Victor Davis Hanson shrewdly notices that the Iraq War is controversial: some people say it can be won, and others say it can't, and still others say the experiment never should've been attempted.
The public, meanwhile, is fickle and none too bright - Shakespeare taught us this, somewhere or other - and it accordingly oscillates between the clear-eyed optimism of Sean Hannity and the abject nihilism of Chris Matthews.
Naturally, this means that "it will be left to historians...to adjudicate the final verdict." And since Hanson is an historian of sorts, he figures he may as well get the ball rolling.
To the objective bystander, certain things are beyond dispute. First off, "we have not been hit since 9/11, despite the dire predictions from almost everyone of serial attacks to come."
This is elementary, once you concede that the anthrax attacks were not a "hit," and that our allies in this War for Western Civilization don't really qualify as "we," and that our soldiers and other assets in Iraq don't really count as "we" either.
You also need to assume that the financial and political costs of paranoia, racial scapegoating, and security theater are not only negligible, but beyond the powers of the Evildoers to conceive, let alone to profit from.
It's heartening to see Hanson sneer at the "dire predictions" that've been made about terrorism. We all remember how Oprah Winfrey tried to suggest that balsawood drones could fly anthrax spores from Baghdad to Topeka, and how Ben and Jerry wore out their Birkenstocks stumping for Project Bioshield, to the genial amusement of cooler heads like Mark Steyn and John Derbyshire. We may be in a struggle for our very survival, against an eternal and implacable enemy, but that's no reason to go around filling people's heads with tall tales about suitcase nukes and EMP attacks and cropdusters loaded with botulinum toxin.
Hanson goes on to anatomize what he calls the communis opinio (that's Latin, friends; see if you can guess what it means), and finds that it has failed to consider certain salient details. For instance, how many of you defeatofascist Islamicrats appreciate the fact that the war is being fought in Iraq - an ugly and alien land that is nowhere near the United States - instead of Manhattan, whose population is currently at liberty to drift dreamily from porn shops to piss clubs, without the slightest conception of the threat posed by Islamic Terror?
Also, consider the effect of the war on that collective ventriloquist's dummy, "the Muslim Street." Before and during the invasion, and for some time afterwards, it hated us enough to support suicide attacks against us. But "in the latter reflection of 2007 and 2008, it worried that such a tactic brought the United States military to its region, and guaranteed the defeat of jihadists along with any who joined them."
The sovereign remedy here was wholesale killing, which taught larval suicide bombers and other adherents of asymmetrical warfare that, by golly, going up against the USA is a good way to get yourself killed:
[W]hereas the conventional wisdom holds that we have radicalized an entire generation of young Muslims, it may turn out instead that we have convinced a generation that it is not wise after 9/11 to wage war against the United States.In theory, further attacks would render this opinion as false as it is incoherent. But in practice, they'll simply prove that we skimped on bombs, aimed our bullets too carefully, and were more inclined to psychoanalyze Evil than to destroy it. (I blame Hollywood.)
Remember when we led a Coalition of the Willing, ranging from Great Britain to plucky little Palau? Well, that's all over now. When one looks at the war from Hanson's God's-eye perspective, it's quite clear that we won it entirely on our own, or will have, once we win it, which we will, because we might, unless we don't, which'll be someone else's fault, because Lord knows our intention has always been to succeed:
Despite all the misrepresentation and propaganda, the message has filtered through the Middle East that the United States will go after and punish jihadists — but also, alone of the Western nations, it will risk its own blood and treasure to work with Arab nations to find some alternative to the extremes of dictatorship and theocracy.Rather than puzzling over that final weird amalgam of diplomatic and militaristic boilerplate, let's hurry to the punchline. As you recall, some people believe the war was a bad idea. But if everything went Hanson's way from here on out - and this point really can't be overemphasized - all those people would be wrong.
In 2008 there is instead a real chance that the original aims of the war — establishing a constitutional government, defeating terrorism militarily, and convincing the Arab population to reject terrorism — are at last possible.Our "original aims" might be "at last possible"? Better late than never, I guess.
All of this amounts to the standard militarist promissory note: "in return for the lives of your loved ones, IOU one conservatarian-approved democratic government in a former cesspool of ethnic savagery."
What makes Hanson's use of this tactic especially funny - or horrific, if you're one of those dreary people who can't bring themselves to see the victims of our grubby ambitions in the Middle East as already redeemed by some sort of world-healing heilsgeschicte - is his final line:
Iraq, you see, long ago has become a mirror in which we all see only what we want.Which is why it's so important, you'll agree, to restrict oneself to the Historical Perspective.
(Illustration: "A Study - Imperialism" from The Verdict, 1899.)