Friday, February 04, 2005

The 'Exit Strategy' Democrats
The only thing they can't imagine is success in Iraq.


Thursday, February 3, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

Every so often, an American politician takes an unpopular stand for the sake of what's right: Think of Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon. Frequently, he takes an unprincipled stand for the sake of what's popular: Take Richard Nixon's price controls. Sometimes, even, he does what's right, which also happens to be popular: Ronald Reagan's bombing of Libya.

Only in the rarest of instances, however, do politicians take positions that are both unpopular and unprincipled. That is where the Democratic Party leadership finds itself today on Iraq.

On Sunday, some eight million Iraqi citizens risked their lives to participate in parliamentary elections--as vivid and moving a demonstration of democratic ideals in action as we've seen in our lifetimes. Whereupon Senate Democrats Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry took to the airwaves to explain that it was no big deal and that it was time to start casting about for an "exit strategy."

Mr. Kerry:

"No one in the United States should try to overhype this election.... It's hard to say that something is legitimate when a whole portion of the country can't and doesn't vote."

Mr. Kennedy:

"While the elections are a step forward, they are not a cure for the growing violence and resentment of the perception of American occupation. . . . The best way to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that we have no long-term designs on their country is for the Administration to withdraw some troops now . . ."

Minority Leader Reid:

"We need an exit strategy so that we know what victory is and how we can get there. . . . Iraq is clearly important, but there are so many bigger threats to our national security . . ."

So what is the Democratic Party's message on this inspiring exercise in Iraqi self-determination? First, that the election's legitimacy is questionable. Second, that its effects will be minor. Third, that America's presence in Iraq is doing more harm than good by generating terrorism and anti-Americanism where none previously existed. Fourth, that the U.S. has better things to do. Fifth, that American sacrifices in Iraq are best redeemed not by victory, but by the earliest feasible departure.

As a matter of policy, this is a manifesto for irresponsibility. Just as the postponement of elections would have been a gift to the insurgents, a timetable for withdrawal now would amount to a concession of defeat. The Iraqis certainly know this, with interim President (and Sunni Arab) Sheik Ghazi al-Yawar saying Tuesday that it is "complete nonsense to ask the troops to leave in this chaos and this vacuum of power." The claim that the U.S. has become a force for occupation only validates the Al-Jazeera hypothesis that the terrorists are engaging in a legitimate exercise in "resistance."

What is more astonishing, however, is the Democrats' political tone-deafness. In their indictment of Administration policy, the Senators always take care to add a few words of tribute to the American soldier. But what's the point of praising his courage when only a fool would want to be the last man to die for a mistake?

Today, the Democratic Party has put itself in the awkward position of hoping to gain political advantage in the 2006 elections as a result of American wartime reverses, just as some House Republicans did during the war in Kosovo (they were saved by their Senate betters). This is not a place any political party should wish to be.

We understand that it is in the nature of the party of opposition to oppose. But there's no law in politics that says opposition has to be blind. Following the Iraqi election, Senator Hillary Clinton offered that "we have to salute the courage and bravery of those who are risking their lives to vote and those brave Iraqi and American soldiers fighting to protect their right to vote. They are facing terrorists who have declared war on democracy itself and made voting a life-and-death process." Last we checked, nobody had accused Mrs. Clinton of being a Republican.

At the onset of the Cold War, and despite opposition from the isolationist wing of their party, Arthur Vandenberg and other Republican Senators worked with Democratic President Harry Truman to forge the containment strategy against Communism. Where is today's Democratic Vandenberg?

Monday, January 31, 2005

Sic Temper Tyrannis
1649 and now.

By Arthur Herman

National Review Online

In the raging debate about the meaning and significance of the Iraqi election on Sunday, no one has noticed a strange fact. This election, which many hope will spark a democratic revolution for the Middle East, falls on the same day — January 30 — as the event which set in motion the modern West's first democratic revolution more than 365 years ago. It was on that day in 1649 that King Charles I of England was beheaded after his formal trial for treason and tyranny, an epoch-shattering event that destroyed the notion of divine right of kings forever, and gave birth to the principle that reverberates down to today, from President Bush's inaugural address last week to the Iraqi election this Sunday: that all political authority requires the consent of the people. Although few like to admit it now, it was Charles's execution, along with the civil war that preceded it and the political turmoil that followed, that established our modern notions of democracy, liberty, and freedom of speech. When Thomas Jefferson wrote that "the tree of liberty must sometimes be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants," he was thinking primarily of the legacy of the English civil war.

Charles I's trial and execution followed years of violence which dwarf anything happening in Iraq today. Still, the parallels between Iraq in 2005 and England in 1649 are striking. While Charles I was no Saddam Hussein, he had jailed and even tortured his opponents to exact obedience to his autocracy, and had used his army to wage war on his own subjects. It took six years of bloody fighting across England, Scotland, and Ireland to finally topple him and his regime, in a civil war costing thousands of lives — more in a proportional sense, than died in the First World War.

This was also a conflict shaped by religious rivalries, with Catholics and Anglicans, the equivalent of Iraq's Sunnis, fighting against Presbyterians and other radical Protestant sects who, like Iraq's Shias, had lived for decades under the heel of their oppressors. And like Iraq, the war invoked fierce ethnic hatreds, pitting Englishmen against both Irish and Scots and leading to atrocities on all sides. Nor was there a United States to step in to shape events or to guarantee security against hostile neighbors, like Spain and France, who tried to prop up Charles's cause and prevent the democratic revolution unfolding in England from reaching their shores.

Yet in spite of the chaos and instability, the defeat of the English monarchy shattered once and for all the idea that had governed Western political institutions since the Middle Ages, that a king's authority was divine and beyond question. When Charles I went to the execution block on January 30, a brave new world was born, that of sovereignty of the people. The declaration of a self-governing English commonwealth took place the following March, while debates and discussion had already taken place across England about whether popular sovereignty literally meant one man one vote or required a property qualification; or meant the abolition of property as radical groups like the Levelers argued; or even whether women should have a role.

Few of the participants in these debates, and in the pamphlet explosion which the king's death set off, were intellectuals like John Milton or Thomas Hobbes. Most were soldiers, ministers, farmers, and ordinary working men-the equivalent of the bloggers in today's post-Saddam Iraq. Yet the ideas they forged in the flames of revolution would inspire the writings of John Locke and later the Founding Fathers.

They included the idea that human beings have a "natural right" to liberty; that a free commonwealth requires a free and open public square for debate and deliberation, a affirmation of free speech which John Milton passionately defended in his Aeropagitica; and that politics is about human needs and issues, not divine dictates and ordinances. Although participants on both sides freely quoted the Bible to support their positions, they also recognized that if freedom was to reign, political authority must be detached from religious authority. This was the original formulation of our doctrine of the separation of Church and State: 366 years ago, Englishmen had come to realize that the mullah must yield to the magistrate, and that both must ultimately yield to the people.

Not bad for a decade of chaos and turmoil. And although the throne was restored eleven years later in 1660, it was for a king who admitted the principle of parliamentary consent. England had become Europe's first true constitutional monarchy. Will anything as important and influential come out of Sunday's election in Iraq? Hard to say. But just as Milton and Algernon Sidney and John Locke, and later Jefferson and Adams, translated the ideas of the English civil war, along with those of the Greeks and Romans, into the idiom of modern democracy and freedom, so this generation of Iraqi democrats may do the same for Islamic political thought in the Middle East. No one should underestimate the revolutionary power of the ballot box-or the executioner's axe.

— Arthur Herman is the author of To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World, published by Harper Collins.

"We will build a statue for Bush,"
said Ali Fadel, the former provincial
council chairman.
"He is the symbol of freedom."



January 30, 2005 -- BAGHDAD — The man replacing the mayor of Baghdad — who was assassinated for his pro-American loyalties — says he is not worried about his ties to Washington.
In fact, he'd like to erect a monument to honor President Bush in the middle of the city.

"We will build a statue for Bush," said Ali Fadel, the former provincial council chairman. "He is the symbol of freedom."

Fadel's predecessor, Ali al-Haidari, was gunned down Jan. 4 when militants opened fire on his armor-covered BMW as it traveled with a three-car convoy.

Fadel said he received numerous threats on his life as the council chairman, and expects to get many more in his new post.

"My life is cheap," Fadel said. "Everything is cheap for my country."

As Iraq prepared for a volatile election that is being watched across the world, Fadel heaped praise on the United States.

Fadel acknowledged that many in his country appear ungrateful for America's foreign assistance. He said most Iraqis are still in "shock" over the changes, and need time to adjust.

Any public monument to Bush is likely to further incense terrorist forces, who have attacked American troops and their supporters for months.

Fadel said he is undaunted.

"We have a lot of work and we are especially grateful to the soldiers of the U.S.A. for freeing our country of tyranny," Fadel said.

As for his own protection, the new mayor will be traveling in a new $150,000 SUV complete with bulletproof windows and flat-resistant tires.