Apparent Victory

Well, it would appear that the regime in Baghdad has finally collapsed, and good riddance to them. They’ve been a scar on the Islamic world since they seized power 24 years ago. It’s good to see Iraqis able to speak freely in the streets the way Americans are.

I would, however, caution people about reading too much into these scenes of Iraqi jubilation. It’s true that the average Iraqi is probably thrilled to no longer have to live under Saddam Hussein. However, to translate this into any love for the United States is probably too optimisitic. It’s important to remember that these people have been living under strongmen and thugs for thousands of years. That doesn’t mean that they are somehow genetically unsuited for liberty — anyone who’s been reading this site knows I’d like to see more liberty in the Middle East, not less — but it does mean that they are used to a certain sequence of events when power changes hands, and their major part in that sequence of events is to rush into the streets and pledge undying love for the new boss, even if he’s the same as the old boss. Osama bin Laden summed this line of thinking up pretty well in one of his videotaped communiques:

“When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.”

Right now we are the strong horse in Baghdad, so everyone wants to be our friend. The real challenge we face in Iraq is just beginning. The outcome of the military phase was never in doubt; the question was how long and how bloody it would be, not how it would end. There’s been a lot of doubt, however, about American intentions for Iraq once the shooting stopped. Now we’ll have to demonstrate to the Islamic world that we came to free them and not to colonize them. If we can do that — if we can restrain ourselves from turning the country into a wholly-owned subsidiary of Halliburton — we might have the chance to bring some lasting good out of the blood that was spilled on the road to Baghdad. Here’s hoping that’s the case.