The gate referred to in the title is the entryway to the Green Zone. It is not one of the ancient structures one might find in this cradle of civilization but a modern construction put up by Saddam.
Packer begins by looking at the intellectual underpinnings of the Iraq War, not the WMD nonsense, but the neocon extremists who convinced themselves that we had a mission to bring democracy to the Middle East. Their motivations may not have been the same as Cheney’s but they dovetailed well. This is not a subject Packer approaches.
He explains his position as on the fence with a slight edge toward going in. His commentary indicates a Republican bias, to my eyes. That said, there is much that is worthwhile about this work. It is hardly a scientific approach, but it is an interesting one. He talks with people, in Iraq in various sub-groups, political, ethnic, religious and geographic, and thus provides a nuanced picture of the situation. I was reminded, in a way, of Doctorow’s The March in that by beaming one’s light broadly, one can acquire many of the elements that make up the whole and give one a good sense of the entrirety of the mess.
“A Clean Break: a New Strategy for Securing the Realm”called for Israel to free itself from both socialist economic policies and the burdens of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Instead of retreating from occupied lands in exchange for dubious promises of peace…Israel should take the fight to the Palestinians and their Arab backers and create a realignment of forces in the Middle East that would guarantee Israel’s security. Iraq played a central, if utterly fanciful, role in this scenario. The paper dreamed of restoring the Hashemite family of Jordan (deposed from the Iraqi throne in 1958, the year of the republican coup and Chalabi’s departure) to rule in Baghdad. The monarchy, in turn, despite being Sunni Muslim, would win over Iraq’s Shia because “the Shia venerate foremost the Prophet’s family, the direct descendant of which—and in whose veins the blood of the Prophet flows—is King Hussein. With Shiite support, the newly enthroned Hashemites “could use their influence over Najaf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hezbollah, Iran and Syria. Then the Palestinians, isolated and alone, would have to accept Israeli demands
p 50 – re Paul Berman
…why go to war with Iraq in order to fight al-Qaeda?
Berman Answered: because Baathism was one of the “Muslim totalitarianisms,” the other being Islamism. The terror war was not just a police action or a military campaign. Like it was against fascism and the Cold War, it was an ideological war, a “mental war.” Victory required that millions of people across the Muslim world give up murderous political ideas. It would be a long, hard, complicated business. But the overthrow of Saddam and the establishment of an Iraqi democracy as a beachhead in the Middle East would show that the United States was on the side of the liberal-minded Arabs like Kanan Makiya and against the totalitarians and their ideas. Regime change would show that we, too, were capable of fighting for an idea—the idea of freedom. The willingness of liberal democracy to defend itself and fight for its principles is always in doubt. Alexis de Tocqueville worried about it; Hitler and Mussolini scoffed at it; so, more recently, did bin Laden. But the greatest affirmation of this willingness was made by [b:Lincoln at Gettysburg, where he vowed that a nation (and not only his own—any nation) “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” could long endure.
Packer claims that Saddam threw out inspectors in 1998 – I do not believe this is the case. See Hans Blix
He attacks anti-war elements in the US, calling them isolationist, uninterested in the details of a conflict, blinded by moral purpose
P 382 – more anti-liberal bile
He equates Michael Moore with rush Limbaugh. He also equates the hatred of Clinton, which was orchestrated by the Republican party and was not based on his performance with what he claims to be a rabid hatred of Bush, ignoring that whatever feelings are out there about Bush they are based on reaction to his performance, not based in political spookery.