Thursday, November 03, 2005

Don't Rock the Boat

Richard Cohen, in today's WaPo, bemoans the "instablity" in the Middle East due to the Iraq war. To wit:
The United States would love for the Assad regime to go. But what would replace it? It's hard to imagine, but it could be something worse: the radical Muslim Brotherhood, for instance. It is about the closest thing Assad and his clique have to an organized opposition. Replacing a secular dictatorship with a radically religious one is not what Washington would call progress.

In short, and not taking into account the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, the war in Iraq has hardly made this area more stable. It's true, of course, that nothing catastrophic has yet occurred in the region, but the casual assurance that nothing will happen must now be held to a new post-Iraq standard: Just about everything Washington said was happening (weapons of mass destruction) and would happen (an easy occupation) has turned out to be utterly false.

One could almost forgive President Bush for waging war under false or mistaken pretenses had a better, more democratic Middle East come out of it. But just as the 1991 Persian Gulf War introduced an element of instability in the region -- the rise of al Qaeda in response to the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia -- so might this one do something similar. A Shiite arc is forming, Iraq is infested with terrorists and coming apart, Syria might be going from bad to worse, and Saudi Arabia is complaining loudly that the war's only winners are the Shiites and Iran. From here, it looks like a war that is already going badly for America could go even worse for much of the Middle East.

In Cohen's world, change is bad because it causes instability. But change, by its very definition is something that is unstable. It seeks to undermine the status quo. Cohen, apparently, would like change without instability, something that is a physical impossibility. If you agree that change is needed in the Middle East, and I think there is consensus on that issue (unless Cohen loves the prosepct of a nuclear Iran, the theocracy in Riyadh, and terror without end in Israel), effecting change means bringing instability to the status quo.

Folks like Cohen are so risk-adverse that, following their logic, change would be impossible. But the Middle East needs instability and the blood letting it would entail. For example, everyone knows that a civil war has to be fought between radical and moderate Palestinians, but no one wants to admit to it. Under Cohen's thought the status quo is not worth instability, his euphemism for bloodshed. But bloodshed is at times necessary. Even federalism required a civil war before the idea's of Hamilton and Madison were realized.

Instability leads to bloodshed, but it is the mother of a better world.

Update: I've linked this post to The Polical Teens open trackback.