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Jewish World Review April 22, 2003 / 20 Nisan, 5763

Mort Zuckerman

Mort Zuckerman
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The challenge of success | The Iraq of today is in a halfway house that lies between heaven and hell. Hell, of course, was life under Saddam Hussein, a decades-long nightmare of cruel dictatorship, a reign of terror that strangled its people and brought about oppression, horror, and humiliation. Heaven will be a democratized Iraq, marked by unity, territorial integrity, political stability, and civil society, with Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis blending in some decentralized governmental authority, all sharing in the enormous potential revenues from Iraq's vast oil resources.

The iconic tipping point in passage from hell toward heaven, of course, was when Iraqis with sledgehammers attacked the 20-foot statue of Saddam and, with a little hanging rope from the American military, brought it shatteringly down, begetting the shattering of Saddam statues all across Iraq.

Those crashes registered on the political seismographs of every country in the Middle East. From now on, every Arab dictator knows he must change if he doesn't wish to see his own statues come down. The Assads of Syria, the Qadhafis of Libya, the ayatollahs of Iran--they must all now understand that the rules of the game in the Middle East are utterly changed. As with Iraq, there will be no saviors for cruel and corrupt regimes. Not from the Arab "street," which stayed quiet, nor from other Arab capitals, which largely lined up behind the victors. And never mind the misguided demonstrators in Paris and Berlin who burned American flags while Iraqis hugged American soldiers and kissed American flags.

Weeding out. Having accomplished its military objectives with brilliance, courage, and altogether admirable forbearance, the United States must now perform a task almost as daunting: to rebuild a nation from the ground up. Those images of criminal looters are a metaphor for the difficulties we will face in creating from a cesspool of corruption and brutality a civil society in which the rule of law operates and rights are universally respected. We must nurture freedom of speech and assembly and help all Iraqis come to terms with the suppressed religious, ethnic, and clan loyalties that have so long marinated in the pressure cooker of grudges and resentments. The culmination of these efforts will be elections and a new form of national government.

Those who were so confident that America would mess up the war are now equally assured that America will mess up the peace, but all of them should be prepared to bite their tongues. Of course there will be setbacks. Many of Iraq's educated elites have fled, incomes have plummeted, a quarter of Iraq's children under 5 are malnourished, and there is no trust in the civil institutions. Critically, the tribal, sectarian, and ethnic antagonism fostered by Saddam's regime has left a web of old scores to be settled. We must prevent this kind of violence and forestall the reopening of old wounds and the creation of new ones.

The toughest part will be to weed out and prosecute the hundreds of hard-core Baath Party members, demobilize the Army, reform the police force, eviscerate the hated intelligence services, and rebuild a corrupt judicial system. It will be critical to apprehend and try, or otherwise liquidate, the senior members of Saddam's regime, especially in the security forces. We will have to be scrupulous in identifying, but ruthless in excising, those forces that could lead a postwar resistance against us and subvert a post-Saddam government.

A strong leader is required during this tricky transition period. Fortunately, the presence of U.S. forces will underscore our determination to nourish a moderate and civil regime and shape the political processes in Iraq and elsewhere in the region. If we move with speed and determination to establish a modicum of civil stability, restore electricity and water, and improve living conditions generally, our coalition forces might well be viewed as partners for a new Iraq instead of occupiers.

America's goal is not to subjugate Iraq but to promote a liberal political regime that will benefit all its people--Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. The Arab world refuses to believe it now, but the Bush administration full well knows this is the way to change perceptions and prejudices that have done so much to destabilize the region and create a breeding ground for terrorists. Democratization is not just a moral commitment but a strategic priority.

The triumph in Iraq has made it clear that America will insist that all rogue states end their support of terror. There will be disappointments, cruel setbacks, as there are still in Afghanistan (which requires more world help than it is getting). No matter what they may be, we must realize that we are far better off now, no matter what the challenges, than when Saddam polluted the region. We are dealing with the problems of success, not with the problems of failure.

In foreign policy, that is heaven.

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JWR contributor Mort Zuckerman is editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


04/15/03: Shape up or step aside
04/08/03: The latest in reality TV is
04/02/03: Chirac and Saddam's thugs are two of a kind
03/26/03: War by new rules
03/05/03: The high price of waiting
02/14/03: Needed: fast fiscal action
02/03/03: Clear and compelling proof
01/24/03: Midnight for Baghdad
01/14/03: They should have said...
12/24/02: Who finances the fanatics?
12/19/02: Put-up or shut-up time
12/09/02: Sheep, wolves, and reality
11/21/02: Curing the uncommon cold
11/12/02: Everybody has the right to be wrong but the Dems have been abusing the privilege
11/05/02: Force vs. fanaticism
10/30/02: Land of the sinking sun
10/22/02: No more cat and mouse
10/15/02: And pigs will fly
10/07/02: A shameful contagion
09/26/02: Calling a madman's number
09/23/02: Our rainbow underclass
09/13/02: Why America must act
09/04/02: After bubbles, a double dip?
08/20/02: No time for equivocation
08/06/02: No time for politics
07/30/02: Getting off the dime
07/17/02: What scandal cannot dim
06/18/02: Time to crack down: Where is the outrage?
06/05/02: The next new thing
04/30/02: Roller-coaster nation
04/25/02: A critical tipping point
04/15/02: Israel's endgame will impact the free world
03/21/02: In the face of pure evil
03/14/02: A man on a mission
03/07/02: Land of the Sinking Sun
02/12/02: Speaking truth about energy
01/15/02: Putting our house in order
01/12/02: Talking points for 2002
12/24/01: The shape of things to come
12/11/01: Finally, a clarity of vision
12/04/01: Apocalypse now
11/26/01: The Big Apple's core
11/06/01: What it will take to win
10/22/01: Getting the mayor's message
10/08/01: A remedy for repair
10/01/01: A question of priorities
09/26/01: Our mission, our moment
09/11/01: Running the asylum
08/29/01: Hail, brave consumer
06/14/01: Blackouts --- or blackmail?
06/01/01: A time to reap --- and sow
05/25/01: A question of confidence
05/18/01: A question of confidence
05/04/01: Making the grade
04/26/01: The caribou conundrum
04/19/01: Chinese boomerang
03/27/01: The man of the moment
03/20/01: The Fed must be bold
03/15/01: Japan on the brink
03/01/01: Rethinking the next war
02/09/01: The education paradox
01/08/01: How the bottom fell out
01/03/01: Quipping in the new year
12/20/00: A time for healing
11/13/00: The need for legitimacy
10/30/00: Arafat's bloody cynicism
10/18/00: Arafat torches peace
10/03/00: A great step backward
09/08/00: The Perfect Storm
08/29/00: Don't blow the surplus
08/15/00: Voting for grown-ups
08/01/00: Arafat's lack of nerve
07/17/00: Can there be a new peace between old enemies? Or will new enemies regress to an old state of war?
07/11/00: A time to celebrate
06/19/00: A bit of straight talk
06/08/00: Using hate against Israel
05/26/00: Is the Federal Reserve trigger-happy?
04/18/00: Tensions on the 'Net
04/13/00: A paranoid power
03/10/00: Fuel prices in the red zone
02/25/00: Web wake-up call
02/18/00: Back to the future
01/21/00: Whistling while we work
01/11/00: Loose lips, fast quips
12/23/99: The times of our lives
12/14/99: Hey, big spender
11/18/99: Fountain of Youth
11/04/99: An impossible partner
10/14/99: A nation divided
10/05/99: India at center stage
09/21/99: Along with good cops, we need a better probation system
09/08/99: Though plundered and confused, Russia can solve its problems
08/31/99: The military should spend more on forces and less on facilities
08/05/99: Squandering the surplus
07/06/99: More than ever, America's unique promise is a reality
06/24/99: The time has come to hit the brakes on affirmative action
06/15/99: America should take pride in honoring its responsibilities
06/02/99: The Middle Kingdom shows its antagonistic side
05/11/99: Technology's transforming power is giving a lift to everything
05/04/99: The big game gets bigger
04/30/99: On Kosovo, Russia talked loudly and carried a small stick
04/21/99: No time to go wobbly
04/13/99: The Evil of two lessers

© 2001, Mortimer Zuckerman