Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hawks and Herrings

During the summer and recently this fall, gurufrisbee and I have had a debate about non-violence as a foreign policy. I think we came to an impass when gurufrisbee said, "I'm not willing to say that it's impossible to imagine a dictator who sincerely cares for the well being of all their citizens and nation and treats them well and where that is a better situation that a country who elects a bunch of corrupt, nasty, evil leaders in a democracy who abuse their power and their citizens." because I declared, "no matter of debate is going to convince me that living in a dictatorship is equal to or better than a democracy in any situation."

That doesn't mean the discussion should end. It probably means we won't resolve our difference, but good policy can come out of our discussions. Besides good policy (as if two middle school teachers are ever consulted on any policy issue), the discussion strengthen my hawkishness and brought up a few red herrings.

Why, with top Democrats calling for an immediate pull-out of Iraq, am I more hawkish? Let me list the ways...

First, as Condoleezza Rice said, "For 60 years my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither." She is absolutely right. The old course of action didn't work. We must pursue something new.

Since Bush has pursued the forceful democracy promotion by overthrowing the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the following major political shifts have happened in the Middle East.

Libya gave up its nuclear program and support of terrorism in Palestine. America is even considering opening diplomatic relations with Libya.

Egypt had open elections with multiple candidates.

Kuwaiti women got the right to vote.

Of course, Iraq has had an elected Constitutional convention, a national referendum on the Constitution and is now preparing for the first true parliamentary elections in its history.

On the other side of Iran is Hamid Karzai's Afghanistan. They have elected both the president and a parliament for the first time in Afghanistan history.

And under USA pressure, Saudi Arabia held its first direct election of municipal councilors. It was far from perfect, but it was one more election than held under the previous foreign policy.

Although not specifically related to America's forceful democracy promotion, Lebanon had the Cedar Revolution, forcing Syria to withdraw its 14,000 troops and some of its intelligence services.

Palestine had democratic elections with multiple candidates. I'll grant that Yassir Arafat's death had more to do with that, but the Bush policy did exert influence over the "terrorists" in the PLA.

And by taking the fight to Al-Qaeda, Al-Qaeda has been exposed as the murderous thugs they are. They have no real political agenda and Arabs are seeing that. That is why the Washington Post has noted Al-Qaeda's isolation in the wake of so many deaths in the Middle East. Just note this Pew poll showing support for suicide bombings decreasing dramatically across many Muslim countries.

The forceful democracy foreign policy approach of the Bush administration has produced more democratic fruit than the previous bipartisan "status quo/friendly dictator" model.

Overall the idea that "Liberalism for liberals and cannibalism for cannibals" leads to a belief that borders on racism. That somehow certain peoples aren't ready or don't want self-determination is the prevailing opinion in Europe. I believe that is part of the reason Europe is continually sliding backward and into obscurity because it won't stand up and fight for its fundamental values. It is fine with "to each his own" and therefore the world is passing Europe by because Europe has nothing to add to the world conversation. America cannot let happen to itself.

I can hear you saying, "That all seems very positive, so what are the red herrings you were talking about?"

The first is that Bush & Co lied to the American people to get them into war. I am not defending Bush's application of his own principle. I think he is very incompetent and have called for Donald Rumsfeld to be fired because he is such a bad Secretary of Defense. Matthew Yglesias has labeled this the Incompetence Dodge. Matt has some wonderful points about how we weren't ready for Iraq, but we must separate the incompetence of Bush & Co with the foreign policy theory they have advocated. I might find a wonderful chocolate cake recipe, but I'm lousy in the kitchen and burn it. That doesn't make the chocolate cake recipe any less wonderful, it only means keep me out of the kitchen!

The second is something like r.johnson expresses, "If the people of Iraq, Burma, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, or China decide to 'throw off' their governments, that is one thing, but it is a different thing altogether to presume that we have the right to do it for them." That is all well and good, but these countrys have massive military machines and secret police. People can't even assemble together without government sanctioning. The technological and armory differential between the average citizen and the government are completely one-sided. The idea that they might just "throw off" the government when they tire of them is ludicrous. Is it too crazy to think that people are people and everyone might want self-determination?

The third is something like "those that would step into the political vacume are the Muslim Brotherhood, the more organized political opposition, which directly undercuts any argument that 'reginme change' would lead to greater freedoms. Same tyranny, different tyrant." While it is true that Islamic parties do poll well once the public gets a good choice, this canard has two problems. The first assumes that America must support the new government. America should only support governments that allow for greater freedoms for its people. If one tyrant is replaced by another, America should oppose that one as well. The second issue is legitmacy. If the Muslim Brotherhood gains legitmate power via the vote (as Hamas has done in Lebanon), they are then beholden to the public for their popular suppor. If they fail to keep the people happy, their legitmacy declines. I'll take a Muslim Brotherhood responsible and responsive to the people over the Muslim Brotherhood lurking in the shadows and accountable to no one but Allah.

The fourth is something like "how can we justify a war when tens of thousands of innocents have been killed?" Well there are again two angles. The first is that in Iraq, under Saddam, he was killing people. He had whole villages wiped out, the Marsh Arabs forcibly removed from their land, attacks on the Shi'ites in the south. The mass graves show how cruel and murderous he was. The second is that American forces haven't killed all those civilians. It has been Al-Qeada in Iraq who have driven explosive-laden cars into market places, put bombs in front of mosques and or sent suicide bombers into crowds of unemployed Iraqis. America is not killing huge numbers of civilians (we have killed some and that is a horrible shame), it is the opposition. Is America to blame for their decisions?

This post wasn't meant to bait anyone, but simply to serve as a nice summation of my thoughts on the subject. One final caveat: I do support a strong statement that we won't be in Iraq forever and will withdraw troops as certain political and safety goals are met. We need to send a strong message that America may forcibly promote democracy, but won't stay as the overlord or colonial power.