Wednesday, June 23, 2004
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Thank you, Fareed Zakaria
The New Republic has a special issue this week devoted to the question of "Were We Wrong?" -- ruminations, defenses, or mea culpas by supporters of Gulf War II in the wake of the past year's events. Contributors include John McCain, Kenneth Pollack, Fouad Ajami, Anne Applebaum, Thomas Friedman, Joseph Biden, and Paul Berman.
As someone who's engaging in a similar cognitive exercise, Fareed Zakaria's contribution is the one that most closely approximates my own position. I may differ with Zakaria on big-think international relations questions, but he is right on target in his dissection of the ins and outs of Iraq. The highlights:
Read the whole essay.
I blogged an awful lot about Iraq prior to the war, so I don't have the time to completely fulfill this task. However, perusing the posts in which I recall making a substantive argument -- here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here -- I'm still feeling reasonably secure. Readers should feel free to disagree.posted by Dan on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM
It's interesting to see how many of the critics of what's going on Iraq seem to believe there was some obviously easier, less painful way to get the job done.
As far as I know, we have exactly two models for the work being attempted - the occupation of Germany and the occupation of Japan post WW II ... both of which lasted for years before they ended.
Though the current occupation does share the distinction with the German occupation of having been called an abject failure while it was going on.
This isn't Monopoly or Risk - it isn't that easy. Methinks those in the punditocracy that thinks this should have been soooo easy ought to take a couple of "Humble pills" before those fingers touch the keyboard again.posted by: BradDad on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
I agree with this:
"Perhaps the administration was far more divided and dysfunctional than I had recognized, making rational policy impossible."
Bush 43's problem here is that he will not address, and may not even recognize, the national security establishment's division and organizational conflicts, in particular that the State Department, CIA and FBI are long overdue for thorough purges and restructuring.
I cannot emphasize enough that Amy Zygert identifies the problem perfectly in her Flawed by Design, and that Laurie Mylorie's Bush vs. The Beltway unintentionally provides dead-on examples of how Zygert's analytical model works in practice.
Tom Holsingerposted by: Tom Holsinger on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
One point I've never seen discussed -- and would have expected to see a political scientist consider -- is the extent to which the process by which a liberation is effected matters. Imagine, for example, the effects on the U.S. were England able and willing in the 1830s to invade and free our slaves.
The token Arab military forces in the first Gulf War were probably critical to the acceptance of the outcome. In Iraq, there were significant Kurd forces who participated in the current war, and I think part of their relative satisfaction with the outcome relates to that fact. It may well be that French ships saved the day in our Revolutionary War, but we were able to overlook that inconvenient fact. It's part of human nature not to feel gratitude to the people who help you out of the ditch, and I'm really surprised that this aspect of the current quagmire has received so little (no?) attention. Perhaps if the Iraqis drive us out of their country, as they're in the process of doing, something can be salvaged from this, but I don't think it will be the relation between the U.S. and the Arab world.posted by: Kevin Miller on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
I agree that Bush has made some serious mistakes for a variety of reasons. That doesnt make this mission a failure. If this transition goes well and Iraq emerges democratic and stable, all these grave pronouncements are going to look rather petty.posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
**It's interesting to see how many of the critics of what's going on Iraq seem to believe there was some obviously easier, less painful way to get the job done.*
But Zakaria offers what could have been an easier and certainly less painful way:
*Or it could gather an international coalition to replace him. I wish that this latter policy had been pursued slowly and deliberately, with a genuine effort to forge a broad coalition and get the United Nations behind it.*
*I agree that Bush has made some serious mistakes for a variety of reasons. That doesnt make this mission a failure.*
No, but it does mean that Bush made some serious mistakes for a variety of reasons. He'll get his report card in Nov.posted by: wishIwuz2 on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
"Or it could gather an international coalition to replace him. I wish that this latter policy had been pursued slowly and deliberately, with a genuine effort to forge a broad coalition and get the United Nations behind it."
Meaning France I take it. And assuming time would do more to strengthen the resolve of the world than to weaken it, as has happened at every other time in history. That dog, as they say, just dont hunt. There would always be another reason to wait another 6 months, particularly with the UNSCAM money flowing.posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
Yeah, right - France. How dare we enter any conflict without France.
Putting your lame attempt to link international cooperation with "appease France" aside, #41 had the right idea - until the end.posted by: wishIwuz2 on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
Perfect example, though not against my point.
That some believe "a broad International Coalition" - which, yes, really does mean "France" and, perhaps, Germany - could have been built would almost be touching for its naivete if this wasn't so serious. Short of doubling the bribe - and probably not even then - there's nothing the United States could've done which would've brought France and Germany along for this ride. They agitated for lifting the sanctions regime; they were complicit in both Saddam's weapons program, his avoidance of sanctions and the sham of "Oil for Food". Neither France nor Germany wanted Saddam removed from power.
Those who create a condition precedent which can't possibly be met, those who say they'd support action "if only" are really looking for a way to avoid saying what they mean - "Not Ever".
And those who wish we'd had a "broad coalition" - what is it about France that makes them so important, anyway? Just because they think they're important, we're supposed to play along? - are wasting time with wishful thinking.
It is what it is - if you want to criticize, offer some alternative reality that could actually have happened.posted by: BradDad on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
This is a rather odd repudiation of his "illiberal democracy" shtick from a few years ago.posted by: asdf on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
"The right lesson is not that U.S. military intervention always ruptures alliances and creates an enraged international public, but rather that this particular intervention did.
Not impressive, Fareek. The whole, "Yeah, maybe it was a good goal, but Bush screwed up the implementation"-line is not turning any heads. Perhaps this genius can explain how he would have used his suave intelligence to secure support from overtly hostile European regimes that had explicitly stated they would never, under any conditions, support military action by the United States? I didn't think so. These armchair quarterbacks are long on criticism, short on what, exactly, they would have done differently to bless us all with nirvana in the Middle East.
In short, I agreed wholeheartedly with the thesis of Mr. Zakiria's piece, but his amateurish attempt to unilaterally defend that thesis without input from more down-to-earth journalists has completely destroyed any value the piece might have had. He should definitely avoid go-it-alone pieces like that again.
The first point made on this thread had to do with the models available for what we are attempting in Iraq. In fact there are no really good models for this situation, which in my view is all the more reason war and postwar should have been approached with great care, with all the resources available to US goverment agencies, and with realism -- not just privately but publicly -- as to the number and scope of things that could go wrong.
If you are trying to do something no one has done before, you ought to plan on it being difficult. Outside the military this does not seem to have been done at all.posted by: Zathras on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
Dan, while you are rumminating, I highly suggest you READ EXACTLY what you wrote before the war, don't rely on your memory. David Corn really ripped up TNR's psuedo-mea-culpa. MY feelingn is he was basically right. The arguments and excuses given now are completely divorced from what was said before the war.posted by: Jor on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
"I did not believe Saddam had a lethal arsenal of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, and I wrote as much in the months before the war (though, like everyone who is being honest, I am utterly astonished by what appears to be the lack of any weapons). But Saddam was an erratic, unpredictable leader who had been actively working against the United States and its interests--and peace in the region--for two decades. That meant he was a looming threat. Given the collapsing sanctions regime, at some point the United States would have to decide to move in one direction or the other."
That sentence is a deliberate face-saving non-sequitor. The correct statement was that he was a potential threat, perhaps even an inevitable one, but not a "looming threat". This is confirmed by the last sentence "at some point". At some point does not mean 2003. It could be 2005. Or 2006-2007.
I agree with the proposition that Saddam needed to be taken out sooner or later, but that knowing that and having the responsibility for carrying out does not mean an endorsement of doing it as soon as possible and damn the costs.
We really shot ourselves in the foot here by not doing it right, and contrary to the self-flattering Zakaria is doing there was plenty of indication both within the Administration and in the public domain that the Admin wasn't taking its responsibilities seriously. Hello, Afghanistan anyone?
The weaseling of Zakaria and his kin are just so much face-saving nonsense. It's like saying you have to buy a house and trusting that God will drop a mortgage in your lap. You go out and get that mortgage. You don't "believe" it will happen. You verify. And then double check it and check the fine print.
Anyone who thinks differently shouldn't be in the business of buying a house, much less a country - "You break it, you buy it." etc.posted by: oldman on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
"You break it, you buy it."
There's a Chinese proverb we have to take deadly seriously:
'If you save someone's life, you are responsible for it forever.'
I don't get why Zakaria zings the administration for dishonestly linking the September 11th attacks to Iraq. I have been as attentive to the administration's words re: the war as is humanly possible, and I haven't heard such linkage. Bush has always said that September 11 changed the strategic calculus, such that a pre-emptive attack on Iraq was necessary. That's not dishonest at all. I just don't understand the criticism.posted by: rds on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
Mr. Zakaria's opinion that Saddam did not have a lethal arsenal of biological weapons seems to be based on the FBI's self-serving opinion that Steve Hatfill concocted the advanced weaponized anthrax used on us in the fall of 2001.
We know all the anthrax weaponization processes used by Britain, the former USSR (courtesy of the defection of their anthrax project manager - Ken Abilek) and our own. The weaponization process used to produce the stuff used on us was new.
Worse, note that the United States government with all its resources has not been able to duplicate this anthrax, let alone ascertain what the weaponization process was.
In point of fact, developing any new process for weaponizing anthrax requires an industrial-scale R&D effort. Doing so secretly requires a government.
So it wasn't Hatfill working by himself, or in conspiracy with Richard Jewell or anyone else.
The anthrax used on us was developed in secret by a foreign government.
WHICH GOVERNMENT?posted by: Tom Holsinger on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
To Holsinger's question "Which Government?":
Clearly not Iraq. I think it has to be Russian, not that I'm accusing Putin. We should have created a biological WMD "shelving" program just the same way we did to pay nuclear scientists from Russia to do nothing. I guess we're paying for that now.
To Dan: From your Sept 26th, 2002 post of the "realist objections"...
1) An invasion would destabilize the region.
Sounded good then. Sounds really good now. I wouldn't be as complacent as you are. The realists nailed it on the head. The pro-war people simply didn't have a plan. Or rather their plan was trust the Admin to get it right. The Admin's plan on the other hand was to send in a bunch of ideologues without experience and spin any bad news until it became overwhelmingly undeniable.
Would somebody like to give us grownups the carkeys again? Maybe just maybe then we'll have a chance of getting out of this without too big a debacle. And by grownups I don't mean Powell and Negroponte.posted by: oldman on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
"Sounded good then. Sounds really good now. "
Critical problem, does nothing to alter the equation in the Middle East that led to 911. Al Qaeda is not the sum of the problem, anymore than Hussein was. They are intrical parts of the same equation. No amount of political pressure was going to solve the Hussein problem. We can pressure Syria, and Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan with any number of tools, but Hussein was a special case.
Sounded good then. Sounds really good now.
"1) An invasion would destabilize the region."
Hasn't happened. The "Arab Street" hasn't risen. No governments have fallen. The worst that has happened has been a few terrorist events in Saudi Arabia (which very well might have happened anyway if we continued to station 200,000 troops in SA).
"2) There is no exit strategy."
Seems to me that there is a pretty good exit strategy - elections.
"3) Hussein can be deterred. Therefore, the utility from an attack is not worth the costs."
Well, this seems to me to be about as unknowable now as it was then. Saddam was continuing to work on WMD programs even right through the end. Why? Was he deterred from using them? Dunno. (It is, of course, a separate question from whether the sanctions regime was effective in preventing him from obtaining WMD, which, in hindisght, it certainly seems to have been.)posted by: Al on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
The mistake is seeing destabilization as a bug instead of a feature.
Saudi Arabia has been forced to choose sides finally. Jordan now realizes they are hip deep in this with us. Syria and Iran have proven they are enemies, nobody is advocating making nice with them. Europe actually seems to be taking an interest in reigning in Iran suddenly. These are good changes directly due to our Iraq invasion, but the best ones are yet to come. The Arab street isnt out tearing down their governments and setting up theocracies, to the contrary they may hate America, but democratic reform is intriguing them. This isnt a love America popularity contest, its an embrace liberty contest, which we are winning by a nose on the back stretch.posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
In fact, the Hussein problem would have been solved, just as the Castro problem will soon be solved. Huseein was 63+ and doubtless leading a very stressful life. He'd be dead in a few years, and we could have dealt with his sucessors, yes even one of his thuggish sons.
'one being a huge and declared enemy of America with billions of dollars of oil money (legal and illicit) funding terror'
Hussein's terror funding seems to be limited to support for the families of Palestinian sucide bombers. Vile as this action may be, it falls well below the level of terrorist support provided by Pakistan, which continued to arm Al Qaeda linked anti-Indian grounds in Kashmir, well after 9-11, and only stopped when terror actions brought India to the brink of nuclear war with Pakistan.
Iraq was a weak country with the North out of control, surrounded by 2 powerful local opponents (Turkey and Iran) who despised Saddam. Certainly Huseein would toss out rhetoric (just as Qadaffi suggested recently that Reagan should have been tried for war crimes), but beyond that he seemed largely defanged. Neither Turkey. nor Iran, next door neighbors of Iraq seemed to be too bothered by the prospect of an Iraqi invasion, yet the US, 2 contintents away and with orders of magnitude more military force was threatened
This is why the rest of the world (largely) disapproved of the invasion. Most have local eney countries (outside of Europe), but most live with them instead of asserting that pitifully weak countries 2 continents away present a threat.posted by: Jon Juzlak on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
Atta and another of the 9/11 hijackers, Ziad al-Jarrah, sought treatment of a lesion on Ziad from a Florida pharmacist in June of 2001. The pharmacist described the lesion as arising from cutaneous anthrax.
"They identified themselves as pilots, and one of them, Ziad al-Jarrah, "had an ugly, dark lesion on his leg that he said he developed after bumping into a suitcase two months earlier":
This was after Atta's meeting in Prague with an official of Iraqi intelligence.
The simplest explanation for the known events concerning the Fall 2001 anthrax attacks on the United States is this:
The method of producing the weaponized anthrax used on us was certainly developed in secret by a foreign government. The anthrax powder itself was also likely manufactured by that same foreign government. Note that there is a difference between developing the weaponization process, and actual manufacture of weaponized anthrax using that process.
This government was Iraq under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.
Saddam Hussein's regime protection forces cooperated with foreign terrorists, including Al Qaeda, to greater or lesser degrees.
This cooperation included training non-Iraqi terrorists in how to hijack airliners at Iraqi facilities in Salman Pak, Iraq.
There is a substantial possibility that the trainers of the 9/11 hijackers were themselves trained at Salman Pak. Some of the 9/11 hijackers may have been trained at Salman Pak but this is less likely.
It is likely that Saddam Hussein and his regime knew Al Qaeda had a big attack planned on the U.S. which turned out to be 9/11.
There is significant evidence that Saddam Hussein and his regime were involved in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.
The 9/11 attack leader met in Prague at least once with Iraqi intelligence officer Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani. http://edwardjayepstein.com/walking_vanishing.htm
This meeting may have been where Atta was provided with a vial of weaponized anthrax powder.
Your scenario omits method and motive. You do not explain how it is more likely than what appears to be the simplest scenario for the known evidence.
Your scenario is only a little bit more lausible than the FBI's. And you get there via the FBI's route - ignore the known evidence in favor of fantasy.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
Isn't Mr. Zakaria from a country (India) that managed to test a nuclear weapon or two under the watchful eyes of the CIA? And took them completely by surprise in doing so? So prior to not findings weapons in Iraq (to date) you have at least some history of intelligence 'undercalling' the way things stand. Ooops.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty. When you are making real-time decisions based on the facts at hand, it is very hard and you will make mistakes. How your respond to the mistakes is the important thing and I guess Mr. Zakaria's article is saying: not responding too well, Bush administration.
I find the article a bit general. What specific things would he have done differently in the run up to the war? That would have been a vastly more interesting article.posted by: MD on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
Oh, and his article states that (among other things) what went 'right' in Afghanistan, as opposed to Iraq, were the following: that the UN went in and organized a loya jirga and military operations were conducted under NATO. Are we not in the process of organizing elections in Iraq? With the help of the UN? Didn't the president ask about the use of NATO troops in Iraq? So I find these criticisms a bit strange really.posted by: MD on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
Lets me clear on one thing. The CIA knew that India had had the capability nuclear weapons for a decade at least. Ditto for Pakistan. As far back as 1989, the Bush Sr. administration refused to certify Pakistan as nuclear free, which they were required to do by the Pressler amendment.
So the surprise in India wasn't that India developed nuclear weapons on the fly. It was that India actually carried out a nuclear test before the US learned that the test was being planned. Thats still an intelligence failure, but probably 2 orders of magnitude less serious than not detecting a nuclear program or a capability. It need also be mentioned that India, as a democratic, secular country was considerably less likely to pose a threat to the West than a country under more stringent observation.posted by: Mayank on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
In fact, the Hussein problem would have been solved, just as the Castro problem will soon be solved.
Right. In the same way that the Kim Il Sung problem was "solved". Duh.posted by: Al on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
"we could have dealt with his sucessors, yes even one of his thuggish sons. "
How would we have dealt with his thuggish sons differntly than we dealt with him?
"Hussein's terror funding seems to be limited to support for the families of Palestinian sucide bombers."
Perhaps, even assuming that such a thing isnt a danger to our regional interests. But shelting Zaqawi and other intl terrorists was certainly something he was into as well. The point is how many resources would have to be indefinately applied to trying to figure out what the h#%l Hussein was up to and limiting it? How successful could we hope such efforts to be seeing how dismal our intelligence agencies efforts were vis-a-vis Iraq? How much more likely would it be Husseins business partners would ware down the sanctions regimes?
"This is why the rest of the world (largely) disapproved of the invasion. "
Jon Juzlak: 63 isn't very old. And Saddam apparently was pretty healthy. I'm sure billions of dollars of oil worth at your fingertips will get you quite good healthcare. Morever, succession by his sons would probably be even worse.
Regard September 11 and Iraq and terrorism in general: Saddam will support terrorism publicly as long as he believes there are no consequences. With Israel, there would be minimal consequences, since in reality Israel can't do much more than launch airstrikes at Saddam, and even there Israel's options would be limited by the U.S. and EU. Overtly supporting terror against the U.S. would be suicide on the otherhand. Covertly supporting terror on the other hand is likely if it will lead to the ends that Saddam wants and he thinks such support will remain secret. While al Qaeda's goals with regards to political change in Arab countries may be not be to Saddam's liking, al Qaeda's goals with regards to the United States and US containment of Saddam were in line with what Saddam would want. This is irrefutably true. Thus limited support for al Qaeda's operations against the U.S. are not inconceivable. But that support would have to remain covert and the knowledge of that support would likely be limited to very few people. It would likely be of limited scope as well to avoid detection, perhaps no more than facillitating the movement of people and providing limitted funds. Anything more substantial would increase the probability of detection.
As for the strength of Iraq under Saddam militarily, of course the country was weak because they had been under sanctions for such a long period of time. And he was being contained by the US and Britain. But here is a question: do you believe that the US would have experienced all the terror attacks of the past decade, culminating in 911, if the U.S. had not been involved in the containment of Iraq? Based al Qaeda's manifesto, I would say no. That, for me links the issue of Iraq and its containment to 911. To me the loss of 3000 lives in the various terror attacks over the years was simply far too great a price to pay for simply the containment of Iraq. We have lost less people in the first and second wars with Iraq.posted by: Atm on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
People keep yearning for the "It's just like WW2" paradigm, but it was Democrats running the show...todays Republicans look nothing like WW2's Democrats...never trust a Republican to do a Democrat's job.
The">http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2004_06_21.shtml#1087950677">The Greatest Generation was a progressive generation.posted by: NeoDude on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
Neodude, what your mistaking is that liberals are progressive anymore. That is manifestly not the case. A progressive doesnt support the survival of one of the worst fascist mass murderers in history simply because they dont like the person removing him. What fascists have the Western leftists supported removing in the last twenty years? And dont say Bush or Reagan.posted by: mark buehner on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
At some point progressives started becoming regressives. Many advocate policies that can only be paid for confiscatory taxes that corrupts kingdoms of eras past used to apply to their subjects.
Yes, you are right that not detectiong nuclear tests and knowing that program exists are two different things. The point I was trying to make was the imperfectibility of intelligence and the need to make decisions in an imperfect environment.
And no, I don't think India as a secular, democratic nation is a threat. As opposed to Pakistan, which is a different story. Kind of why it would be nice to have a democratic, secular Arab nation in the ME.
That was the point I was trying to make (although not very clearly, I can see by your comments. Points well taken).posted by: MD on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
As usual you miss the forest for the trees. I never said that Alqueda operatives didn't have anything to do with the anthrax situation. Based on the evidence, I think they did.
Your non-sequitor comes from the leap of faith that then assigns the anthrax to Hussein. It's been known that Alqueda has been attempting to buy WMD parts and expertise on the black market.
Based on the sophistication of the anthrax, which was superior in grade than that available to Hussein at the height of his program, I surmise that once you have eliminated the impossible one must perforce fall back upon the improbable however unlikely as it is.
It seems that the only possible situ that makes sense is that black market Russian anthrax fell into the hands of Alqueda operatives.
Your analysis shows the failure of what 'true believing' did to both the CIA and the neoliberal/neocon network. Kay's report unfortunately demonstrated in perfect hindsight that Iraq almost certainly didn't have the advanced expertise and infrastructure to develop said anthrax.
Your statements is what happens when you mix ideology and paranoia with what should be objective analysis.posted by: oldman on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
You are aware right that when Egypt cracked down on its terrorist problem, despite all the liberal and neoliberal propraganda about how this was going to lead to liberalization of that culture, that it ended up being more conservative and Islamacist than ever right?
I think that you and the others mean well, but let's face it. Most of those opposing my observations have been shown wrong. Time and time again I've been right. Maybe you youngsters out there should learn a thing or two and listen to the oldman ahead of time this time around!
You can rationalize things all you want, and it will probably take a complete disaster and large loss of life - or possibly the draft finally - to convince you that all is not well and things are not under control. They're not.
Now anyone can take a lame horse and call it a race horse, and that they planned all along to run a lame horse, but in real life we just refer to Occam's razor to get rid of that b.s.
Drop me a line when you finally get sick enough of the lies and incompetence and you start getting wise that maybe if the people in power want to stay in power they ought to hire competent people, rather than defending "your side" and crossing your fingers and hoping that your leaders aren't as stupid as their opponents say they are.
You've got great promise Mark, but you just aren't cynical enough. When the elites hire competents things go well. When they don't, things never go well but they've always got a story about how it's not really that bad or it's someone else's fault.
Same old, same old. When you get wise to the game, as I said we should talk. You've got an interesting mind except that it isn't jaded enough.posted by: oldman on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
Oldman, I'm cant argue with anything you've said. All I can mention is that the great advancements in human history were seldom made by cynics. Its difficult to be a cynic and a visionary at the same time.
Mark is exactly right. This is fundamentally about faith. And the truth is that Bush administration critics have essentially the same faith as administration neoconservatives.
This is why criticism of administration policy focuses on means, not ends. It's also why both Bush's defenders and his critics -- as well as Bush himself -- have denounced "realist" policy for having created this situation where we are so heavily involved in the politics of the Arab world. There are situations, though, in which the United States can do everything right and still not reach a desirable outcome -- and situations where American errors however serious are nonetheless incidental to unfortunate developments.
The fact is that liberal democracy while undoubtedly desirable is exceptional in human history. There are good reasons for that -- "good" here meaning sufficient rather than worthy. Human freedom properly understood involves responsibilities as well as rights, and the people in most cultures are no better than indifferently prepared to exercise these. Arab peoples, and Iraqis in particular, may be worse prepared than most.
The Arab governments the United States has dealt with since World War II were not "propped up" by Washington in the face of popular demands for something better; they were with few exceptions consistent with Arab culture and political traditions. The exceptions departed from that culture and tradition mostly by embracing theories about economics and the role of the state popular in the Communist world, not in the United States -- and what pressure there was for anything like Western democracy came from a relatively small number of intellectuals, most of them educated in the West. The alternative to the mostly dismal and repellent governments in most Arab countries over the last 50 years has never been democracy. It has been civil war.
This is the context for the Bush administration's policy of presenting an opportunity for freedom to Iraq and assuming that it would be gratefully seized. Criticism of how the offer was made and suggestions as to how to improve it are certainly proper, and I would never claim that democracy in Arab countries will always be unrealistic. But we are talking about cultural transformation here, something that historically requires either the willingness to obliterate the existing culture before replacing it with something better or a great deal of time. Because we have neither of these in Iraq the odds against our succeeding in implanting democracy there are long, and always have been.posted by: Zathras on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
The same argument could have been (and was) made against democracy in Germany, Japan, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Eastern Europe, South Africa, South America, Central America, basically everywhere outside the traditional anglo-european heartlands.
Zathras, I think the only difference we really have is in our concepts of how democracy spreads and takes hold. You are absolutely right that the Arab nations have many cultural, political, and historical obstacles to democracy. But what nation cant that be said of? Is Iraq any less prepared than Indonesia or Turkey?
And yes, Iraq may strugle just as Pakistan is struggling. And they may not. Regardless the steps they take now will not be wasted steps, the winds of history are on their side. Pakistan will return to democracy at some point in the next decade (probably sooner), Iraq _at worst_ will do the same. Under the Husseins there was no hope of that.posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
"Iraq is central to that conflict. ..there is a deep connection between his regime and the terrorism of September 11. The root causes of Islamic terrorism lie in the dysfunctional politics of the Middle East, where failure and repression have produced fundamentalism and violence. Political Islam grew in stature as a mystical alternative to the wretched reality--secular dictatorships--that have dominated the Arab world. A new Iraq provides an opportunity to break this perverse cycle."
I guess these notions lie at the core of the reasons why Drezner and Zakaria don't repent their advocacy of war. But they must concede, I assume they'd agree, that we won't know for some years whether the cycle has been broken in Iraq and that there's a considerable risk instead our intervention will have failed. And they agree perhaps that the little child that leads did not even dimly foresee the difficulties that now ensnare us and has only the dimmest notion how to deal with them.
'Most of the world disaproved because they were either in business with Hussein or stood to lose by seeing Iraq democratized.'
Sorry, but thats plain wrong. There were a few countries who had commercial dealings with Iraq (such as Russia), which disapproved of it. But
-- In most countries, including US allies, it was the people who objected, not the government. This cannot logically be explained away by claiming bribery -- indeed if Saudi Arabia or Pakistan were democratic, the objections would probably have been greater.
-- The objections to invading came not only from Middle Eastern or West European countries. People in East European Countries, largely democratic objected. Central and South American and African countries far from Iraq objected. India. a democracy with an Islamic terrorist threat (from US ally Pakistan) objected as well.
The reason for the objections was that most of the people of the world did not like the doctrine that the US could chose to attack a country thousands of miles away, that posed no threat to it at all. Most countries outside of Europe face local conflicts and threats and learn to live with them, and the decision to attack a country thousands of miles away, far weaker, strikes them as unadulterated arrogance,
' With our resources dedicated to containing Hussein, and him actively working against us, not to mention the 'humanitarians' and opportunists grousing about the sanctions, what hope did we have of encouraging political reform in Jordan or Saudi?'
Reform in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan et al. had NOTHING to do with Iraq. Saddam was not some magician cleverly controlling strings that were preventing these countries from being democratic. One should also point out that democratic Turkey and democratic India have had no particular success exporting their democracy to neighboring countries -- thus Pakistan remains a dictatorship after 57 years of a democratic government next door. If you want to reform a government, reform that government.posted by: Jon Juzlak on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
"Sorry, but thats plain wrong. There were a few countries who had commercial dealings with Iraq (such as Russia), which disapproved of it."
And there were more UN officials and high ranking government officials in various nations apparently on the take in the UNSCAM business. Maybe public opinion would have been different hadnt the UN and various 'allies' been vocally attacking both the sanctions and American foriegn policy for years.
"People in East European Countries, largely democratic objected"
i seem to recall Jaques Chirac attempting to silence them with heavy handed threats.
You do have a point, but much of Europe has always opposed US foriegn policy, particularly in the Cold War. The reasoning is simple enough, they know they wont be called on to clean up the mess should the crap hit the fan. Europe has largely become a collection of pacifists and appeasers. Fortunately we arent bound to their opinions.
"The reason for the objections was that most of the people of the world did not like the doctrine that the US could chose to attack a country thousands of miles away, that posed no threat to it at all."
You mean Serbia? Oh Iraq, sorry.
"Reform in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan et al. had NOTHING to do with Iraq"
" If you want to reform a government, reform that government. "
That was simply impossible when our goal was the 'containment' of Hussein. We were forced to make all manner of Faustian deals with local autocrats out of pragmatism. Now, however, democracy is in both our idealistic interest, and our material interest. That is huge, and it will be huger still as it spills out into the greater Middle East. The status quo was both unsustainable and immoral. Now at least we have a chance to bring liberal evolution to the region. Say what you will about the method, i havent seen any doves with so much as a proposal along those lines. The status quo was just as bloody and dispicable as the war, but with no hope of improvement.posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
'A progressive doesnt support the survival of one of the worst fascist mass murderers in history simply because they dont like the person removing him.'
Noted. Please be sure to bring this up the next time the US supports a Pol Pot when he's being removed by Vietnamese Communists. Also remember to bring this up the next time a US government tries to intimidate India from stopping genocide in East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh)
'What fascists have the Western leftists supported removing in the last twenty years'
This leftist will always support military action for removing a dictator provided the following conditions are met
1) There has to be an ongoing severe repression or mass murder that justifies the immensely disruptive action of an invasion.
I believe that conditions 2 and 3 were met. Condition 4 was not met. Condition 1 would have been met in 1991 or during Saddam's gassing of the Kurds. It was not met now, since the ongoing repression in Iraq, while severe, did not come to genocide levels.posted by: mayank on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
But Saddam was an erratic, unpredictable leader who had been actively working against the United States and its interests--and peace in the region--for two decades.
working against peace in the region? yup. the rest of that sentence is self-serving ahistorical nonsense. Saddam certainly worked against what I considered to be US interests, but as far as the reaganauts were concerned he was -- quite publicly -- a suitable and eminently sensible proxy for US interests. or was this just an early manifestation of the liberal media at work?
The Arab street isnt out tearing down their governments and setting up theocracies
maybe you should spend a little more time in the region. The Arab Street, as you call it, has a rather longer attention span and less need for instant gratification than you do, and thinks nothing of spending two or three generations accomplishing a goal. if you think that Saudi Arabia is further from theocracy than it was a year ago you are sadly mistaken.
but wait. since warbloggers are starting to question whether hope might not have been an adequate plan a year ago, let's go a little further and ask whether it's an adequate plan for the future. suppose Europe can't rein in Iran and Syria? suppose we can't keep control of Pakistan? suppose the House of Saud does collapse? then what? nuke 'em all and let God sort 'em out?
The status quo was just as bloody and dispicable as the war
the war you're talking about hasn't even started. let's wait till it's over before we start comparing, shall we?
If this transition goes well and Iraq emerges democratic and stable, all these grave pronouncements are going to look rather petty.
from your mouth to God's ear...posted by: radish on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
'And there were more UN officials and high ranking government officials in various nations apparently on the take in the UNSCAM business.'
Possibly. This has nothing to do with why the people of those countries would oppose the US intervention. I should point out incidentally, that corruption in commercial transactions is practically SOP in Third World countries. If you examined the accounts of practically any US multinational operating in third world countries, you'd see an awful lot of dubious payments.
'You mean Serbia? Oh Iraq, sorry'
Serbia was a far less disruptive operation since it only involved stopping Serbian troops, not overthrowing Miloesevic -- that was done by his own people. You can also make a good argument that kosovo was predicated on somewhat exaggerated premises (although not Bosnia).
'Clearly the vast majority of our diplomatic, military, and political resources were wrapped up in dealing with Iraq. '
Let see. Before the war, we had 60 K troops in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Now we have 140 K troops in Iraq alone, and even the most optimistic projections call for a force of 60 K in Iraq for at least a decade. We are spending 70 Billion a year now on Iraq, and will continue to spend 10s of billions. We have tons of special forces, military intelligeince, State Department resolutions surooundoing Iraq, our top miliyary and civilian leadership is bogged in Iraq.
Yes, I see completely how bogged down we were in Iraq earlier and how completely free we are of it. Hooray for that. A few more such victories and we'll go bankrupt.
'you may have noticed the Saudis are suddenly fighting terrorism for real. '
I noticed. I also noticed, strangely enough, that they started fighting terrorism after Al Qaeda stuck in Saudi Arabia last year. I also noticed that Pakistan started fighting terrorism seriously after Al Qaeda tried to assasinate Musharraf. In short, it had nothing whatsover to do with the war in Iraq, and a lot to do with
'We were forced to make all manner of Faustian deals with local autocrats out of pragmatism. Now, however, democracy is in both our idealistic interest, and our material interest. '
Absolutely. I see it in our support for Musharraf already. And the deals we struck with local autocrats in general had little to do with Saddam -- JOrdan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt were all alies of ours for decades, long before we started containing Saddam.
A proposal to bring greater democracy and secularism in the middle east is welcome. An action plan that uses up 100s of billions of dollars, ties up our military and diplomatic resources, alienates our allies, increases terrorist recruiting is no way to build a democracy. You build one by encouraging reform from the ground up in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran (carefully). You build one by making Afghanistan (remember that) into a democracy. IF the goal is to spread democracy into the ME, you can begin with democracies such as India, Turkey (and build Afghanistan into one). You do it through long term reforms in educational systems. You don't bring democracy in at gunpoint, except as a last resort, and Iraq was far from that.posted by: Jon Juzlak on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
"This has nothing to do with why the people of those countries would oppose the US intervention."
As I pointed out, more than one of the accused was a high profile politician known for inflamatory rhetoric against US policy. But again, I agree that much of this is a culture clash. We do not need consensus to act. Wars arent won by committee.
"Yes, I see completely how bogged down we were in Iraq earlier and how completely free we are of it. Hooray for that. A few more such victories and we'll go bankrupt. "
You are looking at the short term, and forgetting a few things. Are soldiers arent cooling their heels in Kuwait, they are fighting and killing AQ members and foriegn terrorists daily. If those people werent in Iraq they would be elsewhere, possibly London or Des Moines. We have forced the enemy to fight in Iraq. Moreover, the forces used to contain Iraq would have been their indefinately. That isnt necessarilly true now, at least not at these levels. Five years from now, there is just no way we will have these kinds of resources in Iraq, win lose or draw. As far as money goes dont underestimate the costs of buying off all the local facist regimes indefinately.
I thought you were making an argument of principle, not pragmatism.
"it had nothing whatsover to do with the war in Iraq, and a lot to do with
Strange that AQ only targetted Saudi and Jordan _after_ our Iraq invasion. Probably a coincidence huh?
"deals we struck with local autocrats in general had little to do with Saddam -- JOrdan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt were all alies of ours for decades, long before we started containing Saddam. "
Immaterial how they started. Hussein made them critical to our security to maintain them. We could never have pressured the Saudis to the level we are now under the old status quo.
"You build one by encouraging reform from the ground up in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran (carefully). "
How? Oh, carefully. And how do you do that while trying to contain Hussein and desperately needing the good will of the House of Saud to do it?
"You do it through long term reforms in educational systems. You don't bring democracy in at gunpoint, except as a last resort, and Iraq was far from that. "
That was the most general, non-specific, useless answer I could imagine. How do you build democracy? By building democracy. Come on, lets get real. How do you reform SAs educational system? Ask them? Hah. The world is about power. SA had a death grip over us because of our critical interest in containing Hussein, as well as being the only oil game in town. That is no longer the case, hence we no longer have to bow and scrape to the Saudis. We have given the ME an example of democracy. Turkey, India, or even Afghanistan mean about as much to the Arabs as Micronesia or Bali. We have freed real Arabs and soon we hope the only Arabs in the world (outside of Israel ironically) will have the right to vote. You havent come close to a concrete suggestion to duplicate that. Iraq was a special case, many of our goals and interests intersected, to an almost amazing degree. We made the right move, it remains to be seen whether we have taken advantage of it. As I said, the status quo was untenable, and everything you broadly suggested amounted to living with the status quo.posted by: mark buehner on 06.23.04 at 12:41 PM [permalink]
'You are looking at the short term, and forgetting a few things. Are soldiers arent cooling their heels in Kuwait, they are fighting and killing AQ members and foriegn terrorists daily. If those people werent in Iraq they would be elsewhere, possibly London or Des Moines. We have forced the enemy to fight in Iraq'
This is the biggest piece of baloney advanced for the war.
-- This was never cited as a reason before the war. Before the war, it was always .. we were going to be greeted with flowers, we were going to spread democracy in the Middle East. Now, its, well we can kill terrorists in the ME easily (and if that were the reason, why not do so in Afghanistan).
-- Terrorism or insurgency is essentially an asymetrric operation. You only need a few people to create a devastating attack (as on Sept. 11th).And the key goal of insurgencies is to create more insurgents. If we create 100 new terrorists because of our actions in Iraq, and kill 80, that still leaves us with new 20 new terrorists.
-- The fact is that AQ has stuck in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan, Spain after Iraq. The Iraqi operation doesn't seem to have constrained AQ from attacking other countries -- as I said, it only requires a few committed people. If they aren't conducting operations in Des Moines, its because of our homeland security, not at all because of Iraq
-- The moral grounds for the war are completely invalidated if you cliam that your objective is to turn Iraq into a battleground between your forces and terrorists.
'Strange that AQ only targetted Saudi and Jordan _after_ our Iraq invasion. Probably a coincidence huh?'
Zarqawi has been targetting Jordan for a while. AQ has always hated the Saudi Royal Family. And of course, they had attacks in half a dozen other countries even prior to Iraq.
Of course we could have. Let me repeat something to be clear. We were doing the Saudis a favor protecting them from Saddam, not the other way around. And it is very material how our relationship started since you seem to make it appear as if Huseein forced us to collaborate with the Saudis, when the fact is that we collaborted with them for decades before.
'That was the most general, non-specific, useless answer I could imagine. How do you build democracy? By building democracy.'
As opposed to the wingnut answer 'Lets go in, break a few heads, and force democracy at gunpoint'. Now that was a well-thought out, reasoned approach.
And you deliberately misread by answer. To build a democracy, you have to start from the ground up, by first reforming the educational system. It takes long, hard work to build a democracy, and the long hard work becomes far harder if you start with a poisoned cup, with a war based on false pretences and no allies.
Let me repeat this again -- SA had an even more critical interest in containing Hussein, because for them it was a matter of survival, while it was only a matter of economy for us. You make it seem like we had to pussy foot around the Saudis because they would ask us to leave immediatedly. Guess what, if Saddam could roll over them (a threat that was vastly exaggerated post Gulf-war), they would be hurt far, far more than us. Also, Iraq's oil is not going to be available in any reasonable quantity (enough to make a dent in the oli market) for several years to come, so the notion that it would suddenly make the Saudis more amenable is incorrect.
'That is no longer the case, hence we no longer have to bow and scrape to the Saudis.'
Yup, we no longer have to beg them to let us protect them from Iraq. Now, we have to beg them to let us protect them from Iran !! Hooray for progress.
'We have given the ME an example of democracy. Turkey, India, or even Afghanistan mean about as much to the Arabs as Micronesia or Bali.'
We have created a state that MAY become somewhat democratic in a few years. As someone who has spent time in the ME and in the Third World, I can tell you that Sunni Turkey and Afghanistan democratizing may be as important as Shia (if Arab Iraq). Even Iran was on the path to a democracy, and our intervention may have worsened that.
Lets see all the claims for war
-- Vast WMD stockpiles: None found, although you can make a good case that this was a genuine mistake
"This was never cited as a reason before the war"
Because you dont announce your strategy to the enemy. Are you concerned with semantics or with results?
"If we create 100 new terrorists because of our actions in Iraq, and kill 80, that still leaves us with new 20 new terrorists. "
That is true to a degree, but just as with conventional forces, well trained, experienced terrorists are worth many times their number of off the shelf rabble. Its the professionals that can really hurt us, not the 16 year old kid in Fallujah. We have forced the cream of international terrorism to address Iraq or lose all credibility. That can only be regarded as a good thing (unless you want to argue theyd go back to selling shoes in Damascus, they clearly would be targetting something else).
"The Iraqi operation doesn't seem to have constrained AQ from attacking other countries "
Precisely, but its not the location its the intent. Madrid was bombed to get Spain out of Iraq. Riyahd was bombed to keep SA from supporting the invasion. Jordan was targetted for the same reason. The _focus_ of our enemies has shifted, it is impertative that they make us fail in Iraq. Anything your enemy wants you must deny them on principle, therefore democratizing Iraq would be a devastating blow against Islamo-fascism. We are taking the fight to the enemy.
"The moral grounds for the war are completely invalidated "
Wrong, again you are hideously underestimating the horror or Husseins Iraq. There is a price for the Iraqi people that they dont deserve, but nothing can compare to the living hell of Husseins Iraq. These things are all tied together, you cant have one without the other. Its childish and simplistic to demand one single pure rational for the Iraq invasion. Thats not how history works.
"Zarqawi has been targetting Jordan for a while. AQ has always hated the Saudi Royal Family"
These recent attacks are orders of magnitude larger. We both know SA had a de facto truce with AQ.
"To build a democracy, you have to start from the ground up, by first reforming the educational system"
But the problem is that that isnt the ground. You cant reform the educational systems of states who deliberatly handed over their education to the fundamentalists in order to placate them. How were we going to reform the education of Iraqis btw? Or Iran? Again, nice theory, but utterly impractical. Worse, our enemies are actively working against such an outcome. How do you fight that when they are the ones in the school rooms?
"with a war based on false pretences and no allies."
"You make it seem like we had to pussy foot around the Saudis because they would ask us to leave immediatedly"
You're overstating things. The facts speak for themselves. SA tried to play neutral in this war right up to the last few months (those not actively supporting AQ). We have forced them to pick a side. Demonstrably.
"Now, we have to beg them to let us protect them from Iran "
The strategic equation bears no relation to that. Saudi Arabia simple isnt the only game in town anymore. Its simply a fact that Saudi is less critical of an ally today than a year ago.
"We have created a state that MAY become somewhat democratic in a few years. "
True. But that is something no-one else has on the table. To paraphrase the great Herb Brooks, we're working for the unknown. All great things are done that way. You never know where you will end up, but you can set yourself up to take advantage of it. Again, the status quo was a known quantity. Its simply not intellectually honest to not at least recognize that this policy could lead to a fundamental change in the ME. Of course its not guaranteed. We can argue over how likely it even is. But we know _exactly_ where the old policies led us, and no-one offered a realistic alternative. Im sorry but thats just true.
"Building a Democracy that would spread out and convert the entire Middle East to liberal, secular democracies: Fever dream then, Fever dream now. "
Man, every great project that changed the course of human history was called a fever dream by skeptics. Fortune favors the bold.
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