Turning Against the War

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The chorus of voices denouncing the war in Iraq is pretty loud these days, but the addition of critiques by its early proponents continues to be striking. And in his op-ed today, Michael Young, opinion editor for the Lebanese Daily Star, does just that. Young doesn’t regret his earlier support for the war, and there is no lost love between him and the Iraqi leaders—or would-be Arab reformers—critical of the occupation. But the noted Lebanese political pundit is also far enough removed to call the war a huge disaster, and to do so with more thoroughness than most Americans care to, even now. Like the My Lai massacre back in 1968, Young writes, Haditha “makes the notion of winning hearts and minds laughable.”

Even for those of us who supported the war, it’s plain that this is a March 1968 moment, though Johnson had a much easier choice to make than Bush. South Vietnam was never as crucial a place as Iraq is, and for the US there is, quite simply, no way out. Democracy is a long-lost hope; Arab liberals who congratulate themselves for having discredited the war from the outset can lustily applaud the humiliation of the last administration that will plead their case in many years. If there is no way out for Bush, freedom in the Arab world has also hit a brick wall.

Lest this sound too cynical, Young does make a few recommendations, the first of which is that Rumsfeld get the boot, and quickly.

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