With the war in Iraq moving towards its inevitable conclusion, the battle over post-war Iraq is heating up. This piece of spin by David Ignatius of the Washington Post is typical of what we will be reading and hearing in the next few months, as the liberal media becomes unable to find fault with the progress of the war itself. The column chronicles differences between the Pentagon and the State Department over Iraq’s future. But, tellingly, the State Department’s position merges with that of the Saudi government, whose views Ignatius quotes at length. Notice how the same Arabs and Arabists who have been telling us that war will irreparably harm our standing with Arabs are now saying that the Arabs actually could “warm” to the U.S. if only we would impose a settlement on Israel and not impose our institutions on Iraq. The latter alleged imperative goes to the heart of the matter, since the greatest fear of the Saudis and other Arab states (and perhaps the State Department) is the establishment of a something like a democracy in Iraq.
It seems to me that the real keys to success in post-war Iraq are providing physical security, humanitarian relief, and the hope of future economic success, which ultimately means Iraqi control of the oil resource. None of these goals requires us to do the things that Ignatius, the State Department, and Saudi Arabia desire. None requires us to settle the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, to appoint the State Department’s favorite Arabist former ambassadors to key posts in Iraq, or to involve the U.N., the French, or the Germans. And certainly none requires us to be indifferent on the question of what form of government Iraq adopts.
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