Thursday, February 03, 2005
Good speech. Very good speech. Clearly, there is still reason for me to put out my brilliant all-explaining piece on Social Security reform - the President put it at the heart of the speech, so he means it.
And the foreign policy parts of the speech were good, too - much more balanced than some of the President's recent utterances.
Apropos of which, a thought. The President talked, at one point, how the recent election proves that Iraqis are ready to fight for their freedom, and that we are fighting alongside them. I think that logic may be faulty. We've indeed just witnessed the quite edifying spectacle of millions of Iraqis risking life and limb to turn out to vote, including in the Sunni Arab areas that stand to lose the most from Iraq's transformation (whatever it's transforming into, it's not going to be a dictatorship run by the a Tikriti clan anymore). We've also witnessed, for about a year now, the pretty decisive failure of the Iraqi forces we're training to turn into a real fighting force. The only Iraqi soldiers showing discipline and mettle are the Kurdish militias; apart from them, the Iraqi forces have been thoroughly penetrated by insurgents and have a pronounced tendency to desert at the first sign of trouble.
What do those two facts - that Iraqis, in large numbers, have been willing to risk death to vote in their first real election, and that Iraqis have not, in large numbers, been willing to risk death to kill those who have declared "democracy" an enemy - add up to?
They add up to a complicated picture, a picture of Arab and Iraqi culture, with strengths and weaknesses that are likely to be enduring. The Arab peoples have been getting other people to fight for them (and, in many cases, they wound up ruling them) for centuries - the Berbers (who accomplished most of the conquest of North Africa and Iberia), the Kurds (Salladin, liberator of Jerusalem and founder of the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt, was a Kurd, leading Kurdish troops) and the Turks (who, of course, wound up controlling virtually the entire Islamic world), and so forth. It may be equally wrong to deduce from the election turnout that the Iraqis will fight to defend their nascent democracy as to deduce from the wide-scale failure of the Iraqi security forces that the Iraqis do not want to or cannot live under a more civilized and democratic government than has usually characterized the region.