Thursday, March 23, 2006

"Down with stability"

There is no one I ever read for whom I more frequently say "I wish I'd written that!" than Mark Steyn. It's unbelievable - he writes all the time, he writes about everything, and it's always brilliant. He's got a fantastic piece (yes, the term "fantastic Steyn piece" is a redundancy) in the Jerusalem Post today that, as always, cuts through the nonsense and looks at the big picture of the US efforts in Iraq.
"Containment" is not a strategy but the absence of strategy - and thug states understand it as such. In Saddam's case, he'd supposedly been "contained" since the first Gulf War in 1991, when Bush Sr. balked at finishing what he'd started. "Mr. President," Joe Biden, the Democrat Senator and beloved comic figure, condescendingly explained to Bush Jr. in 2002, "there is a reason your father stopped and did not go to Baghdad. The reason he stopped is he didn't want to be there for five years."

By my math, that means the Americans would have been out in spring of 1996. Instead, 12 years on, in the spring of 2003 the USAF and RAF were still policing the no-fly zone, ineffectually bombing Iraq every other week. And, in place of congratulations for their brilliant "containment" of Saddam, Washington was blamed for UN sanctions and systematically starving to death a million Iraqi kids - or two million, according to which "humanitarian" agency you believe.

The conclusion?
In 2002, Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the Arab League, warned that a US invasion of Iraq would "threaten the whole stability of the Middle East." Of course. Otherwise, why do it?

Diplomats use "stability" as a fancy term to dignify inertia and complacency as geopolitical sophistication, but the lesson of 9/11 is that "stability" is profoundly unstable. The unreal realpolitik of the previous 40 years had given the region a stability unique in the non-democratic world, and in return they exported their toxins, both as manpower (on 9/11) and as ideology. Instability was as good a strategic objective as any. As Sam Goldwyn used to tell his screenwriters, I'm sick of the old cliches, bring me some new cliches. When the old cliches are Ba'athism, Islamism and Arafatism, the new ones can hardly be worse, and one or two of them might even buck the region's dismal history. The biggest buck for the bang was obvious: prick the Middle East bubble at its most puffed up point - Saddam's Iraq.

YES, IT'S come at a price. In the last three years, 2,316 brave Americans have given their lives in Iraq, which is as high as US fatalities in Vietnam - in one month, May 1968. And, if the survival of Saddam embodied the west's lack of will, the European-Democratic Party-media hysteria over the last three years keeps that question open. But that doesn't change the facts on the ground. Instead of relying on the usual ineffectual proxies, Bush made the most direct western intervention in the region since General Allenby took Jerusalem in the Great War. Now on to the next stage.

I agree with every word.

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