A Flash of Optimism

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The Washington Post July 31, 2002

The Anti-U.S. Tide Turns

By Michael Kelly (Op Ed)

In Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, R. James Woolsey, the director of the CIA during the first several years of the Clinton administration, argues that the end is reasonably nigh for Iran's long nightmare of theocratic fascism. Writes Woolsey of Iran's mad mullahs: "The storm that engulfs them may not be here yet, but it is gathering."

In this, Woolsey is illuminating one thread of a larger theory of the state of the world that is increasingly dominant in the Bush administration's foreign policy -- in great part because Bush himself believes in it as not only a practical but a moral matter, to a degree where he is willing to bet his presidency on it.

The conventional (post-Sept. 11) view holds that we live in a formerly bipolar world increasingly driven, and riven, by passions of faith and tribe, in which the United States may expect to be Enemy No. 1 for the foreseeable future. Batten down everything and get ready for a long, painful, bloody haul.

There is some obvious truth in this. The old order is gone; the passions of tribalism and nationalism are resurgent; the United States has many enemies, including among its putative friends.

But what if all of this does not represent something near the beginning of a long run of troubles but the chance (at least) for the beginning of a long run of relative peace? What if the market for violence against the United States is not rising but actually bottoming out?

The most obvious and powerful reason why this should be so is that the implosion of the Soviet empire was not, overall, an impetus for destabilization but rather for stabilization. The Soviet Union was for nearly half a century the greatest source of trouble in the world, and this trouble was chiefly aimed at the United States. The Soviet hegemon fomented, financed, armed and trained nations, groups and movements around the world to wage proxy war against America. Moscow worked to destroy regimes friendly to the United States and to support regimes hostile to it. The Soviets maintained the only military on the planet capable of even seriously contemplating an all-out war with the United States. There is no anti-American force comparable to the Soviet Union now on earth, and entities that depended on Moscow's money to survive are necessarily dead or dying.

And as Woolsey suggests in the case of Iran, anti-Americanism as an organized and really powerful passion belongs to a time passing, because of the passing of time itself. The great GREAT SATAN movements, the anti-colonialist revolutionaries who directed these movements and the Western intellectuals and politicians who supported them are creatures of the 1960s and 1970s. Their time was then, not now. They are all, as it were, Yasser Arafat.

The mullahs' revolution in Iran occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago. The Baath revolutions that ushered in the tyrannies of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Hafez Assad in Syria are equally out of another time. The generation coming of age in these states today thinks of oppression not in terms of distant imperialists but of the secret policeman next door. The United States is not the natural enemy of these people; it is, potentially, the natural liberator.

It is right to think that we are living in a hinge moment in history. But it is wrong to think that the large forces of this moment act on the hinge to shut the door against American interests. The contrary may be true -- but only if the moment is seized, with the very real dangers this entails.

Bush seems to know this. He has already taken four radical and risky actions. The first was to respond to the attack of Sept. 11 with the annihilation of the architects of Sept. 11. The second was to announce that the United States would do what it must, whatever any other nation thought -- and other nations should consider on whose side in the coming fight they wished to find themselves. The third, in the "axis of evil" speech, was to declare the United States' enmity toward three regimes that support violence against it -- and to tell the oppressed people of those regimes (in Iran, Iraq and North Korea) that Washington would welcome their freedom from evil. The fourth was to admit the dead-end fraud of the Oslo accords and of the Arafat kleptocracy, and so begin the movement to a real two-state solution in Israel.

The next -- most radical, most risky, most essential -- action in this process of doctrine-in-the-making will be to destroy the regime of Saddam Hussein and liberate the people of Iraq.

This will happen, I think, and this will be when history really begins to turn on its hinge.

-- (lars@indy.net), July 31, 2002



Woolsey, arguably one of Clinton's best appointees, was never in favor in the Clinton White House. A joke was that the plane that crashed on the White House lawn early in the Clinton years was just Woolsey trying to get an appointment with the President.

-- (lars@indy.net), July 31, 2002.

"A Flash of Optimism"? I don't know. I don't really buy into the US as world saviours (or Canada, either) nor will I as long as we're the large part of the 10% of the people that consume 90% of the wealth. On the other hand, I don't want to go back to living like my great-grandparents did; like the 90% of the people in the world do. Cause for optimism on my part would be sources of non-poluting, cheap energy. Oh, and replenishable, delicious, plentiful, healthy food would be good too. :-)

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), August 01, 2002.

A small nitpick: the population of Canada + US is closer to 5-6% of the world than to 10%.

A larger nitpick: We don't consume 90% (or whatver) of the "wealth". We create 90% of the wealth.

-- (lars@indy.net), August 02, 2002.

Lars, I think I said "part of the 10%"

And as for "creating 90% of the wealth", the raw materials used for the creation of goods are generally not paid for at North American prices when they come from 3rd world countries. When they dare to complain about that, our governments terrorize them. Ever hear of Allende? Or what about the whole reason Cubans supported Castro in the first place? Or the whole "AID" program thing, who wins in that? Most of the aid given by either US or Canada comes with multiple strings attached, and if given in monetary form, never makes it to the people of the country it's given to - not that that causes any changes for the next time aid is given :-( I agree that we do produce huge amounts of food and goods for the world, we just don't pay as much as we charge for what we exchange, at least not when weaker countries are involved.

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), August 02, 2002.

I have to dis-agree TC.

We do in fact pay much less to third world countries for their goods than we do to North American suppliers. However, when one considers that without the US and Canada to import the goods offered by those same third world countries, they most likely wouldn't have anyone to sell it to, or, would have to sell it for much less. Thus they as a nation would be poorer still, without their access to US and Canadian markets. We do create wealth in these countries, but it will take time for some of those counties to catch up to where North America was 75-100 years ago. Some countries may take less time, think of the Asian rim economies 60 years ago and compare that to those same economies today.

-- Uncle Deedah (unkeeD@yahoo.com), August 02, 2002.

Best said.

-- Carlos (riffraff@cybertime.net), August 03, 2002.

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