"No to Baathism and Wahhabism!"

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I'm sure there is a dark cloud to this silver lining, but it is hard for me to see. I'd certainly prefer that maniacs not blow up innocents to get 2,000 Iraqis to take to the streets and chant "No to terrorism!" for one, other than that, there seems to be an interesting feedback loop at work in the Middle East.

Lebanese cite 8 million Iraqis defying a death sentence to vote as inspiration to take to the streets in the wake of terror attack in Beirut and perhaps that reaction served as a template for the demonstrations in Hilla.

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  1. I love how Jumblatt turns into all “Lebanese.” πŸ™‚ Interesting, if dishonest, morph.

    So since these were Shia protestors wouldn’t you expect them to say bad shit about both Ba’athism and Wahhabism?

  2. Two more blasts today; unknown number dead so far.

    And Bethel, Vt. wants us out of the war.

  3. The part of the protest that Taylor doesn’t tell you about are the calls for resignations within the government.

  4. I don’t understand why folks can’t adopt a wait and see attitude here. What’s done is done, and I think there is broad agreement that just leaving at this juncture would be a mistake. Let us see what unfolds without hyperbolic proclamations of total victory or total failure.

    I will say that the ‘total failure’ camp is on the defensive. There is plenty of room to give between total failure and Andrew’s ‘we won’, to be sure, but I can’t help but think that there is substantial daylight between ‘total failure’ and what we are looking at now.

    The libertarian and/or general dovish position that it is IMPOSSIBLE to facilitate liberal ends through military means is an extraordinarily strong statement. It is not surprising that a position with so little wiggle room is taking a hit. We will probably wind up with a revised version, something like ‘It is difficult and expensive to facilitate liberal ends through military means,’ which is certainly true even if it is less paletable to the libertarian taste for absolutes.

  5. Yes, Gary, that is another interesting parallel with Lebanon, hold the sitting government accountable for its inability to provide the underpinnings of civil society.

    Or would we prefer the demonstrators to strap on their own C4 and have at it?

  6. While there is certainly synchronicity & correlation between Taylor’s original post and GG’s three comments, it doesn’t prove causality. The sun also rose today, maybe that’s why GG said what he did.

  7. The libertarian and/or general dovish position that it is IMPOSSIBLE to facilitate liberal ends through military means is an extraordinarily strong statement. It is not surprising that a position with so little wiggle room is taking a hit. We will probably wind up with a revised version, something like ‘It is difficult and expensive to facilitate liberal ends through military means,’ which is certainly true even if it is less paletable to the libertarian taste for absolutes.

    How about “It is not within the purview of the American government to invade foreign countries for the sole purpose of improving their domestic circumstances, regardless of the outcome”?

  8. Gary, you breaka da margin I breaka you face! Use hrefs when you’re including URLs, especially long URLs like those ones.

  9. “How about “It is not within the purview of the American government to invade foreign countries for the sole purpose of improving their domestic circumstances, regardless of the outcome”?”

    I believe that argument can still be made perfectly reasonably. Such an argument is unshakable by empirical results and can only be countered by opposing ideological axioms or by focusing on how relevant the word ‘sole’ is in any given situation.

    The key point for me is that the consequentialist argument has been shaken. That argument is one of two that I feel has been made far too often by my fellow libertarians. The other is the ethical superiority of minding your own business in every case.

  10. Half the fun of voting for Dubya was gloating over the panicked shrieks of the opposition when he won.
    Half the fun of supporting Dubya’s foreign policy is watching the growing horror among his opponents as it slowly sinks in that Dubya was right all along.
    Then pointing and laughing while the opposition ties itself in knots trying to prove that this reckless unilateralism can’t REALLY be working, and, even if it is, Dubya and his supporters were only right by accident, so we can’t take any credit.
    Gloat gloaty gloat-gloat gloat!
    [*chortle, snicker*]
    [*does a little dance…*]
    πŸ˜‰

  11. yeah…. sure is a good thing we’re torturing whoever our solders pick up in neighborhood sweeps, otherwise these Iraqis would never taken to the street. And lied about the cost predictions of the war and occupation? That really is the heart of the reason why these people have turned against terrorism. Well, that and the brave steps taken to define out of existence your right to trial. If the Bush administration had allowed people to challenge their detention, these thousands of Iraqis would certainly be pro-terrorism.

  12. There is plenty of room to give between total failure and Andrew’s ‘we won’, to be sure, but I can’t help but think that there is substantial daylight between ‘total failure’ and what we are looking at now.

    Jason, I agree. Things are in many ways turning out better than I expected, but this is a long process, and it is early to proclaim that regional transformation is definitely working.

    The Berlin Wall fell in, what, 1989? It’s 2005 and most of the former Soviet ‘stans are hardly democratic, Russia is back-sliding, Belarus is in full dictatorship mode, the Caucasus is simply a mess, and the Ukrainians only barely crossed the democracy threshold (in any meaningful sense) a few months ago. On the other hand, the Baltic Republics and most of the former Soviet satellites in E. Europe are doing quite well (although we should remember that the former Soviet satellites in the Balkans went through a rather bloody spell).

    Some would say that my refusal to join Andrew’s victory party is sheer stubbornness and partisanship. But when I look at the former Soviet Empire, a region that endured 45-70 years (depends on whether you’re referring to areas controlled by Russia before the Soviets or areas acquired after WWII) under an oppressive ideology, I think that a “wait and see” attitude is the right way to go.

    In a choice between historically-informed caution and the euphoria of apparent victory, caution is always the better approach.

  13. Anyone who wakes up some morning in 2006, and sees fledgling democracies from Gaza, Egypt and Lebanon to Iran and Afghanistan…and who STILL says “I don’t think this was an appropriate use of American troops” is just marginalizing themselves out of the real world debate – obviously, this guy didn’t need to wait on any results.

    To be fair: I don’t know about anyone else, but If I wake up some day in 2006, and the principal sign of change in the Arab world, is another bill in Jordan’s legilature to limit honor-killings of women, which the King will CONSIDER signing, I am going to be flatly disappointed…THAT’S the kind of background chatter that is always coming out of the MidEast – and, indeed, I expect the Arab world was inevitably going to modernise, some time.
    I would have a hard time persusading myself that an acceleration was occurring which justified spending 200-300 Billion, and a couple of thousand wonderful guys (as well as other costs…hell, even just the aggravation).
    I am going to call it a mistake – a colossal one.

    Obviously real world outcomes are going to fall somewhere in between, and the real debate is about how much “acceleration” can justify the risks and the costs. I figure at least one other major country in the region needs to make a fairly full transition to democracy: Palestine or Lebanon don’t count; Egypt or Syria would be about right; you could quarrel about Iran.

    If Iraq slides into autocracy or civil war…that settles it.

  14. The point is to fix the “goal-posts” somewhere (approximately) – and that includes a time constraint. Otherwise, there is no point in talking to each other. No debate.

  15. Palestine or Lebanon don’t count; Egypt or Syria would be about right; you could quarrel about Iran

    Why don’t Palestine and Lebanon count? Palestine seems especially significant, since the Israeli-Palestinian issue has been the ostensible focus of a lot of rage. Even if the rage is (as I suspect) an outlet for deeper issues, the fact remains that it’s a very significant situation with global implications.

    And why would you consider Iran arguably less important than Syria or Egypt? Given the nuclear situation, I’d say that liberalization in Iran is more urgent than liberalization in ANY other country in the region.

  16. thoreau

    I think you misunderstand me – and that’s probably my fault. I meant to say the war-hawks couldn’t claim a victory if the PA reforms, or if the persians overthrew the Mullahs…because those events wouldn’t supply a clear indicator that the war in Iraq had accelerrated change in the region. And Lebanon is too small – taken by itself – to justify the investment.

    But it is hardly plausible to attribute significant change in Egypt or Syria – just at this time – to developments entirely seperate from Iraq (no doubt, GG will try), and you can’t say it isn’t important…in any reasonable calculus, that kind of movement probably would be worth lives and treasure.

    It sounds cold-blooded, but you HAVE to reason this way…if you’re reasoning, at all.

    I am trying to set some goal-posts, and I’m deliberately making it tough on the Hawks – the AYE party should have to stand the tougher test.

  17. I would add that my threshold for Egypt and Syria differs.

    If Egypt reformed to the atate of mexico in the 60’s, that would be disappointing, but probably good enough. If it reformed to the stat of mexico TODAY, that would be bliss!

    Syria is another matter. A Syria which isn’t transformed by as much as Iraq has been, probably isn’t safe. Assad, the baath, the whole mukabarat, needs to go.

  18. Andrew-

    I admire your goal of setting tough goal-posts for the hawks. But I find it interesting that you would see a stronger link between Iraq and changes in Egypt than Iraq and any changes that might come about in Iran.

    Although I’m no fan of the domino theory, if I had to argue in favor of it (I was, after all, on debate team in high school) I’d observe that the Iranian regime, with its WMD programs, is in a situation similar to what Saddam Hussein was allegedly in 2 years ago. And the majorities in both countries have the same religion, whereas the majority in Egypt is Sunni, if I understand correctly. Finally, Iraq would be a more logical trading partner for Iran than for Egypt. For all these reasons, I would think that, to whatever extent the Democratic Domino Theory is accurate, events in Iraq would influence the Iranians at least as much as they influence the Egyptians.

    Watch, now somebody will show up and lambast me for arguing in favor of the Democratic Domino Theory.

  19. Interesting, I heard NOTHING about the counter demonstrations from the main stream media. Good work, boys. If you’re so bothered by blowhards like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, how about you do your f’ing job and maybe we wouldn’t have to turn to them for an alternative to unquestionable liberal bias.

  20. thoreau

    I am thinking to myself something like this:

    Months of increasingly uncontrollable demonstrations, the Mullahs fall…for fun, let’s say they all get hung from lamp-posts!

    And the crowds chan “USA” and “George Bush” and wave American flags. A follow-up poll by Zogby or Gallup shows that 98% of Iranians think the invasion of Iraq tipped the balance.

    This would undoubtably convince America, and probably even the world.

    But…funny – I would have just a tiny nagging, doubt. Wouldn’t you?

    Of course they would say so, and probably even think so…really. But in an alternate universe, the despair of seeing the US let Saddam slide, might have pushed the Iran opposition over the edge even sooner – “We have got to do it ourselves!” See what I mean?

    Maybe Bush would still deserve a kind of credit for reading the wind right. Maybe much of human history is like that.

    In the case of Syria or Egypt this reasoning would seem like more of a stretch, if change was at all timely. On the other hand, if it’s ten or fifteen years out, I gotta think we sure could have found a more pertinent use for two hundred billion, and a couple of thousand of the world’s best guys.

  21. Andrew-

    If you’re saying that you think Iran is going to liberalize soon regardless of what we do then I agree: Change is inevitable. They already have just enough representative government that the ayatollahs can’t quite completely crush the reformists. The people want more liberalization, and eventually they’ll get it because the demographics tilt against the ayatollahs. The only question is when the Iranians are going to finally do it and how many clerics they’ll butcher in the process.

    So I guess I see your point about how liberalization in Iran is not such a valid measure of success in Iraq: If the system is already on the verge of collapse, it will be hard to assign too much credit to the invasion when the Ayatollahs finally come crashing down. Even if the invasion should turn out to be the straw that finally broke the camel’s back, because it was going to happen anyway it’s not clear that it was worth paying such a high cost to slightly accelerate a “historical inevitably.”

    What I’m curious about is why you think that we can declare that Iraq was a critical causal element if liberalization comes to Syria or Egypt. Is the inspiration of watching the Iraqis vote really enough to bring about change? Don’t get me wrong, watching the Iraqis vote despite the threats of the terrorists was genuinely inspiring. I’m just not convinced that this inspiration is enough. Besides, plenty of Arabs have relatives in the US who have been voting for decades. Why isn’t it enough that they realize “Well, if even my idiot cousin is capable of voting for the most powerful person on earth, surely I’m capable of voting for the leader of this relatively unimportant and oil-free pile of sand!” Why isn’t that inspiring?

    Now, there is one example in recent history of a democratic chain reaction: The break-up of the Soviet Empire. The difference is that the people of the satellite states and Soviet Republics were all under the thumb of the Kremlin, and when they saw the Kremlin loosen its grip anywhere they knew that the Kremlin was weak. Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak, on the other hand, have run different regimes, and why would a person who sees Saddam defeated by the largest military power on earth conclude that Mubarak is no longer so powerful?

    Finally, remember that the long-term effects of the Soviet collapse have been, well, mixed. A lot of former Soviet republics and satellites are indeed more liberal than before, and some are approaching Western standards. OTOH, some places have been wracked by war (e.g. Balkans, Caucasus), and many places are still impoverished and unfree (Belarus, parts of Russia, the ‘stans). Which is not to say that the collapse of the Soviet Empire was a bad thing, just that we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for elections to translate into universal prosperity and freedom in the Middle East. Elections are necessary but not sufficient conditions for liberalization.

  22. Tim,

    *LOL*

  23. thoreau

    The peoples of east europe still had to toss out their local commies…even after Gorbi said ‘enough”. Most went easily enough but – Russia itself (the attempted coup) – Rumania – Yugoslavia after the war – the Ukraine just the other day – Georgia, to some extent.

    It is easy to believe Egypt would have slept another generation…may still.

  24. Egype wasn’t “sleeping” – there has been a growing liberalizaiton movement there for years.

  25. yeah joe….seven thousnad years- what would you say, half way there?

    I predit this – every country that goes democratic in the next few years (including Iraq) is going to acquire a hitherto unsuspected “democratic tradition”…in order to save the theory that US action cannot produce democratic change (at least when Bush is president).

  26. I get the last word before this scrolls off the front page.
    Sweeet.
    I’m gonna just repost my li’l ‘victory jig’ comment under some other relevant post higher up.
    And I’m gonna keep posting it for as long as it seems relevant.
    It might be a while: this is 2005, just so y’know…I may keep reposting my li’l ‘victory jig’ comment til 2099, for all I know….
    πŸ˜‰

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