What liberation tells us about Iran and the bomb.
Michael Ubaldi, January 18, 2006.
In terms of politics, Freedom House's December announcement that the year of 2005 was "one of the most successful for freedom" in three decades kicked off a holiday for democratists who usually promote their argument in apology. Dictatorships down in number, stable democracies up; in-between nations mostly edging towards liberalism. The Near East was signally visited by reform, moving Freedom House director Thomas Melia to frame the events as a sign "that men and women in this region share the universal desire to live in free societies."
Inherent self-determination was the condition for an adjuvant occupation in Iraq, running as it did counter to several traditionalist doctrines whose advocates disparaged the campaign as a bungle if it wasn't hooey in the first. So the democratist turns around with the Freedom House report to argue how ideation was wed with practice, consummation serving to affirm both. There is a retort: The Near East's tilt forward was tangential to or even in spite of American-led efforts. But it comes from the same corner that augured Judgment in 2003 when most of the West had had enough of what was said desert peoples take pride in — enslavement, benightment, aggrandizement and quotidian brutality carried out by sovereign cliques — and deposed Saddam Hussein. The Arab street did rise; only, what do you know, it peacefully assembled and petitioned for equity and filed into polling places.
Every act of democratic spontaneity in 2005 proceeded on grounds set by some measure of Washington's influence. The Lebanese would still be quartering Syrian fascists if Bashar Assad lacked the punitive reference of a nearby Ba'athist; unless prodded, Egypt's and Saudi Arabia's regimes would not have so much as begrudged citizens nominal elections; Kuwaitis might not be celebrating women's suffrage quite as they did had they remained Iraq's nineteenth province for longer than six months.
And as for Iraq, ongoing document forensics reveal the free world's decade-long toleration of the Arab autocracy not to have been the custody of a regional balance of power but an unsound constriction of fulminate. The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes titles his mid-January report "Saddam's Terror Training Camps" for good reason: eleven government officials, he writes, confirm that the Iraqi Intelligence Service founded an ambitious internship program for terrorists, including those from al Qaeda, totaling eight thousand at least. So, again, it has been found that philosophies are procured by authoritarians as means to power — remember that Adolf Hitler was the Nazi least interested in national socialism — and that there was a manifest threat of Arab Socialist Baghdad handing off something to an Islamist subcontractor. Something like what? A chemical or biological weapon that, as Charles Duelfer of the CIA's Iraqi Survey Group determined, Hussein would assemble as soon as his Gulf War probation and sanctions could be pardoned.
Hayes interviewed defense and intelligence officials involved with the slow translation of over 2 million Iraqi Ba'athist government files; Duelfer got his best information from Saddam's advisors. Neither the question of Saddam Hussein's weaponry nor that of his terrorist malefaction could be answered with finality until each was made safely moot — and Hayes reports that Washington has examined less than 3 percent of captured evidence. From that is a truth countervailing any usefulness in biding time with a man like Saddam: Dictatorships, where the lie is prime currency, cannot be compromised by human intelligence operations while they stand. Saddam Hussein in his twilight grew insular and mercurial, ensconced himself in tribal elite and issued progressively opaque commands, often orally. How could that have been penetrated — Marlon Brando sent over to impersonate Tariq Aziz? We value George Orwell's decryption of Newspeak because a good author ought to be exegete of his own book; Orwell invented Oceania, not industrial totalitarianism.
As a replacement for the fulsome Mohammed Khatami, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a curiously insolent man, choosing international speaking engagements to impart the kind of mephitis most despots save for closed rallies. The theocratic state behind him is less candid. What is known about Tehran's Khomeinist mullahs? They are a) impresarios of global terrorism, b) despised by most Iranians, c) going to build an atomic bomb, and d) shrewder than Saddam Hussein, whose French-built nuclear reactor made for an easy pustule to lance in 1981. Western governments publicly estimate the Islamists will have a weapon in a few years, leaving Iran expert Michael Ledeen to recommend fitting Iranian revolutionaries with American dollars, if not materiel; and the US Army War College to conclude that if Iran must be a nuclear power, it should be the seat of a democratic government.
A European trio has led diplomacy with Tehran but it is President Bush who commands a military of any consequence. Speaking about the war to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the president set forgotten struggles and the underappreciated denouement of postwar Japan alongside Iraq. "President Harry Truman stuck to his guns. He believed, as I do, in freedom's power to transform an adversary into an ally." That would also apply to Iran. Appease Tehran, try to slow its unstoppable bomb program or — ? The democratist's argument was always strongest; now it is stronger.
Iraqis want freedom. So do their neighbors.
Michael Ubaldi, October 25, 2005.
In what some will think irony and others historical instruction, Iraqis brought Saddam Hussein before a judge and accepted by plebiscite the very covenant of rule by consent that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad refused Lebanon when he ordered, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis all but confirmed, the murder of Rafiq Hariri. As the last votes cast in the constitutional referendum were being tallied and the Tikriti gangster stood in court, refusing to announce his own name, Mehlis released as United Nations chief investigator a report charting dictatorial subversion of liberal polity.
Victory in Iraq is nearly complete. It was rescued by the brave Iraqi stand in April 2004 and ensured by the January 2005 National Assembly election. Yes, the country's regular business was halted for the referendum, as with the Assembly vote — but a country beset by driven killers faces extraordinary times. And as most security measures were carried out by Iraqi forces, Iraq will soon be able to handle the extraordinary. From some there is the turbid prediction that Iraq will spend the next decades variolate with provincial skirmishes and urban bombings — unsteadily gaining its feet, more Kashmir than India, unable to completely stamp out terrorism.
That can't be. In the 1970s and 1980s non-state authoritarians known as terrorists operated in relative freedom, often enjoying the same Soviet auspices as their Near East government sponsors (or rivals). They prospered in a nebulous region of the wide, wide Cold War world, but for 1979 Tehran and 1983 Beirut going about their murderous work quietly. Through the last decade of the 20th Century, democratic states overlooked burgeoning terrorism in favor of threats from established dictatorships. In the general, now that terrorists and states guilty of their effluence are primary targets, survival means less time and attention to metastasis. And that is notwithstanding the damage they are continually taking. In the particular, when a country like Ba'athist Syria is importing Allied soldiers and diasporic liberals it cannot possibly continue exporting thugs and fanatics.
All of this is contingent on military and diplomatic prosecution. It calls for a review of the Bush doctrine, that the free world will make no distinction between terrorists and state sponsors; or, according to Bush's inaugural speech corollary, authoritarianism in all forms. Syria is an enemy of the United States and its allies. Syrians wish to be free. In mid-October the Aspen Institute's Jeff Gedmin met with Syrian exiles, led by Farid Ghadry of the Reform Party of Syria, in Paris. What did the three dozen exiles think? "Damascus is ready for meltdown." Western academics recoil at the tangled mess a fallen house of Assad would surely leave behind but Ghadry and his fellows know better — there is no such thing as a dictatorship built on honesty, faith and merit. Congress and the White House will make the decision of what exactly is to be done with Syria. But an end to terrorist invaders in Iraq and elsewhere, fulfillment of the "forward strategy of freedom": that road leads to Damascus.
Where is the left? Another event added to the confluence is, today, the number of American dead after nearly three years of Operation Iraqi Freedom rising to just 500 shy of the sum of young soldiers killed in Northern France on June 6, 1944. The message from Democrats has been mixed — which is to say, capitulatory or blithering. On Capitol Hill, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy begged for US "extrication" from the conflict spilling, as West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd put it, "too much blood." Congressman George Miller of the Democratic Policy Committee attempted to shatter the law of non-contradiction through the use of high-speed bullet points, furnishing a plan that included depriving Iraqis an alliance with the country responsible for actually giving them the choice; replacing monies directed to political parties (i.e., democrats) with monies for what he called "democracy assistance for independent growth" (i.e., anyone); and resolving to protect Iraq against terrorists shuttled through Syria and Iran by moving "several thousand" troops back to Kuwait.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently visited Central Asia — the "Stans" — and in seeking more solid ties with the former Soviet republics she implored each nation's government to defend, rather than hold captive, its people. A National Public Radio broadcast on the event played a brief excerpt of the secretary's remarks. Just in case Ms. Rice's statement inspired anyone, the NPR announcer reminded listeners that when the secretary departed Kazakhstan was still being run by a strongman.
That is the left — if you doubt it for a moment simply examine mainstream reporting and opinion columns, or other leftist forums. America is condemned for looking on while a population is violated by a dictatorship, condemned for gently pressuring reform in that dictatorship, condemned for militarily initiating or assisting a forceful native liberalization of that dictatorship; and, finally, condemned for presiding over the once-oppressed population's difficult withdrawal from an unbroken tradition of dictatorship. The allegation shape-shifts but stably orbits a conviction of American culpability.
Sadly, the twin examples of Iraq and Afghanistan are not enough to preclude equivocation from those who will make no inference of universality. Progressives can expect to hear how Syria is not like Iraq, nor Iran; and how the suggestion of military exertion to liberate either is not only distasteful but inconsistent, since the policy does not extend to Egypt or Jordan or Saudi Arabia, where the White House has chosen diplomacy to effect reform. The debate will go on and on, democratists hounded by the contention of the left.
But should the war proceed favorably, and the Near East liberalizes with the miraculous peripety of Eastern Europe, bringing quick, consecutive ends to dictators who have for years served the left's ad hominem tu quoque against American moralism, the matter becomes crystalline. There will no longer be another way, a should've-could've from the Democratic Party, since the Bush doctrine's medium-term objectives will have been met. The question to opponents of intervention shall then be: Do you support the unconditional advance and concord of democratic sovereignty through the eradication of tyranny? — do you believe men must be free?
Well, do you?
Michael Ubaldi, August 15, 2005.
Three recent events make plain the state of affairs with dictatorial Iran. The first event was Iranian disclosure that negotiations with Britain, France and Germany over the last year — which effectively ended nine days ago when Tehran rejected the European trio's commodity-studded appeal to halt nuclear development — were a pleasant way to pass the time as enrichment centrifuges spun. The second was a public divergence between the United States and Europe on remedies; the trio referred Iran not to the United Nations Security Council but to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA scolded Iran and Iran laughed it off; President Bush, on the assumption that Tehran is racing to build an atomic bomb, reserved Washington's right to military action and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder abnegated Berlin's, alleging that "It doesn't work." The third event provided evidence for charges of sedition that had been leveled, first by Washington and then Baghdad, at Tehran for many months: weapons tailored for use by terrorists were seized on their way from Iran to Iraq.
Europe's failure marks two-and-a-half years lost in diplomatic engagements since Iran's nuclear activities were exposed by dissidents. Round and round has the elder West gone, accepting whatever dialogue or inspections Tehran would permit, and taking denials and rebuffs straight-faced before returning for another conference — a process first sharing the plodding iteration and now the nonsensicality of children's rhyme "Hickory, Dickory, Dock."
In April, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the White House would wait until summer to render verdict — probably assuming that the Bush administration would know by then if negotiations had foundered, which they have.
Where to, now? There is a thrust-and-parry over what is and what can be done.
How do we know Iran is going to weaponize? Even failing common sense — tyranny seeks power, always — indications of uranium suitable only for bombs were discovered by the IAEA in August of 2003 and June of 2004.
How can military action be contemplated? Iran's mullahs obviously want nothing the Europeans will give them in exchange for cessation of research, the United Nations Oil-for-Food program demonstrates the futility of sanctions as more than means, and despite strategic doubts the only two choices left are the force of arms and shrugging one's shoulders.
What of reports placing Iranian nukes a decade away? First, Iran has never ended its war against we, the "Great Satan," and with its claws in southern Iraq is responsible for the death of American and Allied soldiers, here and now. Second, never in modern times has a fully emerged threat been dealt with as it might have been preemptively. And nukes, each advancement more irreversible than the last, are forever — see Russia and North Korea.
What about Iranian dissidents? There is the claim that military action will harm the sizable and aggressive democracy movement within Iran. But military action need not be incompatible with equipping an armed revolution. And, unfortunately, in the four years since Iranian democrats held candlelight vigils for victims of the September 11th attacks, insisting that Iranian independence come only from within not only smacks of pride but, for the security of the free world, offers diminishing returns.
A dictatorship with armies of terrorists and streets full of discontents wants to arm itself with nuclear weapons. So why wait?
Opponents of diplomatic and military assertion — the relativist left and some pragmatists and parochialists at center and center-right — have long been of the opinion that despot corners of the world were and are better left alone, that imposition amounts to meddling and meddling leads to unforeseen consequences that soon outnumber benefits. What have three years of American-led assertion wrought? The Near East's democratic watershed undermines the argument for disengagement but the broader left defends by pointing to emergent phenomena that, naturally, increase with time and depth of foreign involvement. If Saddam Hussein or the Taliban had not been deposed, go a great many claims, status quo x would not have been desirable but certainly more desirable than our substitution of y, since z appeared because of it. Whether certain instances of z are truly deleterious or more than temporary setbacks is debatable. In that debate, however, is the risk of mistaking ambivalence for prudence.
According to the press overseas, Europe believes it is mediating a petty dispute between Tehran and Washington. Gerhard Schroeder, discarding a military prerogative, bespoke a Europe prepared to appease and an Iran that will harness the atom. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac have not gone quite as far in acquiescence, but are not nearly close enough to President Bush for an impression that Iran cannot simply fool around until its research is complete.
One must be discerning with references to the Third Reich. But those who would charge excessive citation would deprive us of the finest in appeasement's case history, both disastrous and wholly avoidable.
William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich narrates Adolf Hitler's first three territorial acquisitions: the Rhineland, Austria and Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. Though a military incursion won the Rhineland, and the specter of mobilized Wehrmacht divisions were central to taking Austria by browbeaten plebiscite and Czechoslovakia by the Munich Agreement, the German dictator — confident during his first conquest but hysterical at moments of uncertainty during his second and third — was able to draw his demands, one by one, from Britain and France, whose governments were to abrogate treaties and deliver up millions, all to make unnecessary an armed confrontation.
Hitler's military could only bluff on the borders of Austria and Czechoslovakia; the combined powers opposite the Nazi regime were superior in every calculation. Had free Europe risen to meet Germany in the Rhineland, the assemblage would have crushed the Third Reich like an eggshell. Relativist quarters, the dysfunctional anti-nationalists and the solipsists, would have been smaller in number and lesser in influence; and the market for Nazi sympathy tiny compared to the solidarity racket enjoyed by today's terrorists and dictators. But it is difficult to see how a majority of English and French could not have puzzled over the brief armed conflict, wondering why men lost their lives to punish an Austrian whose German transmutation — vilely fascist as it was — expressed, following a strictly empirical military accounting prior to 1939, no threat to the Continent.
Such is the alloyed value of averting catastrophe: the insouciant scoff at what might have come. Unfortunately, Europe appears ready to perform an encore. So do those who trust dictators over elected statesmen. In judging Iran bilaterally or through the Security Council, the president can expect no help from the American left. The Democratic Party has invested much in the idea that danger seems to exist only in Afghanistan, except where terrorists sprout from the seeds of Western transgression — be it Baghdad or London. Tehran, or for that matter Damascus, are off-limits to consideration.
Now whether it is a desire, in the left's stifling contempt for Mr. Bush, to say Blue when he says Red; or sincere befuddlement with geography and polity, and those relationships to Islamist terrorism; the White House has an opposition party in a discomfiting truest sense of the phrase. Already one can read adjectives "bogus" and "false" attached to what leftists expect will be President Bush's justification for any action taken against Iran. That Saddam Hussein, according to the final report of Iraqi Survey Group head Charles Duelfer, was waiting for the death of sanctions he had spent half a decade arsenicating, that "Dispensing with WMD was a tactical retreat in [Hussein's] ongoing struggle," is not enough for the left. No, no help from the opposition.
Particular methods for punishing Iran — Deposition? Strategic elimination? Destablization? — are for the White House to decide. The public will be told and public debate will begin. President Bush should simply prepare to defeat the left in that debate as he did before authorizing the liberation of Iraq.
When he does, he may be alone. But he'll find himself, historically, in better company.
Michael Ubaldi, June 9, 2005.
Late last month Freedom House released a report celebrating a brief modern history of democratic achievement through popular reason and intellect alone. In a publication entitled "How Freedom is Won: From Civic Struggle to Durable Democracy," the organization has quantified successful liberalization in sixty-seven countries over thirty years as validation of non-violent struggle, the kind of "people power" billions have witnessed from Asia to Africa to the Americas to the old Eastern Bloc; and more recently in the Revolutions Rose, Orange and Cedar by Georgians, Ukrainians and Lebanese.
Freedom House's keystone is its "civic coalition," an entity of free association and itself a right that must be recaptured from governmental expropriation. The report is a gushing endorsement of neither satyagraha nor ambivalence: Freedom House's two caveats hold that, first, authoritarians will offer less than what organized people must take from them; and second, that the rule of strength must be at least partially mitigated before any democratic gains can be made. Freedom House's preferences are spelled out in its recommendations to policymakers in free countries with phrases like "collapse of authoritarian rule," "aid," "pressure," "support," and "resistance." That freedom requires self-reliance does not mean struggling people ought to do everything for themselves.
Specific and timely exertion of force or diplomacy must be understood and their mutual uses defended. The war on terror, the concept of democratization, the sacrifices of military liberation and the patient diligence of diplomatic liberalization have been resisted by the left and the Democratic Party when not outright reviled. Caught between a yet-unconquerable enmity for George W. Bush and a moral compass that is both relativistic and obsolete, opponents of the war and otherwise popular war policies have tread a strange course that has often defied repute and, as domestic political stakes have risen only to be won by President Bush and the right, stumbled into sociopathy. Last July the Democratic Party's own presidential convention brought an elder senator forward to compare a sitting president to elemental fear; that was followed by an offer for Americans to trade one soldier's life for that of twenty thousand Iraqis; and then a public bitterness on the victory side of Iraqi National Assembly elections, as if the triumph of freedom in the midst of violence and uncertainty had been at the left's expense. All of this came across television, print and webstream to scores of nations — including Iraqis, who were free men and no longer some black-on-white statistic, and could finally listen and hear their dehumanization.
Charles Rangel, Congressman from New York, particularly derisive of Third World freedom on First World dime, has now placed Iraqi democracy alongside the Holocaust. Given the choice between distant parallels, Saddam Hussein's twenty-five years of extermination and a difficult first years against Hussein's would-be Islamist successors, Rangel reached over those two and picked American intervention. Any explanations will be worthless, save those delineating Mr. Rangel as a common racist or a more focused, anti-Arab bigot. He is not serious; if Americans were more confident in their convictions the man would be out of office by next Monday. But Rangel is not unique and should not be confused with those who sincerely believe in appealing to conscience, where a legitimate conversation must be had.
Ahmad at weblog Iraqi Expat speaks as one who knows exactly what once prevented the Iraqi people from forming their "civic coalition," namely the gangster state of Saddam Hussein:
I have seen the wars, though not the last one; I have lived in Iraq during the sanctions; I have been afraid all of my life of any government official and the lowest rank police officer who I have to thank and apologise to if he decides to slap me and spit on my face. I simply lost hope. I used to think that Saddam [could] be toppled by the people, by an assassination or a revolution; but I was dreaming. It would never have happened, and even if it would, a new dictator would have came a long just like 1958, 1963 and 1968. Otherwise, Qussay would have been next.
Two countries whose tyrannical regimes are currently attacking Iraq and the Allies, Iran and Syria, have their own diasporas and dissidents living in frustration — ready to form their civic coalitions but prevented from doing so by a sufficient measure of violence and intimidation. To further liberalism and bring the end of this war and all others nearer, we have three obligations: rejecting the crass left; contributing to transitional movements; and considering Ahmad's dilemma, whether in certain circumstances the example set forth by Freedom House can only be followed when we begin with the force of arms.
Michael Ubaldi, June 15, 2004.
I received a forwarded news report from Iranian freedom advocate Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi — and it's troubling. My heart skipped a beat when I first read it. But we've known our enemies since the days right after Saddam's statue fell. Here it is:
Iran reportedly is readying troops to move into Iraq if U.S. troops pull out, leaving a security vacuum.
Michael Ubaldi, September 11, 2003.
Koorosh Afshar sent me word of his latest essay in Iran va Jahan:
You might still remember that our youth, the new generation of the Iranians, we, were the only people among the Middle Eastern countries, while opposing the ruling mullahs, poured into the streets and held candle light vigils to show our solidarity with the Americans, quite contrary to the vile policies of our government. At the time this seemed quite sufficient to disclose to others as to how we felt about the 9/11 tragedy.
Michael Ubaldi, July 30, 2003.
It's the most effective form of military preventive dentistry:
Four truckloads of weapons and munitions have been seized in raids by Afghan forces targeting suspected Taliban hideouts in eastern Afghanistan.
Also, Saddam's seven-inch singles are stiffing on the charts:
There is a reluctance among Muslims to replicate in Iraq the jihad fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
[A]rab governments may think twice about supporting Al-Qaeda, for fear of US punishment.