Saturday, March 19, 2005

A New World Emerging

Saturday marks the second anniversary of the start of the liberation of Iraq. As I reflect on the last two years, I am frankly awed at the courage and dedication of our men and women in uniform, and those of our coalition allies. Thanks to their enormous efforts and painful sacrifices, one of the most barbarous regimes of the 20th century, a state sponsor of terrorism and a source of anti-American incitement and regional instability was removed. Thanks to our troops, over 8 million Iraqis had the opportunity to vote in a free election for the first time in their lives. For all its undeniable problems, no one can believe that Iraq is not better off now than it was under the monstrous despotism of Saddam Hussein.

The liberation of Iraq has accomplished more than just the demise of Baathist totalitarianism: it has acted as a catalyst for democratic change throughout the region. Removing Saddam and creating a nascent democracy in Iraq has made possible the creation of a new Middle East, one based on hope and freedom instead of terror and tyranny. Karl Zinsmeister, in a terrific essay for The American Enterprise, explains:

Those of us who spent much of 2003 and 2004 urging Americans not to give up on Iraq can attest that those two years were stained with many harsh attacks, much niggling criticism, and abundant disdain for America's aggressive efforts to reshape the dysfunctional governments of the Middle East into more humane and peaceful forms. From the very beginning, of course, the Bush administration's left-wing enemies in the U.S. and Europe were hysterically opposed to the push for Middle Eastern democracy. A significant number of right-wing pundits also proved themselves to be sunshine patriots of the worst sort--bailing out of the hard, dirty work of war and cultural transformation as soon as the predictable resistance arose.

But that's politics. In Washington, if you're looking for a brave and steadfast ally, you need to buy a dog. Fortunately our warriors battling away in Najaf and Samarra and Anbar province didn't surrender to the Beltway gloom that defeated most of our media and political elites.

Everyday Americans also proved sturdier than our chattering class. They stayed with the fight long enough for some hard facts to emerge. Now some very good news is obvious to all who have eyes: We are not facing a popular revolt in Iraq. Average Arabs are not on the side of terrorists and Islamic radicals. America's venture to defang the Middle East is neither the cynical and selfish oil grab that the lunatic Left have claimed, nor a dreamy and doomed Don Quixote crusade as some conservative grumps insisted.

Obviously, much work remains to be done, and, unfortunately, more painful sacrifices will be required. Contrary to the so-called "anti-war" movement, however, the tremendous accomplishments of our servicemen have absolutely changed the world for the better and made America safer. I am forever grateful, and my thoughts and prayers are with them.


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