Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 4, 2005
WAR: A Lot of Explaining To Do
Wesley Clark has an article in the Washington Monthly straining to explain away all the progress in the Middle East as having nothing to do with the Iraq war. Clark, still angling for that job in a Democratic administration someday, argues:
Anyone who has traveled regularly to the Middle East over the years, as I have, knows that the recent hopeful democratic moves in Lebanon, Egypt, and the Palestinian territories have causal roots that long predate our arrival in Iraq, or that are otherwise unconnected to the war.
Mm-hm. Anybody remember this guy talking about these "causal roots" when he was running for president? Sure, there are other causes. But that's not the point; the point is that American policy removed one major obstacle to democratization (Saddam, who was part of the problem in multiple parts of the region), provided an object lesson in democracy by allowing it to flourish in Iraq (at least Clark doesn't claim that Iraq was democratizing before the war), and - by isolating Arafat and announcing democratization as part of the way out in Palestine - strongly encouraged his successors to seek an alternative. And for whatever Egypt's moves towards democracy are worth, it's awful hard to look at two decades of intransignet Mubarak rule followed by a rapid about-face on elections the day after Condi Rice cancelled a trip to Egypt and not find a big American footprint. There's a better argument that a movement in Lebanon might have developed anyway - but what made the Lebanese people think they could stand up to Syria without retribution, and made the Syrians think it wasn't safe to crack down? American power may not have planted the seeds, but it certainly weeded the garden at a critical time.
Anyway, the funniest thing in the whole article, after all of Clark's partisan spin and his efforts to deny credit to the Bush Administration, is his concluding sentence:
Let's give credit where credit is due—and leave the political spin at the water's edge.