Wednesday, April 09, 2003[posted by jaed at 8:58 PM]
The dangers of inaction:
Or, we don't want to have to do this again in twenty years
Stanley Kurtz comments (in the midst of an article on Josh Marshall's turnaround on Iraq):
I am not anxious to overturn any more governments in the Middle East than we absolutely have to. It may be that the invasion of Iraq will set off a chain reaction that forces us to sponsor more regime change in the Middle East, but I would far prefer for things to evolve slowly.All other things being equal, I would be sympathetic to this point of view. Not completely won over - among other things, there are the lives that will be spent under tyrannical governments during this slow evolution (would a slow evolution toward the abolition of slavery have been acceptable?) - but it's true that fast change is unpredictable, and when we're talking about these kinds of social forces, speed and unpredictability are dangerous. They might bring about something worse than the Arabs (and we) have to deal with now.
However: all other things aren't equal.
What I fear is that if we leave our action incomplete - if the Arab world remains dominated by tyrannies, by failed polities, and by what I can only describe as a habit of passionately spiteful self-deception on the part of its people - our action will solve nothing. We have taken half measures before - notably in 1991 with Iraq. They haven't protected us, nor have they ultimately spared Arabs the pain of transformation.
If we back off now from the task we've started and stop in Iraq, out of fear for the possibilities implicit in rapid change, and if the Arabs do not magically transform themselves into a peaceful and successful people, we will need to pick up the task again - not this year, maybe not this decade, but soon. The root causes of the 9/11 attacks - the sense of Arab failure leading to Arab shame, the poverty of dignity of the Arab middle class - have not been addressed yet. As long as those root causes remain unhealed, the attacks on the West will continue.
And there's worse. There is a pattern in jihadist attacks on America: they have become more audacious, more direct, and more destructive over time. Individual kidnappings morph into minor attacks on overseas military personnel, into larger attacks on American civilians overseas, into unsuccessful attacks on American soil, into the attack of 9/11/2001.
If we project this sequence into the future, what are we looking at? Perhaps in 2006, a dirty bomb explodes in Chicago. Perhaps in 2010, a more effective biological attack than the 2001 anthrax incidents. Perhaps in 2015, a nuclear explosion off Manhattan.
This is not a progression that can continue indefinitely. Sooner or later, it will go beyond our ability to tolerate. Sooner or later, if the sequence isn't stopped, there will be an attack so terrible that someone will push the panic button on these people and solve the problem that way.
It would not be wise of us to wait until then.