Is Iraq the first step in a new era of human rights?
Is Iraq the first step in a new era of human rights?When Winnie-the-Pooh was stuck in the doorway of Rabbit's house, he was squeezed so tightly that he couldn't even sigh, and a tear rolled down his cheek. He asked Rabbit plaintively, "Would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?"The United States and Iraq are thoroughly stuck in the midst of an endless war for which no book-not even the Book of Baker-can offer easy comfort. What is less apparent is that human rights advocates have been caught up in the mess as well. President Bush has conducted the war in Iraq as if it were a human-rights campaign-and it did accomplish a major human rights goal. That wasn't the war's original justification, of course. But Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant and now he is gone. Had the president announced in 2003 that he was forming a multilateral force to take out Hussein in order to stop him from committing further atrocities against his people, many human-rights fans would hardly have been able to hold back the huzzahs.Now we find ourselves not only with a war we can't get out of, but with a new found reluctance to undertake necessary human-rights interventions elsewhere, as in Darfur. Just imagine what will happen the next time a president proposes to commit American blood and treasure to spread democracy around the globe.The problem is not just that neoconservatives have (mis)appropriated the human-rights agenda. The problem is that neither neoconservatives nor human-rights aficionados will settle for anything less than total victory. The former believe that only victory will keep us safe from bodily harm; the latter, from the destruction of the soul. But since neither group knows exactly how to achieve such a victory-how to make a democracy out of a police state in five easy steps, for example-and since total victory is a rarity in this world, except when President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan is running for re-election, both sides are bound to be disappointed.
|The bad news is that we tend to repeat our mistakes.|