The Magazine

After 1/30/05

From the March 7, 2005 issue: Just four weeks after the Iraqi election of January 30, 2005, it seems increasingly likely that that date will turn out to have been a genuine turning point.

Mar 7, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 23 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Yet three years later, East Germany had disappeared from the map. Gorbachev had a lot to do with it, but it was the East Germans who played the larger role. When analysts are confronted by real people, amazing things can happen. And maybe history can repeat itself. Maybe the people of Syria, Iran, or Jordan will get the idea in their heads to free themselves from their oppressive regimes just as the East Germans did. When the voter turnout in Iraq recently exceeded that of many Western nations, the chorus of critique from Iraq alarmists was, at least for a couple of days, quieted. Just as quiet as the chorus of Germany experts on the night of November 9, 1989, when the wall fell.

Just a thought for Old Europe to chew on: Bush might be right, just like Reagan was then.

Surely Bush's impressive European trip might have put this thought in a few other European minds, as well--but only because that trip took place in the aftermath of 1/30/05.

As for Old New York, listen to Kurt Andersen in the February 21 New York magazine:

Our heroic and tragic liberal-intellectual capaciousness is facing its sharpest test since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Back then, most of us were forced, against our wills, to give Ronald Reagan a large share of credit for winning the Cold War. Now the people of this Bush-hating city are being forced to grant the merest possibility that Bush, despite his annoying manner and his administration's awful hubris and dissembling and incompetence concerning Iraq, just might--might, possibly--have been correct to invade, to occupy, and to try to enable a democratically elected government in Iraq. . . .

It won't do simply to default to our easy predispositions--against Bush, even against war. If partisanship makes us abandon intellectual honesty, if we oppose what our opponents say or do simply because they are the ones saying or doing it, we become mere political short-sellers, hoping for bad news because it's good for our ideological investment.

The Bush short-sellers--in the Middle East, in Europe, and here at home--are being squeezed. But now is no time for the president to let up, or to cash in. Now that Bush has gathered momentum, he needs to forge ahead. There will be bumps, and setbacks. But if Bush can succeed in Iraq, force Syria out of Lebanon, and undermine the mullahs in Iran, then historians will say: Bush was willing to fight--and Bush was right.

--William Kristol