Friday, September 24, 2004

Stongmen and Banana Republics

Wednesday night on Scarborough Country (transcript here, scroll down to the end), Bill Maher pined for the good old days:
You know what? Iraq down the road might be a better place without Saddam Hussein. The world, and especially America, would be better with Saddam Hussein. ThatÂ’s right, with him.

During the Cold War, you know, by not toppling so many dictators, by supporting so many dictators, we never had to make that argument. We never said, the world would be a better place without Marcos in the Philippines or Mobutu in Zaire or any number of dictators we supported, including Saddam Hussein. We just said, you know what, the world is a tough place, and we have to sometimes support bad people to be a bulwark against even worse people.
How is it that the Left, which prides itself as being smarter and more nuanced than those red-meat conservatives can be so consistently wrong about international politics.

During the Cold War, America did support thugs like Marcos and Maher is right about the reason. Those thugs, our thugs, were the front line in the American strategy of containment. The communists; the Soviets, the Chinese and their thugs, were even worse, and from Harry on (with some lapses under Carter), the Truman Doctrine said we would resist their advance.

During this whole time the Left protested this policy unceasingly, whether in Vietnam, Angola, Nicaragua, or where have you. The U.S. was supporting dictators and squashing the right to self determination of millions.

But something happened around 1991 that Maher apparently hasn't heard of. The Cold War ended, we won. With democratization and capitalism sweeping the globe, America's need to support dictators disappeared. You'd think the Left would welcome this development, but once again they're behind the curve of history.

After the President's SOTU address in which he coined the "axis of evil", and during the long run-up to the war in Iraq, the Left complained that Bush was unfairly singling out Iraq. "What about Iran?" they asked, "What about North Korea? Shouldn't we be treating them all the same?" The Left's juvenile refrain that we weren't "playing fair" belied their own claims to "nuance". Iraq wasn't Iran and Iran wasn't North Korea and the Bush administration correctly took different approaches to each.

Now, Maher argues that we needed Saddam as a bulwark against even worse people. Who would Saddam defied America from, and more importantly, why would he do it? Saddam survived the first Gulf War, cheated his way around sanctions, shot at our planes and tried to assassinate a former President. Does Maher think he retains a warm spot in his heart for America?

Where would a still regnant, post-sanction Saddam's interest lie? With the country that tried to remove him from power or with the jihadist terrorists that want to strike that country? Maher argues that if Saddam was still in power;
We would not have the world hating us. We would not have the entire Arab world out for jihad because we have invaded the heart of the Muslim world.
Maher is just plain wrong. September 11th preceded the invasion of Iraq and the jihadists hated us long before that.

al Qaeda and its ilk are not an enemy nation. They control no territory of their own. They need the cooperation or at least, indifference, of a host country to provide safe havens and training camps. As horrific as the mass terror of 9/11 was, it would be many times worse if they ever obtain WMDs. Countries like Iraq, under Saddam, are the ones who have the ability or potential to supply those weapons. As things stand now, there is no one worse than Saddam who we need protection from.