More advice from a left-wing foreign rag

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by SLClemens, Nov 12, 2003.

  1. SLClemens
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    (Actually I think the author of this might be an American or at least American-based. It's a pity that bringing democray to Iraq wasn't the causis belli before the invasion started, or perhaps some of these ideas would have made it into American public discourse.)


    (http://www.guardian.co.uk)



    Iraq is not ready for democracy

    Bush's plans for the Middle East are good - but it will be a long, hard slog

    Fareed Zakaria
    Wednesday November 12, 2003
    The Guardian

    Sometimes I think that President Bush's critics need to put up a sign somewhere in their rooms that reads: "Some things are true even if George Bush believes them." A visceral dislike for the president is boxing many otherwise sensible people into a corner, because they cannot bring themselves to agree with anything he says. How else to explain the churlish reaction among so many Democrats, Europeans and intellectuals to the president's speech on democracy in the Middle East last week? Whatever the problems - and I'll get to them - as a speech it stands as one of the most intelligent and eloquent statements by a president in recent memory. If it marks a real shift in strategy, it will go down in history as Bush's most important speech.
    The president expanded on an analysis that he and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice have been veering toward for several months. He argued that a deficit of freedom and openness was at the heart of the Middle East's dysfunctions, that neither Islam nor Arab culture made liberty and democracy impossible there, and that American foreign policy had for too long supported a corrupt status quo that has been bad for the Arabs and bad for the west. "Sixty years of western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe," he noted.

    To change policy and achieve his lofty ambitions, President Bush announced a "forward strategy for freedom" that must be adopted for decades to come. Here is the hole in the doughnut. The "forward strategy" is never fleshed out, not even in a few lines, has no substantive elements to it and no programmes associated with it. In fact, it is mentioned only at the tail end of the speech. What explains this strange mismatch between a powerful statement of goals and virtual silence about the means?

    I think that the president - and many of his advisers - find it easy to embrace democracy but not the means to get there. Actually, they like one method. Let's call it the "silver bullet" theory of democratisation. It holds that every country is ready for democracy. It's just evil tyrants who stand in its way. Kill the tyrant, hold elections and the people will embrace democracy and live happily ever after. This theory is particularly seductive to neo-conservatives because it means that the one government agency they love - the military - is the principal force for democratisation around the world.

    The second theory of democratisation could be called the "long, hard slog" (thanks, Mr Rumsfeld). It holds that genuine democracy requires the building of strong political institutions, a market economy and a civil society. In or der to promote democracy, in this vision, you need economic reform, trade, exchange programmes, legal and educational advances and hundreds of such small-bore efforts. The agencies crucial to this process are the state department, the US agency for international development, even, God forbid, the European Union and the United Nations. After all, the EU provides almost twice as much foreign aid as the US. And it is the UN that produces the much-heralded Arab development reports, which Bush quoted in his speech.

    The president must see that the first strategy has reached its limits. We have used military force in Afghanistan and Iraq, and while it has rid those countries of evil dictatorships, it has not brought them democracy.

    That goal remains fully dependent on the second strategy. And beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, unless Washington is going to invade all the countries of the Middle East, democracy will come only through a process of reform and modernisation. But the administration cannot bring itself to fully support this softer strategy of democratisation or call for more of it. (Real men don't do foreign aid.) American efforts to promote democracy, for example, take up about 6% of the US aid budget - just over $700m. Why not double this?

    For many of the administration's ideologues, the long, hard slog toward liberal democracy is boring and unsexy. It means constant engagement, aid, multilateral efforts and a world, not of black and white, but of grey.

    Jordan's Abdullah is a monarch, but he is a genuine liberaliser; his opponents in parliament are elected but reactionaries. In the only illogical part of his speech, Bush dismissed the idea that countries could be unready for democracy, and then devoted paragraphs to explaining why democracy would take time to flourish in the Middle East.

    The neo-conservative writer Robert Kagan recently declared: "We do not really know how to build a liberal society ... But we do know a free and fair election when we see one." This is both defeatist and wrong. In fact, we know what makes a liberal society - independent courts and political institutions, markets, a free press, a middle class - but building it takes time and effort. If you cannot embrace that process, then you are not really embracing democracy.
     
  2. NightTrain
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    You're off the mark, Clemens.

    The idea of introducing a democracy & liberating Iraq from the cruel dictatorship of your buddy Saddam was indeed discussed publicly by the Administration prior to combat. I will include exerpts for your convenience, but feel free to read the entire article.

    Behold!

    http://www.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/08/21/delay.iraq/index.html



    I won't requote you, Clemens, now what do you say?
     
  3. SLClemens
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    Thanks for the quotations and thanks for re-quoting them in full. To me these seem to confirm my position, namely that in justifying the invasion disarming Saddam was the primary objective and bringing about democracy was a secondary if not tertiary benefit. Inflating the supposed threat that Saddam posed to us and our invading troops only gave justification to the blast-away tactics we employed in the invastion, complete with cluster munitions and depleted uranium - were the main cause for invasion the Iraqi people themselves such tactics, followed up with roadblocks where confused drivers were shot for threatening behavior, and little initial concern over looting, I believe would have been reconsidered. But we were overcoming such a huge and immenent threat that of course we were justified in using whatever means necessary, and we're now paying the price for it.

    If, on the other hand, disarming a largely empty threat had not been the main justification for invasion, and it had instead been the betterment of Iraqis, I believe the debate would have panned out very differently. For one, we would have had to consider the viability of Iraq when there are so many other places where betterment and democratization stand a much more viable chance. Even Afghanistan would have been a more logical choice for several hundred thousand personal and countless billions more dollars. As Zakaria (who, I believe, was actually for the invasion) suggests, bringing democray to a place such as Iraq is a very long, hard slog; it's one that, with all the pitfalls discussed in open public debate, is one I'm not sure Americans would have had the stomach for.

    It's also one that may not have required invasion to make at least modest successes. A bit of US muscle was able to get 200+ UN weapons inspectors into Iraq. Why not use that same muscle to get 200 human-rights inspectors in, and pass resolutions requiring modest human-rights improvement? I don't think it would have worked completely, but it could have helped a bit. It also would send the message to neighboring states that we're really concerned about democratic rights, not securing the economic co-operation of unpopular dictators.

    But as Zakaria notes, there's not much space for bravado and glamor in that sort of nation-building. And face it, spending US taxdollars in altruistic endeavors to help others has not been political viable within the US. Spending crazy amounts of money to blow up threats is, and this is a sad reflection of the reality that we need to change our priorities - and make democracy a genuine and not rhetorical part of our foriegn policy - before we go around the world telling others what's best for their societies.
     
  4. NightTrain
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    Wait a minute.

    You can't have it both ways. What is your position?? Exactly what was confirmed?

    Did you mean to say, "I was wrong, there was indeed talk of ridding Iraq of a brutal dicator and introducing a democracy before the invasion started!"?

    Thank You.
     
  5. SLClemens
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    Of course there was indeed talk of ridding Iraq of a brutal dictator (mostly becuase Washington convinced us he threatened our well-being) and some beautiful rhetoric about introducing democracy to Iraq before the invasion started. This was not our causis belli. Our cause for war was the supposed threat Saddam posed to us (however much it may truly have been controlling the price of oil). If democratizing Iraq was cause enough for war, why did you never hear Bush say "start installing democracy or we're going to invade." No, the whole of his threats toward Saddam concerned WMDs.

    And then of course Americans would bring democray with them, as we always do wherever we go.

    If it had been about democray we could have been more patient, and poor George II could not have had the war he so desperately craved.
     
  6. NightTrain
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    Thank You.

    You make this sound like a bad thing & I detect issues. Let's hear them.

    Actually, that's exactly why this happened - in order to root out terrorism, the nations of the region need to shed their medieval systems and step up to the plate. Yep, it wasn't said publicly for obvious reasons, but there is a clear goal here.

    It's the domino theory, and it's been covered time and time again, read up in other threads in this Iraq forum.
     
  7. SLClemens
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    "And then of course Americans would bring democray with them, as we always do wherever we go."

    No, it's just rather unsophisticated sarcasm!
     
  8. NightTrain
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    That's right, the USA is the Great Satan!

    You strike me as a liberal that's still pissed off that Gore's supporters were too stupid to vote correctly.

    I'm just curious, am I right?
     
  9. Bry
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    This gave me the giggles. Fighting sarcasm with sarcasm.

    It seems obvious that installing a democracy was never a priority, for lots of the really good reasons SL gave. We planned a war, and we didn't plan for what was to come after. And it's also true that any reference the administration made prior to the war to bringing democracy to Iraq was just tacked on. As you yourself admit, the details weren't spoken of publically, but you insinuate that they were there. I see no evidence of that. And SL is right, there are many other places around the world that are more ripe for democracy. And SL is also right that there is little or no precedent for the US bringing democracy with them anywhere they go. And he is also right that the US is always much more willing to spend ungodly amounts on bigger better fireworks, but not on aid for development. Meanwhile, you NT, content yourself with pursuing an illusory contradiction of words, which really only ammounts to a slight hyperbole

    And as for the domino theory, which has been brought up in other threads, but never accepted by opposing voices, it can work in many many ways. It seems much more likely that the dominoes will fall in the other direction: that by creating a vacuum and instability in the region, that instability could spread. We are already seeing attacks on Saudi Arabia, an admittedly fascist government that just happens to be our friend. What happens if that country gets destabalized too? We already know where many of their hearts lie. Saudis composed 15 of the 18 participants of 9/11. And another interesting point was brought up in the article which headed this thread: "Jordan's Abdullah is a monarch, but he is a genuine liberaliser; his opponents in parliament are elected but reactionaries." What happens if Abdullah looses his grip on his fair country too? If that's not enough, the ME is full of other countries, the majority of which were under our thumb before the war in Iraq. If Bush, in his pretty call for democracy in the ME, realized that he was talking about many a friendly regime, he certainly didn't let on in his speech. Pakistan? Good god...
     
  10. SLClemens
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    No, I'm still pissed off that I supported Nader, thinking that Bush wouldn't be much different from Gore.
     

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