Day by Day

Sunday, August 31, 2003

This is simply fabulous.

All this hysteria and unrest should come as no surprise given the ambition of our endeavor, which is no less than a war of civilization to end both terrorism and the culture and politics that foster it. Still, let us ignore the self-interest of contemporary parties and reflect on the very scope of American audacity. In little more than three weeks, and coming on the heels of an amazing victory in Afghanistan, the American military defeated the worst fascist in the Middle East. Surrounded by enemies, and forced simultaneously to conduct the war against terrorism in dozens of countries and restore calm on the West Bank, the United States nevertheless sought to create consensual government and order under legal auspices in weeks — rather than the decades that were necessary in Japan and Germany, where elections took years and soldiers remain posted still. The real story is not that the news from Iraq is sometimes discouraging and depressing, but that it so often not — and that after two major-theater wars we have lost fewer people than on that disastrous day in Beirut 20 years ago, and less than 10 percent of the number that perished on September 11.

It is no wonder that we have almost no explicit voices of support. Most nations and institutions will see themselves as losers should we succeed. And the array of politicians, opportunists, and hedging pundits find pessimism and demoralization the safer gambit than disinterested reporting or even optimism — given the sheer scope of the challenge of transforming Afghanistan and Iraq from terrorist enclaves and rogue regimes into liberal and humane states.

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