Two weekends ago
I was the reluctant guest of honor at a small, stuffy social occasion involving
a host and several people who “enjoy the column.” This is precisely
the sort of interaction I hope to avoid, but there are only so many times
you can reject an invitation before it becomes rude (in this case, three),
and so on that Saturday I subjected myself to the type of crowd that continually
referred to me as “Mr. Wise,” no matter how politely, or how many times,
I assured them Mr. Wise is my father’s name.
What began as dinner and drinks turned into an over-the-table question and
answer session, e.g., “What did you mean last summer by suggesting Howard
Dean isn’t a very smart man?” Well, I don’t think Dean is intellectually
honest, or especially gifted, and he seems to take far too much delight in
showing it. This had the Democrats in the room halfway to hysterics.
“And Bush was altogether on the money when running for president?”
Eh, on some things, but not on a lot of other things. If you actually
read the column you’d know I’m not the president’s biggest fan. “All
right then, name two things you think the president has done well.”
I love the way he’s overthrown toilet regimes in third world countries, and
I love the way he’s bombed militant pro-Taliban and pro-Hussein Muslims back
Now, I continued to elaborate, someone e-mailed to ask if I still meant what
I wrote in July, namely that the problem of insurgencies has more to do with
our failure to kill uppity Iraqis than it does with unhappiness in the general
population. Of course I still mean it. “What is the practicality
of killing uppity Iraqis?” None, other than it means one less terrorist
is able to drive a cement truck / bomb into a United Nations building, which
“But in killing more uppity Iraqis, wouldn’t we just be creating an anger
that will breed new terrorists?” Yep. But here’s a dirty little
secret: No matter what we do, it’s going to breed new terrorists. If
we kill terrorists, subsequent anger will lead to the direct creation of
replacements. If we ignore them, the consequent bravado of existing
terrorists will prove too intoxicating for potential recruits to bear, America
and its interests will be seen more as punching bags than is actually the
case, and there will come new terrorists. If we hang in Iraq just long
enough to see a stable, moderate government elected, it will be seen by militants
as just too moderate, which will lead to an anger that produces new terrorists.
See, terrorists don’t need opportunities to breed more foot soldiers, because
any circumstance can be twisted to fit recruitment.
“What about weapons of mass destruction? Does it bother you we haven’t
found them?” Nope. I’d have gone into Iraq because there wasn’t
fluoride in the water. “Shouldn’t it bother people that many of the
WMDs Hussein claimed to have came from America?” Look here: Iran was
a country that had taken American hostages from our embassy, that was putting
women to death for dancing, and so forth. The bottom line is, the fewer
living Iranian militants there were in the early 1908s, the better.
It just so happens Hussein was the wrong gamble. Regrettable, but it
doesn’t mean, two decades later, Hussein should have been given a free pass
for weapons he wasn’t supposed to have anymore. “And if no WMDs are
ever found there?” Also regrettable, but still the correct decision.
He was our mess to clean up, and we did. “Was it worth our initiating
war with another country for the first time?” Yes, and besides that,
had Carter been a man he would have sought a declaration of war against Iran
in 1979, but that’s a conversation for another time.
“What do you think should happen with Hussein’s trial?” Ah, here’s
another dirty little secret, this time about conservatism: There’s a far
greater appreciation for vigilantism and properly motivated mob violence
in the conservative character than is commonly thought; our instinct is to
hand Hussein over to the Kurds and let them have their way with him.
What the world needs is video of Hussein’s corpse hanging by its feet in
the streets, cf. Mussolini at the end. But on the other hand, the moral
thing is for the best; let the Iraqis try him, and hope the eventual outcome
involves street justice.
Brian Wise is the lead columnist for IntellectualConservative.com.