TCS Daily

Iraq: The Visionaries

By Charles Matthew Rousseaux - July 2, 2004 12:00 AM

"Where there is no vision, the people perish."

-- (Proverbs 29:18)

Actually, people often perish where there's a vision -- particularly when led by one with the courage to follow it through. For bringing those pains, those prophets of change are often persecuted, regardless of the potential results.

For instance, President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair have been castigated for the casualties that have come for their dream of a democratic Iraq. Many more may die, despite the recent transfer of sovereignty. Their critics will continue to insist that a watchful status quo would have been far preferable to the troublesome, toilsome bloody road Messers Bush and Blair took. In truth, there's no way to be sure, since the adamant chain of events hammered out since the invasion can only be measured against airy visions of what might have been.

The two leaders ordered the invasion of Iraq because of the nightmares of the carnage that a rogue regimes or terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction would inflict on republican states. They had good reason to fear.

Saddam Hussein's trial for war crimes and human rights abuses speak eloquently for his vision of turning the region into a cauldron of terror and tyranny. Bin Laden's words -- and the Taliban's deeds in Afghanistan -- declare his dream of Islamo-fascism. The vision of Abu Musab Zarqawi is little different, as demonstrated by the beheading of Nicholas Berg. Zarqawi had a specific vision of Iraq. In a letter to al Qaeda operatives discovered last February, Zarqawi described his goal of starting a civil war between the Shiites and the Sunnis, which would force the Sunnis to give Zarqawi and his network a base of operations. If his plan failed, "If, god forbid, the government is successful and takes control of the country, we will just have to pack up and go somewhere else again, where we can raise the flag again or die."

Iraqis would appear to prefer the latter, and since they don't dream Zarqawi's dreams, his dream may almost be over. According to a recently released poll of almost 2,000 Iraqi households, they want to wrest their country from the bloody hands of Zarqawi and his henchmen. The poll showed that few Iraqis want political parties based around implementing religious law -- far more want them to be based around improving the general welfare. Despite the terrible attacks in June, 65 percent said they thought things would be better in a year, and over 50 percent said the country was headed in the right direction.

The interim Iraqi leadership shares that vision. Shortly after the transfer of sovereignty, interim president Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar declared, "We want a free, democratic Iraq that will be a source of peace and stability for the region and the whole world." Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has made many similar statements.

Many have had to take on unfamiliar and uncomfortable roles for that dream to be fulfilled. In Iraq, Lt. Gen David Petraeus has moved from commanding the unstoppable 101st Air Assault Division to training currently unreliable Iraqi units. NATO's means of meeting its mission of collective security is changing - indeed a senior administration official argued that it must change during a recent background briefing before the President left for Ireland and Turkey. But those changes have been met with stiff opposition from Jacques Chirac, who has a far different vision of the future.

Messers Bush and Blair have delightful dreams of the good that democracy might do in the entire region. The liberated citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan could serve as shining examples to their neighbors and become a bulwark against terror. Free states established in the heart of the region could slash at terrorists' bases of support and show potential recruits that ballots are better (or at least healthier) than bullets and suicide bombers.

The disease of democracy could be catching (heaven help the country that gets Florida-itis). In June, Jordan's King Abudullah said that although Mr. Bush's push towards freedom in the Middle East, "frightened people" it also changed the debate in a fundamental way, and "started a process you can't turn back." As The Washington Post's Jackson Diehl noted, King Abdullah is quietly making many reforms in his own country. According to Mr. Diehl, even Europeans and Democrats (can anyone tell the difference? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?) support Mr. Bush's democratic ends even if they deplore his direct means.

Yet those means were required in Iraq, and more than simple diplomacy is likely to be required for victory in the war on terror. The President's vision could work -- it has already provoked profound changes. It can't be forgotten that about 230 years ago, a ragged band of revolutionaries in a backwater colony proclaimed their independence, making a de facto declaration of war against the strongest military power of the time. Those visionaries decided that the imperishable value of liberty and the dream of independence were worth perishing for. Many did, and others lost all they had.

We now call them our Founding Fathers.

Charles Rousseaux is an editorial writer for The Washington Times and a frequent TCS contributor. Email: He recently wrote for TCS about Iraq: The Creators and Iraq: The Warriors.


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