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March 04, 2005

RALPH PETERS: "Don't Get Cocky!"

FOR three years, this column has shot down the pessi mists who warned we were bound to fail in the Middle East. Now those of us who see our confidence vindicated must beware a premature euphoria. There's plenty of work ahead.

Our successes have been remarkable. In the past six weeks, we've seen more positive movement in the region than we saw in the preceding six decades. The political landscape of the old Islamic heartlands has changed breathtakingly since our first special-operations team went to work in the wake of 9/11. . . .

From Iran through Saudi Arabia to Egypt, the first breezes of change are beginning to blow.

But they're not gale-force winds just yet. We would be almost as foolish as the eternal naysayers were we to imagine that our mission is nearing completion.

Excessive euphoria would only play into the hands of those who wanted freedom's campaign to fail all along. If our rhetoric becomes too exuberant, even positive events on the ground could be dismissed as falling short of our promises.

That's absolutely right.

UPDATE: And Charles Krauthammer is also right when he says that we need to keep the momentum going:

Revolution is in the air. What to do? We are already hearing voices for restraint about liberating Lebanon. Flynt Leverett, your usual Middle East expert, took to the New York Times to oppose the immediate end of Syria's occupation of Lebanon. Instead, we should be trying to "engage and empower" the tyranny in Damascus.

These people never learn. Here we are on the threshold of what Arabs in the region are calling the fall of their own Berlin Wall and our "realists" want us to go back to making deals with dictators. It would be not just a blunder but a tragedy. It would betray our principles. And it would betray the people in Lebanon who have been encouraged by those principles.

Plenty of time for euphoria when we're done. Though it's hard not to gloat at least a little bit in the face of pieces like this one, however grudging, from Fred Kaplan.