An unusual thing happened last week. A man 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 crème de la crème of international jurists?
The foreign policy cognoscenti and the political élites 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.
And they would be right to wonder--because we don't need to accept defeat in Iraq. Former Army Vice Chief of Staff General Jack Keane and military expert Frederick Kagan, working with other experienced military and civilian planners, have laid out a new strategy for victory, supported by a sustained and substantial (but feasible) troop increase. That plan (available at aei.org reverses the debilitating Rumsfeld-Abizaid-Casey emphasis on a "light footprint" for the U.S. military and on drawing down American troops as soon as possible. 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.
There has been some sniping at the Keane-Kagan plan. But what is striking is that so few of the critics actually go to the trouble of analyzing it--or proposing a substitute. Instead, Keane and Kagan are treated with annoyance and disdain. Don't they know that we're losing in Iraq and that it's time to leave? What's all this talk about staying and fighting and winning? Didn't anyone tell them that the Bush Administration's errors have been so grievous that success is hopeless?