Charles Krauthammer

     It was not brought down by diplomacy and arms control, the preferred realist means for dealing with the Soviet Union. It was brought down by indigenous revolutionaries, encouraged and supported by Ronald Reagan, a president unabashedly dedicated not to detente with evil, but its destruction -- i.e., regime change.

     For realists such as Scowcroft, regime change is the ultimate taboo. Too risky, too dangerous, too unpredictable. ``I'm a realist in the sense that I'm a cynic about human nature,'' he admits. Hence, writes Jeffrey Goldberg, his New Yorker chronicler, Scowcroft remains ``unmoved by the stirrings of democracy movements in the Middle East.''

     Particularly in Iraq. The difficulties there are indeed great. But those difficulties came about not because, as Scowcroft tells us, ``some people don't really want to be free'' and don't value freedom as we do. The insurgency in Iraq is not proof of an escape-from-freedom human nature that has little use for liberty and prefers other things. The insurgency is, on the contrary, evidence of a determined (Sunni) minority desperate to maintain not only its own freedom but its previous dominion over the other 80 percent of the population now struggling for theirs.

     These others -- the overwhelming majority of Iraq's people -- have repeatedly given every indication of valuing their newfound freedom: voting in two elections at the risk of their lives, preparing for a third, writing and ratifying a constitution granting more freedoms than exist in any country in the entire Arab Middle East. ``The secret is out,'' says Fouad Ajami. ``There is something decent unfolding in Iraq. It's unfolding in the shadow of a terrible insurgency, but a society is finding its way to constitutional politics.''

     Ajami is no fool, no naif, no reckless idealist, as Scowcroft likes to caricature the neoconservatives he reviles. A renowned scholar on the Middle East, Ajami is a Shiite, fluent in Arabic, who has unsentimentally educated the world about the Arab predicament and Arab dream palaces. Yet having returned from two visits to Iraq this year, he sports none of Scowcroft's easy, ostentatious cynicism about human nature, and Iraqi human nature in particular. Instead, Ajami celebrates the coming of decency in a place where decency was outlawed 30 years ago.

     It is not surprising that Scowcroft, who helped give indecency a 12-year life extension, should disdain decency's return. But we should not.

Charles Krauthammer

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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