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When Failure is Better than Success: What Americans, and the World, Owe to the Disaster in Iraq

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There can be no doubt that the failed American invasion of Iraq has been a terrible thing. Because of this American failure, the Iraqi people have suffered horrific trauma and destruction, and there's no indication that their ordeal will end anytime soon. For America, too, this botched invasion has proved most costly: in blood, in treasure, and in national reputation. The order of the world has been rent, the global stage dominated by violence initiated by its leading nation in an act interpreted by most of the world's people's as an unjustified act of aggression.

Looking at these developments from the standpoint of the year 2000, it would appear to be an unmitigated catastrophe.

Yet, from another perspective -a valid and important perspective-this ongoing disaster in Iraq is good news. It's good news only in terms of the alternative. That is, in terms of the alternative if one takes as givens the Bushites' being in power in the United States and, especially, their decision to invade Iraq.

Imagine, in other words, what the situation would be -in America, and in the world-had the mission truly been accomplished at the time that this arrogant and ignorant president of ours strutted across that aircraft carrier in front of that infamous banner.

The Escape from Fascism at Home and from an Imperial Global Bully Abroad

It is hardly likely, had Bush been able to ride into these recent elections a victory rather than a debacle, that the American people -who always love a winner-would have hesitated to ratify the one-party state -that "permanent Republican majority"-toward which these Bushites have aspired. And it should be recalled that this was to be a one-party state fundamentally different in nature from that which the Democrats once enjoyed. This present regime, as we now know, is one that early on set out to transform our constitutional democracy into a system of government in which the Great Leader -our "war-time president"-- enjoyed unchecked power. Imagine how much further down this road toward fascism we would be now if Iraq had not dragged this president out of that cocky, swaggering posture which, it seemed, more than half of our countrymen were willing to applaud.

We Americans may well owe the survival of our democracy to this failure in Iraq.

For all the damage done to the international system, imagine how it would be if the world's one remaining superpower had enjoyed the promised "cakewalk" in its first venture into "preventive" war, i.e. attack justified by the hypothetical possibility that some country might, in some conceivable future, constitute a threat to the American hegemon. Throughout the 1990s, analysts of international affairs had marveled at the unparalleled level of dominance of American power on the international scene: way beyond the ascendancy the British enjoyed at the height of their empire, it may even have surpassed the power of Rome at its crest. For such unchallengeable dominance to come under the command of a group with the Bushites' insatiable lust for power would have been far worse for the contemporary world than for this rogue American regime to be humbled and hobbled at the outset of its aggressive ventures.

The news is still bad. The world has no other source on the horizon for the mostly positive leadership the United States has supplied for the past several generations. And we all may rue how the crippling of this over-reaching American power has incapacitated the world from being able to deal with other possible threats, such as the breakdown of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the likely rise of Iran as well as North Korea as nuclear powers.

But better these costs than an America successfully embarked on the dark road that the Bushites wanted to follow. The world may owe its escape from an age of unipolar imperialism to this Bushite failure in Iraq.

Into a Clearing, but Not Out of the Woods

In America, the danger to our constitutional democracy has diminished, but it has not passed. The struggle so many of us have been engaged in to expose the truth and to awaken our countrymen to its portentous meanings must go on. But it is the failure in Iraq that has given us a wind at our backs.

At the global level, the damage done by these Bushites remains considerable. And it is unclear how long it may take even an able and principled American leadership to repair that damage and regain the trust so recklessly squandered by this Bushite regime. But we can now hope that perhaps, two years from now, we might at least be able to choose a leadership that can undertake that effort.

Meanwhile, for the people of Iraq -who have known little but dark times for decades-the nightmare goes on. For them, the American failure may always be far worse than an American success would have been.

But from one important perspective, at least, their terrible sacrifice has not been in vain.
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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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