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Après le 11 sept. 01


Michael Ledeen, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of The War Against the Terror Masters (St Martin's Press), The Daily Telegraph, London (11.09.02)
America's revenge: to turn tyrannies into democracies

Those who said that America - and perhaps even the world at large - would never be the same after September 11 turn out to have been right only in part. American legislators have not found any anthrax in their recent mail, and so some of them, encouraged by recent remarks from officials of previous administrations, wonder openly whether further combat in the Middle East is even necessary.

They are insisting not only that President George W Bush provide them with a convincing bill of particulars regarding Saddam Hussein, but also that they approve any future action. This despite their full endorsement of such action on September 14 last.

In short, business as usual. Some other things have certainly changed. The pre-September 11 George W Bush was a relatively colourless figure, uncomfortable with international affairs and, despite his strong religious faith, largely bereft of what his father famously referred to as "the vision thing". The post-September 11 President is decisive, fully engaged in his mission, and quite eloquent on the war against terrorism, with an economy of language that we have not heard from a president since Truman.

Similarly, Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, who had been tagged as the cabinet member least likely to succeed, has become a matinee idol. Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, may score higher in the polls, but nobody races to the television to watch his press conferences; they do Rumsfeld's. The transformation began immediately after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Centre, and Mr Rumsfeld told his staff: "I've been around for a while, and, believe me, this is not the last one we'll see today."

The greatest change has come among the American people themselves. Americans are the first people in history to believe that peace is the normal condition of mankind, but this reassuring conviction was effectively shattered, for this generation at least, on September 11. Americans now believe, with Machiavelli, that there are many people who are more inclined to do evil than to do good, and the only way to deal with them is to dominate them. They hope and believe that Saddam will not be the last terrorist tyrant to fall at their hands.

Americans are traditionally in a great hurry, but they have shown great patience with this president. They recognise that the war will be long and they trust that they have somehow struck lucky with their leader at a moment of peril. Recent drops in the President's popularity suggest that the people's patience may be wearing a bit thin, but now it seems that action is imminent and they will soon find out if Mr Bush is up to this challenge.

The Americans may have been patient so far, but, as General Patton once reminded his troops, Americans can't stand a loser. Yet it is hard to imagine America will lose. So long as the people are convinced they are well led, and the war goes well, they will support it. One has a tendency to forget that, in the Second World War, it took nearly two years after Pearl Harbor before decisive victories were achieved, yet the American people did not waver.

Americans are not fond of realpolitik; they are a people of crusades and spasms. They almost never fight limited wars for limited objectives (most Americans now believe the 1991 Gulf war was excessively limited); as Ronald Reagan said, the country is too great to have small ambitions. Few have noticed that President Bush has in fact outlined a war of vast dimensions. Lurking behind the awkward phrase "regime change" is a vision of a war to destroy the Middle Eastern tyrannies and replace them with freer societies, as was done in Japan and Germany after the Second World War.

Early on after the September 11 attack, it was widely said that America would have to fight a new kind of war, conducted in large part in the shadows, with covert instruments and secret warriors. In the event, it turns out to be a very traditional sort of war, because they have found that the common denominator of their enemies is tyranny.

The states that undergird the terror network are Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia. They do not share ethnicity (Iranians are not Arabs) or even religious conviction (both Saddam and the Assad family in Syria came to power as secular socialists), but they are all petty tyrants. And the most lethal weapon against them is the people they oppress.

The Iranians demonstrate almost ceaselessly against the mullahcracy in Teheran; in recent days, there has been street fighting in Isfahan, political demonstrations in Teheran, and the petroleum pipeline has been shut down in Tabriz. Student leaders have called for a nationwide demonstration today, a clear sign of the Iranian people's desire for freedom.

The Iraqis were willing to risk everything in the final weeks of the Gulf war, and the unreliability of Saddam's armies is well known. If Iranians and Iraqis are freed, the Syrian dictatorship cannot possibly survive, and the Saudi royal family would have to choose between shutting down its worldwide network of radical Wahhabi mosques or facing the same destiny as the others.

A war on such a scale has hardly been mentioned by commentators and politicians, yet it is implicit in everything President Bush has said and done. He has directed the creation of an Iraqi government-in-exile that is committed to democracy, and he has promised the Iranian people that America will support them in their desire for freedom. He has recognised that democracy is essential for peace between Palestinians and Israelis, and that requirement surely extends throughout the entire region.

In one of those delightful paradoxes in which history so delights, America's enemies sought to destroy it on September 11, only to find their own survival at mortal risk. And all those who said the world would never be the same, thinking that America had been fundamentally shaken and demoralised, will soon find that, instead, America's enemies will be the subject of revolutionary change at its hands.



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Dernière mise à jour: 04.02.2003

François Brutsch - Genève - Suisse