Has Iraq Weakened Us?
Whatever the results of the elections scheduled for late January in Iraq, a new pessimism about that country, as well as about the larger war on terror, has taken hold in many circles in the United States. Serious observers, not to mention shriller commentators like Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, have concluded not only that the United States is stuck in a hopeless quagmire in Iraq, but that our unwise unilateral intervention there is having painful repercussions both for our position as an honest promoter of reform and for our diplomatic and military maneuverability elsewhere in the world.
Joining the pessimism, Alistair Horne, the eminent British military historian, recently likened the American situation in Iraq to the French debacle in the “brutal Algerian eight-year war”; his obvious inference was that the ultimate denouement will be a similarly abrupt and humiliating Western withdrawal. Horne could adduce much apparent evidence to support this depressing proposition: the instability in the Sunni triangle over the last two years, mounting American combat fatalities, a seemingly endless insurgency, the increasing reluctance of allies to support in any serious material way the world’s lone superpower, and a failure of moderate Iraqis to step forward and deny sanctuary to the terrorists in their midst. The more jihadists, Baathists, and mujahideen that Americans kill, the more of them have seemed to pour into Iraq from Syria and other places in the neighboring Islamic world, either for pay or out of religious zeal. As for the Iraqi “street,” it appears to be both repulsed and paralyzed by this terrorist barbarity, and above all uncertain whether the Americans will stay long enough to ensure either safety or the promised democracy.
About the Author
Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His “Re-rethinking Iraq: Nothing Succeeds Like Success” appeared in the April COMMENTARY.