Upon hearing the Hussein story, I started an exchange with a good friend. He sent a message back saying that the capture of Saddam amounted to not much more than “an expensive Christmas present from” George W. to George H.W., and then he continued to ask: Why are we really in Iraq? If it is to stop genocide, why have we ignored the same in so many other instances in history? What is the September 11th connection? This is the reply I offered:
Because I was not a good enough person to stand up for a just cause yesterday, or last week, or twenty years ago, does this absolve me of responsibility to my fellow man today? The argument that goes “the same or worse occurred at such and such a time, and we stood by and did nothing; why should we take action now?” is morally bankrupt, and I am astounded that it has been used by so many in this instance. It is a complete abandonment of the concept of redemption, and an admission that self-improvement, whether it is for an individual, for a family, or for a nation, is not an option. Hopefully I never reach that point in my life, because if I do, what would be the point of slogging through more days? I had might as well just cash in the chips right now. I harbor no illusions about our world ever being transformed into a state of Nirvana. That is a condition that is not of this world, although when I was a child I believed that it was possible. However, having said this does not change my belief in striving to be the best person that I can be, or my conviction that our country, having been so uniquely blessed with both physical and human capital, bears a sobering responsibility to make attempts at righting wrongs and to defend those who cannot defend themselves.
I truly felt no smug satisfaction at hearing today’s news. What I did feel was a serene happiness for our soldiers, for those in the world that walked out on a tenuous limb with us in this broader action, and for the entire country of Iraq which may begin to shake off the specter of Hussein.
Hussein, bin Laden, Pol Pot, Taylor, Amin, Stalin, Hitler, Nidal, and on…they are figureheads. We may catch bin Laden, we may never catch him, he might be dead, or he may die before we can ever get to him. I believe that there is a sublime brilliance in this strategy that started in Afghanistan and then sharply refocused on Iraq. Not only have we made concrete progress in removing brutal, oppressive regimes in two countries, but also we have drawn a concentration of various groups of violent terrorists into a fairly definable geographical area, to be systematically hunted down and destroyed. Ask yourself, Is it just a coincidence that there has not been a single terrorist attack carried out on U.S. soil since September 11th? We were so vulnerable on that day, and yet no group or individual has succeeded in so much as a car bomb attack since then, in the very country where our cultural norms make such an attack possible to carry out. That may very well change, but the chain of events set in motion by our seizing control of our own destiny has surely held further domestic attacks in abeyance. Like flies to garbage, Iraq has sucked resources and people from terror organizations around the world. And while I would willingly go to serve my country if needed, I would rather be in harm’s way on the streets of a foreign country than on LaSalle and Jackson.
One of the most powerful messages that today’s events carry to the “Great and Fearless Leaders” of despotic regimes is: This could be you. You can bet that the message is being received and pondered by Jong, Khameini, Quaddafi, Arafat, and even Mubarak, the House of Saud, and Musharaff: These hypocritical dirtbags have sold “their people” a royal bill of goods for years. Did we as a nation have dealings with them in the past? Yes, of course we did. Does that fact preclude us from pursuing a more just view of the world which we by default, mind you, are left to lead? I say no. I do not want my three children to be dealing with the same intractable problems we have at present, nor do I want to lose them to some future military conflagration. I think that following our country’s current course of action radically reduces the likelihood of either scenario.