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February 11, 2003

After Saddam?

After Saddam is gone, wonders Daniel Pipes what will take place in the region
Outsiders wonder if the U.N. Security Council will endorse Washington's goal of toppling Saddam Hussein. But policy insiders assume an American war and an American victory, followed by Iraq's rehabilitation.

For insiders, the main issue is the extent of U.S. ambition in the Arabic-speaking countries after that's all done. This foreshadows the debate likely to dominate foreign-policy circles for decades: What should be America's role in the world?

Let's eavesdrop.

In the ambitious corner stands Middle East specialist Fouad Ajami, a Lebanese immigrant and professor at Johns Hopkins University. Writing in the liberal-leaning Foreign Affairs, he comments scathingly about the reigning political culture in the Arab countries ("the belligerence and self-pity in Arab life, its retreat from modernist culture and its embrace of conspiracy theories"). He sees in the vigorous exercise of American power the best chance for improvement: "No great apologies ought to be made for America's 'unilateralism.' The region can live with and use that unilateralism."

Ajami wants American will and prestige to tip the scales "in favor of modernity and change" and calls on Washington to aim high. "Above and beyond toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein and dismantling its deadly weapons, the driving motivation of a new American endeavor in Iraq and in neighboring Arab lands should be modernizing the Arab world. "[more]