Europe to chew on: Bush
might be right, just like Reagan was."
are changing in the United States. On "Nightline," The New York
Times' Thomas Friedman and, with caveats, The New Yorker's Malcolm
Gladwell agreed that the Iraqi election was a "tipping point"
(the title of one of Gladwell's books) and declined Ted Koppel's
invitation to say things could easily tip back the other way.
In the most
recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Yale's John Lewis Gaddis credited
George W. Bush with "the most sweeping of U.S. grand strategy
since the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt," criticized Bush's
implementation of that strategy in measured tones and called for
a "renewed strategic bipartisanship."
so inclined is the party's most likely 2008 nominee, Sen. Hillary
Rodham Clinton. She voted for the Iraq war and has not wavered
in her support -- she avoided voting for the $87 billion before
voting against it. She has kept clear of the Michael Moore left
and its shrill denunciations of Bush and has kept her criticisms
well within the bounds of normal partisan discourse.
stand right now, there can be no doubt that it is not in America's
interests for the Iraqi government, the experiment in freedom
and democracy, to fail," she said on "Meet the Press" on Feb.
20. "So I hope that Americans understand that and that we will
have as united a front as is possible in our country at this time
to keep our troops safe, make sure they have everything they need
and try to support this new Iraqi government."
2005 US News & World Report
Distributed by Creators Syndicate
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