Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Victor Davis Hanson: When Cynicism Meets Fanaticism. Critiquing the critique of the war in Iraq
NRO ^ | March 31, 2006 | Victor Davis Hanson

Posted on 03/31/2006 4:56:27 AM PST by Tolik

Edited on 03/31/2006 6:30:07 AM PST by Lead Moderator. [history]

Opponents of the war in Iraq, both original critics and the mea culpa recent converts, have made eight assumptions. The first six are wrong, the last two still unsettled.

1. Saddam was never connected to al Qaeda, the perpetrators of 9/11.

2. There was no real threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

3. The United Nations and our allies were justifiably opposed on principle to the invasion.

4. A small cabal of neoconservative (and mostly Jewish) intellectuals bullied the administration into a war that served Israel’s interest more than our own.

5. Saddam could not be easily deposed, or at least he could not be successfully replaced with a democratic government.

6. The architects of this war and the subsequent occupation are mostly inept (“dangerously incompetent”) — and are exposed daily as clueless by a professional cadre of disinterested journalists.

7. In realist terms, the benefits to be gained from the war will never justify the costs incurred.

8. We cannot win.

First, notice how the old criticism that Saddam was not connected to al Qaeda has now morphed into a fallback position that “Saddam was not connected to September 11” — even though the latter argument was never officially advanced as a casus belli.

Opponents have retreated to this position because we know that al Qaeda cadres were in Kurdistan, and that al Zarqawi fled to Baghdad, as did a mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, Abdul Rahman Yasin.

The Clinton administration in 1998 officially cited Iraqi agents as involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. That is part of the reason why the U.S. Senate, not the Bush administration, authorized a war against Saddam in October 2002: “ Whereas members of al-Qaeda, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq."

From the slowly emerging Baathist archives, we are learning that for more than a decade Saddam’s agents had some contacts with, and offered help to, al Qaeda operatives from the Sudan to the Philippines.

The issue is closed: Saddam Hussein’s regime had a mutually beneficial association with al Qaeda. All that remains in doubt is the degree to which Iraq’s generic support enabled al Qaeda to pull off operations like September 11. It may be that Saddam and Osama, in their views of Islam and jihad, were as antithetical to one another as Japanese and Germans were in attitudes about racial superiority. But in both cases, rogues find common ground in their opposition to hated Western liberalism

Second, we know now that worries over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were both justified and understandable. Postwar interviews with top Iraqi generals reveal that Saddam’s own military assumed that his stockpiles of WMDs were still current — confirming the intelligence estimates from Europe and most of the Arab world.

In addition, Iraqi arsenals of WMDs, in the judgment of both the Clinton administration and the United Nations, were still unaccounted for in March 2003. And even if the stocks were moved or destroyed, the prerequisites for the rapid mass-production of biological and chemical agents — petrodollar wealth, scientific expertise, alternate-use facilities, and a will to produce and use them — were met in Saddam’s Iraq.

Third, the opposition of the United Nations to the invasion lacks any moral significance, given the postwar revelations that the $50 billion Oil-for-Food scandal not only led to thousands of starved Iraqi civilians, but also enriched both Saddam’s family and U.N. insiders themselves. Europe’s opposition may have seemed ethical, but when one learns of French and Russian oil deals with Saddam, and German construction projects that fortified Saddam’s own Fuumlhrerbunker, European principle too evaporates into nothing.

Fourth, the charge of neocon plotting has now reemerged under a patina of academic respectability in a recent paper by Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Harvard Kennedy School of Government academic dean Stephen Walt. “Some Americans believe that this was a war for oil, but there is hardly any direct evidence to support this claim. Instead, the war was motivated in good part by a desire to make Israel more secure.” At the tip of that Jewish spear was a “band” that was “small,” but of course still “a driving force”: “Within the US, the main driving force behind the war was a small band of neo-conservatives, many with ties to Likud.” Instead of silly allegations of conspiracy theories, we are lectured ad nauseam that an “Israeli lobby” got us into Iraq.

This recrudescence of blaming Israel first is false for a variety of obvious reasons. Likud opposed much of American strategy. That is why Ariel Sharon was hated by his former base — and why there is now a new political party in Israel that suffers the same charge that it caves to American pressures all too easily. And far more influential than Israel in American academia and politics is the role of Gulf State petrodollars and worry over Middle East oil.

There is no need for an Israeli lobby in the United States, not when nearly 70 percent of the American people support Israel because it is an atoll of Western democratic values in a sea of theocracy and dictatorship. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice — no Jews there, just plenty of hard-headed veterans who are not easily hoodwinked by supposedly clever Straussians in the shadows.

Our point man in Iraq, who prior to the war urged the removal of Saddam Hussein, is Ambassador Zalmay M. Khalilzad — a Muslim and an Afghan-American. And our current general in charge of all American troops at Centcom in the Middle East, General John Abizaid, is an Arab-American. Meanwhile, the U.S. pressured Israel to get out of Gaza, to support elections on the West Bank that led to the victory of Hamas, and to dismantle more settlements.

Fifth, after the three-week victory of April 2003, we have now forgotten the earlier prognostications of millions of refugees, oil wells afire, and thousands of dead that were to follow in Iraq. Twenty-three hundred American fatalities are grievous losses, but must be weighed against three successful elections, and the real chance that such sacrifice might result in the first true Arab democracy emerging in Iraq, with ramifications beyond the Middle East for generations to come. Currently, tens of thousands of Iraqis are the only Arabs in the world who daily risk their lives to fight al Qaeda terrorists — something that just may be in America’s interest.

Sixth, we have not had another September 11. Two-thirds of the leadership of al Qaeda is dismantled. Fifty million people have voted in Iraq and Afghanistan. Syria is out of Lebanon. The Middle East is in democratic turmoil from the Gulf to Egypt and Libya, not mired in the old autocratic stasis. The Europeans are waking up to the dangers of Islamism as the Western world seeks to deal with a nuclear Iran.

Weigh that success against the behavior of the media that sees mostly American incompetence. At CBS, Dan Rather insisted to us that a clearly forged memo, but one that fit his own ideological agenda, was authentic. Michael Isikoff relied on one anonymous — and unreliable — source about the purported desecration of a Koran that had serious consequences for thousands in the Middle East. CNN’s executive Eason Jordan admitted that his network passed on coverage of a mass-murdering Saddam Hussein — and later he wrongly alleged that the American military deliberately targeted journalists in Iraq.

Now we hear Time Baghdad Bureau Chief Michael Ware, in a drunken, live interview (“In fact, I'm drinking now…I try to stay as drunk for as long as possible while I'm here”) from the heart of dry Muslim Iraq, recklessly throwing around charges that American soldiers are guilty of manhandling Iraqi women (“We've seen allegations that women have been mishandled or roughly handled. That always inflames passions”) and terrorizing civilians (“We've also seen insurgents criticize other insurgent groups, 'cause you're not doing enough to get the chicks out! I mean, that's how important it can be, this is a matter of great honor, and it's a spark”). Ware’s are precisely the lies and fantasies that feed the Islamists.

Indeed, the better example of ineptitude in this war lies with the media that demands from others apologies for incompetence that it will never offer itself. Few professions today ask so much of so many others and so very little of themselves.

Seventh, we won’t know the ultimate judgment of costs and benefits in Iraq until its parliament convenes and the executive government is formed and operates. If we leave now and a Lebanon follows, then, of course, the invasion was a costly mistake. If we secure the country for a constitutional government that brings freedom, order, and prosperity to its long-suffering people, then it will be the most welcomed global development since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Had the British and Americans quit in 1943 — after Pearl Harbor, the fall of Singapore and the Philippines, the Kasserine Pass, Tobruk, and other assorted disasters — then the carnage of 1939 to 1943 would have properly been seen as a tragedy that led not to emergence of a free Europe and a reborn Japan, but as needless sacrifice against the unstoppable juggernaut of Asian and German fascism.

As for the eighth complaint that we cannot win (or “the war is lost”), the verdict is still in the future and depends mostly on us.

Our military cannot be defeated by either the Islamists or their autocratic supporters. We have the right strategy of hunting down terrorists, securing the homeland, and insidiously, but carefully, promoting democratic reform in the Middle East (an impossible notion, by the way, with the sinister presence of an oil rich and genocidal Saddam Hussein, given his history of attacking four of his neighbors.)

We have even articulated, at last, an exegesis of the dangers of radical Islam — why it hates Western freedom and how it thrives on the oil, misery, and dictatorship of the Middle East.

There remains this last unknown — how well can a liberal democracy, in its greatest age of affluence, leisure, and self-critical reflection, still fight a distant war against emissaries of the Dark Ages who seek to behead apostates, blow up democrats, and silence with death writers, journalists, and cartoonists. It is not just our democratic values versus their IEDs, but whether our idealism still has the resilience to defeat their nihilism.

Or put more directly: Can Western enlightenment and power, embedded in deep cynicism, still prevail over ignorance and self-inflicted pathology energized by fanaticism?

Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is the author, most recently, of A War Like No Other. How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War


TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: bushlied; iraq; neocons; straussians; vdh; victordavishanson; waronterror; wot

1 posted on 03/31/2006 4:56:29 AM PST by Tolik
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: neverdem; Lando Lincoln; quidnunc; .cnI redruM; yonif; SJackson; dennisw; monkeyshine; Alouette; ...


    Victor Davis Hanson Ping ! 

       Let me know if you want in or out.

Links: FR Index of his articles:  http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/keyword?k=victordavishanson 
His website: http://victorhanson.com/     NRO archive: http://www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson-archive.asp

2 posted on 03/31/2006 4:57:15 AM PST by Tolik
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

bookmark


3 posted on 03/31/2006 4:59:34 AM PST by federal
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Tolik
Can Western enlightenment and power, embedded in deep cynicism, still prevail over ignorance and self-inflicted pathology energized by fanaticism?

I think he's referring to the " ignorance and self-inflicted pathology energized by fanaticism" on the part of the "insurgents", but it's funny (nay, tragic) how well that description fits the modern Democratic party.

4 posted on 03/31/2006 5:02:18 AM PST by Izzy Dunne (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Tolik

Hanson still has the remarkable ability to synthesize all the elements into one coherent piece. Well done!


5 posted on 03/31/2006 5:06:09 AM PST by romanesq
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: romanesq
How come Willam F. Buckley doesn't get this?
6 posted on 03/31/2006 5:18:25 AM PST by hawkaw
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: hawkaw

Cynicism coddled by welfare. That's the costly mistake.


7 posted on 03/31/2006 5:28:27 AM PST by ClaireSolt (.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Tolik

In realist terms, the benefits to be gained from the war will never justify the costs incurred.


For way to long we (the civilized world) have ignored this part of the world. The world has become to small & interconnected to allow such a large area to remain a black hole of dictatorships, porverty, hopelessness. What America has done with the liberation of Iraq is drop a large rock into this pond, and now we are seeing the ripples spreading out throughout in whole area. How willl this turn out? I don't know and neither does anyone else, BUT this I do know it will not be what it was...and that's a good thing.


8 posted on 03/31/2006 5:31:44 AM PST by Valin (Purple Fingers Rule!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: hawkaw

Now THAT'S a good question.


9 posted on 03/31/2006 5:32:28 AM PST by Valin (Purple Fingers Rule!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Mo1; Howlin; Peach; BeforeISleep; kimmie7; 4integrity; BigSkyFreeper; RandallFlagg; ...

Ping...


10 posted on 03/31/2006 5:37:32 AM PST by OXENinFLA
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: OXENinFLA

Thanks for the ping, OXEN. This is a great piece by a great man.


11 posted on 03/31/2006 5:39:23 AM PST by Bahbah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: Bahbah

bump for later


12 posted on 03/31/2006 5:48:55 AM PST by carton253 (Al-Qa'eda are not the Viet Cong. If you exit, they'll follow. And Americans will die...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Izzy Dunne
Can Western enlightenment and power, embedded in deep cynicism, still prevail over ignorance and self-inflicted pathology energized by fanaticism?

Hopefully.
But I think it is fair to say that we are unprepared to do it.
Democracy and Freedom are antithetical to Islamic fundamentalism; Islamists believe that the only viable laws are those given by God; Secular democracy and governing based on anything but Sharia is Apostasy.

Forced conversion would require a lot more planning, money and killing than we have been able to muster thus far; Will it end Islamism? By asking Islamists to join a better way of living, we are asking them to abandon God and the teachings of Islam. The West certainly had it's Dark Ages; Rationalists were imprisoned and persecuted for challenging religious tradition and teaching; Galileo died in prison for suggesting that the Earth revolved around the Sun. The West escaped its ideological prison by the fall of fundamentalist thought hegemony.

Islamists are deeply connected to a supernatural philosophy alien to Western secularism. Personally, I don't think their escape can be imposed by force. "Democratizing" Arabia before the dominance of Islamic fundamentalism is eradicated or allowed to abate is a recipe for disaster- see Hamas, Palestine and Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt and an Afghan constitution (under our auspices) that makes Apostasy a Capital crime.

Its all well and good to say lets go over and kick some butt and establish democracy, but are we ready to be a persistent occupier of people who are fundamentally antagonistic to western ideals? How much will it cost my children and grandchildren to maintain "democracy" in the Middle East? The end of WWII in was accompanied by adandonment of irrational German racial ideals and belief in fascism; also by abandonment by the Japanese of imperialism; these were human ideals and hence fallible; do we really expect fundamentalist Muslims to abandon their religous teachings and accept Western-style democracy?
13 posted on 03/31/2006 6:21:08 AM PST by drational
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: drational

Printing it out now to read it all a little later.

Your comments are well said, drational.


14 posted on 03/31/2006 6:26:29 AM PST by meema (I am a Conservative Traditional Republican, NOT an elitist, sexist, cynic or right wing extremist!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Tolik
thanks for the ping. Always so reasonable and enlightening to read.
15 posted on 03/31/2006 6:37:16 AM PST by AmericaUnite
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Tolik; All
Has this gotten the attention it deserves?

Now we hear Time Baghdad Bureau Chief Michael Ware, in a drunken, live interview (“In fact, I'm drinking now…I try to stay as drunk for as long as possible while I'm here”) from the heart of dry Muslim Iraq, recklessly throwing around charges that American soldiers are guilty of manhandling Iraqi women (“We've seen allegations that women have been mishandled or roughly handled. That always inflames passions”) and terrorizing civilians (“We've also seen insurgents criticize other insurgent groups, 'cause you're not doing enough to get the chicks out! I mean, that's how important it can be, this is a matter of great honor, and it's a spark”). Ware’s are precisely the lies and fantasies that feed the Islamists.

16 posted on 03/31/2006 6:50:16 AM PST by aculeus
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: OXENinFLA; Tolik
Thanks for the pings....and in support of the Iraq discussion see this short piece also:

Remembering Saddam's Slow War

17 posted on 03/31/2006 8:00:33 AM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach (History is soon Forgotten,)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: Tolik
There remains this last unknown — how well can a liberal democracy, in its greatest age of affluence, leisure, and self-critical reflection, still fight a distant war against emissaries of the Dark Ages who seek to behead apostates, blow up democrats, and silence with death writers, journalists, and cartoonists. It is not just our democratic values versus their IEDs, but whether our idealism still has the resilience to defeat their nihilism.

The major obstacle to our victory is our secular values. The "idealism" Hansen refers to has morphed into "sin, deviance, multiculturism, hedionism, debauchary.

A society so unrestrained cannot stand.

But it will be restrained. By Christians or by Islam. Secularism is on it's last legs. The choice is ours.


18 posted on 03/31/2006 8:48:29 AM PST by Donald Rumsfeld Fan ("fake but accurate": NY Times)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Tolik
There remains this last unknown — how well can a liberal democracy, in its greatest age of affluence, leisure, and self-critical reflection, still fight a distant war against emissaries of the Dark Ages who seek to behead apostates, blow up democrats, and silence with death writers, journalists, and cartoonists.

This sounds like the Romans v. the barbarians, and we know how that turned out.

19 posted on 03/31/2006 9:14:48 AM PST by oldbrowser (We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow......R.R)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: drational
Democracy and Freedom are antithetical to Islamic fundamentalism.

To survive in this world, Islam particularly on the fringe must change. Only possible instigator of such a remolding change is an "existential crucible." For example: Iraq falling to pieces is unthinkable. Disparate elements must pull together and that means making its Constitution real.

Forced conversion would require a lot more planning, money and killing than we have been able to muster thus far.

I think madrassas will have to be smashed, but it must be modern (as opposed to moderate) Muslims doing the smashing.

The end of WWII in was accompanied by adandonment of irrational German racial ideals and belief in fascism; also by abandonment by the Japanese of imperialism; these were human ideals and hence fallible; do we really expect fundamentalist Muslims to abandon their religous teachings and accept Western-style democracy?

We don't have the luxury that this can happen as quickly. After World War II, without the clarity of all-out War and its results, global conflicts are long-term.

20 posted on 03/31/2006 10:16:23 AM PST by NutCrackerBoy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: hawkaw

That's an excellent question. I think Buckley is looking at this now on the basis of cost and return of investment. In that regard, he doesn't see the political solution among the Iraqi's major parties.

From that perspective it doesn't make sense. But it's also betting on that outcome which Hanson doesn't do.


21 posted on 03/31/2006 10:42:35 AM PST by romanesq
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: aculeus

Where is the full interview?


22 posted on 03/31/2006 10:43:23 AM PST by romanesq
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: Tolik

One other critique of the war in Iraq Victor Davis Hanson might be overlooking is the fantasy that the mainstream media believes they are reporting and actually doing there job.


23 posted on 03/31/2006 3:28:15 PM PST by april15Bendovr
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: april15Bendovr

sorry "their" job


24 posted on 03/31/2006 3:29:00 PM PST by april15Bendovr
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: Tolik
Or put more directly: Can Western enlightenment and power, embedded in deep cynicism, still prevail over ignorance and self-inflicted pathology energized by fanaticism?

YES! There is no acceptable alternative...

BTW, Thanks for the ping.

25 posted on 03/31/2006 3:35:53 PM PST by humint (...err the least and endure! --- VDH)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Tolik
In other-words they should be #9.
26 posted on 03/31/2006 3:36:57 PM PST by april15Bendovr
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Tolik

One of Hanson's best - a gem to be retained for its veracity, impressive synthesis, and everyday utility for those on the waveband of enlightenment.


27 posted on 03/31/2006 6:54:20 PM PST by mtntop3 ("He who must know before he believes will never come to full knowledge.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: romanesq
Click for a description of the Bill Maher interview of Michael Ware -- and the video.
28 posted on 03/31/2006 7:16:26 PM PST by AZLiberty (America is the hope of all men who believe in the principle of freedom and justice. - A. Einstein)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: Tolik

Can Western enlightenment and power, embedded in deep cynicism, still prevail over ignorance and self-inflicted pathology energized by fanaticism?

Yes, but the MSM will do their very best, not to allow a Republican President to win.


29 posted on 04/03/2006 12:27:32 PM PDT by crazycat
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson