Like It's 1999
June 28, 2004
Foreign policy is not theology. The only way to make sensible choices in this realm is to weigh costs and benefits. A policy that might have been wise crumbles if the costs become prohibitive. For example, protecting South Vietnam from a communist invasion from the north was a worthwhile goal. The horrendous costs of doing so, however, made it a bad policy. For those of us who supported the war in Iraq, the question is simple--have the costs risen so high that they outweigh any benefit?
June 28, 2004
LAST AUGUST, during my first trip to Iraq, I was struck not by hostility toward the United States for toppling Saddam Hussein—I encountered none—but by a burning ambition among Iraqis to build their country anew. Nothing I saw then and nothing I have learned since has changed my conviction that the war was just. We were right to liberate Iraq and end Saddam's threat to the world. Still, we have learned some bitter lessons in the process. Our intelligence failed--we greatly overestimated Iraq's weapons of mass destruction while underestimating Saddam's destruction of Iraq's human capital.
March 01, 2004
How Saudi Arabia and Yemen's fraught relationship threatens us all.
August 01, 2003
Since the joint congressional committee investigating September 11 issued a censored version of its report on July 24, there's been considerable speculation about the 28 pages blanked out from the section entitled "Certain Sensitive National Security Matters." The section cites "specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers," which most commentators have interpreted to mean Saudi contributions to Al Qaeda-linked charities.
May 05, 2003
When Saddam Hussein’s army went to war with the United States, it took the hopes, fantasies, and myths of the Arab world into battle with it. Iraq was to play one of two historically sentimental roles, both richly resonant in Arab politics. And, in so doing, it would serve as the vehicle for people from Saudi Arabia to Morocco who yearned for an Arab champion, or at least for a glorious, redeeming defeat. The preferred role was triumphant defender of Arab honor against the imperialist threat.
April 21, 2003
Who's next? As Saddam Hussein's regime crumbled this week, that was the question being asked by commentators across the globe. And, when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld took to his podium to declare that the United States would hold Syria "accountable" for its weapons shipments to Iraq—a charge backed up by Secretary of State Colin Powell—it seemed the Bush team had finally provided the answer.
April 21, 2003
The war in Iraq has come and—barely three weeks later—already seems about to be gone. Of course, this is not the end of the Iraqi venture. Indeed, if history teaches us anything about modern Mesopotamia, it is that this venture will only get harder. Iraq frustrates those who attempt to remake it. The British tried, for many years, after they planted the Union Jack over Baghdad on March 11, 1917. That victory did not come to pass until nearly 30, 000 British troops had been killed, with a roughly equal number of Ottoman soldiers slain on the same battlefields.
March 03, 2003
"Ideas have consequences," the conservative intellectual Richard Weaver wrote half a century ago. The truism comes to mind as another group of conservative intellectuals, this one guiding foreign policy inside the Bush administration, prepares to launch a war in the Middle East--not for oil or geopolitical advantage but on behalf of an idea. The idea is liberalism. According to President Bush, "Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause," and, as such, he routinely casts the impending war as an effort to bring democracy to a land that has known only dictatorship.
They the People
March 03, 2003
A few days after the September 11 attacks, I received a note from a former student in Tehran. "[Y]ou won't believe it," she wrote, "but the whole country is in mourning. You should have been here for the demonstrations and candlelight vigils for America, it's all true: the tears, the long-stemmed roses, the candles, ... and then of course the hoodlums attacked and started beating us, especially the young kids, and arresting them. ... The funny thing about it is that those bastards felt betrayed by the love we showed `the imperialist Zionist enemy.' ...
November 18, 2002
The death threats began shortly after September 11, 2001. Every few days, for about four months, Khaled Abou El Fadl would receive an angry, anonymous phone call at either his San Fernando Valley home or his UCLA office. In his e-mail inbox, he found ominous messages from obscured sources with warnings such as, "You know what we're capable of." At first, the pudgy, 39- year-old professor of Islamic jurisprudence dismissed the calls as harmless outbursts at a tense moment.