This is Part IV of an informal series looking into Liberal arguments against the Iraq war, as precipitated by an interview of Robin Wright on the Hugh Hewitt show. See here for Part III.
Wright concludes her string of sad lamentations with this:
“But my fear is the long term tragedy is that it made people in the region even more nervous about change. People who are willing to put their lives on the line are now worried about democratic openings, because they fear it will lead to instability, chaos, death, insecurity, fewer jobs, limited electricity, and on and on.”
Let me start by addressing the bit about “limited electricity.” The real story of electricity in Iraq does not fit the Liberal MSM narrative of gloom, doom, and defeat. What she says is obviously in reference to the oft-lamented limited availability of electricity in post-war Baghdad, but it’s out-of-place in here. She’s suggesting that the would-be reformers in the Middle East are now more reluctant to try to implement change because, amongst other things, it might limit the availability of electricity. It’s a silly addition and a stunning statement, really, thrown in like a afterthought after having tossed in what are more serious concerns. Instability, chaos, death, joblessness, and, ah, what else? Limited electricity. I suppose I can let go of this frivolous toss-off in light of the fact that it was said extemporaneously in a live interview, and so I shall.
What I’d like to address, however, is the old Liberal stand-by complaint about Iraq: that Baghdad has fewer hours of electricity now than it did pre-war. Do note that whenever they mention this it’s always specific to Baghdad, and there’s good reason for that: it would not be true to say that of the surrounding provinces and it would not serve their argument well to mention it. That’s because, in pre-war Iraq, Saddam diverted electrical power to Baghdad from those surrounding provinces to better serve his Baathist supporters. That was one of the first things that the Coalition Provincial authority changed in Iraq, as they redistributed the available electricity more fairly to the provinces in which it was generated. Naturally that meant that Baghdad would get less, but it was being fairly shared so that meant that the surrounding provinces were enjoying more hours of electricity than they had under Saddam.
Furthermore, Iraqi infrastructure has long been a target of the insurgents, from roads to water, markets to electricity, all the ways in which the Coalition was making life better for Iraqis made for targets of the insurgents, for obvious reasons. When coalition reconstruction teams entered Iraq they found that the infrastructure was in far worse shape than had been imagined; the hardware was antiquated and had been jury-rigged for decades.
That hardware is being replaced or repaired in a multitude of multi-year projects, but when insurgents were solely responsible for having attacked that infrastructure and diminished the amount of electricity available to the residents of Baghdad and elsewhere, the Liberal MSM finds fault in the resulting shortage and insinuates a failure of the Bush administration.
Furthermore, in the post-war period the demand for electricity was dramatically increased as citizens used their increased prosperity to purchase electrical appliances. Baghdad’s limited hours of electricity are more acute but much akin to the rolling backouts of California in that regard.
What really galls me about Wright’s objections here is the demonstrable falsehood that the Iraq invasion would make local reformers in other countries less likely to try to garner change. While the Bush Administration was still vigorously promoting democratic change and freedom in the Middle East we saw a remarkable breakout of domestic protest and reformation movements. Remember the Orange revolution, or the Cedar revolution? That’s what it looks like when the sole superpower fights wars of liberation and gives material and moral support to those who yearn for freedom.
Wright does not credit the Iraq war with having given the Iraqi people their only chance for freedom, and the ability to fight for it and create their own destinies; she implies that those who live under tyranny are less nervous with the tyrants’ boot on their necks. Under the brutal and thuggish police state of Saddam’s security services there was no hope for change. In the grip of Saddam’s iron fist, reformers and their families were made to be examples of why change was impossible and only brought misery and death; when the Coalition rolled into Iraq they found that every Iraqi police station had a torture chamber and most had a rape room. Wright, as a long-time historian of the Middle East, knows this to be true. Change from within is the biggest fear of tin-pot dictators like Saddam Hussein, and time and time again history teaches us that outside help is usually welcome and often helpful to dissidents, and in some cases – like that of Saddam’s Iraq – internal change is made impossible and must come from the outside.
Shame on Robin Wright.