John Podhoretz credits Iraq’s “political class” with a little-appreciated victory in resisting calls for civil war over the past two weeks, and instead continuing to work out their inevitable conflicts through the political process. Podhoretz makes a fundamental point that some seem to forget:
[T]he members of Iraq’s political class have chosen hope – chosen to fight their battles at the bargaining table rather than in the streets. By doing so, they are, in fact, offering an example of what democratic institutions are intended to do. They are supposed to replace armed conflict with political negotiation conducted by those who might otherwise take up weapons to get their way.
Podhoretz’s conclusion is, I think, exactly right:
Because of the bombs and the bloodshed, and because many critics are desperate to see President Bush discredited and disgraced, the triumph of the political class in Iraq has been little noted. But if it holds, what has happened in the past two weeks will probably be seen as a turning point – and a validation of George Bush’s conviction that Iraq could eventually become a democracy.
“I think the outcome, the judgment, of all of this needs to await history,” Secretary of State Condi Rice said yesterday. It is conceivable that history’s judgment will be harsh. But it is also conceivable that history will regard the difficult American effort in Iraq as a dramatic achievement, all the more so because it was subjected to such withering and defeatist criticism here and abroad during its darkest days.
In truth, we likely won’t know whether the Iraq war was a success or a failure, a good idea or a bad idea, for another twenty or thirty years, when the consequences of the effort not only in Iraq, but throughout the region, become clear. For now, we can only guess. But my guess is that our effort in Iraq will succeed, and that that conflict will eventually come to be seen as an important step in the vital process of bringing reform to the Arab world, and thereby defusing the threat of Islamic terrorism.