It's the Furriners, Stupid!

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A new Pew poll shows interesting results, namely that ?[f]or the first time in decades, foreign affairs and national security issues are emerging in the final months of the U.S. presidential campaign as greater concerns among American voters than economic matters.?

The results are a mixed blessing for both presidential candidates. Said Walter Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations: ?Both pro- and anti-Bush voters agree that foreign policy is very important.? Americans give Bush higher marks on the war on terror, but ?Kerry has a lead when you ask which is better on foreign policy ? Supporters of both candidates can find both encouragement and grounds for concern in the study.?

The poll also, and disappointingly, confirms that most Americans don?t give a hoot about democracy in the Middle East. While the story linked above (from the International Herald Tribune) does not have the relevant passage, an earlier version in the hardcopy version I read observed: ?Low on the list of foreign policy priorities was Bush?s goal of promoting democracy in the Middle East, which appears to have little traction; it was listed by one in four Americans, unchanged since October 2001.

Reason contributing editor Matt Welch could have told Pew long ago that foreign policy was important this election year; he lamented its absence during the Democratic Party convention in this opinion piece written for Lebanon?s Daily Star.

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  1. “foreign affairs and national security issues are emerging in the final months of the U.S. presidential campaign as greater concerns among American voters than economic matters.?

    But, alas, no discussion of the illegals who walk accross open borders.

  2. “foreign affairs and national security issues are emerging in the final months of the U.S. presidential campaign as greater concerns among American voters than economic matters.?

    But, alas, no discussion of the illegals who walk accross open borders.

  3. That’s because farm workers don’t slaughter thousands of people in a morning, OPUS.

    My God, what’s he doing to that lettuce?!?

  4. That’s because farm workers don’t slaughter thousands of people in a morning, OPUS.

    You guys brought it up, I just provide links. Note: these are links to outside sites, including the NYT and CityJournal. You have been warned: Hillbangers and “The Immigrant Gang Plague”, “The Illegal-Alien Crime Wave”.

    Of course, that represents only a small part of the problem. However, the stats in those articles are troubling, as is the specter of tranquil small towns being infested with gangs. Why, even Matt Yglesias – a Jewish Latino Liberal – has complained about members from the gang mentioned in the NYT article living in his neighborhood in DC.

    Let’s leave the rest of the discussion for another thread.

    I’m off to translate Ted Rall’s latest Meisterstueck from its original German. Look for it.

  5. R.C. Dean,

    For something that “doesn’t matter,” the Bush administration sure likes to do a lot of it.

  6. Maybe most people are of the mind that we need to stop being so frigging dependent upon the Middle East, and because democracy does little but to make Middle Eastern countries more pliable for our oil “needs,” it’s a non-issue. Stop being dependent, stop seeing democracy as necessary for the Middle East. I don’t especially care what kind of government…say…Gabon has. Know why? Because we’re not sucking at Gabon’s teat. If we’d get off the petroleum udder for a minute or two, we’d care less about the governments in the Middle East, too. Hell, WE don’t have a democracy, and we’re allegedly bitching about the Middle East not having one? COME ON.

  7. Democracy in the Mid-East hasn’t gotten a lot of media play, and war opponents tend to stay off it (for obvious reasons) so the phrase, as such, doesn’t register with poll respondents- but the trope of Iraq sending an Olympic team appears to resonate, and elections in Afghanistan could make for some nifty Bush campaign commercials.

  8. That’s a sensible dichotomy.

    Bush has demonstrated success in “War on Terror” i.e., obtaining a military objective like Kabul and Baghdad and the homeland has not been attacked since 9/11, etc. (Unless you count the “Adventures of Pluto Nash”)

    Kerry predicts to be more adept at “foreign policy” i.e., the nuanced process of the U.N. Security Council and also stuff like putting pressure on Georgia to let the South Ascetians (sp?) rejoin Russia, etc.

  9. Why should it be disappointing that most Ameericans don’t give a hoot about democracy for the Middle East? It’s not clear at all that most Middle Easterners care about it; I can’t imagine why it ought to be more important to us than to them. Human rights, of course, is another matter and one that we certainly ought to care about, but that is not something that’s inextricably linked to democracy.

  10. Kerry predicts to be more adept at “foreign policy” i.e., the nuanced process of the U.N. Security Council and also stuff like putting pressure on Georgia to let the South Ascetians (sp?) rejoin Russia, etc.

    In other words, the shit that doesn’t matter.

  11. “confirms that most Americans don?t give a hoot about democracy in the Middle East”

    and it doesn’t matter to the Bush Administration either. It is meerly an after-the-fact execuse to provide moral cover for the invasion of Iraq.

    Like Dan said in another thread (about Chavez), Americans don’t care about the ME shithole as long as the Oil keeps flowing at “reasonable” (i.e., cheap) prices. Their leaders, after all, are nothing but glorified gas station attendants, right Dan.

  12. Bush is proposing to base American troops in Uzbekistan, and increase aid to the Islam Karamov governemnt by $21 million.

    You remember Dear Leader Karamov, the gent who boils dissidents to death? It’s all about democracy.

  13. I don’t especially care what kind of government…say…Gabon has. Know why? Because we’re not sucking at Gabon’s teat.

    Well that’s your prerogative, but Gabon hasn’t exported suicide bombers aimed relentlessly at the US. We must come to terms with the fact that ME democracy is essential for US security. Furthermore, on the oil issue, it’s far more in the interest of the US, let alone far more ethical, for the US to be buying oil from governments that are accountable to their citizenry.

    I have no problem in the US securing its oil interests. But as Bush, Cheney and Wolfowitz (yes him!) understand (or at least understood) this is an instance where Realpolitik and idealism converge quite nicely: get oil, but not at the expense of democracy and human rights, which as we’ve seen eventually metamorphose into an ongoing threat to US security. Americans simply need to internalize that. Kerry has no clue about it.

  14. You remember Dear Leader Karamov, the gent who boils dissidents to death? It’s all about democracy.

    Saddam was much worse.
    Saddam was much worse.
    Saddam was much worse.
    Saddam was much worse.
    Saddam was much worse.
    Saddam was much worse.
    Saddam was much worse.
    Saddam was much worse.

    Must…keep…repeating…

    Saddam was much worse.
    Saddam was much worse.
    Saddam was much worse.
    Saddam was much worse.

  15. “foreign affairs and national security issues are emerging in the final months of the U.S. presidential campaign as greater concerns among American voters than economic matters.?

    But, alas, no discussion of the illegals who walk accross open borders.

  16. “Well that’s your prerogative, but Gabon hasn’t exported suicide bombers aimed relentlessly at the US. We must come to terms with the fact that ME democracy is essential for US security.”

    Tony,

    M.E. democracy doesn’t necessarily ensure US security. If 51% of Middle East Country X’s population elects a fundamentalist leader whose main goal is global jihad, then we certainly didn’t benefit from their democracy.

    More than the opportunity to elect their leaders, civil liberties and pluralism is what will “save” the Middle East from its own medieval thugocracies.

  17. civil liberties and pluralism is what will “save” the Middle East from its own medieval thugocracies.

    said like a doctrinaire of the western ideology du jour.

    wouldn’t it be surprising if “medieval thugocracies” proved to provide safer and happier lives for their citizens, in the long run, than a devolving power-mad democracy?

  18. lol —

    Saddam was much worse. Saddam was much worse. Saddam was much worse.

    did anyone see the minor-but-revealing flap regarding the iraqi olympic team? i’ll quote the coach of the soccer side:

    “My problems are not with the American people,” Iraqi coach Adnan Hamad told SI.com. “They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything,” he said. “The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the (national) stadium and there are shootings on the road?”

    indeed, it is hollow doctrine imposed to satisfy a megalomaniacial nation run amok. his problems should be with the american people, i suspect, more than he knows.

  19. “wouldn’t it be surprising if ‘medieval thugocracies’ proved to provide safer and happier lives for their citizens, in the long run, than a devolving power-mad democracy?”

    Gaius,

    If zero tolerance for different religions and ethnic groups, gender apartheid, and tight restrictions on the most basic freedoms defines what they’d call “safer and happier lives”, then sure, go for it.

  20. M.E. democracy doesn’t necessarily ensure US security. If 51% of Middle East Country X’s population elects a fundamentalist leader whose main goal is global jihad, then we certainly didn’t benefit from their democracy.

    More than the opportunity to elect their leaders, civil liberties and pluralism is what will “save” the Middle East from its own medieval thugocracies.

    Doug, I think your equation of “democracy” with “elections” is reductionist.

    What’s understood by “democracy” is of course a system that is based on pluralism, civil liberties, etc.

    You also conveniently left something out when you brought up the theocratic scarecrow. Democracies also have at their heart the peaceful transfer of power and consitutional limits. It’s not inconceivable I might add for the ME to have that. In fact, right now in Lebanon, which has been muscled by Syrian intervention, the Syrians are finding it quite difficult to bluntly eliminate constitutional restraints on presidential terms.

    My point is even if I think that your equation was a bit reductionist, I agree with you, and I think that this has been at the heart of the Iraq campaign. I just hope it stays. This goal, contrary to anon’s statement, is very much Realist. Unrealism would be, as Danielle Pletka put it, to think that maintaining the current status quo in the ME would insure security for the US and safeguard its long term interests, as well as those of the peoples of the ME.

  21. lol — good quip — mr allen, please kindly note that i didn’t praise government by theocracy. i insulted (fully and rightfully, imho) government by unruly, gullible mob.

    i don’t doubt that, for artists and philosophers, for women, traditional societies are difficult. but at least they are traditional, responding to the accumulated experience and memory of centuries.

    the alternative, as we know too well, is to live in an society of ideas. and to live in an ahistorical society hellbent on vagaries such as “freedom” and “democracy” and “human rights” at the expense of experience and knowledge is to, eventually, live in hell itself.

  22. Tony:

    “But as Bush, Cheney and Wolfowitz (yes him!) understand (or at least understood) this is an instance where Realpolitik and idealism converge quite nicely: get oil, but not at the expense of democracy and human rights”

    Ah, that explains why the Bush Administration refused to recognize the coup against the elected president of Venezuela a couple of years ago. Get real.

  23. Thoreau,

    I realize that basic misunderstanding. But as you said, there are several systems. In fact, to move beyond Webster’s, I recommend you read the works of Arend Lijphart on democracy and democracies. He describes various systemic solutions, especially with regard to the serious problem you touched on, that of the tyranny of the majority.

    One of his books, Democracy in Plural Societies is particularly interesting for the ME where, contrary to Arabist myths that project a homogenous geo-political whole, the scene is a complex mosaic.

  24. Tony-

    Actually, the definition of the word “democracy” is a funny thing.

    To most people in the US, “democracy” means any system of government responsible to the citizens via free, open, and regular elections. Most Americans also believe that at least basic civil liberties are essential to the functioning of democracy, so that citizens can debate ideas, disseminate information, and question the government. Otherwise you can’t have a truly fee and open election.

    However, some libertarian and conservative types insist that the word “democracy” can only refer to one system: A nightmare scenario where the government is run according to the immediate and instantaneous will of 50.01% of the electorate. If 50.01% wants to enslave 49.99% that would be possible under this definition of democracy.

    This definition is kind of useful for those who want to avoid debate. They can pounce on anybody using the word “democracy” and say “Hah! Our system is a republic, not a democracy!” In the best case scenario, this is resolved after a few minutes of dialogue, when the person who used the word “democracy” explains that he acknowledges the importance of civil liberties, protection of minority rights, and deliberative processes, and all he really meant was a system of free and open elections.

    The dictionary is of little help here. According to http://www.merriamwebster.com:

    Main Entry: de?moc?ra?cy
    Pronunciation: di-‘m?-kr&-sE
    Function: noun
    Inflected Form(s): plural -cies
    Etymology: Middle French democratie, from Late Latin democratia, from Greek dEmokratia, from dEmos + -kratia -cracy
    1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
    2 : a political unit that has a democratic government
    3 capitalized : the principles and policies of the Democratic party in the U.S.
    4 : the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority
    5 : the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges

    These definitions, especially 1a and 1b, could be consistent with either the common meaning I described above, as well as the nightmare scenario.

  25. “and to live in an ahistorical society hellbent on vagaries such as “freedom” and “democracy” and “human rights” at the expense of experience and knowledge is to, eventually, live in hell itself.”

    Any human being who believes that Uncle Sam has devolved into hell as compared to “traditional” society, theocratic or otherwise, is living in an entirely ahistorical private parallel universe. The kind where Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor are Egpytian aristocrats. In fact, such persons could easily give up the torments of hell to experience the “experience and knowledge” of the traditional if only to test their theories – its not like there are no “traditional” societies left in the world. But its always the same – ie much more fun to dispute the bien-pensant in the good old USA than to move into the joys of Taliban controlled “traditional” territory.
    By the way, has anyone seen the demotic “Alien Vs. Predator” ? Great movie ! I’m looking forward to part 2.

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