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What Now?
In Dissent, Number One Hundred
by Brian S. Wise
8 April 2003Iraqi Flag

The Iraqi War is essentially over; a few brief thoughts on what should come next.


As American soldiers were contemplating whether or not to shower in Hussein’s bathrooms (sure, why not?) or raise the American flag over the captured palace (no, of course not), the Iraqi information minister (they call him Baghdad Bob, his actual name escapes me) was holding a press conference and saying, rather straight-faced, that Iraqis were slaughtering Americans here, there and everywhere; that Americans were most certainly not in Baghdad; that those Americans lucky enough to make it to the city limits were committing suicide, the implication being that the horror awaiting them (should they have the nerve to advance) was too much to bear, with suicide proving preferable.
 
Then to Greg Kelly on the Iraqi national parade grounds, with two soldiers.  Says the first: Well, you know, we’re right across the street from ol’ Baghdad Bob (a few miles, actually, but we understand that adrenaline occasionally breeds exaggeration), maybe we should drop by and say hello.  Just then, friendly fire breaks out, and it looks as though the information minister’s press conference, still taking place on the left side of the split screen, breaks up abruptly.  Approximately 30 minutes later (about 3.15am est), it comes that the body of Ali Hassan al-Majid (he was Chemical Ali) was uncovered by British troops in Basrah.  By quarter to five, Fox News was showing footage taken inside one of the palaces; gilded toiletries, enormous dining rooms, winding staircases, grand chandeliers and … troops, sitting cross-legged in the garden surrounded by flowers, others napping on the lawn.  (This part was great fun.)  By quarter to ten there were rumblings that perhaps the people of Baghdad had had enough and were rising against those loyal to Hussein.
           
The war is not over, in the sense that some notable battles may lay ahead, but the war is over by most other practical standards, in that the odds of Hussein’s forces rising up and reclaiming Iraq are about equal to those of the Tigers winning the World Series.  (Sorry, Detroit.)  That being the case, some are left to contemplate Catherine Herridge (all right, I am left to contemplate Catherine Herridge) and wonder what comes next.  Victor Davis Hanson (author of the brilliant collection An Autumn of War) addressed the matter, in a piece for National Review Online dated last Friday the fifth.
           
Wrote Hanson: “The world is upside down and we should expect some strange scenes of scrambling in the weeks ahead as side-glancing diplomats and nail-biting envoys flock to meet Mr. Powell in Washington, who — far from fearing those recent idiotic calls for his resignation — will in fact emerge as one of the most effective and powerful secretaries in recent history. Such are the ironies of war.”  He is right, and chief among the side-glancers and nail-biters: Russia, Germany, and France. 
 
Interesting thing, France.  Of all the countries that went against the United States in this, France was the one that seemed to take the most unabashed delight in rubbing us the wrong way.  You could almost (“almost” being a pivotal frame of reference) believe that most of the major dissenters will come around in their own charming, inimitable ways, but France?  And what of the United Nations?  If you were among those believing that both France and the UN were irrelevant long before the Iraqi debate began (I certainly was), how much stock can you logically entrust to either of them, their impotence having been so plainly displayed?
           
An Iraqi government will decide what role, if any, France will play in its reconstruction, and that is how it should be.  There is no point to Iraqi freedom if the United States leans in and says, “Hey, not for nothing, but ignore France.”  We have liberated Iraq, but we cannot (and more to a moral point, should not) attempt to make its most important decisions.
 
As for the United Nations, well … perhaps it would feel more at home in Paris than it does in New York City.  It may seem drastic, but part of what confounds certain talking heads (I mean myself, and whoever else should agree) about America is its reluctance to cut away certain cancers until it becomes too late to do anything at all.  The United Nations is a cancer and should be cut away.  If we cannot come to that, and even if we can, perhaps it would be wise to assume a grandfatherly role in the UN’s proceedings, i.e., offering contained opinions and advice when asked, but abstaining from votes.  Independence from things not good for you seems to be the mood of the day; Iraq’s from Saddam Hussein was the goal, ours from the United Nations should at least be considered.



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