Hanson begins with recent success:
In September and early October 2001 we were warned that an invasion of Afghanistan was impossible — peaks too high, winter and Ramadan on the way, weak and perfidious allies as bad as the Islamists — and thus that the invasion would result in tens of thousands killed and millions of refugees. Where have all these subversive ankle-biters gone? Apparently into thin air — or to the same refuge of silence as all the Reagan-haters of the 1980s who swore that a nuclear freeze was the only humane policy of dealing with Soviet expansionism.Hanson concedes Iraq is more "daunting." But the stakes are commensurately higher, and the opposition proportionately less principled:
After the seven-week defeat of the Taliban, these deer-in-the-headlights critics paused, and then declared the victory hollow. They said the country had descended into rule by warlords, and called the very idea of scheduled voting a laughable notion. We endured them for almost two years. Yet after the recent and mostly smooth elections, Afghanistan has slowly disappeared from the maelstrom of domestic politics, as all those who felt our efforts were not merely impossible but absurd retreated to the shadows to gnash their teeth that Kabul is not yet Carmel. Western feminists, homosexual-rights advocates, and liberal reformists have never in any definitive way expressed appreciation for the Afghan revolution now ongoing in the lives of 26 million formerly captive people. They never will. Instead, Westerners simply now assume that there was never any controversy, but rather a general consensus that Afghanistan is a "good thing" — as if the Taliban went into voluntarily exile due to occasional censure from The New York Review of Books.
Fascistic neighbors rightly see elections in Iraq as near fatal to their own bankrupt regimes. Some have oil; others have terrorists; still more, like Iran and Saudi Arabia, have both. Unlike Afghanistan, there is no neutral India or Russia nearby to keep Islamists wary, only the provinces of the ancient caliphate to supply plenty of jihadists to continue the work of September 11. Our mistakes in the reconstruction of Iraq were never properly critiqued as naïve and too magnanimous, but rather they were decried by the Left as cruel and punitive — as if being too lax was proof of being harsh.According to Hanson, America's idealism--call it the Bush Doctrine or the cabal of Neo-Cons--
has been caricatured with every type of slur — from both the radical Left and the paleo-Right, ranging from alleged Likud conspiracies and neo-con pipe dreams to secret pipeline deals and plans for a new American imperium in the Middle East shepherded in by the Bush dynasts. In fact, the effort not just to strike back after September 11, but to alter the very landscape in which our enemies operated was the only choice we had if we wished to end the cruise-missile/bomb-'em-for-a-day cycle of the past 20 years, the ultimate logic of which had led to the crater at the World Trade Center.Hanson concludes that prior political labels didn't survive the new millennia:
[Our enemies know] that America is not propping up despotism anymore, but is now the general foe of both theocracies and dictatorships — and the thorn in the side of "moderate" autocracies. An America that is a force for democratic change is a very dangerous foe indeed. Most despots long for the old days of Jimmy Carter's pious homilies, appeasement of awful dictatorships gussied up as "concern" for "human rights," and the lure of a Noble Prize to ensure nights in the Lincoln bedroom or hours waiting on a dictator's tarmac.
The old left-wing critique is in shambles — as the United States is proving to be the most radical engine for world democratic change and liberalization of the age. A reactionary Old Europe, in concert with the ossified American leftist elite, unleashed everything within its ample cultural arsenal: novels, plays, and op-ed columns calling for the assassination of President Bush; propaganda documentaries reminiscent of the oeuvre of Pravda or Leni Riefenstahl; and transparent bias passed off as front-page news and lead-ins on the evening network news. . .Well, I would--and did. But Hanson says it so much better.
Who would have believed 60 years ago that the great critics of democracy in the Middle East would now be American novelists and European utopians, while Indians, Poles, and Japanese were supporting those who just wanted the chance to vote? Who would have thought that a young Marine from the suburbs of Topeka battling the Dark Ages in Fallujah — the real humanist — was doing more to aid the planet than all the billions of the U.N.?