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Hitchens on the Middle East
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From an article in Slate about a conversation with Hossein Khomeini, the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson (who incidentally wishes the U.S. would lead the charge to topple the corrupt theocratic regime in his country), Christoper Hitchens has this to say:

The arguments about genocide, terrorism, and WMD—in all of which I believe the Bush administration had (and has) considerable right on its side—are all essentially secondary to the overarching question: Does there exist in the Middle East a real constituency for pluralism and against theocracy and dictatorship. And can the exercise of outside force hope to release and encourage these elements?

I very much like the way Hitchens phrases this question. It points out the obvious, that there are already groups and elements in favor of secular democratic government and human rights in every country in the region. They are just as much a part of thier own culture as the corrupt theocrats who rule. To speak of "bringing democracy" to such countries is poor phrasing. We must think about how best to serve, promote, and encourage those elements already present in the Middle East.

He asks whether outside force can help these thinkers and reformers, which is a bit of a disingenuous question. Of course it can. The question most relevant to Americans is, should we?

The answer to that question is tougher, but obviously I believe the answer is yes.

If you look at our record of actively promoting democratic values and human rights around the world, it would be difficult to argue against our words and actions having a profound effect in shaping the current political make-up of the international community. If either Hitler or the Soviet Union had prevailed, Europe, Asia...hell, the entire world would look much different than it does now.

The horrid condition of the Middle East is in large part our fault (but not all, or even most...that lies with the people of the region themselves). We've propped up corrupt demagogues, armed the enemies of our enemies to fight proxy wars for us, and have done little to promote the ideals we profess to value as long as cheap oil keeps flowing.

This flawed, hypocritical treatment of the Middle East came back to bite us in the form of four hijacked jets. We can no longer continue with the status quo, and we cannot withdraw from a mess we helped to create. We have to make things right, and that means peacefully promoting reform, but also using force, when necessary, to overthrow those who cannot and will not respond to diplomatic or economic pressure.

That's my response, and I'll leave you with Hitchens':

This is a historic question in the strict sense, because we will not know the true answer for some considerable time. But that does not deprive us of some responsibility to make judgments in the meanwhile, and we have good reason to know that the region can't be left to fester as it is. On my own recent visit to Baghdad, Karbala, and Najaf, as well as to Basra and then Kurdistan, I would say that I saw persuasive evidence of the unleashing of real politics in Iraq and of the highly positive effect of same. Conversation with Khomeini suggests to me that in at least one other highly important neighboring country, the United States has also managed to get on the right side of history, as we used to say.

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