Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Seeing the light.........

Lex , as he so often does, has very adeptly opened up a can of worms by pointing his readers to an article from the New York Times Sunday Magazine by (former) neo-con Francis Fukuyama ( whose name means lucky mountain in Japanese…) has finally seen the light. In a long, but well worth the read article, he acknowledges what I have felt for a long time, since 2002 and the build up to the Iraq war to be exact; that neo-conservatism is a failed ideology that “Neo-conservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I [Fukuyama] can no longer support .” .

This is progress! Maybe slowly, but surely, more folks will realize how flawed the idea is that somehow the Lord above, anointed the United States with the responsibility to forcibly instill democracy ( or at least our vision of it…..) upon nation states that are: a) ill prepared to receive it, b) sovereign nations in their own right and therefore undergoing evolution at their own pace and c) burdened by issues of religion and tribalism that will never allow a western style democracy to grow:

While clearly sympathetic to the goal of promoting democracy as the highest form of good governance in the world, Fukuyama states The problem with neo-conservatism’s agenda lies not in its ends, which are as American as apple pie, but rather in the over militarized means by which it has sought to accomplish them. What American foreign policy needs is not a return to a narrow and cynical realism, but rather the formulation of a “realistic Wilsonianism” that better matches means to ends.

As you might guess Lex and I see the issue quite differently. Lex believes that because of:

Iraq’s central location in the Arab Middle East, in the toppling Saddam’s dictatorship we drove the stake of modernity into the heart of regional tyranny. If we’ve learned anything in the last few years, whether we look at foreign support for jihadist mayhem on Iraqi streets or whether our example instead is the carefully constructed cultural counter-attack that is the cartoon kerfuffle, we should have learned that such tyrannies don’t go quietly into the good night of history. They push back……

You should read the rest here. It’s a thrilling tribute to the courage of the Iraqi voters who defied violence to vote in the recent elections. Never mind that their country is still so screwed up that violence prevails daily on their streets, egged on by a foreign occupying army that by any survey is not wanted by the majority of the population in Iraq. Never mind that Iraqis still do not possess the wherewithal to rise up against this daily violence and take on the little insurgent bastards themselves. Never mind that we are mortgaging our future to win the war today because we continue to rob peter to pay paul in terms of its manpower bill. Never mind that slowly but surely , because of an irrational allegiance to an apostate religion they are slowly descending into tribalism, religious animosity and are always lookingover their shoulder at potential civil war........waiting hope against hope, for the rise of a benevolent dictator strongman who will reign in all these competing factions and bring order to disorderly descendants of Babylon……….

Lex believes that over time good will out. He sees a revolution taking place:

When Egyptian protesters take to the street and say “kifaya” (”enough”), something is clearly going on. When the previously yoked-and-harnessed Lebanese risk their own bodies by taking to the streets, and by their moral strength send their Syrian overlords packing back across the border, something is happening.

What I see is a rerun of history with the same dreary and predictable results. Perhaps I have studied too much history to be quite so naïve anymore. Arabs behave exactly the same , regardless of Swiss bank account balances………….

Here is what I see. First, Iraq is not and never was “central” to the Middle East. Back in the days of the “great game” it strode across the route to India and so was important to Britain (and Russia). However Iraq has never been as important as Iran, nor is it the central focal point of the Middle East. There are two focal points and neither of them are in Baghdad : Israel and Persia. Israel because she is God’s chosen land and people who have, after a 2000 year vacation, regained rightful ownership of “Eretz Yisrael” something the wily Arabs still, after 60 years have yet to come to terms with; and Iran ( Persia) “jammed by a thoughtful Providence against the Caucasus like huge plug, holding back the bear {and his illegitimate stepchildren}. It’s as big as all Western Europe and it’s mostly harsh mountains and deserts…….its people……..are unmanageable. “ Both nations are very capable and committed to their independence even if it entails national suicide as they both have demonstrated at least once in the last 3000 years.

What invading Iraq did was divert the national will and effort from those two very different realities. Such, that as Lex points out, the appetite for further [military] adventures in the Middle East is quite diminished.

Usually, along about this time, the same tired old counter arguments are trotted out:

The United States has not been attacked in 5 Years………..

Please tell me what that has to do with the invasion of Iraq? What it tells me is that maybe we have gotten serious about Homeland security, we did defeat and capture significant Al Quaeda leadership in Afghanistan and it still does not mean that we could not be attacked again tomorrow. Furthermore, if you believe as I do, that even if we had not invaded Iraq the US would not have been attacked the argument is meaningless.

The Arabs want democracy………..

Sure they do. However with out the right tools they are not equipped to properly use it. That’s where Islam drags them down, because Islam and an educated Middle Class are two incompatible things. For democracy to truly take hold in the Middle East , Islam has to go. Till then, the national interests of the United States prescribe that we work with whatever government will provide enough stability to allow the Arabs to evolve into it themselves. There once was an order that was working towards that, albeit not at the pace anyone but the holder of the order liked. That force was the British Empire. However after the pace and devastation of World War II, Britain soon lacked the moxie to continue. Particularly after her greatest “friend” let her down in supporting a steady pace of development of the populace to a point where they might have been able to better join the community of nations.

Iraq will trigger an Arab Spring……we are seeing that in Lebanon, Egypt, and Libya

Actually no. Each nation is working through its own set of circumstances totally unrelated to Iraq. More often then not it has to do with the death of Yassir Arafat or Syrian blundering, something that existed long before Saddam invaded Kuwait. Furthermore, what does it profit us in the long run if it produces 5 more election victories for the Muslim Brotherhoods or Hamas?

If you are opposed to Iraq, you must be in support of isolationism….which means you must favor appeasement………

I’ll let the following link from Coming Anarchy answer that one…….

In reality, there is a wide spectrum of views on America’s role in the world, and it is not adequately characterized by a “Bush supporters vs. isolationists” dichotomy. Many of us believe that the Bush administration’s definition of the national interest is absurdly broad; for instance, when the president claims that the security of Americans is contingent on “the end of tyranny in our world.” But our disagreement is not based on a desire to retrench ourselves in some walled commune, avoiding the world around us and ignoring the perils there. It is not isolation we seek, but a more discriminating view of the national interest.

The irony is that while the president is radically out of touch with the American foreign policy tradition, he accuses his opponents of following an extreme ideology. Bush’s belief that our security is contingent on congenial political arrangements in all foreign countries, no matter how obscure or strategically irrelevant they may be, is both wrong and dangerous. George F. Kennan, perhaps the senior American statesman of the 20th century, remarked in 1999 that “this whole tendency to see ourselves as the center of political enlightenment and as teachers to a great part of the rest of the world strikes me as unthought-through, vainglorious and undesirable.” By contrast, Kennan argued that American foreign policy is at its best when it is “very modest and restrained.” Perhaps the president believes Kennan, the intellectual architect of America’s containment policy, was just an isolationist.

I can’t state it any better and that quote sums up the heart of my feeling. That by the way, has long been the thinking of the realists that Lex blames for allowing 9-11. Blaming the Scowcrofts and others for 9-11 is quite a stretch, since they, as did many others, believed that our own security would have prevented such an attack. That it happened is not a reason to immediately go jumping off a national cliff. If any thing it should have showed the resolve of the “religion of peace” and why we need to tread carefully and deal with those who will keep it in check. Which by the way happens for the most part to be the monarchies and not the democracies in the region. It should not surprise any serious student of history.

That is probably a good place to close. So I will leave with one final link to the critique of “isolationist arguments” from Chirol:

President Bush’s foreign policy is causing the Republic great harm, besmirching our reputation in the world and dragging his popularity down at home. Tarring his many (and varied) critics with the “isolationist” epithet will not change any of those phenomena. Recently, columnist George Will pleaded for an “adult hour” in this year’s State of the Union. Instead, the president decided to play politics with the discussion of Iraq—and of foreign policy generally. Will’s adult hour will not come until the president takes off his ideological blinders and acknowledges that the world—and foreign affairs—are much more complicated than white hat vs. black hat. Or Bush vs. the isolationists.

What he said.


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