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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

# Posted 8:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

@#$*%&! In a pre-Thanksgiving display of blogospheric love, Dan Drezner is cursing out James Lileks for cursing out Salam Pax. The whole thing started because Salam said some pretty dumb things in the Guardian, to which Lileks responded with some good points that were pre-empted by stupid insults. Rather than bring everyone back to the substantive side of things, Dan lost his temper and decided to chew Lileks out for being a jerk.

As far as the bad blood goes, I think it should be water under the bridge. Salam, Lileks and Dan have contributed so much to the blogosphere that no one should hold it against them if they lose it once in a while.

However, I would like to respond to what Salam said, since I think it deserves a serious response. At the core of SP's open letter to George Bush is his sarcastic frustration with the US-led reconstruction effort:
To tell you the truth, I am glad that someone is doing the cleaning up, and thank you for getting rid of that scary guy with the hideous moustache that we had for president. But I have to say that the advertisements you were dropping from your B52s before the bombs fell promised a much more efficient and speedy service. We are a bit disappointed. So would you please, pretty please, with sugar on top, get your act together and stop telling people you have Iraq all figured out when you are giving us the trial-and-error approach?
Given that Salam lost numerous friends and relatives to Saddam's brutality, it is surprising to see him triviliaze the value of liberation. Moreover, as Lileks suggests, it would be nice to see some recognition on Salam's part that American soldiers are giving their lives day in, day out, to prevent a Ba'athist resurgence and facilitate the reconstruction.

But leaving all that aside, let's look at what Salam is really asking for: a more credible guarantee that the United States will not cut and run, but rather stay in Iraq as long as is necessary to ensure prosperity and freedom. The hesitant and sarcastic way in which Salam gets this message across reminds of something that Tom Friedman said a while back [no permalink]. Friedman reminded us how dependent and helpless it must feel for the people of Iraq have the United States army liberate them and supervise their recovery from three decades of dictatorship.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that Salam puts up an aggressive and critical facade to mask his desire for cooperation. Moreover, the United States has a compelling interest in learning to distinguish between constructive critics and corrupt subversives. We have to be 'big' enough to get our emotional satisfaction elsewhere while rebuilding Iraq.

If we do our job right, than twenty or thirty years down the line, Iraqis will think of the occupation the way the Germans and Japanese think of theirs. It won't become an excuse for wholesale submission to everything the US wants, but it will establish an unbreakable bond that lets citizens of both nations know that they are on the same side regardless of how fiercely they disagree.
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