Reactionary Amnesia
The good ole’ days in the Middle East.
By Victor Davis Hanson

in National Review Online

Our present policy, however poorly managed in postbellum Iraq, arose as a reaction both to the do-nothingism of past administrations, which, by general consensus, had emboldened al Qaeda to up its ante on 9/11, and the decades of amoral realism that propped up thugs and dictators who ruined their societies but blamed the ensuing mess on Americans and Jews.

So here are questions to ponder as reactionaries yearn for a pre-Bush past. Imagine: One of the various foiled terrorist plots — a Fort Dix slaughter, a JFK airport attack, or the suicide teams ABC news claims are headed our way from Afghanistan — succeed after 2008. Thousands of Americans die.

What does President Clinton or Obama do? Draft a tough federal indictment? Ask for a U.N. resolution condemning such violence? Count on a unified response with NATO, battle-seasoned after its heroic offensives in Afghanistan? Hope for help from the EU rapid-response force? Bomb the source where the jihadists trained (Gaza?, Pakistan? Syria? Iran?) — but only from 30,000 feet, and, as in 1998, without U.N. or congressional approval? Work with the Saudis and Egyptians and Mr. Abbas to curb such atypical zealots? Have John Edwards globe-trot the globe to use his courtroom flair to win over allies?

Or imagine that Iran announces that it is going to set off a bomb in its desert. Do we resurrect the EU3? Ask Hans Blix to return as nuclear inspector with Mr. El-Baradei and others to assure us the test was genuine? Send Jimmy Carter to Teheran (or better, find an aged Ramsey Clark to return as a special envoy as in 1979?). Or maybe beseech the new U.N. head, Mr. Ki-Moon who just enlightened us that global warming (read the U.S.) — not Islamic Jihadism and age-old sub-Saharan thuggery — caused Darfur?

It would be nice to go back to our pre-9/11 past, just as in a bloody 1944 the calm of 1937 looked to many of the starry-eyed far preferable, just as in the midst of the nuclear stand-off of 1962 we lamented the loss of the old “friendly” Russia and China of 1945.

But while our ancestors engaged in the same despair, the same blame-gaming that we so enjoy, they at least were not stupid enough to lose those far more deadly and dangerous wars. We can win like they did as well, but only if we face the future with confidence, and not pine for the return of a mythical past that never was.

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