Anticipating the conclusions of the report of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Survey Group, Daniel Henniger identifies the likely significance of that “new direction.”
after routing Saddam’s army in the south, President George H.W. Bush urged the Iraqi generals and people to “take matters into their own hands” against Saddam. Then on Feb. 27 came the White House order to Gen. Schwarzkopf to stand down and thus forgo the destruction of Saddam’s tank army. The Bush 41 team expected Saddam’s Baathist generals to finish him off and “stabilize” Iraq. That was realism. The secretary of state was Jim Baker and the deputy national security advisor to Brent Scowcroft was Robert Gates. Shortly, Saddam’s systematic, tank-led slaughter began of the Shiites in the south and Kurds in the north. In April, U.N. Resolution 688 said the attacks “threaten international peace and security in the region.” Mr. Gates acknowledged the miscalculation in the New Yorker last year.
The opinion of the American people matters, and this week’s election reflected fatigue with Iraq. We may be seeking a “way out,” but if the Iraq Survey Group proposes a solution with the merest whiff of selling out Iraq’s popularly elected Shiites, expect crudely realistic leaders in Russia, China, Nigeria, Venezuela, Bolivia, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere to conclude they too can downgrade, or obliterate, their own U.S.-oriented democratic groups. Then we can roll back the real end to notions of democratic possibility to the end of World War II. And with Democratic Party assent.