Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 21, 2003
WAR: How We See Iraq
In my continuing quest to find more reasonable, non-crazy liberal/left bloggers to spar with (i.e., people to actually debate with rather than just sneer past each other; more on this later), I've been checking up on CalPundit, who a number of people have referred me to. His site actually started around the same time as mine and also made the leap to Movable Type just this week, although of course he's got a good deal more traffic and links than I do.
Anyway, he's got a post arguing that Americans' tendency to see everyone else through American perspectives leaves us blind to the reality of tension between wanting a democratic Iraq and a pro-American one. I think he's too pessimistic, although I also tend to agree with Josh Marshall that a pro-Israel Iraq is just too much to expect just yet. Although we obviously would prefer to establish military bases in Iraq (due to its strategic importance and so we can get out of Saudi Arabia), the main goal of installing democracy isn't a pro-America Iraq so much as one that's not actively anti-American. Same with Israel: if Iraq treats Israel the way Kuwait does, fine. That's better than financing suicide bombers by the score.
But it's not just pro-war conservatives who are likely to view Iraq through an American lens. Let's say we succeed in establishing a government with at least some democratic elements. And let's say that that government, consistent with Iraqi public opinion, takes on a number of characteristics that some or all Americans find offensive: an absence of rights for women and gays, a close relationship between mosque and state, draconian criminal punishments, etc. Won't it be the case that people here who opposed the war will cite these shortcomings (to our Western eyes) to argue that we have failed in Iraq? Don't you expect a Maureen Dowd column on why "Dubya let Rummy and the neos tell him things would be peaches and cream, and gosh golly lookee here, we threw a war and the women still can't drive and have to stay home barefoot and pregnant?"