Defining Middle Eastern Success

I agree with my colleauge Chuck Freund's large point in his Egyptian Improv post: It is unambiguous that the U.S. intervention into Iraq is producing real, tangible results in the Middle East. Critics who fail to acknowledge that are writing themselves out of rational debate on the topic. I say that as someone who was opposed to invading Iraq specifically and most U.S. attempts at nation building, much less region building. And as someone fully aware of continuing violence by insurgents in Iraq.

Beyond the January elections in Iraq (which like earlier ones in Afghanistan were successful beyond even most proponents' wildest dreams), developments in Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Palestine are heartening, to say the least; the fact that Syria is coughing up Saddam henchmen is clearly important, too, though the full import of such behavior is unclear (especially if the Syrians were in fact behind the assassination of Rafiq Hariri).

There remain some real theoretical questions about Bush's foreign policy. For instance, even if the intervention is successful in jumpstarting democracy in the region, one might still argue against on grounds of principle, of the ends not justifying the means (especially if any threat Iraq posed to the U.S. was contained). It's a bit churlish to raise such a question right now, I know, but it's a legitimate point, especially given the broad vision sketched by Bush in speeches earlier this year. What might guide future interventions, both in the Middle East and elsewhere?

Arguably more important are questions about defining success when it comes to Middle Eastern policy. However much I hope that liberal democracy actually takes root in Iraq, Lebanon, and elsewhere, is that what the intervention was about? The spread of liberalism? Or was it about protecting the U.S. from future terrorist attacks along the lines of 9/11?

Obviously, one argument is that liberal democratic regimes are less likely to conjure up terrorists, but it's far from clear exactly how that theory explains the 9/11 attacks or even al Qaeda or Zarqawi (rumored to be enlisted by bin Laden to commence attacks on targets within the U.S.). As with many Western terrorists who sprang not from the wretched of the earth but from its wealthy, educated elites, the actual damage inflicted in the U.S. didn't come from the dispossessed. If Zarqawi--or whoever--pulls off something on the scale of 9/11 (or even mounts a sustained lower-level campaign with the U.S.), how does that change how we evaluate the Iraq invasion and subsequent events?

Two other questions worth pondering: Are the Islamist terrorists representative of the Middle East (or Islam) in any way, shape, or form? Or are they effectively a suicide cult that will continue its action regardless of larger political shifts in the region(s) that shelter them? Clearly, it has become more difficult as a result of U.S. actions for states to house or protect them. But their various actions--recall the beheading of Nick Berg on the heels of the Abu Ghraib scandal--mark them as psychotics less bent on political change and more on some bizarre self-immolation; I suspect that, far from being the vanguard of anything in the Islamic world, they are the death throes of dying animal. If that's true, political change may have minimal effects on tamping them down until they are destroyed to the last man (even as political change may help make it more difficult to recruit the next generation of terrorist).

Are the early gestures toward democracy or representative government likely to take root? Or, more precisely, it may be the Middle East is getting free from its most obviously despotic regimes, but it's not clear that the opposite of that will be liberal democracy or representative government. It may simply get stuck somewhere along the way. In a similar way, does anyone expect Afghanistan to become fully functioning and self-supporting, or will it always be a marginally free state at best, one constantly in danger of slipping back into some form of autocracy? Will it be success, in other words, if Lebanon, say, is still something of a basket case in a decade (though it might be "our" basket case), which seems to be a very likely outcome?

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  • ||

    I'm going to frame this Libertarian Lament and refer to it whenever I start thinking that libertarians have anything at all to contribute to the cause of liberty. You are a liberty consumer, philosophically unequipped for the tasks of producing liberty in rocky soil. Your old answers could not and did not produce liberty and yet you still have questions? Everyone has goddamn questions. Try formulating some new answers instead of the same old questions.

  • Morat||

    Critics who fail to acknowledge that are writing themselves out of rational debate on the topic

    Translation: "If you don't agree with me, you're stupid and I won't talk to you".

  • ||

    I totally agree with your pre-war and post-war assessments. Does this mean that Ron Bailey, who seems to make a habit of being right, was right?

  • ||

    given the broad vision sketched by Bush in speeches earlier this year. What might guide future interventions, both in the Middle East and elsewhere

    Thomas Barnett has a new article in Esquire. The short answer: With democracy as an antidote to terrorism (not and end itself), help China to stabilize its own march to freedom by enlisting Chinese help to remove Kim from Korea.

    hoof: I'm already involved in creating order outside government. I may not have the capacity for dramatic liberation, since I ain't got no army, but every time someone realizes they can solve their own problems the cause of liberty is advanced.

  • ||

    one argument is that liberal democratic regimes are less likely to conjure up terrorists, but it's far from clear exactly how that theory explains the 9/11 attacks or even al Qaeda or Zarqawi (rumored to be enlisted by bin Laden to commence attacks on targets within the U.S.). As with many Western terrorists who sprang not from the wretched of the earth but from its wealthy, educated elites, the actual damage inflicted in the U.S. didn't come from the dispossessed.

    I disagree with you on several points. First, many of the most prominent terrorists can from elite and middle class backgrounds--that's true. But they are frequently part of societies that suffer from relative deprivation: their societies have experienced some economic growth, so the expectations for greater prosperity are generated, but left unrealized for most, including the middle class. This breeds frustration and despair, which in turn helps inspire non-state terrorism. On top of it, people in the Middle East can readily see the wealth and freedom of the West on television, which further perpetuates their feelings of relative deprivation.

    Second, terrorism rarely flourishes in societies with established democracies. By guaranteeing freedom of expression and the right to political organization, democracies provide mechanisms through which dissent can be channeled into public institutions. These mechanisms can effectively defuse terrorism. After all, terrorism is aimed at a political objective and once alternative, peaceful means for achieving such objectives are available, terrorism becomes less appealing. Thus democracy is an effective solution to terrorism, or at least can drastically minimize the incentives to engage in terrorist activities.

    This doesn't mean that democracies never generate terrorists. But more often, when terrorism occurs in an established democracy, it is perpetrated by terrorists from other countries with authoritarian governments. That is, the havens of terrorism are authoritarian countries.

  • clarityiniowa||

    I must be stupid, but I still don't see causality between the U.S. actions in Iraq, and, say, Yassir Arafat dying and thereby making room for a possibly less despotic Palestinian leadership, or the assassination and subsequent popular protests and resignation of the pro-Syrian government in Lebanon. Correlation, certainly, but how can anyone say with certainty that these events and their ultimate results would not have occurred with Saddam still in power?

    An argument can be made that the Middle East has been heading in this direction, slowly and fitfully, for decades, and any hope for improvement in that region would have been more valuable to us had it been purely homegrown.

    My concern is that Bush will take credit for far more than he is actually entitled to, and that will embolden him toward even more rash action while further alienating us from traditional allies.

  • fyodor||

    I agree with clarityiniowa and Morat.

    I think the possibility definitely exists that the Iraq war may be playing a role in democratizing the middle east, but I think it's rather premature, to say the least, to say for sure that either real and long-term change is occurring or that the Iraq war is a relevant factor. Maybe Gillespie is bending over backwards to show he can be flexible (hmm, that's an interesting metaphor).

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    Translation: "If you don't agree with me, you're stupid and I won't talk to you".

    Well, this debate has being going on a while at a rather fever pitch. If someone appears to ignore the facts of the situation that disagree with his/her point of view, you'd have to be masochistic to waste time on arguing with him or her. To avoid that sort of sensible filtering when you disagree with the apparent facts is to explain convincingly why the apparent facts aren't accurate, are being misunderstood, aren't as important as something else, etc.

    To argue that the Iraq invasion has accomplished nothing and brought no good to anyone is a non-starter, and the hawks will shove a dozen news items a week down your throat to disprove it. To sensibly argue, you're going to have to explain why A, B, and C benefits gained don't outweigh X, Y, and Z problems caused, and/or don't justify the costs of actions I and J.

  • clarityiniowa||

    But again, Eric, you run into the problem of causality vs. correlation, or synchronicity, if you prefer. We can certainly say that, because of the U.S. invasion, Saddam is no longer in power. Can we say with certainty that because of the invasion, the life of the average Iraqi has improved or things are better in the Middle East in general? There are too many definitions to make, and too many indefinables to deal with.

    I used to discuss this idea of historical causality a lot with a friend of mine who was archivist at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa. As an historian, he tended to speak more in terms of catalysts rather than causes, credit or blame.

    The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip, for example, may have touched off the powderkeg of World War I, but to say it was the *cause* is a very problematic statement.

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    I agree with clarityiniowa in that the Bush administration will certainly take more credit than they likely deserve. But I also know for sure that Bush critics will give him no benefit of the doubt whatsoever here.

    It's probably fruitless to try and prove causality, and I don't think you can lump what's going on in all of these countries in the same basket. I agree that Arafat's death was the stimulant for Palestinian elections. Also, the assassination in Syria certainly had something to do with the happenings there, but I'm not convinced Iraq and Afghanistan had absolutely nothing to do with it.

    But I also believe the elections (however cosmetic they may have been) in Saudi Arabia, plus the changes we're hearing about in Egypt, do indeed have something to do with Iraq and Afghanistan. While I certainly cannot prove absolute causality, I don't understand the people who automatically and immediately dismiss it.

  • Mike H.||

    The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip, for example, may have touched off the powderkeg of World War I, but to say it was the *cause* is a very problematic statement.

    Clarity,

    "The US invasion and subsequent efforts at democratisation in Iraq have quite possibly touched-off similar liberal movements in the region." Comments?

    Is it perhaps the case that Iraq hasn't served as the catalyst to recent events as much as it's merely been an accelerant of sorts?

  • clarityiniowa||

    I'm not saying Iraq is not a factor in the recent rush of events in the Middle East, I am simply saying that one cannot move easily from because THIS happened, THAT also happened. Not in this context.

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    Mike,

    In the case of Lebanon, your statement is certainly false. If "touched off" means anything, you have to see the Hariri assassination as doing it.

    But do you really think that the study of what touched off what is important here? Certainly when we credit a historical or political figure with a certain set of outcomes (which is our goal, because we're looking at these outcomes as a guide of what to do in the future) we mean "something wouldn't have happened without so-and-so." Is it true to say "the lebanese wouldn't have finally put their foot down about their puppet government if it weren't for the invasion of Iraq?"

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    "Is it perhaps the case that Iraq hasn't served as the catalyst to recent events as much as it's merely been an accelerant of sorts?"

    The definition of a catalyst is an element which accelerates another process"

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    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7038038/site/newsweek

    This is the address of an article in this week's MSNBC.com/Newsweek combo talking about how Iraq's women are now worse off than they were under Saddam--they're being forced into hijab, pushed out of schools and jobs, millions of them dare not leave their homes for fear of harassment or worse, and so forth. Maybe--just maybe--the men in Iraq are better off than they were before, but fifty-one percent of the population is in worse shape, and has less freedom, than they did before our invasion.

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    Jennifer, if you want to persuade this crowd that people are being harmed forget about those squishy "civil liberties" concerns. Let's talk about property rights! Are Iraqi women's property rights more secure or less secure than under Saddam?

    And what about all the private property that US troops have destroyed?

    Oh, and do Iraqi women enjoy greater or lesser freedom to keep and bear arms than they had under Saddam?

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    Thoreau-
    Well, the first woman mentioned in the story I linked to was a business owner, before being murdered. I imagine the maggots feasting on her corpse are damned glad Saddam is gone, for otherwise they'd have to find themselves another meal.

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    Fun quotes from the article:

    Just last week the corpse of a female television presenter turned up with a bullet hole in her head. Raiedah Mohammed Wageh Wazan had been kidnapped by gunmen in Mosul on Feb. 20. Her husband decided not to hold a funeral procession after being warned against it by insurgents. . .

    Prewar Iraq was a brutal dictatorship, but it had a good record on women's rights, at least by the standards of the region. Saddam Hussein's Baath Party professed equality and, on many social issues, practiced it. Women could divorce their husbands, inherit property, even keep their children after a breakup. Women commonly held professional jobs, even high-ranking ones. They had equal educational opportunities, and rarely wore head coverings in the cities, except in heavily Shia areas. . . .

    Dalia, a married 28-year-old, describes how she was walking home about six months ago in Baghdad when three men pulled up beside her and berated her for wearing jeans and a T shirt. "I am Christian and not Muslim," she told them. One of the men jumped out and tried to rip her T shirt off, shouting, "Saddam's time has changed. Everyone must respect Islam." . . . .

    Already in the heavily Shia south of Iraq, Sharia is routinely applied in the courts� despite the Saddam-era laws giving women greater rights, says Aseel Abdul Khaleq, a woman lawyer who handles family cases. "They have the same law as Baghdad but they're using Sharia law. The next government will apply Sharia to the maximum extent." Even in Kirkuk, a religiously diverse community in the north, women have been sprayed with acid for not covering up properly.


    Woo hoo! Freedom is ON THE MARCH!

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    I am cautiously happy to see what look like the first steps of a democratic movement in Lebanon.
    I'm not so optimistic that it will be even a glitch on the Arab or world view of America's actions in the Middle East though. Sad... considering that the rise of China's and the EU's economic and political strength are coinciding with America's showing our military shortcomings (ie. our inability to currently fight multiple fronts and our inability to contain a situation of our own making) and sowing greater seeds of America hatred in the oil rich region of the Middle East.
    Potential democratic success in Lebanon does not seem as though it will benefit the US in any great way in the near or long term. China needs oil too though so I hope they thank us one day and at least toss us a couple scraps from the table for all our sacrifice in stabilizing an America-hating but democratic Middle East.

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    I'd like to add my voice to the chorus--it's not clear to me that the positive developments we're seeing in the Middle East are a direct result of the American occupation of Iraq. Will someone please explain the mechanism by which occupying a nation adds impetus to liberal movements in third party nations?

    (We withdrew our troops from Saudi Arabia, did we not? Was this impetus for liberal movements throughout the Middle East? If so, by what order of magnitude relative to the occupation of Iraq?)

    "...even if the intervention is successful in jumpstarting democracy in the region, one might still argue against on grounds of principle, of the ends not justifying the means (especially if any threat Iraq posed to the U.S. was contained)."

    hear, hear!

    The cost in lives--there's the rub!

    ...Not to mention that it isn't yet clear that the "ends" side of that equation will be a net positive to Iraqis. However, if Iraq erupts into civil war--God forbid--and the Iraqi people on the other side of that conflict walk out of the ashes and bless the day America invaded Iraq, I will have nothing to say to them. Who am I to criticize the people of Japan if today they are grateful for the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

    ...Of course there is the issue of American dead, and I'll always have plenty to say about that. Perhaps my feelings regarding American casualties, if I may co-opt a phrase, is best summed up by, "Millions for Defense--not One Drop of Blood for President Napoleon."

    "However much I hope that liberal democracy actually takes root in Iraq, Lebanon, and elsewhere, is that what the intervention was about? The spread of liberalism? Or was it about protecting the U.S. from future terrorist attacks along the lines of 9/11?"

    hear, hear!

    I would take the question further: If spreading liberalism throughout the world is an end in itself, is spreading liberalism throughout the world a proper use of American troops?

    ...I don't think so. I don't think there are very many Americans who think so either.

  • ||

    Prewar Iraq was a brutal dictatorship, but ...

    There's always the but, isn't there.
    ...but he made the trains run on time
    ...but it was a noble cause
    ...but it was the jews fault anyway
    That's right, the good old days when women had equal opportunity to be raped and tortured under the legal government is now a lost eden compared to the chaos of today. Are you seriously arguing that or just trolling?

  • ||

    I have a hunch that, true to form, Andrew will take me to task for what I wrote a little while ago and accuse me of defending Saddam.

    For the record, I was mostly poking fun at libertarians and their stances on domestic issues: civil liberties are nice, but taxes and guns are what REALLY get them going. I wasn't really commenting on Iraq. I think I've said just about everything I have to say about Iraq.

    But if Andrew wants to accuse me of saying something that I didn't say, well, go for it.

  • ||

    When a leader of the Lebanese opposition says that despite his scepticism of the US invasion of Iraq, the elections it led to have served to motivate the current level of anti-Syrian sentiment in Lebanon, it is a piece of evidence of causality, not simply correlation or synchronicity, that the US invasion has played some part in what is happening in Lebanon.

    Jumblatt is certainly no angel to cozy up to, but his words should also not be completely discounted considering his position and ample scepticism of (opposition to) the US led Iraq invasion.

    "A blinkered view from the Baghdad Hilton"
    'And if you do not believe me, listen to Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community in Lebanon. He has stated publicly that, although he is cynical of the US invasion of Iraq, the election has turned out to be, "the start of a new Arab world". He went on: "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it." If this is heresy, I�m happy to own it. There may be trouble ahead, but Iraqis are now making sure that Iraq is on its way.'
    http://news.scotsman.com/opinion.cfm?id=222062005

    Of course, one can take the ultra-cynical view that every word from Jumblatt's mouth recently is a clever deception to get the US to play right into his hands. But if that's the case what's to stop you from thinking that I'm just a plant from a major keyboard manufacturer trying to get you to wear out your keyboard; and simply not respond.

  • Gary Gunnels||

    Nick Gillespie,

    It is unambiguous that the U.S. intervention into Iraq is producing real, tangible results in the Middle East.

    How so? Or are you going to fall onto lazy and ill-thought claims of "common sense?" The only one asking to be thrown out of rationale discourse are those who make claims on nothing more than their "gut feeling" or mere chronology.

    Anyway, its hard for me to understand people who claim that liberal movements were touched off in Lebanon when those liberal movements already existed.

    I think what we have here is poorly thought out bandwagoning.

    Obviously, one argument is that liberal democratic regimes are less likely to conjure up terrorists...

    Something has never been demonstrated to be true. Spain is a liberal democracy yet it still has significant problems with the Basque seperatists. Democracy is no panacea for the end of terrorism.

    Are the Islamist terrorists representative of the Middle East (or Islam) in any way, shape, or form? Or are they effectively a suicide cult that will continue its action regardless of larger political shifts in the region(s) that shelter them?

    Kepel answered this question in his last book. When they are killing non-Muslims they receive far more support than when they are killing Muslims.

    But their various actions--recall the beheading of Nick Berg on the heels of the Abu Ghraib scandal--mark them as psychotics less bent on political change and more on some bizarre self-immolation...

    I think you are applying some Western vision of psychological soundness to the issue. To them beheading someone might seem perfectly rationale. Just because someone commits acts we find barbarous doesn't mean that they are "psychotic." Shit, if that were case then most of the armies of Rome were made up of psychopaths.

    ...they are the death throes of dying animal.

    That's the Kepel argument of course.

    Or, more precisely, it may be the Middle East is getting free from its most obviously despotic regimes, but it's not clear that the opposite of that will be liberal democracy or representative government.

    This is one of the reasons why the euphoria of the neo-conservatives reminds me of their euphoria in March-April 2003. Its much more likely that Afghanistan will end up like Haiti than Japan after all at least for the foreseeable future. Maybe Haiti is better than the situation under the Taliban, but its hardly the paradise that many were claiming would flower there.

  • Gary Gunnels||

    cthus,

    Other leaders have stated that they differ with Jumblatt. I find it interesting the folks running this blog quote one set of leaders without quoting the other set. Bias at play? Trying to play at the role of Dan Rather?

  • ||

    Gary, it's a little disingenuous to start your post by throwing this at Nick:

    How so? Or are you going to fall onto lazy and ill-thought claims of "common sense?"

    And then end it with this:

    Its much more likely that Afghanistan will end up like Haiti than Japan after all at least for the foreseeable future.

  • fyodor||

    I agree with clarityiniowa in that the Bush administration will certainly take more credit than they likely deserve. But I also know for sure that Bush critics will give him no benefit of the doubt whatsoever here.

    I found this a very telling remark. Rather than address the issue on its merits, the important thing to consider is how people will spin it for political gain or defense. Of course, he's correct. But he's committing the same offense by even caring about it. And I should point out that my beef is not with this commenter per se, but with the attitude that the comment typifies so clearly. And maybe what Gillespie is trying to do is show the world (and himself?) that he's not prone to this very same attitude when he treats the proposition that the Iraq War is democratizing the middle east as some kind of concrete fact. Maybe the effect is real; those on that side of the question certainly have a few things going for them at the moment. But to treat the idea as a foregone conclusion is still...PREMATURE.

  • ||

    Hoof and mouth-
    No, I'm not trolling; I just think it sucks that 1700 Americans and God knows how many Iraqis died so Iraqi fundamentalists would have the freedom to pour acid on women they don't approve of, and impose Sharia law. As a woman, if I had to choose between living in Hussein's Iraq or in Sistani's, I'd go with Hussein's. Kind of like the way a black man in 1940, asked to choose between living in Klan-controlled Alabama or Nazi Germany, would probably prefer to try his luck in Alabama.

  • ||

    Hoof and mouth-
    No, I'm not trolling; I just think it sucks that 1700 Americans and God knows how many Iraqis died so Iraqi fundamentalists would have the freedom to pour acid on women they don't approve of, and impose Sharia law. As a woman, if I had to choose between living in Hussein's Iraq or in Sistani's, I'd go with Hussein's. Kind of like the way a black man in 1940, asked to choose between living in Klan-controlled Alabama or Nazi Germany, would probably prefer to try his luck in Alabama.

  • ||

    test

  • ||

    I saw the "Gillespie Hadiths" headline yesterday, but I had no idea he was about to issue a fatwa. ; )

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    Sorry about the double posting. Something weird is going on either with my computer or the "Reason" server.

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    thoreau

    I have never accused you, joe, ken or most other critics of "liking" Saddam.

    (Since Jaques Chirac liked him - I believe they had an anuual naked bocci-ball weekend on the Riviera, with a pound of coke and a half-dozen girls from the UN secretarial pool...which convinced Jaques that Saddam was a far-sighted guy, always thinking of his country - it may be some Franco-phile posters like Saddam.)

    What I do say, is that in presenting the cost/benefit ratio of American intervention in Iraq, you systematically ignore the corollary that failing to remove Saddam entails all the costs/risks of keeping him.

    ONE thing the Iraqi elections indisputably prove, is that one big chunk of the mid-east is considerably more liberal than it was before - Iraq.

  • ||

    one big chunk of the mid-east is considerably more liberal than it was before - Iraq.

    Unless you're a woman.

  • Gary Gunnels||

    fyodor,

    Unless you actually polled the opinions of the demonstrators in Lebanon, the effect of the events in Iraq is largely unknowable. You have to have some way to actually test claims of causality after all. And so far Gillespie have presented us with two data points:

    * Chronology

    * Some statements by Jumblatt

    Both of these data points are undermined by chronology (events in Lebanon were cooking before 2003) and the statements of other Lebanese directly involved in the protests. Thus Gillespie's case is pretty weak so far.

    Andrew,

    Actually, it was Donald Rumsfeld that was feteing Saddam. He viewed him as a man of principle after all; a man who could get the job done for the U.S.; a man who could use chemical weapons the right way against America's enemies.

    What I do say, is that in presenting the cost/benefit ratio of American intervention in Iraq, you systematically ignore the corollary that failing to remove Saddam entails all the costs/risks of keeping him.

    Sorry, this doesn't make any damn sense whatsoever (that's not surprising coming from you). Part of the cost/benefit ratio of intervention entails a look at the and costs/risks of allowing Saddam to stay in power.

    ONE thing the Iraqi elections indisputably prove, is that one big chunk of the mid-east is considerably more liberal than it was before - Iraq.

    Maybe. Or maybe not. An election - as anyone remotely familiar with issues of liberalization - does not itself make for a more liberal government, society, etc. Its a very patchy proxy in other words.

  • Gary Gunnels||

    FNS Var On Way To Lebanon?

    Rumor has it that the FNS Var, a fleet replinishment ship often used to supply a supply French special forces (SSAG), is on its way to the coastal waters of Lebanon. Could the French be considering a military intervention?

  • ||

    "What I do say, is that in presenting the cost/benefit ratio of American intervention in Iraq, you systematically ignore the corollary that failing to remove Saddam entails all the costs/risks of keeping him."

    I do cost/benefit ratios for a living. I do them for myself, and, when I'm negotiating, I do 'em for whoever's on the other side of the table too. Looks like you've run the numbers for the Iraqis--I can't do that. Every time I try to put the value of an Iraqi life in one of my spreadsheets, I get this funny "#VALUE!" sign.

    ...Have you tried doin' the cost/benefit ratio from the American perspective? I'll just quote Gillespie:

    "For instance, even if the intervention is successful in jumpstarting democracy in the region, one might still argue against on grounds of principle, of the ends not justifying the means (especially if any threat Iraq posed to the U.S. was contained). It's a bit churlish to raise such a question right now, I know, but it's a legitimate point, especially given the broad vision sketched by Bush in speeches earlier this year. What might guide future interventions, both in the Middle East and elsewhere?"

    (Bold Obviously Added)

  • ||

    But again, Eric, you run into the problem of causality vs. correlation, or synchronicity, if you prefer. We can certainly say that, because of the U.S. invasion, Saddam is no longer in power. Can we say with certainty that because of the invasion, the life of the average Iraqi has improved or things are better in the Middle East in general? . . .

    Reminds me of the Russian history prof I had at UCSD, and his story of the Mensheviks, when he was thrown in jail at a protest, and a grad student, upset at their passivness declared: "What are we, a bunch of Mensheviks?".

    In the meantime, the Republicans are actually doing something.

  • ||

    For those of you who insist that the election has magically transformed Iraq into a liberal democracy, have you read the story about the South Vietnamese election which the New York Times printed in 1967? I'll paste it here; please forgive its lengthiness.

    U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote

    Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror

    by Peter Grose
    Special to the New York Times

    9/4/1967 -- "New York Times -- page 2" -- WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

    The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

    Pending more detailed reports, neither the State Department nor the White House would comment on the balloting or the victory of the military candidates, Lieut. Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, who was running for president, and Premier Nguyen Cao Ky, the candidate for vice president.

    A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam. The election was the culmination of a constitutional development that began in January, 1966, to which President Johnson gave his personal commitment when he met Premier Ky and General Thieu, the chief of state, in Honolulu in February.

    The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government, which has been founded only on coups and power plays since November, 1963, when President Ngo Dinh Deim was overthrown by a military junta.

    Few members of that junta are still around, most having been ousted or exiled in subsequent shifts of power.

    Significance Not Diminished

    The fact that the backing of the electorate has gone to the generals who have been ruling South Vietnam for the last two years does not, in the Administration's view, diminish the significance of the constitutional step that has been taken.

    The hope here is that the new government will be able to maneuver with a confidence and legitimacy long lacking in South Vietnamese politics. That hope could have been dashed either by a small turnout, indicating widespread scorn or a lack of interest in constitutional development, or by the Vietcong's disruption of the balloting.

    American officials had hoped for an 80 per cent turnout. That was the figure in the election in September for the Constituent Assembly. Seventy-eight per cent of the registered voters went to the polls in elections for local officials last spring.

    Before the results of the presidential election started to come in, the American officials warned that the turnout might be less than 80 per cent because the polling place would be open for two or three hours less than in the election a year ago. The turnout of 83 per cent was a welcome surprise. The turnout in the 1964 United States Presidential election was 62 per cent.

    Captured documents and interrogations indicated in the last week a serious concern among Vietcong leaders that a major effort would be required to render the election meaningless. This effort has not succeeded, judging from the reports from Saigon.

  • ||

    Don,
    The point guard of my son's basketball team is the best ball handler and is always "doing something" while others on the team are standing around. Unfortunately, he takes a lot of ill advised shots that result in no points and a change of possession.

  • ||

    Yes, Jennifer, but that election was supervised by a totally different President: LBJ, a Texan who also pushed through the largest expansion of federal entitlements since FDR.

    Bush, on the other hand, is totally different!

  • ||

    Thoreau-
    You're right; how foolish of me.

    I'm wondering why the guys who insist that Iraq is now so much better keep ignoring the plight of the Iraqi women, though.

  • ||

    I just realized the answer to my last question; according to the philosopher Hoof and Mouth, a society which at least allows women to hold down jobs and walk out of their homes is no more than a variant of a society which "keeps the trains running on time."

  • ||

    Jennifer,

    How "free" were the women who Uday and Qusay choose to service their "needs"?

  • ||

    Matthew-
    They were indeed victimized, but--and I'm not saying this as a justification--they were in the minority. In Hussein's Iraq, a minority of the people were actively oppressed, while the rest were able to get on with their lives. Now, it looks like ALL of the women will be oppressed, in addition to the Christian minority.

    Seriously, Matthew--do you think a woman raised in a secular society who is suddenly forced to conform to Sharia law feels that she's been given freedom?

  • ||

    To put it another way: a few Iraqis are better off now that Hussein's gone, but most of them are worse off for it.

  • Ruthless||

    I'm sorry to be coming in late on the comments here. Nick did a great job of reading my mind re a number of concerns.
    Bush has been good at forcing action. That brings about rapid change which is hard to predict. I think we are only at the beginning of rapid change, and I'm afraid events will take a big lurch for the worse before they get better.
    I've said before, Bush should have used Africa for practice, if he was going to insist on nation- or region-building. It would have been less risky and much cheaper, a more controlled learning environment, and had the potential to save more lives--plus lose fewer US ones.
    Another factor is that US media cannot afford to cover foreign affairs, and their coverage tends to always focus on US casualties anyway, not women's rights, etc. Sorry Jennifer. I think Clinton should be credited with having done enough "checkbook diplomacy" to keep most of the world dull enough to keep the media out of it.

    How about this metaphor? Bush is playing a game of chess. US soldiers and citizens are his pawns. It's not that Bush is stupid, it's that we don't really know who he's playing against, or whether they are playing chess, or, if they are, when they may throw the board on the ground and stomp it.

  • ||

    Ruthless-
    I'm not upset about the lack of media coverage concerning women's rights; I'm upset about the fact that even after learning women will be forced to conform to Sharia law, the guys on this thread keep talking about Iraq's wonderful freedom. I guess they figure that if MEN are abused, it's a human-rights issue, whereas if WOMEN are abused, it's just culture.

    I'm also wondering how long it will be until somebody takes my previous quote out of context and claims that I said Usay and Quday really weren't that bad.

  • Ruthless||

    Jennifer,
    Even folks here tend to throw around the words, freedom and democracy, like the politicians do. Like a mother says, let me kiss it honey, and make it better.
    What I'm trying to ponder is is there a chance for less overall violence in the world? Bush's brilliance notwithstanding.
    I'm thinkin' nah.
    Not until governments get totally out of the picture. They ALWAYS make things more violent. The reason is that governments exist to turn "us" into "we vs. them."

  • ||

    Don't listen to Jennifer--she said that Usay and Quday really weren't that bad.

    ...Just kidding, of course.

    I've worked with a number of Muslim women from the Middle East over the years, and they tell me that, back home, they were treated better than advertised. Indeed, there was one who laughed about the suggestion that her grandmother, who lived in the Sudan I believe, was mistreated. She claimed that her grandmother lived in a gilded cage surrounded by luxury and that her grandmother's homes were full of servants and that her grandmother had never had to lift a finger.

    ...I remember thinking at the time that her grandmother probably wasn't a good example of what life is like for most women in the Middle East. I remember thinking that maybe it was her grandmother's servants that everyone was talkin' about.

    All the Middle Eastern women I knew admitted, and by "all" I mean an entire few, that the reason they loved being in America so much was because they enjoyed the abundance of freedom. Any progress in the Middle East that doesn't improve freedom for women will be incomplete.

    ...and I hope I didn't say that with all due paternalism.

  • ||

    I guess they figure that if MEN are abused, it's a human-rights issue, whereas if WOMEN are abused, it's just culture.

    Sorry, but some of the guys here don't even think it's a problem if MEN are abused (see: Abu Ghraib).

  • ||

    Jennifer,

    I think you may be right. Generally Saddam just took the boy children and men to the mass graves and machine-gunned them. Usually the women and girls were not slaughtered. I feel nostalgia for the Al Tikriti clan already. . .

  • ||

    Just a point of advice: Talking about how things were better for a group of people under Saddam is a lot like talking how things were better for certain groups under Hitler. You might be embarrassed by this statement in 5 or 10 years, but your words will live on forever thanks to search engine technology.

  • ||

    Ruthless,

    Africa?! Everyone knows that the best place to start is Western Australia.

    http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/openletters/puppetmasters.html

  • ||

    I can't believe how many people are ignoring the Indonesian tsunami as being the decisive factor in changes to the Muslim world.

    Fact: The tsunami preceded the elections in Iraq and Palestine, and the assassination in Lebanon.

    Fact: Some 100,000 Muslims were killed by the tsunami

    Conclusion: Allah is displeased with the behavior of the world's Muslims. A change is required. Hence, what we see in Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon.


    The cause and effect are undeniable!

  • ||

    Matthew, I don't think Jennifer was trying to sing the praises of Saddam. I think she was trying to say that for Iraqi the situation has arguably gone from awful to god-awful.

  • ||

    Are the Islamist terrorists representative of the Middle East (or Islam) in any way, shape, or form? Or are they effectively a suicide cult that will continue its action regardless of larger political shifts in the region(s) that shelter them? Clearly, it has become more difficult as a result of U.S. actions for states to house or protect them.

    Were the Nazis representative of Germany? Who cares?! If some society or country is incubating a militant group that is attacking other societies or countries, they had better stop them or war is going to break out. We are doing a huge favor to the Mid East by stopping militant Islam before total war breaks out. If you want to know how that will end google "firebomb hamburg dresden" or just check this out:

    http://www.valourandhorror.com/BC/Raids/Firebomb2.htm

  • ||

    buck smith,

    We don't firebomb cities because we don't need to. Indeed, it would be an incredible waste of ordinance and material to do so. We have precision weaponry to reduce loss of civilian lives and because it is far more effecient, economical, etc. Unless we revert to pre-precision bombing days you won't see any firebombing of a Middle Eastern city.

  • ||

    thoreau,

    The human rights country report the State Department put out for 2004 was a compelling testament to jennifer's concerns.

    Of course, as we know we'll be told, either the State Department is lying or things would be worse under Kerry. :)

    http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41722.htm

  • ||

    Matthew-
    I notice that you avoided my question about whether a woman who has Sharia law imposed upon her has reason to feel that she has "freedom."

  • ||

    crimethink,
    RE starting in Western Australia...
    The best thing about the VN War, from my perspective, was to teach me that, even though our government hires alleged "whiz kids" to run it, they are soo stupid.
    Always have been. Still are.

  • ||

    [WRT 1967 South Vietnamese election] Yes, Jennifer, but that election was supervised by a totally different President: LBJ, a Texan who also pushed through the largest expansion of federal entitlements since FDR.

    Aside from the thousands of soldiers dying each month, the nation to the north with massive foreign support trying to invade (and that in fact did invade to finally quash those democratic efforts), and the widespread civil unrest in the US...yeah, the parallels are striking.

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