Be Afraid

Responding to Victor Davis Hanson's bizarre assertion that withdrawing from Iraq would choke off reformist movements in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Palestine, Matt notes that all these governments are in fact allied with us already, making the reformist movements anti-us as much as anti-them. Hanson and his ilk seem quick to underestimate the level of hatred and fear we inspire among the region's populations; we are considered the firepower keeping the Palestinians oppressed and the dictators in power. As such, keeping our army concentrated in the area is much more likely to discourage reformists trying to topple or pressure the dictators we count as friends than inspire them. Post-Iraq, post Iran-Contra, post Intifada, post-Desert Storm abandonment of Iraqi dissidents, and post-Operation Praying Mantis (where we accidentally shot down an Iranian civilian aircraft), no one in the Middle East doubts our ability to bring massive force to bear in support of unpredictable goals. Bush's inauguration speech might have been for real, but then again, it might not. Ariel Sharon is certainly not viewed as less dangerous or bloodthirsty than the Iraqi dictator we just deposed, and our allies in the House of Saud are certainly no more committed to liberty and national self-determination than was Mohammad Mosaddeq, whom we overthrew.

Americans may forget what we've done, but others don't, and they're not used to elected governments that come in acting as if the last term was served in a different universe and the goals sought then have no relation to those pursued now. We are still culpable for our past, and so the idea that our massed forces in the region embolden anybody, rather than frighten them, is just absurd.