As a conservative in no way comforted by the Clinton-Obama-Pelosi-Reid rhetoric on the war in Iraq, I should have taken heart from the president's fifth-anniversary remarks revisiting the Battle of Baghdad, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the thrill of Iraqi elections, the perfidy of Al Qaeda terrorists, the Anbar Awakening, and the success of the surge.
Was it because the speech, with its tone of meandering reminiscence, sounded more appropriate to a Soldiers Home remembrance 40 years hence? Or was it because I'd heard it all 40 times before? ("Defeating this enemy in Iraq will make it less likely that we'll face the enemy here at home."... "The future of the Middle East belongs to freedom.") That's part of it. But there was something else. In these remarks taking stock five years later, there was very little sense of, well, taking stock.
Indeed, the president was still rhapsodizing about the "transformative power of liberty" -- even as such power has failed to transform any of the Islamic societies we have been micro-managing over the past few years, from Afghanistan to Hamastan, into anything resembling liberty-based societies. ("Liberty" in Hamastan has practically destroyed Israel, a bona-fide ally and genuine democracy.) Turns out the "transformative power of liberty" always hits a rut in a Sharia-based society, but such a blip still doesn't show up on the presidential radar.
Rather, as Bush put it, "a free Iraq will fight terrorists instead of harboring them" -- although wasn't Iraq perfectly happy to "harbor" arch-terrorist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a little earlier this month? (And didn't more than 100,000 Baghdad residents rally in favor of Hezbollah in 2006?) "A free Iraq," the president continued, "will be an example for others of the power of liberty to change the societies and to displace despair with hope."
Such is the conservative dream -- and, more troubling, the conservative strategy to thwart jihad coming from the Middle East. Charles Krauthammer recently contemplated Iraq in similar terms: "Imagine the transformative effects in the region and indeed in the entire Muslim world, of achieving a secure and stable Iraq, friendly to the United States and victorious over Al Qaeda."