By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Although many anti-war types hate to think so, there are solid progressive reasons to liberate the people of Iraq (which is why the beleaguered Iraqi Communist Party encourages a multinational force to do just that). In fact, the most plausibly articulate proponents of "regime change" (including Kenneth Pollock, Christopher Hitchens, Fouad Ajami and the Defense Department's Paul Wolfowitz) want to do more than just topple Saddam. They know that the U.S. must help the Iraqis create a free, modern, democratic state. Among other things, this means rebuilding Iraq's ravaged infrastructure, making sure that the U.S. doesn't play the puppetmaster, guaranteeing that American oil companies gain no special edge from our military conquest, and promising that the U.S. will use its overwhelming power to create a just settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. Such an agenda, the thinking goes, won't merely transform Iraq, it will help win the war of ideas against the Arab despotism and Islamic fundamentalism that are antithetical to our deepest values, including the self-confident optimism of the original space program.
Now, I'm realistic enough to know that such a plan is utopian, perhaps dangerously so — on Charlie Rose the other night, Norman Mailer brought up our old friend "hubris" — but I must confess that the Quiet American inside me finds something seductive in this master plan for Iraq. And I can't believe I'm the only one. (In fact, Hitchens is playing both roles in Noyce's movie.) There's a certain romantic grandeur to the conception, the possibility of remaking a wounded country (if not the whole world), which stirs something deep in our national soul.
But luckily, just when I find myself turning into a latter-day Alden Pyle, I'm brought back to earth by the nasty reality of President Bush, whose corporate-elite approach to his own nation — he's jazzed by dividend tax cuts for the rich, eager to roll back the Constitution — forewarns us just how deeply he'll be committed to freedom and justice in postwar Iraq. Although his administration does boast a fair number of genuine idealists, Cold War throwbacks like Wolfowitz who sincerely believe in America's civilizing mission, these aren't the guys in charge. Bush and Cheney are, and they're clearly something far less pleasant: hard-faced oilmen whose careers are all about hitting it big in the short run. While such ruthless focus may be helpful when you're actively waging war, it's worse than useless when you're creating the peace. Indeed, just as the State of the Union address didn't even allude to the price of military victory in Iraq — thousands of casualties, likely terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, and an occupation that could cost the U.S. tens of billions over the next decade — it didn't bother to mention the word democracy, either.
Somewhere Graham Greene is smiling.