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Friday, October 24, 2003
Viva La Revolution!
Very few commentators have been more insightful on the war on terror than Victor Davis Hanson at National Review (tip of the hat to Ralph Peters, too). In my view, VDH has been uniquely able to put this war into a broader historical perspective. Well, VDH has another great column here.
There is, he argues, a lot at stake in Iraq. This is not some short-term political game about who gets to decide how bit the Medicare give-away is going to be. It is about the future of tens of millions of people in the middle east, and the security of hundreds of millions of others in the West and elsewhere.
Why is Iraq important? Because, VDH explains, "a successful consensual government in Baghdad will serve as a glimpse of what life can be like amid the economic and political stagnation of the surrounding Arab world. More importantly, it will confront radical Islam with a competing ideology that possesses a far more revolutionary message that the Islamists' tired old culture of death..." and,
"here we stand, a little more than six months later, with a country that was the worst in the Middle East evolving into the best. We are witnessing nothing less than the revolutionary and great moral event of the age, and when it comes to pass, a reborn democratic Iraq will overturn almost all the conventional wisdom, here and abroad, about the Middle East, the nature and purpose of war in our age, the moral differences between Europe and America — and the place in history of George W. Bush."
The key word is "revolutionary," which he uses in both of these sections. At the beginning of the American experiment, there was a strong belief that freedom and democracy wasn't something just for us, but for all mankind. We had a responsibility, many believed, to export freedom to other countries - - truly a revolutionary idea.
And who is responsible for putting the brakes on the revolution? Our friends, the French, who started cutting people's heads off in the name of "liberty". The revolutionary aspects of the American idea basically went into hibernation... but the undercurrent continues to impact a more idealistic strain of foreign policy.
In some ways, I think Jason and Adam's debate on relativism is important here. I think the disagreements we are seeing domestically have a lot to do with whether or not you perceive America to be the "shining city on the hill" or to be merely one of the other nations, no different, no better (or worse) than any other.
If we can succeed in helping Iraq form the first Arab Democracy, it will be the shining city on the hill for other Arab nations. That seems like a worthy project to me.
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