You know, it must be easy to be a columnist. Unless another columnist takes you to task, you can write something ludicrous every week and still criticize others with impunity, as if you actually posess any more insight than they do. Case in point: I saw several links today to Charles Krauthammer’s “I told you so” column Victory Changes Everything. In it, he attacks Middle East experts for their dire predictions of severe reactions to our invasion of Afghanistan in the Muslim world. Here’s a paragraph that I’ll come back to:
The Arab street has fallen silent not because the president hosted Muslim envoys for a White House Iftar dinner. Nor because American children convinced their Muslim pen pals of our goodwill toward Islam. But because the United States astonished the street with one of history’s great shows of arms: destroying a regime 7,000 miles away, landlocked and far from American bases, solely with air power and a few soldiers on the ground — and with but a single combat death (thus far).
Krauthammer gleefully revels in America’s victory, issuing heartwarming statements like “power is its own reward,” but even though his support for going to war with half the countries in the world never wavered, his belief in the likelihood of our success certainly did. One needs only go back to October 30 to find a column entitled Not Enough Might. Here’s one excerpt, just for fun:
Instead, the enemy today is facing calibration and proportionality. The “Powell Doctrine” once preached overwhelming force to achieve victory. Yet we have held back. Why have we not loosed the B-52s and the B-2s to carpet-bomb Taliban positions? And why are we giving the Taliban sanctuary in their cities? We could drop leaflets giving civilians 48 hours to evacuate, after which the cities become legitimate military targets. We know our enemy is planning more mass murder. Every day of urban safety for them is another day of peril for innocent Americans.
Restraint has already cost a lot. An important element of winning is psychological shock, the key to demoralization, defection and disintegration. We have squandered it. Now that the first wave of American power has come and gone, the Taliban are ever more convinced of American uncertainty and of their own indestructibility.
I wonder how many Taliban units would have surrendered easily to the Northern Alliance had we levelled Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar, and Kabul? I wonder if the Pashtun tribes in southern Afghanistan would be working with our military to oust the Taliban if we had razed their home cities? And it certainly didn’t look like the Taliban were convinced of their own indestructibility when they fled Kabul in the night less than two weeks after Krauthammer wrote his column.
Krauthammer hasn’t earned the right to be snide by any stretch of the imagination. He’s a war monger, and in this case, war has worked out well for us. The reason it has worked out well is that we took a proportioned approach in Afghanistan — working with local elements who helped us get rid of the Taliban with limited loss of life, and who allowed us to look like heroes in victory as opposed to tyrants.
The reason the Muslim world has shut up about the evil Americans is that it’s nearly impossible to decry the United States when Afghans are cheering in the streets, ecstatic to have at least the opportunity to return to their normal lives. Taped statements of Osama bin Laden have been replaced by tapes of cheering crowds, people listening to music for the first time in years, and coverage of victorious Muslim soldiers of the Northern Alliance. Had we taken the head on approach that Krauthammer preferred until he saw that the approach we actually took worked better, the war in Afghanistan would have been a blood bath followed by a humanitarian crisis that would confirm every bad assumption about the US in the Muslim world.
Since September 11, Krauthammer has been decrying the very idea that we are fighting a war of liberation in Afghanistan, and yet taking the first steps toward restoring freedom and dignity to the Afghans has been the greatest ray of hope for me since the attack. Charles Krauthammer ought to be reassesing his own bloodthirsty, jingoistic worldview rather than heaping scorn on Middle East experts who were no more incorrect than he was. Think before you link.