Wednesday, July 7, 2004
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Josh Marshall -- in a follow-up to his Atlantic Monthly article on John Kerry's realist foreign policy principles -- has a provocative post up about the extent of the Bush administration's commitment to democratization. The key parts:
Josh makes an interesting argument, but I gotta call him on the bolded section, because in fact the Bush administration did take action in Egypt that fits Marshall's criteria.
In August 2002, after the arrest of democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the U.S. applied intense diplomatic and economic pressure at precisely the same time Iraq was moving to the very front burner. In particular, President Bush personally and publically criticized the Egyptian government, and the administration also declared a moratorium on new US assistance to Egypt as long as Ibrahim remained in prison.
Ibrahim was released in March 2003. Whether U.S. pressure accelerated or delayed Ibrahim's release is the subject of some debate -- but democratization activists of all stripes do agree that the U.S. risked a fair amount of diplomatic capital on the issue. The New York Times, in an March 19th, 2003 editorial, thought the pressure was a good thing:
Given the timing of this pressure -- the start of the global debate on Iraq -- I'd say this counts as a situation when "short-term geopolitical sacrifices to advance our long term interest in democratization" were made -- in one of the countries Marshall highlights.
This example doesn't completely vitiate Marshall's point -- take U.S. policy towards Uzbekistan, for example -- but it does suggest that Marshall's exaggerating his case a bit.
Blog readers now may return to their "inattentive and incurious" mode.
UPDATE: While I'm discussing Egypt, David Remnick's "Letter from Cairo" in this week's New Yorker is a very sobering read.
YES, A THIRD UPDATE: Beyond individual countries, it's also worth mentioning the G8 Greater Middle East Initiative, a follow-up to earlier Bush proposals from last year. It's obviously way too soon to debate the effectiveness of the proposal, but Al Jazeera certainly believed it was going to cover states of strategic interest to the U.S.:
AND NOW A FOURTH UPDATE: Earlier in this post, I gave Josh Uzbekistan as an example that supported his line of argumentation. Maybe I was too hasty -- Here's Central Asian expert Martha Brill Olcott's testimony to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe on Uzbekistan's human rights situation (link via the Argus):
This is an example of folks like Marshall pimping their credibility on the roadside to get their hard-core leftist ticket elected in November.posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Despite your one minor example, Josh is right. Bush has clearly shown that democratization is not part of his plans for the world but is merely a side effect in some cases. Were Bush serious about spreading democracy, he'd reward countries for moving towards it instead of rewarding them for just complying with his requests as he's clearly done. Libya is one such case that illustrates a dictator can go on oppressing his citizens as long as he plays nice with America.posted by: Robert McClelland on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
It's fine to talk about promoting democracy, but much harder to do so when it may inhibit national interests or actually cause harm. Even Jimmy Carter wasn't willing to do this. He certainly didn't push human rights in the Soviet Union, but he did in Argentina--they didn't have nukes. It's also very difficult to know what policies will be helpful and waht will be counterproductive. China is a good example; I confess to being at a loss as to how far do we want to push them. It's also probably unrealistic to expect an administration to sacrifice short term benefits (i.e. that will accrue to it) in favor of long term goals. This is why rhetoric about democracy is so problematic, which is something all US administrations seem to favor because it is costless. But its not costless when you have invaded a country ostensibly to promote democracy. One problem in this administration is that part of it favors democracy promotion (Wolfowitz) and part doesn't (Rumsfeld).
On the other hand, there is a whole international community devoted to democracy promotion, including parts of the US government. It gets very little attention because democracy promotion is, unlike an invasion, a slow, incremental process. This is probably a more productive approach in the long run because it enables countries to find their own way to democracy. But they are not going to be immediate full-fledged democracies overnight or maybe even like anything Americans envision.
posted by: MWS on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Doesn't Georgia count as a country that became democratic with U.S. assistance? The article linked to by Marshall does not identify the U.S. government as having a special role, but can you expect the Georgian president to give a shout-out to the C.I.A. for helping him get his new job.posted by: PD Shaw on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Marshall is exaggerating more than a little. Egypt is substantially more important than Uzbekistan, in the first place. The vast capital expended by the Bush administration in Afghanistan and Iraq greatly reduces the resources available to promote democracy (however that is defined) elsewhere, in the second place.
And thirdly there is a big and largely unrecognized difference between promoting democracy and making a gesture visible to American voters that looks like we are promoting democracy. Marshall very likely sees that difference very clearly when the dictatorship in question is a Communist one; we've been promoting democracy through the Cuban trade embargo since I was about three. Yet dropping sanctions against a Libyan government that is scrapping its WMD programs is supposed to mean the Bush administration doesn't back up its rhetoric with deeds. Democratization by definition means dictators have to agree to give up their power. Telling them to do it is easy; getting them to do it is something else again. What Marshall objects to is that the Bush administration doesn't do enough telling; George Bush isn't enough like Jimmy Carter. That is not the most persuasive critique of Bush I have ever heard.posted by: Zathras on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
promoting democracy through the Cuban trade embargo since I was about three.
Gee, that's worked out well.
In other news, Ibrahim isn't exactly popular. And now he's tainted, unfortunately. The thing about Egypt is that it remains the best hope for a democracy in the region (seeing as how we aren't going to turn Jordan over to Palestinian radicals any time soon), and it, far more than Iraq, is the intellectual heart of the Middle East.posted by: praktike on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
I consider it a fair and valid counter-example, and was favorably impressed at the time.
Need bells or whistles or something, to pull readers out of the comment sections and notify them that the blogger has made a contribution :)posted by: bob mcmanus on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Wow, what an unfair attack by Marshal. Particularly when he has shown no interest in seeing a democracy in Iraq or Afghanistan. If there are 50 million new democrats (small d) in the world 4 years from now, will he be singing the same tune? How often was democracy discussed in the Middle East pre-Iraq? Almost never? How often is it discussed now? Daily, in every place from the palaces of Amman to the cafes in Beirut. That counts for nothing? Marshall thinks he is being clever here, trying to paint Bush with the brush Kerry is trying to wield. Doesnt pass the horse laugh test. Say what you want about whether Bush has been effective in democratizing, but there is no question that the other side doesnt see it as a viable goal, and possibly as a threat. Stability at all costs from the Marshall crowd (they can always critize the next republican president for supporting with the very same autocrats later after all).posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Just out of curiosity, what exactly are Joshua Marshall’s credentials that anyone should value his opinion on foreign policy? It seems to me that he’s basically the blog equivalent of a Paul Begala in that he pretty much puts out his own party’s spin without offering any original analysis of his own. Sort of the fast food of punditry: quick, greasy, and with no nutritional value whatsoever.posted by: Thorley Winston on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Thorley: "The fast food of punditry: quick, greasy, and with no nutritional value whatsoever."
I dunno, that sounds like a concise description of most blogs -- regardless of ideology.
Mmmmmm.... greasy.posted by: Dan Drezner on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Does George Bush even know what democracy means? Recently he called Pakistan a democracy even though it is a military dictatorship that overthrew a democratically elected government. Also, Bush was proud of overthrowing another democratically elected government in Haiti and they have been trying to overthrow one in Venezuela for years.
I dunno, that sounds like a concise description of most blogs -- regardless of ideology.
Ideology is one thing. Knee-jerk partisanship is another. Now that the Republicans are embracing democracy-promotion (to whatever arguable extent) Marshall is a realist. In the 90's when Clinton was the interventionist, he wasn't a realist. There is no ideology other than to advocate the opposite of what Republicans are advocating. He is neither conservative nor liberal, leftist nor rightist. He's simply a Democrat. How boring.posted by: Eric Deamer on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Tunisia? This is a country where the glorious President Ben Ali occupies the full half-page above the fold of every newspaper every day, and a good portion of the other pages too. It's a full scale cult of personality. Also, the Berber groups are sidelined, just less viciously than in Algeria. And massive media censorship, including of the Internet, as the NYT discussed recently. Naive Tom Friedman types like to hype Tunisia because things "look normal" when he flys in -- women working and not wearing the veil. But it's a classic Middle East pressure cooker nonetheless.posted by: P O'Neill on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Dan's point on Ibrahim is well taken, and the administration should indeed be applauded for getting something right.
I just think it's funny that "this example doesn't completely vitiate Marshall's point"..."but it does suggest that Marshall's exaggerating his case a bit" are in the same sentence.
Even if that Egypt example removes Egypt (and I'm not sure, at all, that it does) it still leaves several other nations Josh lists where there are not a host of examples that refute his point.
And if we're willing to say that Marhall's serious aside about "not one example" is in total incorrect, it still doesn't remove the fact that by themselves, Ibrahim and (even more tangentially and peripherally) Tunisa do not a policy make.posted by: SamAm on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Dan raises some good points. But it still seems that those are exceptions rather than the rule. And in any event I took Marshall to be talking about Bush's policy in contrast to his rhetoric. And his rhetoric is so black and white that even shades of gray seem to undermine it.
Marshall was talking about the way that Bush's foreign policy is described and then contrasted with Kerry's views. He was saying that while Kerry is being attacked for not valuing democracy enough, there is ample evidence that creating democracies is not the guiding principle for Bush's foreign policy either.
You can call that a partisan attack if you would like, but it seems pretty justified and appropriate in a year when we are having an election that pits one party against another. It is all towards getting a better understanding of what has actually been the Bush policy over the last few years.posted by: Rich on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
For me, Bush's commitment to democracy was clear when he praised Musharaff, called Pakistan a democracy and offered him $3 billion in aid.posted by: erg on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
' How often was democracy discussed in the Middle East pre-Iraq? Almost never?'
Nonsense. This makes it appear that democracy is some great gift that Bush has brought to the Middle East, while the fact is that there have been democracies in the Middle East. Turkey is a democracy, even Iran is partly democratic. There was plenty of discussion of democracy in the ME pre Iraq.posted by: erg on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Hasn't Bush effectively walked away from getting anything meaningful out of the GMEI? I don't have a source but I feel like I've seen something like that ...posted by: Nick Beaudrot on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Why is Marshall asking what Bush has done in the last 3 1/2 years to promote democracy, when he knows quite well that the Bush administration changed policies after 9/11? If you are going to measure success, I think you need to look at events since the formation of the 2002 NSS, which laid out democracy as grand strategy. I don't think we can measure effectiveness in that limitted timeframe. Most success is likely to be incremental and reversible.posted by: PD Shaw on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
No, Bush has done nothing in particular to promote democracy, anywhere in the world (a couple of speeches in Egypt and Tunisia don't cut it).
Let's talk about Bush's committment to a military coup in Venezuela. Or his support for the military dictator of Pakistan, whose rule by fiat he referred to as "democracy" in a recent speech. Bush's score on democracy isn't even as high as zero: it's a negative number.
Overthrowing a dictator (elected or not) who has been rigging elections and using violence against his opponents is supporting democracy.
As for Bush's conditional support of Musharref after 9/11, surely you must realize that we needed Pakistan's cooperation to take out the Taliban.posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Supporting Musharaff is fine and necessary. Hailing him as a great supporter of freedom and democracy, greeting him in the WH, making him a major Nato ally is not. When Dubya felecited Musharaff in the White House last year, I nearly upchucked. Did Bush look him in the eye and decide he was a man that he could do business with ?
Its not even smart from a political perspective, since we have India next doot, which has 8 times Pakistan's population, is a secular democracy, has an economy an order of magnitude larger than Pakistan, and a better cricket team. We will get short term help from Pakistan against the Taliban, but in the long term ,India is far more crucial to US interests.
Clinton, by contrast, cultivated good relations with India. And when he visited Pakistan (for about 12 hours) a few years back, he delivered a strong lecture to them on what they needed to do to get their country back in order (that was when Pakistan was a nominal democracy).
Considering that Mushareff is all that stands between radical islam and 20-30 nuclear-tipped ballistic missles, yes I think he is a key to preventing nuclear war in the Middle East. I have no problem with working with him over the medium term. He is not bulldozing dissidents into mass graves, AFAIK.
I'd like some direct links to some of the statements you are complaining about.posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
As for Bush's conditional support of Musharref after 9/11, surely you must realize that we needed Pakistan's cooperation to take out the Taliban.
But at what price? We all know how Reagan's politically expedient use of Islamic extremists and rogue Middle East dictators to fight the cold war paved the way for some of the problems we now face with them. So what future problems is Bush initiating with his politically expedient use of these regimes to fight the war on terror?posted by: Robert McClelland on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
My God. Might as well ask what future problems could anyone be initiating by doing something in the present.
Who knows? Maybe a lot; maybe none. We won't know until we get there. Right now, people with a lot more experience than us have decided that this is the best path we have before us.
Right now, people with a lot more experience than us have decided that this is the best path we have before us.
How do you know this is the best path though? All I've ever seen coming out of the Bush camp is blind faith that democratizing the Middle East will in fact help eliminate terrorism. I have yet to see any credible papers authored on the theory that back up this amazing claim. And no, Frum doesn't count as credible.
Yet here we are, risking who knows what future problems (and we've seen they can be disastrous problems) on the basis that we just need to have faith in what Bush is doing. Sorry, but I don't think so.posted by: Robert McClelland on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
before you respond to Robert, see what Roger Simon and many others have to sayposted by: dean on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
I read the examples provided by Dan.
I agree that the Robert Tagorda article is very sobering. It also goes to show that there the main policy that one HAS to have towards the world - whether Republican or Democrat - is a "realistic" policy - with small fights against it around the edge. So in this case, IF the main point that Josh Marshall is making is that is this idea that the Republican administration is working from mainly a democracy promoting idealism - this idea is definitely false. In this Josh Marshall correct.
However, if Josh Marshall's claim is that Bush's idealistic conversations are given the lie by Bush's administration's actions, then Dan definitely is (also) correct.
The facts on the ground seem to indicate - that if the nations of the Middle East were not fairly repressive authoritarian regimes, these countries would be, on their own, Islamic Republics of different sorts.
A couple of points: If someone can direct me or offer their insight:
I'm thinking of Turkey, Indonesia, even Spain, many years ago.
If the United States doesn't want to have to deal with a lot of Islamic Republics in the Middle East, it would be useful to isolate the elements that cause a Turkey, Indonesia, etc, to go from an authority state to experimenting with democracy.
Now for Question 1:
What are the main elements that allow an authoritarian regime to slowly turn into a democracy? Does anyone have any suggestions? Or know the history of these countries? The United States (or Europe) have not used "force" in these cases. But over 30 years, democracy has flowered. What are the main elements responsible?
The other point - the main reason, we must admit, why the United States must support authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, is mainly about the oil resources. Authoritarian regimes in nations where there ARE NO ESSENTIAL RESOURCES necessary for the smooth running of the world economy - we care much less.
This is because there is a lot of power - economic, financial, and thus political - that comes with owning essential resources - and authoritarian regimes without these essential resources simply will have less impact, and HAVE less power. (I hope I made this point well.)
Now for the Question 2:
I would think it would be an absolute national priority, to LESSEN the reliance on oil, as an essential resource, by having a Manhattan Project for this very thing. Not only would this help lessen the power that comes with having an essential resource, but it may also really help the environment.
Who would agree with this? Who wouldn't? Why, on each side?posted by: JC on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
I believe the Bush administration quietly began pressuring Uzbekistan on human rights earlier this year and is now moving toward more pblic pressure. No, it's not a major campaign but most of these things begin in private talks at the ambassador level.posted by: mark safranski on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
While Josh marshall and all other bloggers are fair game, your quote "bloggers may now return to their "inattentive and incurious" mode" speaks to your arrogance.
Egypt's power is on the decline. It is as yet unrecognized but Iraq is now the cultural heart of the Middle East. Egypt has been eclipsed because the best it can offer is another Pharoh.
The yeast (Iraq) will now begin its work.
You may have been reading my discussion of this over at Winds of Change (or not).
Let me see if I can answer some questions. I will at least give you my answer (if I have one).
What are the main elements that allow an authoritarian regime to slowly turn into a democracy?
Personal security, property security, and a per capita income of about $4K per year. Enough wealth so that tribal loyalties are loosened.
"Does anyone have any suggestions? Or know the history of these countries?"
As far as I can tell for the authoritarian to democracy bit to work you need an expanding economy (at least until uou get to $20K or more per capita).
Economic liberlization and the habits it breeds (trust beyond clan) are essential for a functioning democratic state.
" The United States (or Europe) have not used "force" in these cases. But over 30 years, democracy has flowered. What are the main elements responsible?"
The force we used was the installation of a benevolent dictator. And the support we gave them in their early days.
1. An environment the provides personal security.
The book "The Sovereign Individual" has a lot to say about this. At least the security aspects.
2. An envirnment that is conducive to economic growth. Read DeSoto on capitalism.
3. When #2 has gone far enough begin political liberalization. In any case the people will demand it.
I don't know of any books that cover #3. You really have to look at recent history.posted by: M. Simon on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
"...your quote "bloggers may now return to their "inattentive and incurious" mode" speaks to your arrogance..."
He's QUOTING MARSHALL here. Marshall is the one who said anyone who disagreed with his premise was "inattentive and incurious", not Drezner.
“This is an example of folks like Marshall pimping their credibility on the roadside to get their hard-core leftist ticket elected in November.”
“There is no ideology other than to advocate the opposite of what Republicans are advocating. He (Josh Marshall) is neither conservative nor liberal, leftist nor rightist. He's simply a Democrat. How boring.”
Josh Marshall is simply a Democrat partisan hack. He despises George W. Bush and will do anything to destroy him. The situation in Iraq is indeed going quite well. That’s what so upsetting to the immature Marshall. People like myself have long argued that the Muslim world must be encouraged to enter the 21st Century. Our very lives depend on this development. Altruism is not our central motivation! An increasingly successful Iraq justifies Bush’s policies.
There is a fair question we should ask Josh Marshall: what would his liberal friends have done about Iraq and the Middle East culture of self pity and scapegoating? Read between the lines---and you will inevitably conclude that we should do virtually nothing! Marshall’s buddies are multiculturalists and have an extremely difficult time asserting that Western culture is vastly superior to that of the Muslim’s. We are allegedly a bunch of white dudes imposing our values on those possessing darker skin.posted by: David Thomson on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
“If the United States doesn't want to have to deal with a lot of Islamic Republics in the Middle East, it would be useful to isolate the elements that cause a Turkey, Indonesia, etc, to go from an authority state to experimenting with democracy.”
The modernization of Turkey is mostly due to the realization by Ataturk and others that the Islamic world was behind the curve. The West had won---and it was time for Muslims to embrace the winning values of the victors. Ataturk even gave women a prominent role to play in Turkish society. It is truly a scandal that few college educated people know anything concerning this great man. Of course, the multiculturalist hate his guts. Please spend some time looking at this website. It is of much value:posted by: David Thomson on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Look, you dont have to be a realist to be realistic. No president would suddenly abandon all ties to every non-democratic regime on earth, particularly now. Its absurd to set the bar at that level. Bush has provided the mechanism for democratic reform in two nations that were probably the farthest on earth from it. That cant be undersold. Those two nations had basically a zero percent chance of democracy within the forseeable future. Whatever the odds are now, they are significantly better than that. Iraq, in particular, is a major test case, and until the results come in we cant expect to see major movement in the rest of the ME. If there is success in Iraq, the rest is simply inevitable, and that cant be undersold either. Longterm kids, keep your eye on the ball.
"She owes her success in practice to her inconsistencies in principle."posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
More on Egypt from David Remnick here.posted by: praktike on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
I simply must add something to my previous post of just a few minutes ago. Mickey Kaus is saying something really dumb:
“I plan to vote for (John Kerry) him because I think a) we need to take a time out from Bush's strident public global terror war in order to prevent it from becoming a damaging, lifelong West vs. Islam clash--in order to "rebrand" America and digest the hard-won gains we've made in Iraq and Afghanistan (if they even remain gains by next January).”
Oh boy, Mickey Kaus is conveniently forgetting one important fact: the Democrat Party is too multiculturalist! The war on terrorism cannot be won unless we are adamantly convinced that Western values are vastly superior to those of the reactionary Muslim world. President Bush definitely believes that this is the case. Not so, the liberals who dominate the Democrat Party. They are hesitant to “impose” our values onto the Third World.posted by: David Thomson on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Iraq, in particular, is a major test case
I thought Afghanistan was the major test case. By the way, how is that forgotton Bush liberation going?posted by: Robert McClelland on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
"I thought Afghanistan was the major test case. By the way, how is that forgotton Bush liberation going?"
Forgotten by the media. I read about it all the time. This is what happens when the NYT filters your worldview.posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Mickey Kaus is a real comedian. I wonder if he’s squeezing Sterno through a rag and mixing it with Pepsi? Kaus fails to realize that the Howard Dean people are not going to disappear if John Kerry wins. They will not accept marginalization graciously, a seat at the table will be demanded. Far too many Democrats shy away from “imposing” our supposedly white man values onto the brown skinned Muslim reactionaries. End of story.posted by: David Thomson on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
If one is willing to agree that the populations of Afghanistan and Iraq have moved from "Not Free" to at least "Partly Free" status, then according to 2001 figures at www.freedomhouse.org (the latest year I saw there), Bush has reduced the "Not Free" world population by 2.4%.
I don't know the site's methodology, but here are some other "Not Free" percentages, just for grins: 1/81-42.5%, 1/93-31.1%, 1/01-35.6%.
BTW, in 11/03, India and Pakistan entered into a still-successful cease-fire after 14 years, and began a series of mutual diplomatic and economic initiatives, including high-level meetings the most recent of which was just over a week ago. Remember the "brink of nuclear exchange" they were at a little while back?
But really, shouldn't we really just wait for somebody, somewhere (Mommy and Daddy?) to wave a magic wand so that the mean old world will just be nice?
Philipposted by: Philip on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Let's see how and if Bush addresses human rights issues with King Mohammed VI of Morocco when they meet today.posted by: Randy Paul on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
"Within the last three years Morocco has undergone a unique experience of alternance or tanawub (alteration of power) whereby the democratically elected opposition was called upon by the late King Hassan II to form a government. One of the results was the creation of a ministry unique to the Arab world: the Ministry of Human Rights"
Forgotten by the media. I read about it all the time.
I do too, but I have to actively search for news from Afghanistan whereas if I want to know the latest retarded meme from the left or the right, or what's up with Jacko I only need to watch the televised news for 5 seconds.
This is what happens when the NYT filters your worldview.
Gratuitous insult noted.posted by: Robert McClelland on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
"I do too, but I have to actively search for news from Afghanistan "
And that is Bush's fault?
"Gratuitous insult noted."
Merely pointing out that the Bush administration cant control the stories the media wants to tell. If the storyline is that Afghanistan has been forgotten and pushed to the back of the bus, and the major media refuses to print stories to the contrary, how is that Bush's problem?posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Your link addressed nothing about human rights abuses in Morocco and the backsliding alleged in the HRW press release.
In any event, here's another example: Azerbaijan:
ILHAM ALIYEV was inaugurated as president of the oil-rich Muslim country of Azerbaijan three months ago after an election condemned by international observers as blatantly fraudulent. When members of the opposition tried to protest, they were brutally beaten by police. There followed a massive, nationwide crackdown in which more than 1,000 people were arrested, including opposition leaders, activists from nongovernmental organizations, journalists and election officials who objected to the fraud. More than 100 remain in prison, including most of the senior opposition activists. A new report by Human Rights Watch documents numerous cases of torture, including severe beatings, electric shock, and threats of rape against the opposition leaders. Mr. Aliyev, who succeeded his strongman father, meanwhile has been consolidating dictatorial powers: Most recently he was named director of Azerbaijani radio and television.
Azerbaijan, in short, might look like a good place for President Bush to start implementing his frequently declared policy of "spreading freedom" to the world -- and in particular the greater Middle East. Instead he is doing the opposite. The president and his top aides have embraced Mr. Aliyev, excused his fraud and ignored his human rights violations -- not to mention reliable reports of his personal corruption. The administration waived congressional restrictions to grant Azerbaijan $3 million in military aid and is winding up to give still more. The Pentagon is talking with Azeri officials about the possible use of bases for U.S. operations. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld visited Baku last month to confer with Mr. Aliyev. When asked about the electoral fraud, he replied: "The United States has a relationship with this country. We value it." Said Mr. Aliyev proudly: "The United States is a strategic partner."
It gets worse:
American diplomats and oil executives portray Mr. Aliyev as an urbane pro-Westerner and a secret moderate who plans to liberalize the police state he inherited from his dad. This account strikes Azerbaijanis as ludicrous. Only 42 years old, Mr. Aliyev is renowned in Baku as a playboy with a bad gambling habit. During his tenure at the state oil company, Azerbaijan was rated the sixth most corrupt nation in the world by Transparency International. An indictment unsealed in the Southern District of New York charges that millions of dollars in bribes were channeled to top Azeri officials in 1997 as part of a scheme to privatize the oil company, of which Mr. Aliyev was then vice president. Since his "election," Mr. Aliyev has reappointed his father's key ministers and promised to pursue the same policies -- including, apparently, ruthless suppression of the peaceful and pro-democracy opposition.
A "secret moderate?" Talk about defining deviancy down . . .posted by: Randy Paul on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Randy, I dont consider HRW a particularly unbiased source. The story you cited took pains to jab at the war on terrorism worldwide. Yes, from one point of view Morocco has cracked down on terrorism at the expense of human rights, but that has to be weighed against the fact that those same terrorists are hell bent on disrupting democratic reform in Morocco, Catch-22. Its undeniable, however, that Morocco has been on the progressive end of reform amongst Muslim nations. The King has a track record of reform to point to, making a strong case that a temporary crack down on terrorist insurgency will be just that. Again, had this happened 5 years ago, no-one would even have commented on it, HRW probably least of all (what with the crippling economic sanctions killing millions of Iraqi babies thanks to the evil US).
As to Azerbaijan, again, not so simple a question. We are in a difficult position considering they are sandwiched between the traditional Russian sphere of influence and the Iranian fundamentalists actively working to undermine the pro-western government. The question goes back to, how do we better support democracy in the longterm? By supporting the guy we can lean on, or withdrawing our support and watching the country crumble into civil war and Islamic fundamentalism? Its a difficult question, but it shouldnt be framed as simple realist opportunism. Much like Pakistan, at least the current regime has the mechanism for future democracy, while withdrawing our support would almost certainly lead to the complete overthrow of remotely democratic or humanitarian systems to be replaced by lunatic islamo-fascists we are at war with. Tough decisions, but none of these guys hold a candle to Stalin and we worked with him well enough.posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
The question goes back to, how do we better support democracy in the longterm? By supporting the guy we can lean on, or withdrawing our support and watching the country crumble into civil war and Islamic fundamentalism?
You're presuming those are the only two choices. We didn't withdraw support from the Shah of Iran and he crumbled under the weight of his own oppression. The problem, in fact was supporting a repressive Shah who not only alienated the islamic fundamentalists, but also many on the secular side to the point where they were willing to align themselves with the fundamentalists just to get rid of the Shah (it's worth noting that one of the strongest critics of Mohammed Moosadegh in the 1950's was the younger Ayatollah Khomeini) leading to a revolution that united these two sides solely to the extent of committing the act of revolting and strengthening the mullahs. Remember Saddegh Ghotbazedh, the young spokesman for the post-Shah regime who was executed by the Islamic Republic in the early 1980's? If we learned anything from Iran, we wouldn't be supporting the corrupt, fraudulent regime of Aliyev.
As for HRW (and AI for that matter), whether you find them credible or not, the DOS Human Rights Report is filled with references to both of them. You can read what they said about Morocco here.posted by: Randy Paul on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
"If we learned anything from Iran, we wouldn't be supporting the corrupt, fraudulent regime of Aliyev."
We supported corrupt, fraudulent regimes in Indonesia, Turkey, the Philippines, South Korea, and elsewhere. Those places have reformed themselves into various levels of democracy (and improving mostly). If we learned anything from South Korea, its that you _can_ shepherd a troubled nation from kleptocracy to democracy with care. Certainly the faster the better, but you cant use the same tool on every project. Try to push to hard to fast in places like Azerbajain and we will have another Iran.posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
South Korea and Azerbaijan are completely different cases and the most obvious example is the lack of Muslim fundamentalists. Supporting a corrupt kleptocracy in Azerbaijan while claiming to support democracy makes us look like hypocrites and serves to underscore Marshall's argument.posted by: Randy Paul on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
"It is as yet unrecognized but Iraq is now the cultural heart of the Middle East"
Oh MAN! Where to begin!posted by: ed on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
If the storyline is that Afghanistan has been forgotten and pushed to the back of the bus, and the major media refuses to print stories to the contrary, how is that Bush's problem?
I never meant to imply that it was. What I was referring to when I initially brought it up was to counter you're assertion that Iraq is a test case for Bush policy when in fact Afghanistan was the test case and that liberation effort has gone nowhere.posted by: Robert McClelland on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Promoting democracy is different from promoting individual freedom, particularly economic freedom. It may be more important in the Middle East to promote economic freedom before one promotes truly democratic governments. For example, Hong Kong had NO democracy under Britain, but had great economic and individual freedom. They prospered mightily.
Red China has no democracy, but they have been on a path promoting economic liberty for 20+ years now. It's not at all obvious that they would have been able to do that as a functioning democracy. Some very difficult decisions still face them as part of their WTO agreements - their large, inefficient state-owned businesses need to be streamlined.
Most Middle Eastern countries have semi-socialist economies that perform very badly. A democratically-elected government seldom has the political courage to privatize large industries. Look at how Europe and Canada have slowly pulled more and more economic functions into government (approx. 50% of their GDP is spent by gov't.).
It might be better to have local, grass roots democracy (town councils), but authoritarian rule at the very top until they free up the economy. That would also give the locals a chance to learn how to govern -- starting with basic things: filling the potholes, making the water and sewer systems work, schools educate, etc. Then compete for higher office later.
I realize in Iraq, they're going to move to national elections in early 2005, and that's probably inevitable, given the security situation, where we are today, etc. But, I'd think a 2 or 3 year transition might have been better with the current interim government ruling during this period. Have them organize local and regional elections in those 2 - 3 years.
Look like hypocrites to whom? Obviously to the domestic American audience any administration could announce it would stand by holding its breath with arms folded until Azerbaijan repented of its entire political culture and embraced civilized government. It would win points at home for standing on principle, and lose points overseas for appearing ineffectual.
Had we the power to do what we are attempting in the face of many difficulties to do in Iraq -- overthrow a despicable government produced by a backward culture -- and replace it not only with something better but with a system approximating our own I would have no problem doing so. We don't have and are not likely to get that kind of power, and so rather than worrying about how we look in the mirror need to learn how to focus on fighting the battles we can win.posted by: Zathras on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
"It might be better to have local, grass roots democracy (town councils), but authoritarian rule at the very top until they free up the economy. "
That is a total contradiction in terms.posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
"South Korea and Azerbaijan are completely different cases and the most obvious example is the lack of Muslim fundamentalists"
Perhaps but the argument could as easily be made that supporting a corrupt kleptocracy while fighting a communist revolution would never work. The point is you have to use different approaches for each case. Bush has been rather sly in his dealings with Pakistan, Saudi, and places like Azerbaijan and Uzbekestan. His critics certainly cant make heads or tails of how the black and white cowboy manages to finess each nation with a different approach. Look, if Bush pressed Musharaff or his ilk and their nations exploded into chaos, he'd darn well get blasted for it for being a cultural imperialistic dim witted cowboy. But does he get any credit for getting these nations on board with us with at least the opportunity to nurture them to democracy? Of course not. Its the same symptom this entire discussion suffers from. Instant gratification syndrome. We arent going to see all the results of our present work for years, people are too used to instant analysis.posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
"when in fact Afghanistan was the test case and that liberation effort has gone nowhere."
Tell that to the 700,000 women in Kabul alone.posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Look like hypocrites to whom?
Those people in Azerbaijan and around the world who support democracy, who oppose election fraud, who believe in transparency in government.posted by: Randy Paul on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Oh man! The work Bush has to do just to get Marshall, et al (above) to support him. He's going to have to ensure the establishment of stable democracies in 189 (more or less) countries.
What is lost in much of the discussion above is that we are at war. We didn't start the war. We cannot end the war by defeating troops that wear identical uniforms.
I liked Bush's disavowal of nation-building in his campaign. As a veteran, I long felt that every U.S. military action after World War II was unjustified. Unjustified in that none of them so threatened the U.S. or U.S. vital national interests sufficiently to warrant the death or wounding of a single American.
September 11th changed my mind. It is clear that we were attacked, not because of Israel, or of troops stationed in the "holy" nation of Saudi Arabia. We were attacked because of what we are - liberal, progressive, secular, prosperous and peaceful. The folks who attacked us don't own states, they are harbored by states. We have to fight for the survival of Western Civilization (except for the French part - they seem to be okay with that). We have to fight by changing the fundamental nature of the nations that harbor our enemies.
In the old days, we could advance our interests by helping overthrow, say, Musharrif, and installing another colonel (think Thieu and Ky). To fight now, we have to place our faith in the most peaceful of systems - democracies.
Marshall assigns equal weight and importance to each non-democracy on the face of the earth. I think I can hear him sneering while he does so. But it is just not the case. Afghanistan in more important than Ajerbajain. Iraq is more important that Eqypt.
Besides, some of these harboring nations will convert to democracies on their own - my own prediction in the short term (within ten years) include Syria and Iran.
This war has been going on for only three years. When the U.S. had been in WWII for three years, we were just starting to fight on the same continent as Germany.
Pundits of Marshall's ilk want the war to be measurable by weekly or monthly goals. I think we need to think of this war - and therefore of democratic conversion - in terms of decades. But pundits of Marshall's ilk don't really care about the war, if they will concede that there is one, they only care about the defeat of Bush.
They remind me of the Republicans in the early days of WWII - furious, shrill, and few in number.posted by: Ender on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Very well said.posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Randy, I know where you're coming from on Azerbaijan. It's a tough situation and a black eye for Bush's stated goals.
At the same time, the opposition was extremely weak and really jumped the gun. For us, there's something to be said for living to fight another day. The democratic foundation work wasn't there like it was in Georgia, and we need to keep enough access to help create it.
I know that sounds like a rationalization, but it's not. The US is still working in Azerbaijan to preserve breathing room for the opposition. A recent anecdote: during the mosque raid the other day in Baku, the US ambassador came when he heard what was going to get the police to back off. Is that going to make a lasting impact? Probably not, but in diplomatese, it's a big deal.
I'm not one for the "let's not get our hands dirty" approach to foreign policy. Dirtying our good name a bit is making life in Central Asia and the Caucasus better than if Russia was playing our role.posted by: Nathan Hamm on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
There's an assumption running through this thread that Musharraf is bad because he took over the government in a military coup. Pakistan's government at the time was one of the most corrupt around. Believe it or not Musharraf is one of the good guys. If he's lucky enough to stay around he'll do much good for Pakistan. Also, of all our world leaders, I suspect he's one of the most intelligent.
I know Monsoor Ijaz can't stand him but I rather like the guy.posted by: Syl on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Mark Buehner: Tell that to the 700,000 women in Kabul alone.
Why don't you go tell them?
The 52-page report, "We Want to Live As Humans": Repression of Women and Girls in Western Afghanistan, focuses on the increasingly harsh restrictions on women and girls imposed by Ismail Khan, a local governor in the west of Afghanistan who has received military and financial assistance from the United States. Human Rights Watch said that the situation in Herat was symptomatic of developments across the country, and that women and girls were facing new restrictions in several other regions as well.
posted by: Jesurgislac on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Classic "Perfect is the enemy of good enough" thinking by Josh Marshall. He critizes Bush for not being perfect when we have counter examples of Bush picking his fights where he feels he will have the most effect. Bush and the adults in the administration know you have to pick your fights. Do you want talk or results?
Given the international cowboy image so frevently pushed by the media and europeans, any open talk by Bush will futile. Given that reputation, a country would not admit to being influenced by Bush. But given that reputation, an ambassador can privately play good cop with the Bush bogey man as the bad cop.
He would have made progess in NOKO too but John Kerry did his best to stop that. It went largely unnoticed but John Kerry put out a statement that he would immediately enter into bi-lateral discussion with North Korea and end Bush's "Unilateral" approach.
Bush has actually been trying to create a regional solution but including China, South Korea, and Japan in the discussion and making the solution a joint one rather than the now failed bi-lateral “NK threatens and the US pays” approach. Getting all the parties involved has been a major struggle. (You can read more about the details at USS Clueless just search for North Korea).
In one fell swoop, Kerry has guaranteed no progress in North Korea until after the election. He has promised the North Koreans the bi-lateral talks they want if they just hold out. He has promised to go back to the old ways that didn’t work.
Google "Kerry North Korea unilateral", the data is there.posted by: OldManRick on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Mark Buehner, OldManRick, and co. are engaged in one long retreat.
The question is not whether it is sometimes necessary to support and ally with undemocratic regimes. This is obvious. The question is the extent to which democratization is a motive force behind Bush's foreign policy, and in answer to that, we get a lot of special pleading for likely-necessary exceptions (*istan), wild over-estimation of our largely abandoned efforts in Afghanistan (NGOs withdraw as the security situation outside Kabul goes to the dogs), and outright wishful thinking that since our engagement with South Korea worked, our engagement with Uzbekistan will work. Tell it to the Burmese.posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
All I can say is 50 million people are demonstrably freer than they were.posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
Mark Buehner: All I can say is 50 million people are demonstrably freer than they were.
Then you should be able to demonstrate it. Where are these 50 million "significantly freer" people?posted by: Jesurgislac on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
"Then you should be able to demonstrate it. Where are these 50 million "significantly freer" people?"
Sigh.. I'll rise to the troll-bait. Iraq and Afghanistan. And if you dont understand that you dont understand what a murderous torture state is and its very sad.posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
The 50 million number is utter rubbish, although it's cute rhetorically. The Iraqi Kurds are no freer now than before, in both cases better than the rest of Iraq. Outside Kabul, life in most of Afghanistan goes on almost the same as under the Taliban. In Iraq, life is actually less secure for many, and for women it may even be worse. This "significantly freer" is completely circular, and isn't based on anything noticeable (much less anything significant) in these countries as they actually exist, not as George Bush and his claque choose to classify their populations.posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
"...at least the current [Azerbaijan]regime has the mechanism for future democracy, while withdrawing our support would almost certainly lead to the complete overthrow of remotely democratic or humanitarian systems to be replaced by lunatic islamo-fascists we are at war with."
The democratic opposition in Azerbaijan is fractured and prone to infighting (with no little manipulation and provocation by the authorities), but the recent presidential elections were a farce. If given a chance, there are plenty of potential political leaders in Azerbaijan with claims to legitimacy and to a commitment to democratization.
I'd like to know exactly who are the "lunatic islamo-fascists" who are poised to take control in Azerbaijan, should we withdraw support for the Aliyev dynasty? Islamo-fascism doesn't play very well in Azerbaijan, even in the slums of Sumgait.
"Try to push to[o] hard to[o] fast in places like Azerbajain and we will have another Iran."
Again, who is the Azeri Ayatollah Khomeini? And do you mean to suggest that we got the Iranian revolution because we pushed too hard, too fast on the Shah? Furthermore, what is the threat you're posing--islamofascism or Shiite mullahcracy?
Make whatever self-interested arguments you want to for our going easy on Azerbaijan, but don't maintain that our support for Aliyev's rule is all that stands between incipient democratization and another front in our war with Islamists.posted by: Jonathan Kulick on 07.07.04 at 02:05 PM [permalink]
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