Last week I went

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April 18, 2003 1:43 p.m.

Last week I went to a lunch meeting in DC on the same day that statue of Saddam came crashing to the ground.

At the lunch a well-known conservative columnist introduced one of speakers, a well-known liberal columnist, on what he called “the day [the liberal’s] worldview was collapsing.” By that measure I assume that today’s news that, as The Washington Post puts it, “Tens of thousands of Iraqi Muslims took to the streets of Baghdad after Friday prayers … to demand the departure of U.S. and other foreign troops and the establishment of an Islamic state” should cause at least some creaking in the conservative columnist’s worldview as well, no? He was good-hearted about it, but good-hearted in the sort of way that people who know they’re right can afford to be good-hearted.

Don’t get me wrong. Iraq is a country of some twenty-four million people. It shouldn’t surprise us that a few tens of thousands can be mobilized to support the withdrawal of American troops and the creation of an Islamic state. (Their chants were “No Bush, No Saddam, Yes to Islam,” and “No to America, No to Secular State, Yes to Islamic State”.) Nor is that fact at all incompatible with a successful conclusion to our efforts to build a democracy in the country.

But it should be a sober reminder to everyone that none of this is going to be settled by one day of good or bad photo-ops. The die is cast. Like it or not, the fate of America and Iraq are now fastened together for at least several years. I don’t pretend to know how it’s going to turn out. But the one thing I think we can be confident of is that none of us are going to emerge from this with our hubris intact.

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