Michael Totten

Taking Responsibility

I don’t know if we can reconstruct Iraq. I am optimistic, I am hopeful, but I won’t make a fool of myself and say it’s inevitable.
When the US decided after so many decades of feet-dragging that it was in the same trench as the anti-Saddam resistance, I knew it was the proper side to be on. The Baath Party is on the wrong side of history. Everyone knows it. And I am constitutionally incapable of striking a pose of neutrality between genocidal monsters and their victims, especially when we have the power to do something about it.
But the morally right side of history isn’t always the winning side. The Ayatollah Khomenei was on the wrong side in ’79 in Iran, but he won anyway.
If nation-building fails, most in the world will blame us. They would be partly right to do so. No one forced us to take responsibility for Iraq. The burden is ours if we fail.
But that burden is not ours alone. We are not puppet masters or God. Iraq is not clay in our hands, and there are battles of wills going on in that country. Battles between Baathists and Islamo-fascists and liberal Iraqi democrats. Iraqis are responsible, too. Most of the heavy lifting will really be theirs.
Much of the world doesn’t see it this way, but some in Iraq do. Here is Salam Pax, blogging from Baghdad.

Maybe we Iraqis did expect too much from the American invasion, we did hope there is going to be an easy way. Get rid of Saddam and have the Americans help us rebuild. I don’t think like that anymore. I am starting to believe that the chaos we will go thru the next 5 or 10 years is part of the price we will *have* to pay to have our freedom. This Beirut-ification is the way to learn how we should live as a free country and respect each other; it is just too painful to admit. It is too painful to have to admit that the [burn it down to build it up] process is what we will have to go thru. There is an Arabic poet who wrote a line which my friend Raed had burned into my memory:

This nation needs to learn lessons in destruction.

Salam, remember. And hope. Your nation may have learned that lesson already.
UPDATE: Matt Yglesias has a post on the same theme and with the same title.