Abandoning the United Nations when the recalcitrant body failed to honor its moral obligations, the President did what he had to do, setting the deadline for war. But for that effort to be truly successful—not the military campaign, but the post-Saddam rebuilding of Iraq—he must address the biggest obstacle within his own administration: the State Department.
This is not simply a just war, but a necessary one. Not to fight terrorism, but to enforce terms of surrender that have been flagrantly violated at every turn for twelve years. No, fighting terrorism is merely an added benefit of toppling Saddam—but one that can only happen with a free and prosperous Iraq. And if State has its way, that goal will not be realized.
On Friday, contents of a State Department report blasting the President's push for democracy in the region was leaked to the L.A. Times. But what wasn't reported by the Times is that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy by State. Witness State's long-term undermining of the Iraqi National Congress (Iraq's opposition forces) and its near-completed mission to re-legitimize Moammar Gadhafi.
In a classified report titled "Iraq, the Middle East and Change: No Dominoes," the State Department boldly declares that democracy will not spread in the Middle East following the fall of Saddam, if democracy even takes root in Iraq. Essentially arguing that the Arab and Muslim populations are not fit for self-rule, State's report claims that "[e]lectoral democracy, were it to emerge, could well be subject to exploitation by anti-American elements." Many in the administration are livid. "It's incredibly racist and paternalistic for these Arabists to say that people in the Middle East will reject freedom," complains a State Department official.
Rather than a conclusion reached based on new or emerging evidence, the document reflects the long-held views of State. And so far, State has been right. But that has happened because State makes it so, by shunning freedom movements and propping up despots. Its predictions about the daunting challenges democracy faces in Iraq have some merit, for example, because State has spent years messing with the Iraqi National Congress, the umbrella organization of Iraqi opposition groups. After withholding funds from the INC and attempting to shut some of its key players out of post-Iraq planning, of course the prospects for a vibrant democracy are lessened when the best vehicle for achieving that goal has been severely weakened by State. And now State is reviving the tyrant of Tripoli.
At a meeting with the families of the victims of the Pam Am 103 bombing last week, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns indicated that there would be no more meetings with Libyan officials—there have been several since early last year—and that the United Nations sanctions related to Pam Am flight 103 could be dropped in a matter of weeks. A State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, made clear that this process was going to happen regardless of what the families want.
Gadhafi’s rehabilitation is almost complete. Late last week, the Libyan ambassador to London, who represented his government in the series of talks, told the Associated Press that Libya would accept "responsibility" for the bombing—though it is not at all clear what that means. Burns told the families that the Libyan statement would remain sealed until it goes before the UN Security Council, which is no doubt State's ploy to shield itself from criticism in the interim.
Normalizing Gadhafi will allow a smooth transfer of the throne to his son—who will also take possession of weapons of mass destruction. Burns acknowledged to the families that Gadhafi still has WMDs, which State considers a matter of "concern." What Burns didn't tell the families, though, is that Gadhafi still funds terrorists, including paying "ransoms" to al Qaeda affiliates.
Though Libya is not a country that would easily embrace democracy, State's actions to re-legitimize Gadhafi will make freedom there a nearly impossible goal. And if State acts in a similar manner in Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations, State's predictions that democracy won't take root in the region will indeed become a reality.