You Doubt an Iraqi Democracy? Look Again

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The most worn line heard whenever someone mentions the possibility of an Iraqi democracy is that, well, democracy takes time. Usually the argument is merely designed to discredit the U.S. war in Iraq (though the Bush administration has itself now moved a long way toward withdrawing from its initial democratic project).

Middle East scholar Eric Davis, of Rutgers University, has a different perspective about the possibility of democracy in Iraq:

In the struggle to create a participatory and tolerant political culture, few observers have called attention to a powerful weapon in the arsenal of any government that seeks to bring democracy to Iraq. This weapon is the historical memory of the Iraqi nationalist movement that took shape before World War I … Early on, the Iraqi nationalist movement manifested important characteristics, namely inter-ethnic group cooperation, tolerance of cultural difference, support for a secular definition of Iraqi political community and a commitment to norms of social justice …

Now, all we need is someone to convince the retreating administration.

NEXT: Even Would-Be Presidents of the United States Sometimes Must Have to Stand Metaphorically Naked

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  1. mak,

    I see your point of view. Better that Saddam keep the killing machine going than America have an economic and political success through military means.

    That is an interesting point of view.

    Personally I’m one of those evangelistic Americans who believes anything is possible. We defeated the Germans, the Japanese, The Soviets. Each enemy a stepping stone to the next. We used tthe Soviets to defeat the Germans (and we are grateful). We used the Islamics to defeat the Soviets ( and we are greatful). We are very sorry the Islamics want their turn at us. But so be it.

    You see before 9/11 I was a live and let live guy? Even the bombing of our war ships in your harbors did not excite me (I’m ex-Navy). But 9/11 was too much.

    My advice? Get with the democratic program the best you can. Do not threaten America or Americans. Some of us are a bit touchy these days. I think if you start moving down that road you can move yourself down the list.

    What ever your nostalgia for tribalism is you are going to have to get over it. It is not going to work. Just remember what we did to another problem tribal culture in our history? Indians. Mighty warriors. Mighty indeed. No match for Americans. And now the Indians are Americans. And they are unmatched warriors. Perhaps it is time the rest of the world got with the program.

    And no we are not going to get over it.

    Get used to it.

    Pax Americana is coming to the world. The earlier each faction gets aboard the sooner prosperity will arrive. I think the Iraqis know this better than any outsider. I think they will make the most of their opportunity.

    I blame it all on 9/11.

  2. Mak_Nas,

    That’s it you’re a literate IDIOT. “…but this stupid reductive choice that is offered again and again in lieu of complexity — saddam’s killing or american killing (on a far larger scale, i might add) — is a false choice. ” Big words can not hide your absolute ignorance and a willful ignorance of the truth. The Coalition, the United States, has NOT killed Iraqi’s on a far larger scale. I mean that as a wholesale and retail level. Saddam killed HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of his own citizens, at a minimum! Possibly he got several MILLION. True he had 25 years at it, so let’s examine it on an AVERAGE shall we? Minimum he killed 500,000 people, which works out at about 20,000 per year. I don’t think 20,000 Iraqis have been killed, directly or indirectly, by the Coalition in the last year, unless you want to count the Ba’athists, Jihadis, and regular army forces, i.e., the legitimate military targets of the Coalition. now you can oppose the war all you want, you can be wrong, but you can oppose the war. The posting I quote from you simply seems to say, “I’ll ignore all the inconvenient facts I want to make my conclusions fit.” It is one thing to disagree it is quite another to be willfully blind to the truth.

    But don’t come in here trying to make it out that some kind of humanitarian DISASTER has befallen the Iraqi’s with Saddam’s ouster. Saddam was the disaster, the Coalition was the cure. And you know what, we have the “right” because we can and because no one else would. As I said, indigenous socio-political philosophies have been disastrous for the Middle East, generally. So if the homegrown ain’t working time to try something new. And mayhap we Americans ARE ignorant and arrogant, who was gonna save the Iraqi’s? France, Germany, Russia, YOU Mak_Nas? The Iraqi’s weren’t having any luck saving themselves, and Saddam’s business partners had no desire to change his regime. And apparently the bright but gloomy intellectuals haunting cyber-space sure weren’t going to lift a finger, so I guess we Americans nominated ourselves.

    Fianlly, mak_nas, what have you got against the Global Democratic Revolution? You a member onf an non-elected elite, Syrian Ba’athist, Egyptian kleptocrat, Saudi Sheikh, Communist Party PRC? The Democratic Revolution looks superior, by far, to it’s alternatives.

    And you Libertarian/libertarian/anarcho-capitalists might want to jump on this band wagon with me. You may not like the Invasion of Iraq, but I think you all might support more democracy in the world. Or is it a case of the Enemy of my enemy is my friend, when it comes to these sorts of questions?

  3. M.Simon,

    that is a very short-sighted view of the world. What about when China realizes it’s industrial potential? what about when we no longer have a relative monopoly on world military power?

    and who are the islamics that defeated the soviets? Do these islamics all think and act the same? do all americans?

    also, where do you get the figures for 10.000 Iraqis murdered by Saddam a month? just curious.

  4. i see. well, thanks for the ad hominems, anyway, to you both.

    i am not capable of talking a true believer in American Good out of his religion. i cannot make a stupid man smart.

    and in so understanding, i know my limitations far better than america knows its own.

  5. “but this stupid reductive choice that is offered again and again in lieu of complexity — saddam’s killing or american killing (on a far larger scale, i might add) — is a false choice. ”

    I note you didn’t answer the question. If military action to remove Saddam has the consequence of killing civilians, failing to remove Saddam has the consequence of whatever atrocities he would have committed. If this is a false choice, what specifically is the alternative?

    “killing several tens or hundreds of thousands under american bombs and in american prisons?”

    Tens OR Hundreds of thousands, eh? Should we just pick the order of magnitude we prefer? Are we counting only civilians or combatants and terrorists as well?

    “again, the idea that you can “fix” tyranny by invading every place on the planet is NOT BENEVOLENT”

    Note that I don’t hold this to be the primary reason for the invasion, but if eliminating the tyrant is not benevolent, where is the benevolence of sitting on your hands in the face of tyranny? Ahh, I forget the unimpeachable moral rectitude of minding your own business.

  6. mak says: “again, the idea that you can “fix” tyranny by invading every place on the planet is NOT BENEVOLENT”

    So far in the current situation I’d have to say that there are a majority of Iraqis who would disagree with you. Plus we have the object lesson of Japan and Germany. Iraq is being done 3X faster.

    In addition I might add that there are a number of Iranians (perhaps a majority, who knows?) who would like to see an American invasion.

    Now I understand how all this power makes you nervous. Fine. I can tell you how to avoid the gaze of the eagle. Democratize. Women’s rights. Honest courts. Markets open to all. Other wise look out. The Eagle has his eye on you.

    For better or worse 9/11 has put a bug in our bonnet and we have decided to change the world. So far any time America has made that decision she has succeeded. That is the way I’d bet this time.

    Unfair? You bet. Shoulda kept yer eye on Osama.

    God forbid he gets another major blow in in America. Things could get a lot worse. A lot worse. We have used atomics before.

    Don’t piss us off. That is not a threat. Just a fact of life.

    I do understand the monkey impulse though. If you do not identify with the alpha male opposition is in order. A natural biological urge. Unwise. But natural.

    You did not mention your prescription for fixing tyranny. Other than overthrowing dictators by force. Out waiting them? For me – it depends. What are the risk/rewards?

    Given the fact that Iraq is strategic to the region I’d have to say it was worth the risk. We now sit astride the lines of communications of our enemies. A very good position to be in. The fact that we could liberate the Iraqi people is a big plus. But it is all about strategic position.

    I blame 9/11. Damn Osama.

  7. Mike,

    I can answer your last question. The best study that’s been done so far (can’t remember which human-rights group this was) estimates 300,000-500,000 mass graves in Iraq. So that’s a low-end number on the total killed. There have also been many millions of people “disappeared,” and I think we can assume they won’t be found alive.

    I would urge you to think about those numbers, and try to picture that many people shoveled into mass graves, before you sneer at our liberation.

  8. “What about when China realizes it’s industrial potential? what about when we no longer have a relative monopoly on world military power?”

    I will venture to guess that as long as China is Communist (or Fascist, or whatever the heck they are now) they will never be able to catch up to us. By the time they have stealth bombers, we’ll have perfected our stealth-bomber-killers (patent pending).

  9. Mike,

    At the rate things are going when China realizes its full industrial potential it will be democratic. It cannot realize its full potential and be undemocratic. I think they plan to go the route of Taiwan. Authortarian but economically liberal during the growth phase. More democratic once the per capita income is 3K to $4K per year.

    So I’d say that it is obvious that China is with the program. They are moving in our direction. Not we in theirs.

    China is rational. It knows it cannot be a world power without a market economy and democratic institutions. The Islamics are not rational. With them we will not be patient.

  10. M. Simon has a view I like. He seems to acknowledge the situation, with flaws and opportunities. Nobody has to like how we got there, but if we want to get out fast, we’ll have to appease the hawks. Davis wrote about a possible mechanism. Wouldn’t it make more sense to see if there’s any value in it rather than just carping about how Cheney is mean and that Bush lied?

    As much as the doves and ABBs apparently hate the idea, the easiest way out is if the nation-building maniacs succeed. The grumps are so mad about how it happened that they don’t seem to give any credence to any idea that might in some small way actually contribute even tangentially to the goals of the current administration. They’ll cut off their nose to spite their face.

  11. but then, its exercize is completely ahistorical, with the reductive simplicity of pure and abstracted ideology having washed away the complexity and uncertainty of historical reality in the american mindset

    Whut? Oy, I’ve got a headache now, as well as a flashback to my collegiate struggle to get through the sesquipedalian upper-division texts. Are you an academic by any chance, mak_nas?

  12. the unimpeachable moral rectitude of minding your own business

    i’m not advocating isolation. i am also not advocating a united states that believes its ideological mission is to zealously “free” the earth — because that is not freeing anything, and it means many dead and much destroyed, american and otherwise.

    i advocate a united states that is humble enough to understand that it cannot conquer the world in the name of any cause, but should engage the world constructively — and that includes distasteful forms of government — without presuming that we can or ever could hold the Moral High Ground that some here obviously believe we do.

    in a better world, people would realize that Democracy can be (and in our case increasingly is) dictatorial, tyrannical, and oppressive. what wise minds call “tyranny of the majority” is in fact exactly what we exemplify — the united states is a *textbook* case of it — demotic, ideological, warlike, intolerant and unquestionably Right. simply because the ideals we so militantly hold have positive connotations to us (Democracy, Freedom, Equality) does not mean that they are absolute goods — just as ideals such as Liebensraum and Aryan were once held in inviolately high esteem by a different nation and taken as obvious evidence of holding the Moral High Ground, so are our ideals now so easily abused.

    in so much as you may find that heretical, i am not surprised — after all, virtually every side of the american political landscape takes for granted the inviolate Good of these terms, often wihtout questioning with any intellectual rigor what we actually *mean* by them of how that meaning has changed over time.

    but i believe america has embarked on the path of initiating global war on a scale that will defy imagination over the next decades — all in the name of Democracy and Equality — just as the communists and fascists did for their ideologies before us. first iraq… then iran… then syria… then north korea… soo the world. you can read the fervor for it in some of the posts above — the people *want* it, just as in germany in 1936. they *need* it. and that will be a tragic legacy indeed, once the books are written.

    “get on the bandwagon”, indeed — i suspect that in the end, one will be presented with little choice but to.

  13. Oh, and as a Reason-reading undergrad about a decade ago, I gathered that most (a vast most) libertarians were non-interventionists. Did I get it wrong?

  14. Lisa, I’ll take that over Simon’s “gaze of the eagle” discourse any day. Let the EEEAAA-gle soooaaaaarrrrr!

    “I see your point of view. Better that Saddam keep the killing machine going than America have an economic and political success through military means.” What success are we talking about here? In descending order, my preferences are 1) American success 2) No-build option 3) American failure. Hope is not a plan.

    “Fianlly, (Joe L), what have you got against the (New Deal)? You a member onf an (economic) elite, (mill owner, financier, owner of sharecropper land)? The (New Deal) looks superior, by far, to its alternatives.” I can’t believe I have to explain this to a conservative.

    Mark, “As much as the doves and ABBs apparently hate the idea, the easiest way out is if the nation-building maniacs succeed.” Hawks have proven so incompetant in their analysis and predictions, and my own pessimistic opinions of the likelihood of success proven so much more realistic than their comforting assurances, that I am loathe to give them another chance to screw things up worse. It sounds too much like, “If we just had another billion for HUD, we could provide decent housing for everyone. This time, it will really work.”

  15. All I can say, Mak-Nas, is that the West is the freest, richest, most long-lived people in the history of the world, and it is the result of Freedom, and its concomitant Democracy. It can not be “proven” just as the existence or non-existence of God can not be “proven”, but I’d say the empirical evidence is pretty darn strong that Freedom and Democracy are good things. YOU make a straw man and equate Freedom with Tyranny of the Majority and you make it a seeming requirement that something be an UNALLOYED Good, to be a decent value. Nothing in life is an unalloyed good. You are correct, there is self-righteousness in the US (And more than a bit of it in the world of Mak-Nas, I might point out), there IS chauvinism, Democracy CAN degenerate to Mobocracy, but overall it has a MUCH better track record of producing happy, fulfilled, well-off citizens than anything else. And I think that it ought not be limited to white folks in European or European-founded nations and a few select yellow folk. So warts and all I’m glad that the Iraqi’s get the chance to try Freedom and I’m glad that they aren’t ruled by a vicious thug and his depraved sons.

    As to ad hominen attacks, I won’t back away from my charge of idiocy….When you begin to make nonsensical claims about the US invasion killing more than Saddam, you’re being an idiot, or a ideologically blinded fool. Jennifer doesn’t agree with the invasion, but I don’t hear her or others claiming that the Coalition has inflicted MORE harm on the Iraqi people than Saddam. Because that is DEMONSTRABLY untrue and they know it. You OUGHT to know it and if you don’t care to acknowledge it, well that puts you in a “Cloud Cuckoo Land” of your own making. Many here would accept that Saddam killed FAR MORE than the Coalition, but simply do not believe in foreign intervention. Now I think that their stance is morally wrong and repugnant, but they are not idiots. They can acknowledge the facts of the situation, they simply differ in their interpretation of the cure. Your statement, simply was wrong, at a fundamental level and for someone that is seemingly as smart as you to simply blind him or herself to the truth, speaks ill of YOU, Mak_Nas.

  16. joe: I ask that you help them screw up less. Like Iraq/HUD or any other moronic (to me) state action, once the program is funded, we can either bitch about how the state is always wrong, or help them be less onerous by arguing for sub-programs that lead toward a goal we all favor.

    About domestic nanny-state crapola, I stand solidly on my principle of liberty. When being people are being actively blown up, my compassion takes over.

  17. joe wrote –
    “If you want an indigenous democratic antecedent in the Arab world, you have to look at the “consultive” leadership of the bedouin tribes.” Etc.

    Ah .. bedouins in djelleba’s riding camels are the real, authentic expressions of Iraqi culture. Guys like Kannan Makiya/Ajami etc are traitors propogating western, liberal ideas.
    Just what makes you so sure that iraqis prefer the authoritarian ways old to new-fangled “western imports” like constitutional democracy etc any more than you’d like to be ruled by Bill Buckley & Cardinal XYZ 0’Brien ie the way things were in “the west” ?
    Also, don’t anti-warriors regularly show off polls which “prove” that people in the middle-east love everything about american democracy & culture & its just our “policies” (israel) which keeps them from hugging americans at will ? So, which is it ?

  18. “…Hawks have proven so incompetent in their analysis and predictions, and my own pessimistic opinions of the likelihood of success proven so much more realistic than their comforting assurances, that I am loathe to give them another chance to screw things up worse.”

    I’ve been hesitant to participate in debates about whether or not Democracy will work in Iraq because part of me feels like I’m succumbing to Administration propaganda when I do so. When I point out that freedom and Democracy aren’t likely to work in Iraq, it can appear as if I’m against working to establish freedom and Democracy for the people of Iraq; but I’m not. I’m sure this is the tack the Administration wants its enemies to take, but pointing out all the problems the Administration is likely to face, and pointing out all the Administration?s past failures, doesn?t necessarily mean that we want to abandon the Iraqi people to their fate. Surely, no one believes that the Bush Administration is arguing that it was all about freedom and Democracy because that?s what they wanted to be arguing in the months running up to the election. The Bush Administration talked about freedom and Democracy from the beginning of the war, but it wasn’t the justification given when the War started. Intentionally or not, they started the war on false pretenses.

    It’s like Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation in that, although the Abolitionists were there from the beginning, the War for many in the North, take Grant for instance, was about preserving the Union and not about Abolition. Before the Southern states started to secede, for many Northerners, Abolition wasn’t sufficient justification for the terrific toll to be taken on both sides and by Southern civilians, but that isn’t to say that those same Northerners weren’t in favor of Abolition. So we’re making a proclamation after the fact, and now that’s what the war was all about? Oh…okay. But If a Northerner had pointed out that enfranchising former slaves was likely to be a long, hard struggle with plenty of complications and unintended side effects, it wouldn?t mean that the Northerner was against Abolition, and if a Northerner had pointed out that, in the wake of the War, we were going to need competent leadership to deal with the aforementioned problems effectively, it doesn’t even mean that he or she was against Abolition for fear of the struggle.

    I remember when the Iraq War was about WMD and fighting terrorism. However, apparently, there was no WMD to be afraid of, and, apparently, there was no collaboration with Al Qaeda. Rather than making us safer from Terrorism, if the region devolves into a civil war, then Iraq may become a safe harbor for terrorists of all kinds; that is, the Iraq War will have made us less, rather than more, safe from terrorism, and George W. Bush will have achieved this deliberately. There’s a word for a leader who works deliberately to avoid something only to make that something much more likely, and that word is incompetent. If I offered the mess at Abu Gharib as further evidence of incompetence, would one of you suggest that I am against freedom and Democracy for the people of Iraq? If I pointed out that, because of the Iraq War, the Bush Administration has trashed our relationship with many of our former allies, and that we?ve gained little because of it, would you suggest that I?m against freedom and Democracy for the people of Iraq? What if I argued that, rather than what we?ve had to date, we?re going to need competent leadership in the future?

  19. I am really curious about what political philosophy, if any our pal mak_nas espouses. That libertarians or any of our intellectual predecessors should be aware of the limitations of democratic decision-making is not a new idea. If and when we support establishing governments, however limited, we assign certain decisions to the sphere of democracy, others to the individual, and make still more through our courts, whose juries and judges represent both democratic and aristocratic impulses. All of this is straight out of Aristotle’s description of mixed constitutions, as filtered through the experience of the Framers and Founders.

    As an intellectual exercise, proposing forms for a “democratic” Iraq – I would prefer it if we were talking about a reformed Republic of Iraq – could be interesting. Britain’s bicameral legislature seated members in its upper house who were “Lords Spiritual and Temporal”, which is to say, the nobility and the religious hiararchy. Later the UK introduced life peerages for merit. Here in the US we opted for a Senate which was essentially composed of delegates speaking for each state, regardless of population, and originally appointed, and even instructed by state legislatures. Canada’s Senate is appointive and lacks real power. Would it be that strange to elect an Iraqi lower house by a strictly democratic system of geographic constituencies, or national proportional representation, but an upper house by tribe, or some other traditional community? We never considered Lebanon, before it was caught in the crossfire among the Palestinians, the Israelis and the Syrians, to be undemocratic because its executive was elected with consideration to the major religious groups there (Christian, Muslim and Druze.)

    I’ve always been ambibelent about the Iraq war. I suppose it could yet be justified as a punitive expedition, if enough credible evidence established an al Qaeda/Iraq connection on terror. Non-interventionism doesn’t mean that you fail to respond to actual attacks that kill U.S. citizens. The nation-building I’ve never been keen on.

    Now, to the bigger question. Is mak so grumpy because he hasn’t had rice today, or is he an enthusiastic Galway puppeteer?

    Kevin

  20. political philosophy, if any

    lately, the party of fear. 🙂

    kev, it is exactly the limitations of demotic, plebiscitary democracy — the kind we have today, where polls drive policy, which is what iraq is supposed to adopt — that aristotle and plato discerned that make me fear for not only the future of iraqi governance but indeed our own.

    i’m sure that everyone here is aware of the descent of political dialogue in the united states into a sloganeering mosh pit of lowest-common-denominator reductions and name calling. t’wasn’t always so, of course — and an examination of the cultural history of western civilization illustrates that, as decadence has set in and the ideas of the french and russian revolutions have been taken to their absurd extremes, such laziness and slurring is a result of pandering to The People — who, on balance, it must be said, are a mob as analyzed by gustave le bon and others, just as they have always been.

    whereas the english constitutional system was based in the balance of aristocracy and common interests with strict limitations on both, we have forsaken that for rule by mob without limitation. (indeed, when The People are a revered holy relic, what limitation can you put on them?) we’ve eliminated much of the constitutional system to make the government more demotic (“responsive” or what have you) and, in so doing, set ourselves up for a dictatorship at the mercy of the champion of the mob — much as plato and aristotle would have predicted in their assessment.

    it isn’t representative government that was an awful idea — it was the abandonment of all voluntary limitation of the power of the people to represent themselves. such immodesty — so fitting of our arrogant times — is clearly disastrous, and perhaps could never have been avoided.

  21. ambibelent adj. Able to drink with either or both hands.

    Kevin

  22. joe,

    And a political model based on decentralized, customary tribal democracy wouldn’t have the virtue of being run by technocrats in suits who take orders from the IMF. Oops, I mean “the rule of law.”

  23. Yeah, but everyone would have to take orders from the chieftans grandaughter’s husband, no questions asked or else. Are you guys really romanticizing the tribal council’s of yore, extant when men were chivalrous and women were women and all the rest of that imaginary BS ?
    If so, i suggest you save your creativity for King Arthur – 2, not Iraq or anyplace real.

  24. err, the only ones retreating are the monday morning, armchair quarterbacks who used to support iraq’s liberation

  25. “And a political model based on decentralized, customary tribal democracy wouldn’t have the virtue of being run by technocrats in suits who take orders from the IMF. Oops, I mean “the rule of law.””

    Keving Carson celebrating tent living again. I have to laugh when joe and KC seem to agree on something but really don’t. I just can’t help it. joe would cry to the end of his days in a world without technocrats.

    mak:

    “i’m not advocating isolation. ”

    I didn’t say you were advocating isolationism, I said that the moral arguments you are making seem to carry the assumption that doing nothing in the face of tyranny is guilt free. I don’t think that is easy to argue successfully.

    “i am also not advocating a united states that believes its ideological mission is to zealously “free” the earth — because that is not freeing anything, and it means many dead and much destroyed, american and otherwise.””

    Of course freedom can be achieved by force. That is the only way it has ever been achieved. The price may be high, but that is not the same as saying that the good can’t be purchased at all.

  26. Mak_Nas,
    Ahhhhhh a Romantic Conservative…!!! Who would have guessed it!? Well, I say Romantic because you have an idealized view of the past. There never was a Golden Age when men were handsome, the women chaste, all the children above average, and the leaders both just and virtuous. It’s a myth, it never happened.
    The US has ALWAYS been a mosh pot of sloganeering and name-calling. You might have missed it but the other term for that is POLITICS. Hamilton, Madison, Washington et al. brilliant men and I do revere them, but they were MEN. They created a great system, but a great system that benefited them, it gave them jobs. If Beard is close to correct they created a Federal System that redeemed the Revolutionary debt, much of which they held. Do I love the United States, I do! I think it is the greatest nation that has EVER been and still IS!!!!! But, that doesn’t mean that it is perfect or was ever perfect.

    And please let’s not discuss England, the aristocracy, the Upper Classes were far from anything above average, save in arrogance, extravagance, and eccentricity. The upper classes exploited the poor and middle classes. There was no Golden Age there either… The Age of Pepys and Johnson, the Elizabethan Age, were the eras of poverty and exploitation for the great mass of the English, the Upper classes arrogated to themselves a disproportionate share of the nation’s wealth. They arrogated, thru monopolies and franchises granted by idiot kings too foolish to ever have been allowed near the helm of the ship of state, but who ruled nonetheless by the Divine Right of Kings and the whip, the noose, and the sword.

    Please, let’s not talk about some era when plebiscitary Democracy didn’t exist and the Mob wasn’t in control. For that world never really existed and the world we live in today is not the Mobocracy either. You conjure up some mythical past to compare lugubriously to this real, but imperfect world. I’d say if it gives you comfort drive on, but it’s obvious that it gives you no comfort. Instead we hear the moaning of a man/women who is convinced that we are in some slow death spiral, no doubt the world will end with a whimper not a bang, or something quite Yeatsian, I’m sure.

  27. if this is what is being forwarded as Hope for the installation of a demotic mess in iraq, if this is what is supposed to enable iraq to be Just Like Us, i can have little doubt that civil war is just around the corner. what irrelevance! don’t forget to tell the kurds about iraqi “nationalism”.

    jacobin interventionists should probably try harder to accept that iraq not only isn’t a western culture — it isn’t a decadent nihilistic demotic western culture like ours. religion, clan and caste are far more important (and functional) than Democracy, Freedom and Equality — and, implicitly, particularity is far more important than the Grand Causes of the Global Democratic Revolution.

    quit with the recycled communist propaganda, admit that we are crusading our ideology every bit as dangerously as hitler or robespierre ever did, and come to your senses. what will come of this is a semiautonomous region of the mideast that hosts american legions, sucks up american “aid”, pumps american oil and takes american orders.

  28. “This weapon is the historical memory of the Iraqi nationalist movement that took shape before World War I … Early on, the Iraqi nationalist movement manifested important characteristics, namely inter-ethnic group cooperation, tolerance of cultural difference, support for a secular definition of Iraqi political community and a commitment to norms of social justice …”

    Given its rather jaded history, this seems to be a rather pollyannish view of that past. Indeed, if these elements were so strong it seems rather odd that Iraq would devolve into a vicious tyranny. No, Iraq will take decades to create such a civil society as history teaches us. Hell, our own history as Americans should teach us that – indeed, since the American South took over a hundred years to reform, its no insult to Iraqis to state that it will take them some time to create stable and prosperous society.

  29. As this Cato report notes, the cultural foundations necessary for “democracy” to succeed go much deeper than, say, a “nationalist movement”.
    According to Ronald Inglehart, an political culture expert, these are the simplified necessities:

    • Political trust, i.e., the assumption that one’s opponent will accept the rules of the democratic process and surrender power if he loses an election;
    • Social tolerance, i.e., the acceptance of unpopular groups (e.g., homosexuals);
    • Economic development (a high standard of living legitimizes both democratic institutions and incumbent politicians);
    • Popular support for gender equality; and a
      High priority on freedom of speech and popular participation in decision-making.

    Now, we’d all like to think, as Eric Davis does, that a “nationalist movement” in the early part of the 20th century would translate into these things. He points out that the movement pushed some of the very things Inglehart listed. But to think that would be a fools errand. That’s a mighty huge leap of faith…the fact that a pre-WWI nationalist movement existed, means that Democracy can take form quickly in Iraq, and last. I just don’t buy such a leap.

  30. Michael, stop pretending this is Ken Pollack’s war. It’s Dick Cheney’s war, and no amount of lipstick is going make this pig pretty.

    You cheered on the firefighters and they ran into the house, and as the floor collapses under their feet, you’re snarking at people like me because we saw it coming way before you did? Please.

  31. If you want an indigenous democratic antecedent in the Arab world, you have to look at the “consultive” leadership of the bedouin tribes.

    But oh no, we can’t be admitting that an inferior, non-western culture could progress without the wholesale replacement of its civic life by a western model.

  32. And, um, regardless if democracy can work or not, since when is it our job to shell out hundreds of billions of dollars and the blood of thousands of our countrymen, in order install democracy around the globe?

    It’s odd, how the argument has somehow moved past that question, and simply accepted the premises of the PNAC.

    And as far as I am concerned, this is not really only about whether Iraq succeeds or not. This is about whether we, as a nation, will allow the neoconservative movement to destroy the tenets of the foreign policy established by the founders? We we allow them to hijack our time-honored (though, admittedly inconsistent) tradition of non-interventionism (not isolationism)? It seems as though that has already been done, with respect to Iraq. So, it seems, if we let them get away with this, if we simply accept it, and move towards whether democracy will work, then we have done a great disservice to the ideals of liberty, of the Republic. And that is the true shame.

  33. lol — haven’t you heard, ew? it makes us Safe. and it gives them Freedom and Democracy. and we defeat Evil. we are therefore Good.

    the only question now is whether that simpleminded utopian propaganda becomes the basis of the Global Democratic Revolution that jacobin minds espouse, or only an attempt at dictatorship within the united states.

  34. Evan, do you feel the same about South Vietnam, South Korea, West Berlin, Italy-France-Greece in the late 40s…?

    We intervened quite a bit to promote democracy.

  35. Darn those pesky Jacobin Europeans, that thought democracy or republican democracy could flourish in the United State, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, or in Europe itself… ESPECIALLY Europe, riven by ideology, clan and religion.

    And curse those darn neo-cons for thinking that a system that has ushered in peace and prosperity to its citizens could EVER be adopted or would care to be adopted in the Middle East.

    Now, I’m hearing racism and conservatism in some posts, and just sour grapes in others.

  36. joe:

    To be fair, all sorts of things that look cool in a tribe of 50 look less cool when applied to a population in the tens of millions.

  37. Joe,

    Why do you think I said, “though, admittedly inconsistent”? Noninterventionism means Noninterventionism. Yes, I feel the same way about our intervention into those messes as well. I’m sorry (well, not really), I just value the tenets of the republic a little too much to support our intervention around the world, even if it is in the name of “democracy”. In a truly free society, the government would not steal our treasure and blood in order to invervene in what it considers to be “noble causes”; instead, independent citizens would be allowed to form groups that voluntarily pool their wealth in order to “promote democracy” as they saw fit, within the law of inalienable rights.

    But, instead, we have the former. We have a “majority rule” (read: mob rule) who takes our wealth, and even takes our children, at the point of a gun, in order to perform its bidding. That is not “freedom”.

    “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.”

    -Thomas Jefferson

  38. “Hell, our own history as Americans should teach us that – indeed, since the American South took over a hundred years to reform…”

    Crappy as it sounds, I think transforming Iraq into into the American South of 1876 would be a substantial success. I sometimes think the critics of the process have a much, much higher standard of success than is warranted. Elections and an enumeration of rights, even if unequally applied in the beginning is still a huge improvement over a freakish tyrant.

  39. You grumps are experts at telling us how democratization will fail and that effort was wrong. Any hopeful perspective is dismissed as pollyanna fantasy. Since it appears you live in a dark and cold world, why do you people bother to get up every day?

  40. “joe:

    To be fair, all sorts of things that look cool in a tribe of 50 look less cool when applied to a population in the tens of millions.”

    Jason, this is an excellent point. I respond by pointing to the growth of democracy in the colonies/United States. There had been 150 years of pilgrim’s progress (heh) from the town meetings at Plymouth -> elected assemblies meeting in Boston before the Declaration of Independence was written.

    Like the utopian Free Traders seeking to destroy the protections built around embryonic industrial economies in the developing world (in the name of growing those nations’ economies), those seeking to transplant a modern respresentative democracy at the national level are ignoring the fact that it didn’t work that way here, and hasn’t worked that way anywhere.

    To anticipate, Japan’s villages were organized by consultive peasant assemblies since medieval times, and Germany, of course, led the way in the creation of “free cities” with pseudo-democratic governments during the late middle ages. Both of these nations had seen these little acorns grow into national assemblies prior to their suppression by the fascists/Imperialists.

  41. Please, Joe L. The “if you suggest that democracy might not work in the middle east, you’re a racist” card was overplayed long, long ago.

    Either way, the point is not whether or not it will work, the point is whether the US government should be able to steal our wealth and use it, along with the blood of our countrymen, to attempt democratic revolutions around the globe. Our military should be for defense of the republic, not for these happy-sounding little interventions around the planet. And the fact that this certain intervention was based on lies and exaggerations to begin with, is even more dispicable. Telling these soldiers that they’re “defending their country” against an “evil menace” who is “threatening us”, when, in reality, he was a defanged despot with a weak military and no established WMD programs or links to Al Qaeda; yes, Colin Powell and Condi Rice drove home those very points in the summer of 2001. Yet, somehow, between summer 2001 and March 2003, they changed their minds. And now that it’s all proven to be hogwash, everyone wants to shift the focus to “democratizing Iraq”.

    Well, if we went there to democratize Iraq, then why sell it to the people and the troops as an act of defense against an evil tyrant hellbent on destroying us?

  42. Joe L — if they want it, let them take it. was it washington irving who said, “he who would be free must strike the fist blow”?

    and so it is — i find it symptomatic of the advanced case of degenerative idealism that americans now believe that they and they alone can force freedom on peoples around the world — whether they want it or not, of course. does it not bother you that the communists espoused the *very same* philosophy?

    if you hear racism, it’s coming from the neocons, who apparently believe that americans and only americans are sufficiently endowed with the moral and epistemological prerogative to better the global social condition.

  43. Since it appears you live in a dark and cold world, why do you people bother to get up every day?

    to fight against the freakish tyranny that is hopeful idealism run mad.

  44. if you hear racism, it’s coming from the neocons, who apparently believe that americans and only americans are sufficiently endowed with the moral and epistemological prerogative to better the global social condition.

    AMEN!

  45. Japan’s villages were organized by consultive peasant assemblies since medieval times

    and even so, you can make the case that democracy has failed in japan. when the LDP wins every election, controls every contract, nominates every important official, and has for 40 years uninterrupted despite a great depression and widespread dissatisfaction — is that a democracy? or is it just called one?

  46. mak nas,

    You may have heard, militias in southern Iraq who offered to fight with the US army, secure towns, and drive out Saddam’s forces were told that if they appeared armed on the battlefield, they would be treated as enemy forces.

    Quite a libertarion, eh? Where are your WW2 analogies now, hawks?

  47. You grumps are experts at telling us how democratization will fail and that effort was wrong. Any hopeful perspective is dismissed as pollyanna fantasy. Since it appears you live in a dark and cold world, why do you people bother to get up every day?

    Maybe a good movie would cheer them up?

    “I don’t know what else Bush can do. We just have to see how it goes.” – Jack Nicholson.

  48. heh, yep, liberation indeed. in much the same way as rome freed athens from mithridates, so shall we free iraq from saddam, i suspect.

  49. Nothing’s going to cheer up the friends and families of the hundreds of US soldiers who were killed, or the more than ten thousand Iraqi civilians who were killed, all for this fucking exercise in misguided democratic philanthropy.

    Oh, cheer up, you gloomy goops! It’s just a happy li’l nationbuilding adventure! We weren’t using those hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of American kids, anyway.

  50. Evan,

    Quite right. Saddam knew way better what was good for the Iraqis than the Americans do. I salute your autstte observation.

    Like it or not te foreign policy of a weak nation will be different than the foreign policy of a strong nation. It is a hopeless cause to hope that we could go back to a Jeffersonian foreign policy. We tried that pretty much in the 1920 to 1940 period. Look what it got us.

    The problem is the alpha male problem. #2 is always going to try to knock off #1. It is biology. So then the question of a rational human has to be: are we better off with master #1 or master #2? To be without a master is not a choice at this point in time. This is not utopia. We are still ruled by the alpha male problem.

  51. Or mak_nas, kind of how we liberated Japan from the Gumbatsu or Italy from the Fascisti or Germany, France and the Low Countries from the Nazi’s.

    Of course God Forbid anything good happen… You make me laugh, Mak_Nas. I suspect you of being a troll. Your high-falutin’ airs of erudition and gloom, ah so lovely, almost comic.

    I don’t know Dude, but you know what was in place was broken and definitely not working, so I guess we’ll try something new and different. Ba’athism, Pan-Arabism, and a host of other nasty collective philosphies have been tried and failed, so we’ll give this Democracy thing a try.

    So here it is. You parade your “Nattering Nabob of Negativsim” thing around and I’ll parrot Dubya and say “Let Freedom Reign.” We’ll see which sells better, here and abroad.

  52. Gary,
    Germany had a stronger democratic tradition than Iraq, so say skeptics of a democratic Iraq say, and they turned into a pretty brutal dictatorship. Democracy doesn’t immunize you from dictatorships, they just increase your ability to respond. Had we not defeated Nazi Germany, they’d still be a brutal dictatorship.

  53. From the article:

    “Examples of ethnic cooperation included attempts by Sunni and Shiite Arab notables ”

    This has about as much relevance as saying Marxism could work in the US because several American intellectuals have thought about trying it.

    American democracy functions (functioned?) in part because ethnic or religious or other ideological “states” coexist under federalism. Iraq has 3 large factions, and probably dozens of smaller ones and I never hear much of anything as far as suggesting that Iraq could be divided into Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite states and operate under a federalist system that gives each state some autonomy to run as the locals see fit. It’s not surprising considering that the US government has become so large that it now operates as a unitary government instead of a federal government. You can have democracy in both, but that is a minor matter compared to the distinction of central power versus local autonomy. In short there is way too much emphasis on Iraq’s central government and little care given to the locals.

  54. “You grumps are experts at telling us how democratization will fail and that effort was wrong. Any hopeful perspective is dismissed as pollyanna fantasy. Since it appears you live in a dark and cold world, why do you people bother to get up every day?”

    Actually, Mark, I support democratization efforts. But if you don’t get them right, you don’t just fail to improve the situation, you make it considerably worse. I’m not against all war; I’m not against all wars to liberate people from tyrants. I’m against bombing the piss out of people and proclaiming our rightness when there will probably be nothing to show for it, and I’m against appropriating the language of liberation to justify imperialist enterprises – and the reason I’m so strongly against that misapprropriation is that I believe so strongly in real, honest to goodness liberation.

    The next time the United States has an opportunity to use its hard power to do something good in the world, the response of the isolaltionists and anti-Americans will be, “Great idea. Let’s put Don Rumsfeld in charge.” What are you going to say then?

    That is, if you “liberationist” conservatives can even rouse yourself for a country with no oil beneath it.

  55. m simon,

    1) the iraqi choice between saddam’s tyranny and american tyranny is a false choice — there are (or rather, were) other options, many better than either.

    2) the social darwinism you espouse there is a formula for perpetual global warfare and millions of american body bags. do you desire it? if not, why would you initiate it? period of peace punctuated by defensive wars is a far better scenario, imo, than Global Democratic Revolution.

    3) no one believes that we’re going to miraculously devolve into an agrarain backwater; what i would hope is that america can engage the world and its various peoples, governments and ideologies with modesty and an open mind — not the arrogance that dictates “all should be as i am”.

  56. Evan,

    Suppose against all odds it works (as it appears to be doing). Then what?

    We can’t be totally incompetent in that part of the world. We have done OK with the Kurds. Why not the rest of Iraq?

    BTW if you read our soldiers who blog -the vast majority say we are doing good and it is worth the sacrifice. If the kids who are paying with their blood and sweat and tears are OK with it I am too.

    Funny thing is a lot of people say that we spent too much on the cold war. Probably we did. Probably cost us more than we could ever recoup. However, the worldis a better place for our efforts and we have at least the temporary graditude of the recently freed.

    The Islamics have it correct in pointing out that wealth is not every thing. I do think it has to be very important. But if that is our only priority then we have no soul.

    For better or worse our Executive Branch has decided tthat the best way to fight the current war is to extend democracy and self government to the regions that the disaffected come from. You may disagree with this policy (I do not), but to act like this was some new strain unheard of before is unwarranted. In the 1780s there were Americans who thought that America ought to agressively export Liberty. This is not something new in American politics. This thread is now ascendant. It has been working for the last 60 years. The policy of supporting self rule/democratization has been quite successful. Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan. All places we have democratized by force majure or insistient pressure.

    The world is a better place for it.

    It is a better place without Saddam ruling Iraq.

  57. In short there is way too much emphasis on Iraq’s central government and little care given to the locals.

    indeed, Democracy of the demotic, centralized type we have now — as opposed to the limited, local, decentralized type we were founded with. therein lies the eventual failure of both their putative Democracy and our own established one, i suspect.

  58. It is a better place without Saddam ruling Iraq.

    that depends on what replaces it.

    but, even if i agree, is it a better place under american empire and the onset of Global Democratic Revolution? i think that’s the more relevant question.

  59. mak,

    Saddam was killing 3,000 to 10,000 of his own a month.

    Your better option was?

  60. Your better option was?

    killing several tens or hundreds of thousands under american bombs and in american prisons?

    don’t get me wrong — saddam bad, saddam bad. no one advocates tyranny.

    but this stupid reductive choice that is offered again and again in lieu of complexity — saddam’s killing or american killing (on a far larger scale, i might add) — is a false choice.

    again, the idea that you can “fix” tyranny by invading every place on the planet is NOT BENEVOLENT — it is the very philosophy by which rome sold to its own people the conquest of the known world. (not that anyone reads a history book anymore, of course, when we have such attractive principles to ogle.)

  61. doing nothing in the face of tyranny is guilt free. I don’t think that is easy to argue successfully.

    jason, i don’t think doing nothing in the face of tyranny is good — when it is YOUR tyranny. no tyranny survives real popular revolt. if the iraqis want a new government, let them take it! indeed, which russian democrat recently said of his nation’s slide back into tyranny, (i have to paraphrase) “we did not spill enough blood for democracy”?

    where did we get the moral prerogative to decide which peoples shall be free, when they shall be so and by what force of arms? can you find ANY historical example of a nation in the crusading role the united states is taking on that is seen as anything but war-crazed and destructive?

  62. I wonder, too, if you can really argue that blacks in 1876 weren’t any better off than Kurds under Saddam.

    perhaps not — but did slaves in the united states require the invasion of britain to be freed?

    bottom line: you seem optimistic that we will choose good fights, fight them well, free grateful peoples, do little damage and raise our moral standing — all while not bankrupting our nation. i am not optimistic that we will do any of those things consistently.

  63. “But just as American and English democracy was homegrown, so must Iraqi democracy be homegrown.”

    Well sure, joe. But keep in mind that American and Brit democrats of old had no templates to refer to, other than the ones provided by classical literature – at the very least, there were no live examples to study. Surely, debate on democracy, rule-of-law, due process, suffrage and all the rest of it is ancient news even in the ME by now. What is “homegrown”, really ? I can see the problem if Paul Bremer were “elected” President of Iraq, but is it alien to Iraqi culture to have two legislative houses etc ?

  64. “bottom line: you seem optimistic that we will choose good fights, fight them well, free grateful peoples, do little damage and raise our moral standing — all while not bankrupting our nation.”

    The good fights as we see them at the time, yes. The alternative is to dodge good fights for fear of engaging in the other kind. Fight them well, yes. We have the most significant military power in history and the most advanced tactics to go with that hammer. Do little damage? No. The criteria is not little damage, but less damage when balanced with what is gained than Saddam would inflict while we are doing nothing. I expect this to be a criteria in choosing the fights we engage in.

    “i am not optimistic that we will do any of those things consistently.”

    Therefore you should not act even when it is the right thing to do as you perceive it?

    “no tyranny survives real popular revolt…”

    You speak confidently. Weapons have a lot to do with it.

  65. Therefore you should not act even when it is the right thing to do as you perceive it?

    i don’t view the ideology behind the act and the effects (both probable and unforseen) as separable; indeed, i think people who can conveniently divorce their hopeful reasoning before and the terrible consequences after as dangerous — and often too willing to dismiss possible consequences so as not to tarnish the shiny ideology.

    less damage when balanced with what is gained

    again, so easy — when it is not YOUR damage or YOUR gain. any american who believes they understand what the iraqis had, what they have, or how they’ve suffered for the change is an outright liar — to themselves and to others.

    a BIG part of my reasoning is that we here in our comfortable america can have no meaningful context by which to judge these things, one against the other. we simply do not possess and can not get the context of their civilization. given that, how can we ever hope to make good decisions? in fact, we cannot, imo — but we are too arrogant to admit it.

  66. “any american who believes they understand what the iraqis had, what they have, or how they’ve suffered for the change is an outright liar — to themselves and to others.”

    Horseshit! What precludes making a rational assessment of these things? Why would it be idle to discuss them, and why would it be impossible to draw conclusions reasonable enough to act on?

    If some sort of general cognitive skepticism is at play here, how can you be certain the invasion/occupation was so terrible? I recall bystanders watching the palaces get bombed.

  67. but did slaves in the [U]nited [S]tates require the invasion of [B]ritain to be freed?

    In both the War of Independence and the 1812 War, British commanders used promises of emancipation to those enslaved by their American enemies to encourage them to desert their “masters,” and provide themselves with auxilaries and even recruits for their forces.

    After the U.S. banned the importation of slaves, our Navy made some efforts to prevent ships flying the American flag from carrying captives from Africa to Cuba, Brazil, etc. I’m sure many held in chains in the holds of those ships would have welcomed the Royal Navy’s intervention, but that was hampered by our objection to anyone stopping our ships but us. See:

    http://amistad.mysticseaport.org/discovery/themes/lane.navy.html

    Perhaps if British officers hadn’t used their searches for human contraband as an opportunity to impress our sailors into their crews, we could have cooperated more than we did against the slavers.

    Kevin

  68. Jason Ligon,

    I’m not going to get into a game of moral, etc. equivalence. When dozens of American black men are rounded up into a building and burnt to death (there are several famous cases of such), I think these attempts to gauge what is worse than that become trivial.

    Andrew,

    “The ethnicity (and religious preference) of Iraq makes it rather more relevant to the region which is central to our concerns about terrorism than, say, Guatemala…”

    Well that’s not really what you appeared to be arguing earlier.

    “Economically, Iraq was a relatively prosperous Arab society before the discovery of oil– you know…the Fertile Crescent.”

    It was a fertile crescent in historical times; however, it no longer is. Changes in climate, over-use of the soils, etc. have degraded its agricultural attributes significantly.

    “A stream of app. $60 Billion per annum in oil revenues to a population of 23 million seems like a comfortable cushion for a fledgling democracy– that’s the way I see it, anyway.”

    Its not really, especially in light of the massive amounts of infrastructure work that needs to be done there. Anyway, that is approximately $2,304 per person per year – and I doubt the majority of the population would ever see even that amount from the oil revenues. One of Iraq’s major problems is that they aren’t Qatar – they aren’t a small population sitting on a lot of oil, they are a large population sitting on a lot of oil.

    “I am hardly thinking Iraq was an optional war. We had a real dillemma to resolve. The sanctions regime was unmistakeably eroding, and Saddam faced excellent prospects of escaping it entirely within a few years…and — at best — what was so lovely about the dismal prospect of enforcing sanctions effectively, and indefintely, at the cost of ourselves and the Iraqi people — while Saddam continued to brutalize his nation with impunity?”

    Your statements make it seem even more optional.

    “We did not have the option of ‘picking’ Egypt or Jordan for a Democratic Transformation.”

    Well, this merely begs the question; or rather, you’re pre-supposing that there was some need to “pick” a country at all.

    “But something that lay well within our rights…”

    As derived from what specifically?

    “…and responsibilities…”

    I see nothing in the Constitution which points to some “responsibility” to the Iraqis here.

    “…of all the societies on earth, currently under tyranny, which would you choose as a BETTER prospect for Liberation?”

    None.

  69. Andrew,

    “…of all the societies on earth, currently under tyranny, which would you choose as a BETTER prospect for Liberation?”

    Let me be more specific, since my first answer is somewhat ambigious. I would pick no country or society to liberate – that’s not the role of the American government from my perspective – indeed, this is the sort of extra-constitutional role that will led to domestic trouble in the U.S. Or let’s put it another way, your position is surely the best way for proponents of re-instating the the draft to get their way – a draft being a devastating affront to liberty.

  70. Gary

    By confronting and defeating Saddam in ’91 the US assumed both rights and responsibilities concerning the future of Iraq. In fact, until the downfall of Saddam we have never not been at war with Iraq– only in a truce.

    The constitution allows considerable latitude for the President and Congress to pursue the interests of the United States in world affairs (off-the-cuff remarks by Washington and Jefferson, and the pious wishes of isolationists, notwithstanding).

    We COULD have funked on our opportunities in Iraq…but I contend that would have been unwise. I seriously doubt that the world ten years from now will be saying that deposing Saddam, and launching a democracy in his aftermath, was the gravest foreign policy mis-calculation the US ever made.

  71. And Gary

    You haven’t really addressed my question. IF you were to chose a sizable nation currently under tyranny in which to introduce democracy, which would you choose in preference to Iraq.

    In the region, maybe Jordan…except they seem well on the way by themselves.

    California is larger than Iraq, but I am rather sure they would be delighted to get a $60 Billion per annum windfall. Would every citizen see some portion of that? Likely not– but few lives would be unaffected. Would Jordan be WORSE off discovering that much oil? Egypt? Syria?

  72. Neo-Cons (OK…I’ll cop to that) do NOT want to bring Liberation to EVERY society that arguably could benefit from it.

    IRAQ was chosen– why? Because it has a decent chance to work there…and work quickly. Iraq is a large Moslem and Arabic society, with significant domestic resources (including , but not limited to, oil) and an educated population. A success here not only is relatively more probable than, say, the Congo or Nigeria…it could also have a real “snowball” effect. That just isn’t so in Somalia or Haiti.

    Some ancillary reasons. The oil does serve an important national interest– we don’t need to steal it…we just need to be able to buy it from someone who isn’t a psychopath!

    There were ALL KINDS of reasons to get rid of Saddam. Everyone knows he was still intrigued with WMD. Joe, mak-nas…did you really want to give that guy $60 Billion a year? Or keep ourselves, and the Iraqi people, denied with sanctions Saddam was prepared to endure…and with excellent prospects for escaping them?

    How about a little semi-imperialist common sense? If important American and Western interests are served, and democracy gets launched in a society where it may shift an entire and critical region…what’s the problem?

  73. Jason Ligon,

    “Crappy as it sounds, I think transforming Iraq into into the American South of 1876 would be a substantial success.”

    I hate to burst your bubble, but Iraq today is the American South of 1876 – terrorism, violence, etc. were rampant, and directed largely against blacks, especially the black leadership. Indeed, the most sustained period of terrorism in American history occurred during and after Reconstruction in an effort to raise up the Southern “redeemer” Democratic party governments in the South and destroy black political and economic independence.

  74. mak_nas, Joe L., etc.,

    You’ve let your conversation devolve into pointless name-calling; this is tiresome and rather pointless.

    Andrew,

    What other resources besides oil (and perhaps natural gas) does Iraq have?

    Also, I think its perfectly reasonable and rational for someone to argue that invading Iraq was not worth the blood and treasure it took to do so, especially since you appear to characterize it (like Thomas Friedman) as an optional war. Furthermore, why is success in Iraq more probable than elsewhere? You point to some factors but one doesn’t seem particularly relevant (ethnicity), another I find somewhat less than credible (education) in part because Iraq doesn’t appear to have the level of education that some claim (indeed, it seems like a typical third world nation in this way), and the final factor (oil) can be as much of a curse as a blessing. Thanks in advance for your cordial reply. 🙂

  75. Sorry Gary, well just skip ove the ones you don’t like.

  76. Gary

    The ethnicity (and religious preference) of Iraq makes it rather more relevant to the region which is central to our concerns about terrorism than, say, Guatemala…it is important to sponsor a democracy in an Arab country.

    Economically, Iraq was a relatively prosperous Arab society before the discovery of oil– you know…the Fertile Crescent.

    A stream of app. $60 Billion per annum in oil revenues to a population of 23 million seems like a comfortable cushion for a fledgling democracy– that’s the way I see it, anyway.

    I am hardly thinking Iraq was an optional war. We had a real dillemma to resolve. The sanctions regime was unmistakeably eroding, and Saddam faced excellent prospects of escaping it entirely within a few years…and– at best– what was so lovely about the dismal prospect of enforcing sanctions effectively, and indefintely, at the cost of ourselves and the Iraqi people– while Saddam continued to brutalize his nation with impunity?

    And otherwise…allow Saddam to see what he could cook up with those oil revenues?

    We did not have the option of “picking” Egypt or Jordan for a Democratic Transformation. But something that lay well within our rights and responsibilities was available in Iraq…and not a shabby prospect either– of all the societies on earth, currently under tyranny, which would you choose as a BETTER prospect for Liberation?

  77. “I hate to burst your bubble, but Iraq today is the American South of 1876 – terrorism, violence, etc. were rampant, and directed largely against blacks, especially the black leadership. Indeed, the most sustained period of terrorism in American history occurred during and after Reconstruction in an effort to raise up the Southern “redeemer” Democratic party governments in the South and destroy black political and economic independence.”

    I don’t dispute that the distinction I am drawing is terrible. It is in part the distinction between nearly everyone living in fear of the whim of a tyrant and only some living in fear. I wonder, too, if you can really argue that blacks in 1876 weren’t any better off than Kurds under Saddam.

  78. Joe L, when calculating the damage caused to Iraq by this invasion (in order to tally it against the damage wrought by a few more years of Saddam), it is not enough to count those killed by coalition action. The daily terror bombings and insane murder, assault, and rape rates (which were not present) are also consequences of the invasion.

    SM, (and Kevin too, I guess), I am no more advocating for an Iraqi government that looks like bedouin tribal law than I am advocating for an American government that looks like the racist, sexist, bigoted, classist town meetings of the Puritans, or a British republic that looked like the Magna Carta. But just as American and English democracy was homegrown, so must Iraqi democracy be homegrown.

  79. mak-nas you are being melodramatic…did you just see the Moore movie?

    Major military commitments by the US have usually (always) been followed by a generation of peace…although I suppose it would be possible for any country (Korea, Costa Rica) to FORCE the United States into war.

    Bush has two wars under his belt and will be entirely unlikely to be able to lead the nation into another confrontation absent a direct provocation. If anything Kerry, with a fresh slate and a need to prove his cojones, would be more apt to send signficant forces somewhere…though I doubt it.

    For better or worse, Iraq will be our principal riposte toward our enemies in the world for some considerable time to come.

    The most rational critique of the Iraqi war would be a supposal that we should have SAVED our fire for Korea or Iran…but that is a case nearly none or the anti-war clones would make, because it IS rational, and THEIR anti-war reflexes come from some kind of Jungian post-VietNam mythology.

  80. although I suppose it would be possible for any country (Korea, Costa Rica) to FORCE the United States into war.

    the illogic of this statement is why i’m melodramatic. no american sees it as possible to mind their own business anymore — and is that not the essential to the very definition of overextended empire?

    what if north korea conquered the south and we did nothing? what if iraq conquered kuwait and we did nothing? the fact that virtually everyone dismisses that as impossible is evidence that the united states is on a jacobin crusade to right all wrongs on this earth, with the morla and intellectual prerogative to be the arbiters of all peace — based on our superior Democratic Ideology. so felt the german people in the years 1871-1945, except their golden god wasn’t Democracy.

    the death of Particularity, and all its associated attributes of humility and limitation, at the hands of grand Ideologies, in which we perceive ourselves as proud and unbounded, in western civilization generally is an invitation to perpetual warfare.

    absent a direct provocation

    he was absent a direct provocation last time and managed to run down iraq. don’t be confident on this point — provocations are manufactured to fit the need. see wmd, the gulf of tonkin, the students of granada, the uss maine — and it isn’t limited to american history, of course.

    Iraq will be our principal riposte toward our enemies in the world for some considerable time to come.

    my dear fellow, so they said about czechoslovakia. every month we have taken steps to pave the way to war in both iran and north korea. john bolton has been tasked with isolating iran — what does that tell you? and cheney warned the chinese that “time is running out” on north korea. i think you underestimate the drive of the neocon white house to institute the Global Democratic Revolution. they would take reelection in november as a mandate to conquer, imo.

    in the end, i sincerely hope you’re right. but i am a conservative, not a reflexive antiwar nor a fan of kerry or clinton — i see no viable human condition that does not involve it. what i fear i see developing, however, is not defensive wars and the protections of interests — but an Ideological Crusade to conquer the globe in the name of Democracy and Freedom. of course, freedom and democracy would be the last things anyone would get out of such a monster.

  81. while we parse and rationalize which is worse that what, our government lays plans to conquer iran, syria and north korea. be prepared to make all the same justifications against kim jong-il and khameini that you are now making against saddam. it’s clearer than a sunny day that the american army is headed there after november with the “proper” election outcome.

    the most important recognition at hand is that the Particularities of iraq are irrelevant — and always have been, frankly — to the neocons. the Ideology is what matters, so why sit here and attempt to reconcile the actions of the united states using Particularities that never factored in except as convenient propaganda? they matter exactly as much as the Particularities of german ethnicity in the sudetenland did.

    Ideology drove that war. Ideology will drive the invasion of iran. Ideology will drive the military strikes in north korea. and their Particular situations matter none.

    that seems to me to be the elephant in the room that few defenders of our actions in iraq choose to grapple with, while it is the paramount concern of those who oppose it.

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