Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Why we can't retreat from the Middle East
OpinionJournal - The Real World: "This omits what has been the real threat and problem from the get-go. The Middle East is home to a gridlocked array of highly repressive governments, with their attendant secret police and highly controlled economies. To survive, people must as a rule make terrible compromises--just as they did in the U.S.S.R.--built around the institutions of dictatorship, and reinforcing those same repressive (and terror-promoting) institutions.

Baathism in Syria, for instance, doesn't just mean you must say only nice things about dictator Bashar Assad; it can also mean you are strong-armed into informing on members of your own family. Authoritarianism in Egypt doesn't just mean that Hosni Mubarak gets to be president for more than two decades; it also means that if you push for real elections you can end up in prison. Clerical rule as practiced in Iran doesn't just give the ayatollahs a hand in politics, it arms them with a global terrorist network and the power to smother an entire generation of young Iranians who would like them gone."

Claudia Rosett writes wonderfully today on why we went into Iraq without the approval of France and Russia, or the UN, and why what we are doing and have done is important. And she says at least one thing that can't be said enough: "Abu Ghraib is flourished not simply as evidence that America made horrible mistakes in handling prisoners, but as an argument that the U.S. should never have gone into Iraq in the first place. Though had America stayed away, the murderous atrocities of Saddam would still be going on. And if experience is any guide, there would be no leaked Red Cross reports, no digital-photo exposés, no apologies, redress or reform. Just more mass graves."

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