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June 05, 2006

What Time Hath Wrought

Via Betsy Newmark, Judith Klinghoffer reflects that time and distance have a way of changing our perspective on world events:

The destruction of Osirak met with universal condemnation. The UN Security Council passed a unanimous resolutiion "strongly condemns the military attack by Israel in clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct." The US suspended weapons deliveries to Israel.

Begin responded with admirable equanimity:

I know that in the days to come, all men and women of good will, wherever they live, will understand our problems. . . I believe that the nations are with us, and if, for various reasons which I do not want to go into, several governments condemn and may repeat it in the Security Council, well, my friends, what can we do? We are an ancient people. We are used to it. We survived. We shall survive.

Today, of course, there is similar unanimity within the international community only in the opposite direction. The world is grateful for the Israeli action. None other than the Saudi amabassador to the US, Price Turki, acknowledged that the attack was “probably fortunate." Even the BBC is running admiring interviews with the Israeli pilots who took part in the operation.

Or as TigerHawk notes trenchantly:

Osirak, like the raid at Entebbe in 1976, captured the imagination of Americans at a time when it seemed we couldn't do a damned thing right. Coming as it did just a year after our own disaster at Desert One, the Israelis revived our hope that it was possible to stand up to the world's dirtbags. Sure, there was no end of foot-stamping and outrage and tut-tutting, but -- in all honesty -- was there any non-French Westerner with a brain who wasn't relieved?

The interesting question is whether the Osirak raid was of any lasting strategic significance. Iraq, we later learned, was pursuing nuclear weapons along two tracks, and ultimately got closest via enrichment by gas centrifuges.

...was there any non-French Westerner with a brain...

The HVES is indeed grateful TH added that qualifier. To us, however, the most interesting aspect in all of this is the way the passage of time tends to damp out international outrage over what was essentially a unilateralist, pre-emptive military strike and in the fullness of time it begins to appear that, in the eyes of the international community, the end just may justify the means.

Time, it would seem, heals a great number of things. Perhaps one day we'll manage a similarly sanguine outlook on the unilaterist, pre-emptive use of military force in Iraq:

... will the U.S. stay the course? Many are betting against it. The Baathists and jihadists, their prior efforts to derail Iraqi democracy having come to naught, have now pinned their hopes on creating enough chaos and death to persuade Washington of the futility of its endeavors. In this, they have the tacit support not only of local Arab and Muslim despots rightly fearful of the democratic genie but of all those in the West whose own incessant theme has been the certainty of American failure. Among Bush-haters in the U.S., just as among anti-Americans around the world, predictions of civil war in Iraq, of spreading regional hostilities, and of a revived global terrorism are not about to cease any time soon.

But more sober observers should understand the real balance sheet in Iraq. Democracy is succeeding. Moreover, thanks to its success in Iraq, there are stirrings elsewhere in the region. Beyond the much-publicized electoral concessions wrung from authoritarian rulers in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, there is a new democratic discourse to be heard. Nationalism and pan-Arabism, yesterday’s hollow rallying cries, have given way to a “big idea” of a very different kind. Debate and dissent are in the air where there was none before—a development owing, in significant measure, to the U.S. campaign in Iraq and the brilliant if still checkered Iraqi response.

The stakes, in short, could not be higher. This is all the more reason to celebrate, to build on, and to consolidate what has already been accomplished. Instead of railing against the Bush administration, America’s elites would do better, and incidentally display greater self-respect, to direct their wrath where it properly belongs: at those violent and unrestrained enemies of democracy in Iraq who are, in truth, the enemies of democracy in America as well, and of everything America has ever stood for.

Is Iraq a quagmire, a disaster, a failure? Certainly not; none of the above. Of all the adjectives used by skeptics and critics to describe today’s Iraq, the only one that has a ring of truth is “messy.” Yes, the situation in Iraq today is messy. Births always are. Since when is that a reason to declare a baby unworthy of life?

Posted by Cassandra at June 5, 2006 12:53 PM

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