Thomas Friedman has a mixed reputation in the blogoverse. But today he writes a column that explains exactly what I’ve been looking for from President Bush; go read it and understand why we’re fighting, and what I’m talking about when I talk about ‘selling’ the war.
“We are attracting all these opponents to Iraq because they understand this war is The Big One. They don’t believe their own propaganda. They know this is not a war for oil. They know this is a war over ideas and values and governance. They know this war is about Western powers, helped by the U.N., coming into the heart of their world to promote more decent, open, tolerant, women-friendly, pluralistic governments by starting with Iraq … a country that contains all the main strands of the region: Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.“
“You’d think from listening to America’s European and Arab critics that we’d upset some bucolic native culture and natural harmony in Iraq, as if the Baath Party were some colorful local tribe out of National Geographic. Alas, our opponents in Iraq, and their fellow travelers, know otherwise. They know they represent various forms of clan and gang rule, and various forms of religious and secular totalitarianism … from Talibanism to Baathism. And they know that they need external enemies to thrive and justify imposing their demented visions.
In short, America’s opponents know just what’s at stake in the postwar struggle for Iraq, which is why they flock there: beat America’s ideas in Iraq and you beat them out of the whole region; lose to America there, lose everywhere.
So, the terrorists get it. Iraqi liberals get it. The Bush team talks as if it gets it, but it doesn’t act like it. The Bush team tells us, rightly, that this nation-building project is the equivalent of Germany in 1945, and yet, so far, it has approached the postwar in Iraq as if it’s Grenada in 1982.
We may fail, but not because we have attracted terrorists who understand what’s at stake in Iraq. We may fail because of the utter incompetence with which the Pentagon leadership has handled the postwar. (We don’t even have enough translators there, let alone M.P.’s, and the media network we’ve set up there to talk to Iraqis is so bad we’d be better off buying ads on Al Jazeera.) We may fail because the Bush team thinks it can fight The Big One in the Middle East … while cutting taxes at home, shrinking the U.S. Army, changing the tax code to encourage Americans to buy gas-guzzling cars that make us more dependent on Mideast oil and by gratuitously alienating allies.
We may fail because to win The Big One, we need an American public, and allies, ready to pay any price and bear any burden, but we have a president unable or unwilling to summon either.” (emphasis added)
That’s what I’m looking for from Bush; to take this war as seriously as I do and as seriously as our enemies do, and to make it clear to the American people – as FDR did, and Churchill did – that this war will take blood, toil, sweat, and tears. And that we will prevail, because we have no choice.
Because we really don’t.
· Cameron over at BeetsWerkin gently hammers Needlenose on selective editing in his Friedman quotes…
Pardon me for suggesting that Friedman doesn’t believe his own propaganda, either, but just a couple of months ago he was telling a quite different story:
The “real reason” for this war, which was never stated, was that after 9/11 America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world.
In other words, as I happened to discuss in a post last Thursday, the war’s goal wasn’t to project American ideas into the Middle East — it was to project American power there. Which, not surprisingly, is a development that Iraq’s neighbors (who will be next on the “hit list”) and anti-Western fanatics throughout the region want very much to derail.
I’m in the attic plumbing this afternoon (after a morning of installing brakes), so a longer response is due. Let me leave you with a medium-length one:
It’s absolutely the case that our task in the Middle East is to break the ‘various forms of religious and secular totalitarianism‘, and that we’re in Iraq because we had to start somewhere, and they were the ‘low-hanging fruit.’ My own words from mid-March:
…I believe the answer is to end the state support of terrorism and the state campaigns of hatred aimed at the U.S. I think that Iraq simply has drawn the lucky straw. They are weak, not liked, bluntly in violation of international law, and as our friends the French say, about to get hung pour l’ecourager les autres…to encourage the others.
Does that make it any clearer?