Our American Ally


Charles Krauthammer:

The barbarism in Mumbai and the economic crisis at home have largely overshadowed an otherwise singular event: the ratification of military- and strategic-cooperation agreements between Iraq and the United States.

They must not pass unnoted. They were certainly noted by Iran, which fought fiercely to undermine the agreements. Tehran understood how a formal U.S.-Iraqi alliance endorsed by a broad Iraqi consensus expressed in a freely elected parliament changes the strategic balance in the region.

For the United States, it represents the single most important geopolitical advance in the region since Henry Kissinger turned Egypt from a Soviet client into an American ally. If we don’t blow it with too hasty a withdrawal from Iraq, we will have turned a chronically destabilizing enemy state at the epicenter of the Arab Middle East into an ally.

Also largely overlooked at home was the sheer wonder of the procedure that produced Iraq’s consent: classic legislative maneuvering with no more than a tussle or two — tame by international standards (see YouTube: “Best Taiwanese Parliament Fights Of All Time!”) — over the most fundamental issues of national identity and direction.

The only significant opposition bloc was the Sadrists, a mere 30 seats out of 275. The ostensibly pro-Iranian religious Shiite parties resisted Tehran’s pressure and championed the agreement. As did the Kurds. The Sunnis put up the greatest fight. But their concern was that America would be withdrawing too soon, leaving them subject to overbearing and perhaps even vengeful Shiite dominance.

The Sunnis, who only a few years ago had boycotted provincial elections, bargained with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, trying to exploit his personal stake in agreements he himself had negotiated. They did not achieve their maximum objectives. But they did get formal legislative commitments for future consideration of their grievances — from amnesty to further relaxation of the de-Baathification laws.

That any of this democratic give-and-take should be happening in a peaceful parliament just two years after Iraq’s descent into sectarian hell is in itself astonishing. Nor is the setting of a withdrawal date terribly troubling. The deadline is almost entirely symbolic. U.S. troops must be out by December 31, 2011 — the weekend before the Iowa caucuses, which, because God is merciful, will arrive again only in the very fullness of time. Moreover, that date is not just distant but flexible. By treaty, it can be amended. If conditions on the ground warrant, it will be.

Charles lays out the fact that the Democratic success of Iraq has produced a few very welcome results. First being the huge defeat for Iran. Sadr is marginalized in the shadows, and the simple fact that its neighbor has signed a treaty with their enemy is a huge defeat all by its lonesome. The second result is one of the major reasons why our American blood was spilled. The first Democracy in a region that has seen nothing but brutal dictators and has been a hotbed of hate towards the West for eons is just remarkable.

For this to happen in the most important Arab country besides Egypt can, over time (over generational time, the timescale of the war on terror), alter the evolution of Arab society. It constitutes our best hope for the kind of fundamental political-cultural change in the Arab sphere that alone will bring about the defeat of Islamic extremism. After all, newly sovereign Iraq is today more engaged in the fight against Arab radicalism than any country on earth, save the United States — with which, mirabile dictu, it has now thrown in its lot.

Funny thing is, this has been what President Bush has envisioned all along:

November 2003:

The progress of liberty is a powerful trend. Yet, we also know that liberty, if not defended, can be lost. The success of freedom is not determined by some dialectic of history. By definition, the success of freedom rests upon the choices and the courage of free peoples, and upon their willingness to sacrifice. In the trenches of World War I, through a two-front war in the 1940s, the difficult battles of Korea and Vietnam, and in missions of rescue and liberation on nearly every continent, Americans have amply displayed our willingness to sacrifice for liberty.

The sacrifices of Americans have not always been recognized or appreciated, yet they have been worthwhile. Because we and our allies were steadfast, Germany and Japan are democratic nations that no longer threaten the world. A global nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union ended peacefully — as did the Soviet Union. The nations of Europe are moving towards unity, not dividing into armed camps and descending into genocide. Every nation has learned, or should have learned, an important lesson: Freedom is worth fighting for, dying for, and standing for — and the advance of freedom leads to peace. (Applause.)

And now we must apply that lesson in our own time. We’ve reached another great turning point — and the resolve we show will shape the next stage of the world democratic movement.

Our commitment to democracy is tested in countries like Cuba and Burma and North Korea and Zimbabwe — outposts of oppression in our world. The people in these nations live in captivity, and fear and silence. Yet, these regimes cannot hold back freedom forever — and, one day, from prison camps and prison cells, and from exile, the leaders of new democracies will arrive. (Applause.) Communism, and militarism and rule by the capricious and corrupt are the relics of a passing era. And we will stand with these oppressed peoples until the day of their freedom finally arrives. (Applause.)

Our commitment to democracy is tested in China. That nation now has a sliver, a fragment of liberty. Yet, China’s people will eventually want their liberty pure and whole. China has discovered that economic freedom leads to national wealth. China’s leaders will also discover that freedom is indivisible — that social and religious freedom is also essential to national greatness and national dignity. Eventually, men and women who are allowed to control their own wealth will insist on controlling their own lives and their own country.

Our commitment to democracy is also tested in the Middle East, which is my focus today, and must be a focus of American policy for decades to come. In many nations of the Middle East — countries of great strategic importance — democracy has not yet taken root. And the questions arise: Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom, and never even to have a choice in the matter? I, for one, do not believe it. I believe every person has the ability and the right to be free. (Applause.)

Some skeptics of democracy assert that the traditions of Islam are inhospitable to the representative government. This “cultural condescension,” as Ronald Reagan termed it, has a long history. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, a so-called Japan expert asserted that democracy in that former empire would “never work.” Another observer declared the prospects for democracy in post-Hitler Germany are, and I quote, “most uncertain at best” — he made that claim in 1957. Seventy-four years ago, The Sunday London Times declared nine-tenths of the population of India to be “illiterates not caring a fig for politics.” Yet when Indian democracy was imperiled in the 1970s, the Indian people showed their commitment to liberty in a national referendum that saved their form of government.

Time after time, observers have questioned whether this country, or that people, or this group, are “ready” for democracy — as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own Western standards of progress. In fact, the daily work of democracy itself is the path of progress. It teaches cooperation, the free exchange of ideas, and the peaceful resolution of differences. As men and women are showing, from Bangladesh to Botswana, to Mongolia, it is the practice of democracy that makes a nation ready for democracy, and every nation can start on this path.

March 2004:

Whatever their past views, every nation now has an interest in a free, successful, stable Iraq. And the terrorists understand their own interest in the fate of that country. For them, the connection between Iraq’s future and the course of the war on terror is very clear. They understand that a free Iraq will be a devastating setback to their ambitions of tyranny over the Middle East. And they have made the failure of democracy in Iraq one of their primary objectives.


The rise of democratic institutions in Afghanistan and Iraq is a great step toward a goal of lasting importance to the world. We have set out to encourage reform and democracy in the greater Middle East as the alternatives to fanaticism, resentment, and terror. We’ve set out to break the cycle of bitterness and radicalism that has brought stagnation to a vital region, and destruction to cities in America and Europe and around the world. This task is historic, and difficult; this task is necessary and worthy of our efforts.

In the 1970s, the advance of democracy in Lisbon and Madrid inspired democratic change in Latin America. In the 1980s, the example of Poland ignited a fire of freedom in all of Eastern Europe. With Afghanistan and Iraq showing the way, we are confident that freedom will lift the sights and hopes of millions in the greater Middle East.

November 2005:

In the short run, we’re going to bring justice to our enemies. In the long run, the best way to ensure the security of our own citizens is to spread the hope of freedom across the broader Middle East. We’ve seen freedom conquer evil and secure the peace before. In World War II, free nations came together to fight the ideology of fascism, and freedom prevailed — and today Germany and Japan are democracies and they are allies in securing the peace. In the Cold War, freedom defeated the ideology of communism and led to a democratic movement that freed the nations of Eastern and Central Europe from Soviet domination — and today these nations are allies in the war on terror.

Today in the Middle East freedom is once again contending with an ideology that seeks to sow anger and hatred and despair. And like fascism and communism before, the hateful ideologies that use terror will be defeated by the unstoppable power of freedom, and as democracy spreads in the Middle East, these countries will become allies in the cause of peace.

Advancing the cause of freedom and democracy in the Middle East begins with ensuring the success of a free Iraq. Freedom’s victory in that country will inspire democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran, and spread hope across a troubled region, and lift a terrible threat from the lives of our citizens. By strengthening Iraqi democracy, we will gain a partner in the cause of peace and moderation in the Muslim world, and an ally in the worldwide struggle against — against the terrorists. Advancing the ideal of democracy and self-government is the mission that created our nation — and now it is the calling of a new generation of Americans. We will meet the challenge of our time. We will answer history’s call with confidence — because we know that freedom is the destiny of every man, woman and child on this earth.

Of course, somehow, someway…this kind of message gets lost in the MSM. Gets distorted by the far left. And we’re left with this image that Bush will be judged as a bad President in the future.

We all know how wrong they are.

Iraq is won, Democracy is taking hold in a place I never thought I would see it in, and we’re here to witness it due to the bravery of our fighting Men and Women and the fortitude and courage of President Bush to ignore the critics and do what was right for this country.

Thank you President Bush.

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While I think Krauthammer has become something of a blowhard, he still gets it right from time to time and this is one of those times.

Curt: That’s a great post. What is your take on this in light with the continuing controversy on Obama’s qualifications and background , specifically in relation to Craigs link ,’The Trojan Candidate’, he entered on my post down the blog? Do all those questions end simply because Obama is now elected? Of course not. What do you think he will do with regards to Iraq?
thanks, srr

Curt, I applaud the result of a dead Saddam and some of the security improvements made recently in Iraq, but it will be many years before we know how strong an ally they will be. The question to me is was it worth it? Was Iraq such a threat that we had to expend the lives and money to achieve regime change. Given the state of the US economy and the huge cost ($600 Billion without replacement cost or future medical, some say $1 to 2 trillion total) was our national security improved by this expenditure? Could we have achieved a different result through other means? Was this a wise investment given no WMD’s and eminent threat from Iraq?

I just don’t know if it was worth it.

blast: You seem to forget the consequences we might be enduring had we not removed Saddam.

If you recall, we went through year after year of crisis with Iraq while Saddam plotted and schemed. Instead of worrying about a nuclear Iran right now we could be also worrying about a nuclear Iraq as well.


I had to go look up Best Taiwanese Parliament fights:

The women members cat fight was almost as good:


Now… trying to be serious:

This agreement with Iraq was historic and noteworthy. Had Obama negotiated it the story would be the headline around the world. But Bush is just not good at tooting his own horn and the “news” media decided long ago that they weren’t going to print anything good about Bush no matter what.

It took years for people to recognize that President Reagan wasn’t a warmonger and that winning the Cold War was a good thing. It may take years for President Bush’s vision to be appreciated.

Let’s just hope that Obama doesn’t wipe out this hard won achievement by doing something stupid.

Mike’s America, I love those video clips. Haha…

You seem to forget the consequences we might be enduring had we not removed Saddam.

What consequences?

I agree the current situation is historic and noteworthy and hard won. I don’t see the parallel with Bush and Reagan. Maybe I am being cynical, but our hard and soft power world-wide were elevated with president Reagan and I doubt you can make that case today.

The world was a different place when Reagan was in charge.
As for saddam, he was going to start his WMD programs back up as soon as he could. His connections with terrorists and WMDs would have been ugly. Not to mention he had multiple agents in this country which supports Putin’s claim that saddam was planning terrorist strikes against us. Let’s not forget, saddam was not the kind to turn the other cheek.

Saddam was not a imminent threat and was around from the time Reagan was President. Saddam was a paper tiger, his Army was soundly routed in the Operation Desert Storm and collapsed completely in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

he was going to start his WMD programs back up as soon as he could.

His connections with terrorists and WMDs would have been ugly

He coulda, woulda, shoulda. I am sorry HR, but even Bush now says WMD’s was wrong intel. If we invaded every country who posed some coulda, woulda, shoulda we would be invading North Korea who does have a nuke and the potential to fire missiles at the west coast of the USA.

I wasn’t saying the intel about him have vast stockpiles of WMDs was correct. I do believe he would have posed a threat to us and to our allies in the region first chance he got. Look at our problems with Iran. Their army is a joke too. However, do you think they aren’t a threat to us and our allies?
Remember blast, saddam had a successful nuke program in place once before. He would have done it again if he could.
We will have to agree to disagree on this one.

Excellent article Curt.

As an Iraqi, I am proud at how my home country has become with the help of our American brothers.

Iraq will remain a democracy – as we DON’T want to go back to dictatorships and we WILL remain one, if not the most, trusted American ally in the middle east simply because no other country in the region has had the blood of thousands of American soldiers spilled for the sake of democracy.

They will not be lost in vain as with the other thousands of Iraqis who died because of terror.

Thank you George Bush – in time you will be remembered as the hero.
Long live the USA and Iraq.

This may express our best intentions for a concussion but doesn’t cover or unveil the full pretenses of why we took up arms. Freedom and liberty are the noblest of struggles but to say they were the main agenda for the Bush administration is debatable to an unbiased analytical. Unfortunately this speeches dialog reflects an attempt to put a silver lining on a terribly miscalculated and mismanaged war. Bush failed there and that is the most regrettable truth that history won’t be so soon to forget.

Bottom line, the execution sucked and that’s always what matters most in the real time of events even though the end concussion will be victory.

The Bush administration time and again has consistently shown poor decisions and execution, been slow to make adjustments, and our country and troops have suffered dearly for it.

“… but to say they were the main agenda for the Bush administration is debatable to an unbiased analytical” (Mark)

Gnagnagna, will get you nowhere. Bush has done a great job and even Iraqis knows it. Read Ali’s post #9. I have an Iraqi friends here in Montréal, he is so proud of what happened in Iraq, he wants to go back and live there and he is so grateful of Bush effort in Iraq.

I suggest you read a bit on the matter. A good book for you would be: “Ce que veut Bush”, by Guy Millière written in May 2003. The whole scenario that Curt wrote in this article is all explain in that 2003 book.

The English version is : “What Bush wants”

“Guy Millière has come out with a fine piece of work with his latest book ‘ Ce que veut Bush: la recomposition du monde”. (‘What Bush Wants : the remodeling of the world’). Operating outside the framework of the French party line and the hysterical mass market press, Millière explains simply and clearly to the French what the United States is doing post 9-11.

If you take the time to read this 2003 book, you will never again come with the ignorant statement that I have copied and pasted up here from your post #10.

From Melanie Phillips:

“There are other unsettling indications that Obama may already be running a shadow foreign policy. Robert Malley, one of Clinton’s Oslo negotiators, is one of America’s most outspoken apologists for Palestinian terrorism against Israel and claims that Syrian, Lebanese and Iranian attacks against Israel are all Israel’s fault. The Obama campaign distanced itself from Malley last May after the Times reported that he was meeting regularly with Hamas leaders. But a few days after Obama’s election, Malley travelled to Syria, ostensibly under the aegis of the appeasement-minded International Crisis Group. Yet one of his aides told FrontPage Magazine that acting on Obama’s instructions, Malley traveled to Cairo and Damascus to tell Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Syria’s President Assad that ‘the Obama administration would take into greater account Egyptian and Syrian interests.’ And as Caroline Glick reported, Hamas terror operative Ahmad Youssef told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that in the months leading up to his election, Obama’s advisers held steady contacts with the leaders of the terror group in Gaza, and had asked that Hamas keep the meetings secret in order not to harm Obama’s chances of being elected.”

“For sure, Obama has made some solid and reassuring appointments, such as his Treasury team. But did anyone really believe that a radical president would appoint obvious radicals to key roles in his administration? But if not, the one thing Obama is not going to do is torpedo his presidency at the very start by displaying a radical bent. The name of the game must be not to frighten the horses. His centrist appointments are a smokescreen; they co-opt the moderate center, but he’s still the commander in chief. Obama plays basketball. I’m not much of an athlete, barely know the game, but one thing I do know is that you have to be able to look like you’re doing one thing but do another. That’s why all these conservative appointments are important: the strategy is feint to the right, move left.” (Melanie Phillips)

“Bush has done a great job and even Iraqis knows it. Read Ali’s post #9. I have an Iraqi friends here in Montréal, he is so proud of what happened in Iraq, he wants to go back and live there and he is so grateful of Bush effort in Iraq.”

Of course normal Iraqi’s are grateful that Bush invaded but he most certainly has not done a great job with it!

Insurgency 101: Make deals and bribes to get local tribal leaders fighting on your side to fight and sharing intelligence by what ever means necessary. That only took about 5 years because the Bush policy was just to let the local factions kill each other off which only increased ciaos and violence to the brink of civil war.

Troop Surge: Why the hell does Bush get credit for this? So many in Washington including a lot of Democrats were calling for more troops from the very beginning but Bush time after time defended the troop levels as sufficient. Again, 5 years late.

Operation Anaconda: The Army wanted to implement a plan that sealed off the one pass from Tora Bora into Pakistan to keep Bin Laden trapped, but that was rejected. He walked away the only way he could even though we knew exactly where he was. Huge Failure.

The end conclusion will be victory despite consistently poor execution and decision making by the Bush administration.