Friday, November 07, 2003

Bush's speech

I can't help thinking that President Bush's speech yesterday shames Mr. Chirac and Mr. Schroeder. This is (finally) the real reason for the Iraq war. The Middle East has to be transformed. It's a cesspit of injustice, backwardness and economic stagnation. And, these conditions are the source of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism.

As long as there was a homicidal maniac ruling a key country in the middle of the region, real change was impossible. Iranians, Syrians, Saudis and others all would have feared being enslaved by Saddam. Now that he's gone, all of them can hope, can dream. This strategy of Iraq serving as a model towards which the rest of the Middle East should aspire is extremely noble and idealistic.

I never understood why so many Europeans were opposed to this vision. If life under tyranny is actually preferable to war, why did so many Europeans fight and die in the 1940s? And, it doesn't matter how the Middle East ended up as it is. All that matters is that the millions who live there must have transformed societies. They must have hope.

It's also irrelevant that Bush didn't over-emphasise this vision before the war. If he had, he would have scared off the more isolationist Americans (and I'm one) - those who tend towards pessimism and would admire the ideal, but presume that failure was the only possibility. But, I can't understand why Blair didn't make this his prime justification. I can't understand why the leaders of "old Europe" couldn't share in the dream and the vision of a transformed Middle East.

I'm sure the nitpickers will find what they don't like and tear into this speech {I'm not sure the Taliban destroyed "a proud and working society"}. But, the essential theme is impossible to oppose without wishing ill on the people of the Middle East.

Here's my favorite quote:
Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long run stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.
I'd love to be able to be as optimistic as the President. News like this morning's feed my pessimistic instincts, but as long as I can read something positive from Healing Iraq, The Messopotamian and others I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.