Victor Davis Hanson sees Iraq as “the deciding issue of our time.” A free Iraq, he argues, “will place a terrible dilemma on the governments and elites of these closed Arab societies who must explain to their own poor and oppressed how satellite pictures of voting Iraqis, Internet cafes, and raucous debates on television are really fabricated images concocted by the American-Zionist international consortium. There is a time bomb ticking in the Middle East, but it is in Cairo and Damascus and Riyadh, where corrupt elites can only pray that things don’t calm down in Baghdad and thereby prompt al Jazeera to switch from tailing dead-end Baathists to interviewing Iraqi parliamentarians.” Hanson argues that the future of the Middle East, the credibility of the United States, the war against the Islamic fundamentalists, the future of the U.N. and NATO, and our own politics at home, all hinge on America’s efforts at creating a democracy out of chaos in Iraq.
This seems a bit overstated, but there’s no doubt that our efforts in Iraq will have a significant impact on some, if not all, of these fronts. What, then, of our prospects for success? Hanson predicts that a year from now “Iraq [will be] calmed down and a consensual government [will have been] established there.” He may well be right about this, but recent events leave room for legitimate doubt about how well we are doing on the “calming down” front. Iraq may indeed be “the event of the age.” But right now, I’m more interested in a cogent analysis of the military situation on the ground than in grandiose pronouncements about what success could mean if we attain it.
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