Over at Castle Argghhh is a post about Tom Friedman’s December 23rd Column in the New York Times that I believe clearly lays out what the stakes are in Iraq:
There is much to dislike about this war in Iraq, but there is no denying the stakes. And that picture really framed them: this is a war between some people in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world who – for the first time ever in their region – are trying to organize an election to choose their own leaders and write their own constitution versus all the forces arrayed against them.
Do not be fooled into thinking that the Iraqi gunmen in this picture are really defending their country and have no alternative. The Sunni-Baathist minority that ruled Iraq for so many years has been invited, indeed begged, to join in this election and to share in the design and wealth of post-Saddam Iraq.
As the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum so rightly pointed out to me, “These so-called insurgents in Iraq are the real fascists, the real colonialists, the real imperialists of our age.” They are a tiny minority who want to rule Iraq by force and rip off its oil wealth for themselves. It’s time we called them by their real names.
However this war started, however badly it has been managed, however much you wish we were not there, do not kid yourself that this is not what it is about: people who want to hold a free and fair election to determine their own future, opposed by a virulent nihilistic minority that wants to prevent that. That is all that the insurgents stand for.
Friedman goes on to conclude:
We may lose because our Arab allies won’t lift a finger to support an election in Iraq – either because they fear they’ll be next to face such pressures, or because the thought of democratically elected Shiites holding power in a country once led by Sunnis is anathema to them.
We may lose because most Europeans, having been made stupid by their own weakness, would rather see America fail in Iraq than lift a finger for free and fair elections there.
As is so often the case, the statesman who framed the stakes best is the British prime minister, Tony Blair. Count me a “Blair Democrat.” Mr. Blair, who was in Iraq this week, said: “Whatever people’s feelings or beliefs about the removal of Saddam Hussein and the wisdom of that, there surely is only one side to be on in what is now very clearly a battle between democracy and terror. On the one side you have people who desperately want to make the democratic process work, and want to have the same type of democratic freedoms other parts of the world enjoy, and on the other side people who are killing and intimidating and trying to destroy a better future for Iraq.”
I believe whether you supported the decision to goto war or not – if you can’t see and understand the stakes before us in Iraq then you don’t understand at all the world that we live in today.