Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Daniel Drezner has managed to embrace, in a single paragraph, every single erroneous premise behind the conventional wisdom regarding postwar Iraq. Here's a mild, good-natured mini-Fisking:
For Operation Iraqi Freedom to succeed, military victories must be followed up with humanitarian victories.
As the expression goes, tell it to the Marines. Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime have been gutting Iraq for decades. Oil money has been used to fund a massive military and a decadent kleptocracy. Thousands upon thousands were imprisoned, tortured and murdered for political reasons, or for no reason at all. The country is a shambles, and the deterioration would only have continued under Saddam's rule. Merely halting that freefall is by itself a magnificent triumph.
It's not enough to defeat Saddam's regime, there needs to be tangible evidence that conditions are improving.
"It's not enough to defeat the Soviet Union, there needs to be tangible evidence that conditions are improving." Actually, economic conditions worsened considerably in Russia for the few years immediately following the end of the Cold War. (Of course, political conditions, while far from perfect, were still substantially better than under Communism.) Can we conclude that Drezner would consider the Cold War a disastrous defeat for the West?
If not, then Arab satellite networks will simply replace footage of the (relatively few) civilians injured during attacks with footage of squalid living conditions in liberated cities.
And in the unlikely event of an heroic humanitarian success, can we expect Al Jazeera to fill the airwaves with paeans to American goodwill?

The Arab satellite networks' anti-American tilt is no more determined by American humanitarian conduct than their coverage of the war was determined by American military conduct. The networks are simply catering to the prejudices of their audiences, which are in turn a product of all sorts of social, economic and domestic political influences that have nothing whatsoever to do with Iraq--or even necessarily with America.

It would be delightful, of course, if an American-led effort resulted in a rapid, durable reconstruction of a devastated Iraq. It would also be delightful if Al Jazeera were to hail that reconstruction as a laudable American achievement. But the first eventuality is a longshot, the second is practically unthinkable, and the two are in any event nearly entirely uncorrelated. Neither of them should be a necessary condition for declaring the ouster of Saddam Hussein a great American (and British) victory.

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