I’ve been waiting for a piece like Kanan Makiya’s in today’s The New York Times Sunday Review arguing the Bush administration’s third or so justification for the Iraq war — after WMDs, al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein just being a really bad guy who had outlived his usefulness to the U.S. — the spread of democracy throughout the Middle East, was the cause of the Arab Spring. His entire thesis and argument is summed up by the column title, likely chosen by an editor, “The Arab Spring Started in Iraq.”
In making his argument, Makiya uses the common rhetorical ploy of admitting obvious failures — like every one of his assumptions underlying the invasion of Iraq — while continuing essentially the same arguments he used to lead the American people into that disaster. It’s a pleasant little attempt at historical revisionism, apologetics, blind determinism and more than a little hubris from a guy who should be humbled by the thousands of American and Iraqi civilian deaths in an unnecessary war he was instrumental in promoting. He even glosses over the administration’s widely accepted screw-up in forcing out Sunni Baathists from the Iraqi Army and government. He likes to blame-shift as much as possible onto the Iraqis.
Not to go too far, but he insults the Arab community by suggesting the overthrow of Saddam “paved the way for young Arabs to imagine” toppling Arab dictators in the name of dignity and respect. As if the uprising he cites after the first Gulf War was only the idea of George H. W. Bush and not a display of Arabs’ ability to imagine a new, different future. Let’s also remember that it was the first President Bush who let those internal, organic forces attempting to overthrow their strongman be wiped out. (One might also ask the 1979 Iranian revolutionaries, who imagined a different way and overthrew a Western-imposed strongman long before the Iraq War, if that idea was imported from the West. Maybe even from one of Makiya’s ancestors.)
No, it takes Westerners like Makiya and his neoconservative counterparts to enlighten Arabs and insert, forcefully if required, the idea of revolution, freedom, democracy, the free-market and lollipops into their heads. Oh, not to mention a desire for dignity and respect.
Makiya fits quite a bit of falsehood, historical revisionism and an incredible belief in determinism in very few words. But he and his ilk won this same fight before using this strategy. Maybe it will work again, and history can forgive faking one’s way into a costly (to others, not Makiya) war. It will be easy to forgive if Makiya and the like are successful in promoting their peculiar apologetics as truth.
Just remember the next time you see a young vet missing a limb or two:
While Makiya and others were happily courting and accepting the support and help of the same Arab dictators who are now being overthrown, that soldier was fighting for the Arab Spring (not to find WMDs, defeat al Qaeda, or take out Saddam). Supposedly. If we follow Makiya’s magical logic, which I could see Tom Friedman latching onto as well, everything was meant to lead to this. (Of course, by “this,” we actually have no idea what we’re talking about given the current state of affairs in the Sprung countries.) The neoconservatives’ mission has finally actually been accomplished, if they ever really had a coherent, fact-based mission in the first place. That’s the ultimate message Makiya wants to hammer home and into history. He may have lost the battle, but he won the war.
Thank you, Kanan, for finally writing the whitewash I’ve been waiting for. I’d suggest you work to insert your apologetics and historical revisionism into Texas public school textbooks as soon as possible. Facts are widely known to be anathema to our State Board of Education and they know early indoctrination is the most sticky.