This panic is everywhere, and now includes many who have been longtime supporters of the war. The panic is unseemly. The pictures are shocking and the practices appalling. But how do the actions of a few depraved soldiers among 135,000 negate the moral purpose of the entire enterprise -- which has not only liberated 25 million people from 25 years of genocidal dictatorship, but has included a nationwide reconstruction punctuated by hundreds, thousands, of individual acts of beneficence and kindness by American soldiers?
We are obsessing about the wrong question. It is not: Is our purpose in Iraq morally sound? Of course it is. The question today, as from the beginning, remains: Is that purpose achievable?
Doability does not hinge on the pictures from Abu Ghraib. It hinges on what happens on the ground with the insurgencies. The greater general uprising that last month's panic-mongers had predicted has not occurred. The Sadr insurgency appears to be waning. Seniormost Shia clerics, local leaders and demonstrators in the streets of Najaf have told Moqtada Sadr to get out of town. Meanwhile, his militia is being systematically taken down by the U.S. military.
As for Fallujah, we have decided that trying to fully eradicate Sunni resistance is too costly in U.S. lives. Moreover, this ultimately is not our job, but one for the 85 percent of Iraqis who are not Sunni Arabs -- the Shia and Kurds who will inherit the new Iraq. We have thus chosen an interim arrangement of local self-rule in the Sunni hotbeds. And if that gets us through the transition of power to moderate Iraqis, fine.
This seems entirely lost on the many politicians and commentators who have simply lost their bearings in the Abu Ghraib panic. The prize in Iraq is not praise for America from the Arab street nor good will from al Jazeera. We did not have these before Abu Ghraib. We will not have these after Abu Ghraib. The prize is a decent, representative, democratizing Iraq that abandons the pan-Arab fantasies and cruelties of the Saddam regime.
That remains doable. What will make it undoable is the panic at home.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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