Thursday, November 6, 2003

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Calpundit and Drezner get results from President Bush!

A lot of commenter to this post seemed irate that I agreed with Kevin Drum that President Bush hadn't articulated the case clearly enough for why the U.S. should be in Iraq regardless of the WMD question. Several mentioned the February AEI speech.

Now, I've linked to that speech in the past -- my point was that according to the Feiler Faster Thesis that I mentioned in my previous post, this point needs to be made and remade for it to sink in, and I didn't think the President had done this since the end of the war.

Which brings us to his speech today commemorating the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy. Read the whole thing, but here's the part I wanted to see:

Securing democracy in Iraq is the work of many hands. American and coalition forces are sacrificing for the peace of Iraq and for the security of free nations. Aid workers from many countries are facing danger to help the Iraqi people.

The National Endowment for Democracy is promoting women's rights and training Iraqi journalists and teaching the skills of political participation.

Iraqis themselves, police and border guards and local officials, are joining in the work and they are sharing in the sacrifice.

This is a massive and difficult undertaking. It is worth our effort. It is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes: The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world and increase dangers to the American people and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region.

Iraqi democracy will succeed, and that success will send forth the news from Damascus to Tehran that freedom can be the future of every nation.

The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.

Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long run stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.

As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export.

And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo.

Therefore the United States has adopted a new policy: a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before and it will yield the same results.


UPDATE: Drezner also gets results from Kenneth Pollack, who properly frames the current stakes in Iraq in this comment on CNN:

KAGAN: You can't have this conversation without talking about Iraq and what's taking place in Iraq over the last year. The focus on it, it has not gone exactly like this administration had hoped it would. And many people believe this is the make-or-break country and operation in terms of whether this spread of democracy will go throughout the Middle East.

POLLACK: I think there's no question about that, Daryn. And the president hinted at it in his speech. I would have liked to have seen him put this more front and center. Whether you wanted to go into Iraq or not, whether you thought it was right or not, the simple fact of the matter is, that the entire region, the entire Middle East is now watching to see what unfolds in Iraq.

For the longest time, they basically had two options. They had the autocracy offered by their government and they had the Islamic republics offered by the Islamic fundamentalists. And here comes the United States and says, "We've got another idea. We've got another way of doing things, and that's democratization."

The U.S. is trying to do that now in Iraq. We're doing it with 130,000 troops and 100 billion of our own dollars. The rest of the region is watching to see if it succeeds. And if it succeeds, there is the chance that others will start to accept and start to move in that direction. If it fails, every Arab is going to look at it and say, the Americans tried, they tried with $100 billion, and 13,000 troops, and if it can't work in Iraq, there's on way it can work here. (emphasis added)

posted by Dan on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM


that success will send forth the news from Damascus to Tehran that freedom can be the future of every nation.

What, news only travels west to east? Won't it make a quick trip south as well?

posted by: KenB on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

ruh oh.

the nefarious neo-con/zionist conspiracy hath wrapped its dreaded tentacles around mr. drezner!

on a slightly more serious note: does anybody else find it oddly gratifying that @ least in regards to foreign policy, we've witnessed an almost complete inversion of the political spectrum? former realist stalwarts are praising the merits of global liberation, whereas unreconsituted trotskytes proclaim core tenets of realpolitik w/ unnerving fervor...

posted by: harm d. on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

It's the old "root cause" argument, taken from the economic sphere and thrust instead into the political. Funny thing, is I could see some left-leaning theorist writing something like this back in the 70s in the back offices of the CIA, and then being roundly criticized as an impractical dreamer by then CIA head, Bush I.

This is really quite a radical concept -- to guarantee our security, we are going to export our governing political philosophy. And we will do it with our soldiers if necessary. Wow. Funny -- wasn't that Lenin's basic idea?

Well, I don't think we can say that Bush II is suffering from a lack of the Vision Thing. The question is whether fighting all over the place to make the world safe for democracy actually makes the world safe for democracy. Or do we lose our ideals in making Mid East despotisms "the enemy", and create terrorists by depriving children of their fathers?

These are the hard questions raised by Bush and Bush's policies. And these are the conversations we never hear either on the left or the right.

posted by: appalled moderate on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

It was a decent speech.. let's hope we won't have to wait months for another.

posted by: spoon on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

“ the 70s in the back offices of the CIA, and then being roundly criticized as an impractical dreamer by then CIA head, Bush I.”

Yup, George Junior is, thankfully, not his father. He is the intellectual son of Ronald Reagan. The latter tends toward isolationism and surrounded himself with such intellectual mediocrities as James Baker and Edward P. Djerejian. Baker once reportedly said “fuck the Jews” and Djerejian wants Israel to essentially stop defending itself. They both run the allegedly “non partisan” policy group, Baker Institute located at the ultraliberal Rice University:

To be blunt, George Bush Senior was a near disaster as President. His isolationist inclinations and desire to suck up to the French and the other Old Europeans left the Iraqis in desperate shape after the Gulf War. I hate to say this, but we were probably better served with Bill Clinton in the White House! The previous Commander-in-Chief put a stop to the Balkan’s tragedy. George Senior would have let the killing continue.

posted by: David Thomson on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

This is really quite a radical concept -- to guarantee our security, we are going to export our governing political philosophy. And we will do it with our soldiers if necessary. Wow. Funny -- wasn't that Lenin's basic idea?

Actually it's a Lincolnian concept. As Charles Sumner noted about the same speech that ideas are more important than battles.

Battles will always exist as long as there is freedom vs tyranny. It's just that battles won't always be on the battlefield.

posted by: sickles on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]


When you get shot down and survive a war in the pacific, lead a nation through three successful foreign invasions, defeat a tyrant, organize the tax structure so as to create an improved economic structure, and stand watch at the helm of the CIA over nincompoops like you - then and only then do you get to speak with disrespect to Bush Senior so.

He was a better man than you'll ever be, and on that me and Bush Junior can both agree.

posted by: Oldman on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Right idea but wrong tools and wrong cabinet to carry it out. Execution and follow through matters. What we're about to see here is the Charge of the Light Brigade. Even if we make progress, our tactics and logistics are gonna make this otherwise winning strategy into a Pyrrhic effort.

Dan called it right in saying we needed the President to bust out with the bold ideas. Now we gotta see him bust out with bold execution and management. As McCain noted to the Council of Foreign Relations and reporters, he doesn't understand given the importance of what is going on the reticence to do what it takes to win.

Which is GW's Achilles Heel. Big ideas but a paucity of substance. A flash in the pan, all the worse for us who are gonna have to be the ones who have to live with and clean up his mistakes.

posted by: Oldman on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

So with that rational, does Bush want to invade every non-democratic nation in the world?

Obviously not, but that's the problem with the arguement that the war in Iraq was about democracy. I hate slipperly slope arguements, but I can't help sliding down this one.

posted by: Matty NYC on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Matty NYC-

No need to worry about slippery slopes. A confluence of factors led to the invasion of Iraq: countless UN violations, 9/11, Saddam's support of terrorism, Saddam's willingness to invade countries, genocide, his use of WMD, the need to regain or reassert credibility and fear within the region, remove one obstacle to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as well as what Bush said today.

This list is not exhaustive, but without all of these factors present, we would not have invaded. I don't believe Iran, Syria or North Korea rise to this level. Also, it should be noted Bush explicitly refered to Mandela, Havel, and Wasela as a (the?) model for democratic reform.

posted by: jk on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]


First of all a caveat: the idea clearly appeals to me. Allot of those nations need the light of day let in. However, as far as practical means are concerned I'm with Appalled Moderate. I'm not sure ole GW means in order to do this the Right Way.

It took decades of alternating confrontation and engagement in order to break down the old Iron Wall. I'm not sure that GW has properly prepared the nation or seen fit to really be sure that he is ready to commit himself and the nation to what is gonna be a struggle that lasts until allot of people here have grandkids.

This is ballsy stuff, but you gotta have the brains and endurance to follow through. Doing it half-assed would only make things worse.

posted by: Oldman on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Damn! Five years ago, I tried to sell a novel about how Bush's idea would look.
Nobody would touch it.
Where's that agent?
No, we don't have to invade every undemocratic nation. That's a straw man.
We make sure that those which can threaten us and do threaten us because their systems breed anger--which, for reasons of self-preservation the unlucky citizens project outward--are going to be free, prosperous, and democratic.
That may not take invasion. I would like to see, for example, the Cuban embargo lifted. Can't imagine anything that would discredit Castro faster and get him retired.
But, invasion or not, it will (must) get done.

posted by: Richard Aubrey on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

"This is really quite a radical concept -- to guarantee our security, we are going to export our governing political philosophy. And we will do it with our soldiers if necessary. Wow. Funny -- wasn't that Lenin's basic idea?"

Actually, if you look at human history, you will see that this philosophy - with adjustments for specific cultural and political contexts - is the norm. Thus, in the current fight, our enemies - as in most past fights - also happen to be attempting something quite similar. In fact, such conflict is so much the norm that it is probably more a statement of the human condition than a unique strategy, and it will very likely remain so until and unless the world is administered under a single governing philosophy.

In other words, the struggle between different "governing philosophies" appears inevitable, with the fierceness of the struggle roughly proportionate to the degree of difference. The key question would be who or what you'd like to see on the winning side.

Sometimes, when those seeking to advance their own governing philosophies have been sufficiently clever and powerful, they have been quite successful by almost every reasonable standard. As for Bush specifically, he is putting himself squarely in the American tradition going back at least to World War I, if not to Manifest Destiny and beyond. As he points out, the Cold War showed that democratic capitalism can be spread mainly, if not exclusively, through peaceful means.

The 21st Century might be the century during which the human race finally unites under a single governing philosophy - or perishes. If it isn't going to be democracy and freedom, then what would you favor?

posted by: Colin MacLeod on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Lippmann Gap: Committments must not exceed resources.

Resources include the willingness of the people to sacrifice the arms and treasure.

Not sure that Bush has prepared the nation for such an endeavor. At least, more than 40-45% of it. Interesting that Bush said that he didn't believe in the "nation building business." I guess, civilization building is another task.

I hope that many in the Middle East understand that Democracy is more than just elections. Fifty percent plus one don't get to do whatever they want to the fifty percent minus one. Someone needs to explain the Madisonian dilemma to them. And drop a couple thousand copies of The Federalist Papers. Problem is, we needed to start doing that about 30 years ago. Late in the day; one hopes, not too late.

Anyway, the battle is engaged. Let here's the Democratic response.


posted by: SteveMG on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]


I was afraid of that, as well. But given the fact that the Iraqi economy can only absorb so much aid per year (the WBank, iirc, estimated something in the area of six bills a year), the aid package will probably prove to be a good start.

As to troop levels, this is where I think McCain is all wet. If one increases the number of leg infantry, SF, military police, and other trigger pullers, you'll get better results. We have very little need for armored formations in Iraq right now ( a couple of armored cavalry regiments would provide all the muscle we would need in the Triangle for any quick reaction needs...). Right now we've got oodles of combat service support personnel in there, and all that because they are there in support of heavy formations like the Fourth Infantry and a brigade of the Old Ironsides (1st AD).

You don't fight insurgents with tanks. You don't need to. There's no PAVN around to support the local "VC". Regular leg infantry will beat "guerillas" every time.

One of the mistakes Americans made in Vietnam was to "Americanize" that war. The ARVN's never had to depend on themselves because we were the one's doing all the heavy lifting. We don't want to make that mistake again.

Again, jmho.

Be Seeing You,


posted by: section9 on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Appalled Moderate: "This is really quite a radical concept -- to guarantee our security, we are going to export our governing political philosophy. And we will do it with our soldiers if necessary. Wow. Funny -- wasn't that Lenin's basic idea?"

Lenin would force them to do what he wanted. We're going to force their systems allow them to decide and do what they want. Sorry, liberation is not morally equivalent to subjection, but rather its polar opposite. This is obvious.

"The question is whether fighting all over the place to make the world safe for democracy actually makes the world safe for democracy. Or do we lose our ideals in making Mid East despotisms 'the enemy', and create terrorists by depriving children of their fathers?"

It's good that General Washington didn't think that way. It's good most people don't use scare quotes around the word "enemy" when referring to despotism. Those things are obvious, too.

posted by: Jim on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Is it possible to fight a war against terrorism - where we need, on occasion, to align ourselves with non-democratic regimes (Pakistan the most obvious example) - and also promote democracy at the same time?

Look, it's pretty obvious that a free election in Pakistan would probably lead to a radical Islamic ruler. One can picture Bin Laden (if he's alive, which I doubt) easily becoming the elected leader of that nation.

It's a difficult balancing act - we need to promote democracy in regimes that are unstable, that have in many cases a populace willing to let themselves be run by the very same terrorists (or sympathizers) we are fighting. We push too fast, too far and we wind up creating more of the enemies we need to defeat. We don't push fast enough, we undermine our support for democracy and the terrorists can accuse us of duplicity.

Whew. Enormous task. We can do it; but the President needs to do more than make a speech once every 6 months.


posted by: SteveMG on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

"...the United States has adopted a new policy: a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before and it will yield the same results."

There has been a lot of variance in the results this strategy. Spreading democracy through military force has worked on many occasions in many places, but not on all occasions and all places. I think the debate on this issue ought to focus on that variance.

When has the strategy worked and when has it failed? If successful adoption of liberal democracy is the dependent variable, what are the independent variables? Conservative commentators, by my reading, think the most important IV is commitment/resolve. But, is that a proper independent variable? Aren't there factors that predict the level of U.S. commitment/resolve? And, aren't there other important independent variables? My hypothesis would be that culture and level of economic development are also important and there are probably others.

posted by: SamS on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

One thing that aided the reconstruction of Germany and Japan as democracies is that they were closed systems. The entire Japanese population was under American occupation, and the entire German-speaking population (excluding the Swiss) was under Allied occupation. There were no reservoirs of Japanese or German fascism that could reinfect the host.

In contrast, Iraq is an extremely open system. It comprises a fraction of the world's Arab population, and a free Iraq is particularly vulnerable to infection by anti-American radicals.

It's one thing to aspire to make Iraq a democracy. But to make this policy is to set ourselves up for failure. I believe we should sponsor municipal and regional elections, but the national executive should be selected by the governing council, not the people, for a period of at least 5 years.

posted by: Rick Heller (Centerfield) on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

It's stupid policy that many predicted would not work and was more likely to destabilize things.

From what's happening in Iraq, they were right.

posted by: ch2 on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

"It took decades of alternating confrontation and engagement in order to break down the old Iron Wall. I'm not sure that GW has properly prepared the nation or seen fit to really be sure that he is ready to commit himself and the nation to what is gonna be a struggle that lasts until allot of people here have grandkids."

I think you are asking too much of the President. Tell me, did Truman "properly prepare" us for the Cold War? Hell no! He muddled through, just like Bush is doing. In fact, Truman did FAR LESS than Bush has done. At least Bush has set forth the grand strategy of this struggle... something that Truman did not really do. Our grand strategy for the Cold War - containment - was set forth by George Kennan in Foreign Affairs!

posted by: Al on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]


Firing a $10 million dollar missile to hit a camel in the ass is "lack of substance".

Deposing two murderous, torturous, tyrannical regimes and allowing 26 million people to emerge into liberty is the very definition of substance.

And now look what's propagating: Saudi Arabia is holding limited local elections! Saudi Arabia for God's sake! Geez, maybe some day women will even be allowed to drive there!

Oh, wait. My bad. Let's not confuse human freedom with things that are really substantial, like the preservation of the snail darter.

---Tom Nally, New Orleans

posted by: Tom Nally on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

It is hard to believe the justification of exporting democratic ideals for the present Iraq policy, especially when the daily realities on the ground indicate a very different challenge. Besides, it is, to put it mildly, arrogant and at the very least naive to pursue a policy of this nature. Not surprisingly, the rhetoric used to justify colonization was the nineteenth century version of this-to bring culture and civilization to the native.

Such rhetoric is even more unbecoming when the political realities of the Middle East are considered. Governments in the United States have had their share in damaging the growth of democratic movements in the region, for example in that member of the "axis of evil" Iran, to secure their economic and security interests. And they were fine with Mr Saddam Hussein as long as he used his chemical weapons against the Iranians and some of his own people. All the righteous indignation began when he tried to go beyond the role that was envisaged for him. There is nothing unexpected in this, for the US like other nations gives primacy to its national interests over those of other nations.

The realities (at least as I see them) are that Mr Bush is searching for a convincing reason to sell this war to the american people, to cover up the many deceptions and liberties with the truth that have been taken by his administration to send the army to Iraq. However, irrespective of the case for or against this war in Iraq, I believe that there is no going back, for the consequences of a withdrawal are very damaging for american security.

I don't really believe that it would serve American interests to see democratic governments in the Middle East for the same reasons that it did not serve American interests to see democracy in Iran in 1955. Democracies have this somewhat inconvenient thing about them that they are not always amenable to "suggestions" from other nations. There is also the problem that political transitions of this nature are messy and consist of periods of instability. Besides it is the policy of any government, democratic or otherwise in the world to follow its perceived interests, even at the expense of other nations. The US is by no means an exception to this rule. Mr Bush's statements about democracy are mainly rhetoric, and if they are statements of policy, they are cause for serious worry. Attempts to control the destiny of a nation's people remotely, for either good or evil, usually end up doing more damage than any good.

posted by: bhatta on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Hey 'Appalled Moderate': your moniker is not the only appalling thing--you also appear to have swallowed this appallingly-mistaken idea:

...and create terrorists by depriving children of their fathers?

Did we deprive bin Laden of a father? Atta? Who, precisely, fits this description?

posted by: kp on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Oh frigging YAWN, bhatta. Democratic Underground, much?

Yeah, we're on a colonial binge. Just like Germany and Japan are our loyal subjects, right?

And I love this line: "Such rhetoric is even more unbecoming when the political realities of the Middle East are considered." Sounds like you are competing to be the poster child for ham_d's skit of "unreconsituted trotskytes proclaim(ing) core tenets of realpolitik w/ unnerving fervor..."

Tell me child, what DO you know of "political realities"? Or do you just use the word because it makes you sound like you aren't pulling spin out of your arse?

Every sentence you wrote was garbage, ranging from slime-America-first revisionist history to curdled conspiracy theories long past their debunk-by date.

posted by: Ryan Waxx on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Mr Waxx,
You can decide for yourself. Here are a few links about American policy towards Iraq in the 1980's. The first is a congressional report:

The above report is dated May 1994 and is about US export of dual use technology to Iraq.

The following link is to the text of a Washington Post article about Secy. Rumsfeld's dealings with Iraq in the 80's. I cannot find the original article on the WaPo website, so this may have been reproduced either wrongly or incorrectly:

As for US policy towards Iran in the 1950's and later:

The above link has information about Iran's premier Mossadegh and US & British policies towards Iran. You may think that all this is history and therefore irrelevant, but this history has had terrible consequences which we feel even today. And it is extremely hard to believe talk of democracy promotion given the precedents. If you still think this is paranoia, consider the following question. Why is Saudi Arabia which is clearly far more deeply involved in terrorism against the United States, and to which country, 15 of the 18 terrorists belong not on the "axis of evil", while Iran which is even cooperating with the US against the Taliban on the list? And how can talk of democracy promotion be taken seriously while islamofascists like the Saudis are publicly called as "friends". Feel free to call me paranoid and subscribing to conspiracy theories if you can prove the above information (like the senate report) wrong.

Finally, please note that I have taken objection to President Bush's talk of "democracy promotion" noble as it sounds, and I make no judgements about the rightness or otherwise of the US policy in the region. Nations don't act according to morality in their dealings with other nations, only according to self interest (at least this is my conclusion).
Thank you,

posted by: bhatta on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

The United States is not “exporting a governing political philosophy.” The United States is exporting the belief in freedom of choice. The minute ‘freedom if choice’ becomes reduced to a relative system of (political) thought, this implies the viability of alternative systems such as no freedom of choice.

Progressive ideology makes the same mistake over and over again. It tries to place one option within a spectrum of choices that are all morally equivalent because man has no mechanism for imposing a value judgment. I believe this in incorrect and absurdly so. Freedom of choice, as Thomas Jefferson said, is an inalienable right of man. That means we are all born with it and it is not some external commodity that can be distributed or withheld depending on relative cultural values or relative systems of political thought.

Then the question becomes (1) what is the threat posed to the security of our country and to the stability of global relations by non-choice societies and (2) what, if any, is our obligation to those nation-states where freedom of choice is not allowed? A third question , which seems to always be present, is the influence of ‘asymmetric’ economic advantage. A ‘forward’ policy in the Middle East will undoubtedly benefit oil interests (one would have wished for a less flagrant form of participation other than the use of sole-source contracts, but it is done and it should have been done more equitably.) We will never prevent economic gain when implementing foreign policy but I submit it is an important consequence of foreign policy that we can better control. The fact that numerous special interest stakeholders will benefit economically should not deter the country from adopting a foreign policy that will provide freedom of choice and economic stability to a region of the planet that lives in poverty despite the wealth of natural resources that remains, after 60 years, in the hands of a few.

posted by: Lather on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Even taking bhatta's historical material at face value, it renders his argument absurd: He offers evidence of precisely the kind of policy that Bush is seeking to alter as evidence against the new policy. It's like telling a criminal that he shouldn't stop burglarizing houses because he has a past record of burglarizing houses. It's like telling a reckless driver that he's going too fast to slow down.

I could offer a thousand analogies of this type - because such reasoning is so fundamentally, so mindogglingly perfectly unsound. It does happen to crystallize a central contradiction of so much leftwing anti-US propaganda on Iraq - which has so frequently asserted that past moral failures in Iraq somehow presented an argument against paying our moral debt to the Iraqi people.

posted by: Colin MacLeod on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

"while unreconsituted trotskytes proclaim core tenets of realpolitik w/ unnerving fervor...

As opposed to reconstructed Troyskyites, a.k.a. neocons, who are leading the liberty charge. And to be fair, many of the unreconstructed one have instincts in this direction and are uncomfortable with the direction of the Left.

posted by: Joe Katzman on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

One thing that people should concentrate on is where the speech took place and the audience it was immediately directed to. Bush didn't deliver this speech to a West Point class (as he did his earlier, pivotal speech), he delivered it to the National Endowment for Democracy. Those of you who are unfamiliar with NED should take a look at it.

NED is dedicated to the idea that democratization is spread from the bottom up. It uses entirely peaceful means to support the development of the grass roots civil society that is the basis for a working, sustainable, democracy. This isn't an original idea. The Germans were the ones who pioneered it with their post-war party Stiftungen. Each German party has one of these. The idea is to export ans support the idea of democracy, not to impose it.

The Reagan Administration picked up on this idea after Reagan's Westmister speech. But don't thihk of it as a Republican idea. NED has three parts -- one supported by the Republican Party, one by the Democrats, and another by the AFL-CIO.

The track record of groups like NED, the Stiftungen, similar British parliamentary organizations, and non-government supported groups like the Carter Center is actually quite impressive. They were involved in the democratization of Eastern Europe, South Africa, the return of democracy to Chile, and other places. This is not something new. What is new is directing the energies toward the Middle East because as Bush is admitting, the policy of the west has previously been to retard the growth of democracy in favor of stability. "Stability" of course, means keeping dictators in power out of fear that radical Islamist revolutions would cut off our oil. Bush is turning his back on that policy (long supported by people like his father) and turning toward the much more radical idea of human freedom.

This is something that liberal critics of American foreign policy ought to rejoice over. You won, you dummies! Why are you upset? You have convinced conservatives that they were wrong to put stability over democracy for the sake of oil. You should be happy that this is changing. And countries like Germany that pioneered the idea of liberal democratization should be overjoined that once again America is putting its weight behind their effort.

My fear is that the liberal and European instinct to oppose anything that Bush is for will cause liberals to turn their back on the policy of freedom. That would be truly sad.

posted by: Simon on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Simon makes an interesting point, though I think he ought to mention as well that outside Central Europe countries like Germany have contributed mostly talk to the idea of democratization.

Does anyone else think Bush's speech yielded a little much to the idea common in Arab intellectual circles that corrupt, authoritarian governments only exist in Arab countries because the United States supported them, or because the United States provided no alternative besides authoritarianism and Islamic or other dictatorship? My point is that Hosni Mubarak, or for that matter Saddam Hussein, did not fall out of the sky; they were not imposed on their countries by Washington, but emerged out of the native political culture. A case can be made -- and should be made -- that many Arab governments have gone wrong through following statist ideologies no more natural in Islamic countries than Western liberal democracy is. But fundamentally the reason Arab countries are so backward and Arab governments so bad is Arab culture, which won't change unless Arabs decide to change it.

Nothing in Bush's speech is necessarily incompatible with that reality, so this may not be a problem at all, but on such issues it seems best to me to make one's points clearer than glass.

posted by: Zathras on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

"corrupt, authoritarian governments only exist in Arab countries because the United States supported them"

My reading isn't that he said that such governments exist ONLY because the US supported them. Rather, that the US should take responsibility for the support that it gave them, by now promoting democracy there. I don't think that saying that we have supported undemocratic regimes in the past vitiates all of the other causes that factor into their existence today.

posted by: Al on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Zathras, it may be true that Arab countries, like any counties, bear principal responsibility for their own governance, and that accepting responsibility is a necessary initial step toward reform and rehabilitation (makes me think Bush is proposing to be the Arab world's partner in a 12-step-like program), but it would be extremely unfair to ignore the historical circumstances that have obtained in the Middle East at least since European colonization, or to deny the baleful influence that the US and the West, and formerly the Soviet Union, had on political and cultural development there.

You have many people, some who have already spoken here, ready to blame the West or the US for everything dysfunctional in Arab culture. You have others - and also sometimes, strangely, the same people - arguing that Arab culture is virtually immune to outside influence.

To extend the metaphor, Democratic capitalism mainly spreads by infection - and the invasion of Iraq amounts to a massive injection of the pathogen. Once a few colonies of democratic capitalist fagocytes have taken hold, the disease should spread throughout the body. If Arab backwardness remains wholly resistant over the long term, then it may be the first such case in the medical record.

posted by: Colin MacLeod on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

The real point is that no one has come up with a better Idea. Islam will be destroyed by any type of representative government. Look at Iran. They tried for a 'democracy' but the mullahs wouldn't surrender any actual power, since they knew it would be the end of them and their wacko ideas. Given a choice, very few people will choose poverty and ignorance over wealth and enlightenment. So the mullahs set up the choice to be between 'poverty and ignorance' and 'more poverty and greater ignorance' Then they called it democracy. Real choice in a muslim society means being able to ignore the 5 pillers. That gets a death sentence in most Arabs countries as an apostate. Change that and Islam will die, just as surely as if you nucked every mosque. The ragheads know this. That is why they are on a mission from god/Allah to destroy the West. As long as people can be happy and have good lives without surrendering to Allah, their whole crackpot religion is thrown into doubt. When the apostates acutally live better then the faithful, then the faithful start thinking maybe the mullahs are clueless. Then they stop being faithfull. Then the imams are shown to be crazies that need medication and confinement. So they HAVE to destroy us to save themselves. Given that there are a multitude of choices. The two extremes are surrender to ALLAH, or kill 300 million humans. Somewhere in between these two Mencken choices there has to be a way to save ourselves without commiting a horrible crime. Bush at least has a plan and is working it. Like all plans, it didn't survive contact with the enemy and will need a lot of work to reach it's goal. If you don't like the plan come up with another one. That is the democrats job as the opposition party. They are not doing it. That is why they will get slaughtered in '04. That will be a bad thing, and I'm a paleocon who has voted Republican since Ike. It will be Bad for America to fall away from a two party system, which is what will happen in '05. The Demorats will split into a Green party and a Social Democrat type party. Neither of which will have the strength to get a dog cather elected.
So it is time for the Demorats to switch from acting the opposition to being the LOYAL opposition. Denying that America is at war and in a fight to the finish death match with people that promote homocide bombers won't cut it. Wait till Muslim fanatics start blowing themselves up in shopping malls here in the states. Then will the demorats admit that there is a problem, or will they try to blame it on Bush '43?

posted by: Tomanbeg on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

I have to correct Zathras. It isn't true to say that the Germans have only been involved in democracy promotion in Europe. To my knowledge, they have been involved in Latin America (especially Chile), the Philippines, and South Africa. I'm sure those are just the tip of the iceburg those are just the three that I recall off the top of my head. Most of this work is fairly invisible. I only know about it because I happened to take a seminar in college a few years ago with a State Dept. person who was doing a fellowship at NED. It is obscure stuff. But more influential than people suppose and I'm glad to see Bush endorsing that work.

My basic point about the Stiftungen is that the idea of a grass roots approach to the promotion of democracy originated in Europe. Therefore, Europe ought to be at the forefront of embracing democratization in the Middle East. After all, historically, the German Stiftungen were the model for the National Endowment for Democracy. But I worry that Europe will follow the left in the US and oppose anything that Bush says just because Bush says it, not because of any intelligent analysis of what the policies of the West ought to be.

Historically, the West has been involved in setting up and propping up dictatorships. We ought to be honest enough to admit that. Of course, they have never been complete puppets. Those governments exist because of their own efforts. And don't forget also that the Soviet Union was the other outside player involved. It wasn't just the West that has had its fingers in that region and it isn't just our foreign policy that we have to undo. The Soviet Union may have passed into oblivion, but the effects of its foreign policy are still being felt. That's why the arms that flood that region are mostly from factories west of the Urals.

Now, the Cold War is over. That is another reason for the foreign policy of the West to change. There isn't a rival superpower contesting the region. There are no sponsors of stalinism out there that dictators can use to play off against the West as dictators like Saddam did for decades. Nor is there any attraction left for a Socialist alternative to liberal democracy. That was the model for governments like the Ba'athists of Iraq and Syria, and for Nasser's Pan-Arab Socialism that still has its echoes in the regimes in Egypt and elswhere in the region. But Socialism as a seemingly viable alternative died a decade ago. Therefore, in my opinion, the historical moment for democratization is long overdue. Every other region in the world has made progress toward democracy in the last decade and a half since the Cold War ended. There simply is no reason why the Middle East should be the lone exception. Not when the potential for blowback manifested by the old, discredited policy of "stability" through propping up dictators has been made so abundantly clear.

posted by: Simon on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

“My point is that Hosni Mubarak, or for that matter Saddam Hussein, did not fall out of the sky; they were not imposed on their countries by Washington, but emerged out of the native political culture. “

Saddam Hussein is a secular, socialist radical, an ideology foreign to the Muslim world. Also, Iraq is an artificial creation that did not exist before 1920. Hosni Mubarak even attended school at the Frunze General Staff Academy in Moscow. One should also add that many Iranian students in the late 1970s put posters of Che Guevara on their bedroom walls. Native political culture? I don’t think so.

I do not argue that the Muslim world has been in a state of intellectual and cultural decline since about 400 years ago. The great Bernard Lewis has amply provided us with many examples in his voluminous writings. Nonetheless, the West is probably responsible for tacitly preferring dictators. We were willing to work with a bastard---as long as he was our bastard. The democratic will of the people may bring in a Khomeini. Sadly, that’s exactly what did happen. In a nutshell, the past is the past. We must now go forward. President George W. Bush knows that it is time to assist moderate Muslims to liberate their lands from tyranny.

posted by: David Thomson on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Re: Being ‘clear as glass’ about ‘dictatorial bastards.’

It seems that history has conspired to obfuscate (!) the present course adjustment in Middle Easter foreign policy objectives. Consider the apparently wide spread belief among many Iraqis that Hussein was (is?) a CIA puppet and that the current U.S. policy is being corrupted by the Israeli Likud who are also allegedly responsible for the events of September 11.

Clearly we have a 'long slog' ahead.

posted by: Lather on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

I couldn't help, reading this speech, thinking that if Bill Clinton had delivered this exact speech hosannas would have rung down on him from every quarter. (Of course, if he did, it would have been just a speech, and would not have been backed up with any concrete action) I think that many people's hatred for Bush has blinded them to just how "liberal" his vision is...

posted by: jimbo on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Clinton probably did say something like that somewhere along the line, if not as forthrightly and if not under comparable circumstances. The other key difference, as you note, is that when Bush makes a vision statement, people have come to suspect that, unlike most politicians, he kinda means what he says.

We're already seeing two kinds of criticism: First, that it's impractical, not least because it's such a long-term vision and would be difficult if not impossible to implement. The second, totally contradictory criticism, will be to cite this, that, and the other instance where the US still supports or hasn't acted against some decidedly less than free and democratic regime. In other words, he's taking too much on and isn't taking into account the risks and uncertainties, and, by the way, why hasn't he already succeeded?

posted by: Colin MacLeod on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

"my point was that ... this point needs to be made and remade for it to sink in,"

No, your point was that Bush had not made the case clearly. Now you've gone all revisionist on us, a bad thing to do when your blog is out there for all to read and reread, which I suggest that you do before proceeding to attempt to spin your way out of this one. Indeed.

"... and I didn't think the President had done this since the end of the war."

What end of the war? Help me here. When did the war end? Here's a hint: we are still at war. We have not finished the war, we've just finished the first phase, and we're on to the next phase.


posted by: Paul A'Barge on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Bingo, Jimbo. And that's the truly funny part.

posted by: TommyG on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Mr. Nally,

There is rhetoric and there are deeds. While a vision of democracy is a beautiful thing, our friends in New Europe already grow disaffected with our deeds.

Personally, my opinion is that snails are good for two things - eating garden pests and becoming escargot for the French. If it was prepared right, I might have myself a dab bit of dolphin. That's a meat I'd like to try.

If you think me a liberal, you got the wrong person. However, it don't take a liberal to see this train is headed on a track that will end in tears. It don't matter what you say if you don't follow through. Don't matter what you start, just what you finish. Don't matter what you intend, just what you produce. And where this is headed ain't good at all.

posted by: Oldman on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Guys, Carter said exactly the same thing in 1978 and got excoriated. What the hell is so special about Bush saying it now?

And I absolutely don't buy the criticisms of Iran above all others. Iran is the closest thing to a democracy in the middle east. And more people have put more sweat into it than GWB ever did. They're a lot further on than any of the other countries Bush mentioned, with an active civil society.

Yes they have thugs in one branch of the government. But it won't last.

The speech is good rhetoric, true. But I am waiting with some skepticism to see what policy it leads to. And how Bush intends to pay for it. As far as I can tell, he's all for this kind of thing so long as somebody other than himself has to pay the cost.

posted by: p mac on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Freedom is not equivalent to democracy. Democracy is the set of man-made institutions established to protect freedoms that are ‘divine’ in origin. The concept of freedom and democracy in the American context is nuanced and was described best by Thomas Jefferson - humans are bestowed ‘by the creator’ with ‘inalienable’ rights’ that can only be protected by a man-made system of institutions - or government. In other words, freedom is the set of rights that are ‘divine’ in origin but protected by a set of institutions that are designed by man. So I think it is fair to distinguish the fundamental concept of freedom, which is divine or ‘inalienable’ (i.e., not separable from our humanity) from the concept of governance, which is man-made and designed to protect freedom.

So what is being ‘exported’ to the Middle East? I would say it is the concept of divine freedom more than a particular set of secular institutions. The institutions of governance used in this country are far from perfect and it would indeed be the height of presumption to export them anywhere. Contrary to others, I believe that human creativity has not yet been exhausted in developing more effective forms of democratic governance that better integrate religious and cultural drivers with economic and political drivers. The (pure) Libertarian movement in this country is one example of a radically different form of institutional balance among societal drivers that would still fall under the rubric of democracy. I fully believe that alternative balances can be achieved - institutionally - that are more responsive to the unique constraints of other societies such as those in which the Islamic religion forms a predominate role in the collective organization.

I think this distinction is much more than semantics. In the context of the brutal dictatorship practiced by Hussein in Iraq, the ‘export’ of freedom means the freedom to live without terror and without torture. Is the Islamic god Yahweh silent on this right? I will let the scholars decide. Is there any religious or cultural conflict in claiming that the Christian god bestows this right of freedom on all men? Well, only if you really want to argue a fine point. Certainly acceptance of this right in no way restricts or confines the practice of Islam unless one is prepared to believe that to be Islamic means one is destined to live in fear. This is a harsh worldview that would seem to require a greater commitment to the world of the gods than the world of man and I suspect that this is the sticking point, as others have suggested - loss of control by the religious leaders.

Given that one accepts the argument that the real struggle is the age old battle for power, as I do, then I would suggest that the particulars of the Islamic religion are not that important relative to the ensuing redistribution of power from the mullahs to the people. In my own mind, I believe this to be true - there is nothing particularly special or unique about the Middle East aside from the fact that the religion isolated the majority of the population from participation in the broad front of advances made by the Western World, and subjected them to the kind of terrorism and brutality that is in no way unique to any particular religion but is in fact a notable secular characteristic of humankind.

posted by: Lather on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

For those who question either the need or the logic of distinguishing between freedom and democracy as the ethical basis for engaging in armed conflict with loss of life - read what others are saying (see link below). There is no moral high ground that is immune to assault (liberals take note) and there is no victor in the battle for moral clarity (conservatives take note), unless we all agree to live in peace and harmony.

This is undoubtedly not the time to mention this, but there is a concept that predates the Bible often cited as “Man cannot govern himself.” My personal interpretation is that we forfeited paradise in order to pursue knowledge, but knowledge alone, in the Godelian sense of a rational system of coherent and consistent thought, will never be sufficient to achieve a state of perfection because we can NEVER know if there is not a MORE perfect state that we failed to discover. What does this mean for the current situation? It means to me that there is a time for thinking and a time for doing and a time for reviewing the consequences. In both a practical as well as a philosophical sense, process must be integrated with thought. In a practical sense, process - or call it planning - was the weak point of the current effort in Iraq. In a philosophical sense, the political thought emerged from an articulated geopolitical context, but it was NOT publicly vetted, nor was it even internally debated (in fact, evidence suggests that the 'stovepiping' neatly avoided the dreary details of resolving ideological disputes) and this was an enormous lapse in political judgment on the part of people who should have known better.

What others are thinking ("Constitutional Flaw"):

posted by: Lather on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

I think people give this speach more credit than it deserves. It doesn't announce any shift in policy, and just provides some cover for the real (less liberal) reasons for the war. With American's dieing every day in Iraq, Bush needs to convince people this war was about alot more than UN resolutions and non-existant WMDs. In the end I think the administration is soley concerned with realist geo-politics, if democracy is part of that they are for it, but not out of any humanitarian ideals.

As JK wrote: "A confluence of factors led to the invasion of Iraq: countless UN violations, 9/11, Saddam's support of terrorism, Saddam's willingness to invade countries, genocide, his use of WMD, the need to regain or reassert credibility and fear within the region, remove one obstacle to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as well as what Bush said today."

The bolding of text by Pollack is odd. I don't think Iraq "suceeding" will make the Saudi family, or Iran's Mullahs reform any faster, giving up their power. Nor would I think the failure of an occupation dishearten those same leaders from continueing reforms. They don't need 130,000 troops to watch over a foriegn population.

posted by: mrkmyr on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

ch2 and bhatta:

What's the bugbear with "stability?" Is it to be prized above all else, especially when the status quo is so blatantly oppressive as it (was) in Iraq, and as it still is in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt? You sound like Henry Kissinger, for goodness' sake. Ve Must keep zee region stable...

Stability is good when your country or region is peaceful, prosperous, and produictive--the Arab world, as pointed out in the U.N. studies published least year and this year, is none of these things. It is shameful that in a region with such substantial mineral wealth, the GDP of 22 Arab countries combined is only about the size of Spain's GDP.

The region "destabilized"? Horrors! It's such a global vacation spot and tourist destination right now!

Bhatta: I also strongly disagree with your claim that the U.S. interests would not be served by more democratic governments in the Middle East. The situation is greatly changed from the 1950's, when the Cold War framed all foreign policy decisions. The Cold War is definitively over (thanks again to an "idealistic" committment carried out over a 50-year period by the United States and its West European allies) and can no longer be used as an excuse by the West to reationalize the corrupt and cynical bargain the West made with repressive ME regimes. It is dicidedly in the U.S. interest to have democratic governments in the ME. I don't see the slowly reforming governments of Qutar, Bahrain, Kuwait, or Jordan as great security threats to the U.S. No, threats to us would include Iran, Syria, the Wahabbist Islam funded by the Saudis, the virulent anti-Americanism in Eygpt, etc.

posted by: Daniel Calto on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

"Man cannot govern himself." Can anyone provide a reference?

The Left acknowledges the existence of tyranny but disallows the use of armed force as opposition, while acknowledging the futility of negotiation. The position is a little precious and angst ridden. Is it so hard to acknowledge that human nature is what it is and not what we wish it might be (actually I don't, but I'm not good with hypotheticals.) The Left must allow that there is a place and a time for peaceful resolution, but we are not there yet - and they cannot/will not make that admission.

posted by: AL on 11.06.03 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

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