An unusual thing happened last week. A man a who had brutalized and terrorized his nation for a quarter-century was brought to justice. Saddam Hussein's trial and execution were imperfect. But the critics of the trial can't have it both ways. First, many of them told us that we couldn't expect Iraq to be a Jeffersonian democracy. Now they feign outrage that Saddam's trial didn't live up to Jeffersonian standards. Of course the trial was imperfect--but compared to what? The summary judgments accorded by their countrymen to Mussolini in 1945 and Ceausescu in 1989? The four-year-long, never completed farce of a trial of Slobodan Milosevic in the Hague before an International Criminal Tribunal under the auspices of the U.N., manned by the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me of international jurists?Kristol, of course, remains a key neoconservative influencing the Bush administration's Iraq policy (I blogged about continued neocon power here). The remainder of Kristol's essay discusses the adminstration's troop surge plan, called the Keane-Kagan initiative, after former Army Vice Chief of Staff Jack Keane and military historian Frederick Kagan:
The foreign policy cognoscenti and the political elites were happy to dismiss the fact that Saddam's trial was a real achievement of a struggling democracy fighting terror and sectarian strife. They were eager to deprecate the fact that Saddam was tried in court before courageous judges under the laws of his nation, with a chance to defend himself. They were willing to pretend it was no big deal to see a tyrant brought low, to see injustice punished and justice done.
Why? Because to dwell on the life and death of this mass murderer might remind Americans of the fundamental justice of the war. It might cause the American people to wonder why, having accomplished this, they should be so quick to give up on accomplishing more. It might cause them to hesitate before succumbing to despair when confronted by the challenges of continued violence and terrorism. It might cause them to wonder whether tyranny might not still be successfully replaced by liberty.
Keane-Kagan follows classic counterinsurgency doctrine by sending enough troops to provide security for the Iraqi people, especially in Baghdad, now the center of gravity of the conflict. With security established, training of the Iraqi army and political reconciliation can proceed. This plan is likely to be the basis for the new way forward soon to be announced by the Bush Administration.See also Fouad Ajami's essay over at U.S. News and World Report, which argues that Saddam's execution is a fine example of the Iraqis standing up for themselves:
It had taken a foreign war to decapitate that tyrannical regime in Baghdad, it is true. But the judgment that mattered was an affair of the Iraqis. We have been asking them to claim responsibility for their country, bemoaning their political abdication. On that morning in Baghdad, three years after he had been flushed out of his spider hole, Saddam Hussein came face to face with the wrath and hurt he had bequeathed Iraqis. Those vengeful men taunting him as he fell through the gallows' trapdoor were in the most direct way the children of his cruel reign of terror.