Our ultimate success in Iraq

What does America in its current radical liberal (called “conservative”) incarnation believe in above all things? In the goodness of immigration. In the wonderfulness of people leaving their ancestral homes and finding new homes among new people where they can fulfill themselves in new and exciting ways, thus proving the total cultural, ethnic, religious, and racial fungibility of humankind. By that standard, our involvement in Iraq looks like a stunning success, or, at least, like a promising start of our greatest immigration experiment ever. Since April 2003, an estimated two million persons have left Iraq to escape the endless waves of terrorist and sectarian murders that were unleashed by America’s replacement of Iraq’s only existing political order by chaos,—excuse me, by freedom—and another 1.9 million Iraqis have left their previous homes to live elsewhere in Iraq for the same reason. The refugees’ stories are told in Nir Rosen’s cover article of this week’s New York Times Magazine. Rosen makes it clear that many of the refugees are bringing their mutual hatreds with them to their lands of refuge, which up to this point are primarily Syria and Egypt. How will America, having destroyed—excuse me, democratized—Iraq, avoid the ultimate responsibility and liberal challenge of taking in massive numbers of these people?

Modern America’s prime directive is to democratize humanity, while bringing the rest of humanity to America. Our Iraq involvement may yet add a new twist to this policy: democratize humanity, in order to bring the rest of humanity to America.

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Howard Sutherland writes:

You say the likely import of millions of Iraqis will be a new twist on America’s policy of spreading democratism everywhere to anyone no matter what. I wish it were true that it’s new. But look at who has been coming to America since the McKinley Administration, egged on by T. Roosevelt and W.R. Hearst, decided to get the United States involved in imperialism European-style. In addition to all the European immigrants of the Great Wave, millions of Filipinos and Puerto Ricans, thanks to the Spanish-American War, millions of Koreans thanks to the Korean War and our benign occupation since, millions of Vietnamese thanks to the Vietnam War, ever-growing numbers of “refugees” from Cuba, Haiti, the Horn of Africa, largely thanks to our busybody policy of interventions to improve the locals’ lot and our misguided belief that everyone needs, wants and has the right to live just like Americans in a perfect American-style participatory democracy. Whether it happens by exporting our systems to those Others or by having those Others relocate here wholesale doesn’t seem to matter to our democratists.

The whole thing is a foolish and costly farce. The perfect democracy of Wilsonian and neoconservative dreams does not exist. Nothing like it existed in Pericles’ Athens. Does anyone with eyes to see really believe it exists in America now, or ever did? The False Prophet of Democratism himself, George the W, doesn’t even believe what he preaches. Nor does his Itinerant Apostlette, La Condoleezza. They traipse the globe along with Karen Hughes, apologizing ad nauseam in that Clintonian style for the unforgivable sins of the very nation whose political system they seek to impose everywhere else—even as George undermines it at home through uncontrolled invasion of incompatibles and executive encroachment on the separation of powers. It’s easy to lose track of the contradictions. Maybe only an intellect such as the president’s can reconcile them, by ignoring them.

You are right about the main point, though. Within a few years, there likely will be several million “refugees” from Iraq in the United States. (To be followed by Syrians, then Iranians, then Pakistanis, then…?) All are already here in ever-growing volume, as they are in Europe. And we have no idea who they really are, what they believe, if they have any interest whatever in becoming American or Western in any sense, if they wish us ill on religious and cultural grounds. About the Iraqi influx on the horizon, though, we can be sure the federal government will offer no special solicitude to Christian Iraqis, the least incompatible of all these incompatibles. Moslems are more multicultural, after all, and theirs is a Religion of Peace. As for Christianity, well, we all remember the terrible Crusades and the evil Inquisition (and the Slave Trade, and the Holocaust), don’t we?

LA replies:

By pointing to precedents for the Iraqi situation, Mr. Sutherland misses those aspects of it that are utterly unique and unprecedented. In Iraq, we launched a full-scale invasion of the country and destroyed its existing government in order to get rid of a regime that we thought threatened us through a possible alliance with terrorists. And we then set about, with unprecedented fanfare, to democratize this country, not just in order to establish a new government there but to make that country a model that other Muslim countries would follow. Yet the result of our invasion and attempted democratization was to turn Iraq into the biggest terrorism-and-murder snakepit in the history of the world. By removing the only existing order there and not replacing it (because we thought, like hyper-Jeffersons, that all men including Iraqi Shi’ites and Sunnis just naturally gravitate toward being self-governing yeoman farmers, each under his vine and fig tree and living harmoniously with his neighbors—see my comments on Joseph Ellis’s indispensable American Sphinx), we caused Iraq to turn, literally, into hell on earth, forcing millions to flee for their lives.

There is no parallel for that in past foreign interventions. We saved South Korea. We simply took over Puerto Rico and the Philippines (both arguably mistakes, especially making Puerto Rico a U.S. territory leading to the Puerto Rican influx, but that influx was merely opportunistic, not driven by mortal fear, and it was not necessary, as there was nothing requiring us to make Puerto Rico a territory). Yes, we fought a Philippine insurgency, but that was ultimately successful. We quickly liberated Cuba and there was no Cuban immigration until the 1960s, having nothing to do with our initial intervention. Vietnam failed, but the result of that failure was only what would have happened had we not tried: the Communist conquest of the South, though (and here Mr. Sutherland’s parallel holds), without the failed U.S. intervention, we would not have had the same obligation to take in all the Vietnamese fleeing the Communists, though we might have done so anyway). By contrast, in Iraq, in the name of curing Islamic extremism and ending Islamic terrorism by means of “freedom” and “democracy,” we helped unleash unimaginably horrific Islamic extremism and terrorism where it had not existed before, making Iraq unlivable, leading to a flood of refugees that there will be increasing pressure on us to take in.

Another aspect of Iraq with no parallel in those past events is that many of the people from Iraq who may end up here are our jihadist enemies.

Thus the American-Iraq Experience, while having some similarities with the past, represents a radical and horrible new departure, and cannot simply be subsumed under the category of historic U.S. interventions.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 15, 2007 04:11 PM | Send

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