Sunday, December 05, 2004

Looking Back on the Last Three Years

We live in the age of the 24 hour news cycle, in which daily events are hyped and elevated in importance without any sense of perspective. Add to that a news media with a built-in bias and a pronounced ignorance of military history, and it can be very difficult indeed to get an accurate picture of how the War on Terror is going. For example, the elite media repeatedly discussed how Afghanistan was falling into chaos, and the Taliban on the way back, only for October's enormously successful election to put the lie to those memes.

This is one of many reasons why I am a huge fan of military historian Dr. Victor Davis Hanson. His ability to put events in Iraq and Afghanistan into historical context is invaluable. His latest column for National Review Online is especially insightful in reminding us "How Far We’ve Come":

Do we now remember the impassable peaks, the snowy haunts of the Taliban that were too high for us, or Kabul, the dreaded graveyard of all imperial expeditions? It was just a few months ago, it seems now, that we were admonished about the fury of retaliation to come for daring to fight during Ramadan, the impossibility of working with a nuclear and Islamic Pakistan, and the Wild West nature of Afghanistan's tribes so impossible to forge into the stuff of consensual government. And it was worse still than all that: the cries on the hard left of millions of refugees to come; the European warning about thousands of dead from indiscriminate American bombing; the need to adjudicate 9/11 by jurisprudence rather than arms; and the crazy conspiracy theories of pipelines, neo-cons, 'Jews,' Likuds, and CIA plots.

Have we also already forgotten the controversies, the buzz, and the insider conventional wisdom that consumed us during the days of uncertainty over Mullah Omar's televised rants; Osama's promises of an American graveyard in the Hindu Kush; the diplomats' trial balloon of a proposed coalition government with the wretched Taliban; the panacea of an all-Islamic peace-keeping force; Johnny Walker Lindh's conflicted high-school years; and a thousand other crises of the hour that sent our statesmen into all-night emergency sessions, our generals into desperate improvisations, and, yes, Americans into battle and on occasion to their deaths?

Do we remember all this and more when we talk nonchalantly now of elections in Afghanistan or the decency of the Karzai government? Is there a Frenchman or a German to be had at least to say in retrospect, "Yes, you were not the cowboys we slurred you as, but brought something good where there was only evil before"? Do we ponder if but for a second how improbable — indeed, how absolutely preposterous — it was at the time to even suggest that the Afghan people would soon stand in line hours to vote, freed from those who had so sorely oppressed them?

Have we forgotten what foul and cowardly folk the Taliban were — thugs who lynched women, shot homosexuals, blew up civilization's icons, destroyed a century of culture in Afghanistan, promised us death and worse, and then ran out of town in the clothes of women with what plunder they could carry? Do any of us recall the brave Afghans and Americans, both the planners in Washington who were libeled and the soldiers in the field who routed these butcherers?

As Dr. Hanson notes, many of the lessons of Afghanistan also apply to Iraq:

There may well be even more terrible things to come in Iraq than what we have seen already, but there will also be far better things than were there before. And there will come a time, when all those who slandered the efforts — the Germans, the French, the American radical Left, the vicious Michael "Minutemen" Moore, the pampered and coddled Hollywood elite, the Arab League, and the U.N. will assume that Iraq is a "good thing" like Afghanistan, and that democracy there really was preferable — after they had so bravely weighed in with their requisite "ifs" and "buts" — to the mass murders of Saddam Hussein. Yes, they will say all this, but it will be for the rest of us to remember how it all came about and what those forgotten soldiers and people of Iraq went through to get it — lest we forget, lest we forget....


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself- FDR

10:47 PM  

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