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Questions for Opponents of Iraqi Nation-Building
Posted by: Dale Franks on Wednesday, August 09, 2006

In today's Wall Street Journal, Peter Wehner addresses democratizing the Mideast.
Elections are not the problem; rather, they reveal what problems exist and remind us what tyranny in the Middle East has wrought. Liberty is the antidote to the virus, not the virus itself. But freedom requires more time to work in the Middle East than the blink of an historical eye.

Perfection cannot be the price of support for democracy, and the fact that not every election goes as we might hope does not invalidate support for the effort to promote liberty. Freedom has a remarkable track record, including in regions that were once thought to be inimical to it. But it takes commitment to see it to success. We may well be present at the creation of something remarkable in the Arab world; but it will not come to pass without hardships. That is the nature of historic transitions, which can be jolting and where progress can be uneven.
The thing is, there are different degrees of hardship. And in that context, Iraq is very relevant. For opponents of trying to democratize Iraq, some questions have to be asked. For our purposes, let us assume that we are talking about a form of liberal democracy. As I wrote years ago, Democracy itself is not a panacea.

What level of effort to you perceive to be necessary to promote stable democratic governance?

What level of hardship is too much to continue?

Do you believe that Iraq exists in a vacuum, i.e., that our efforts to democratize Iraq, or our failure, has no larger consequences outside of that country?

If not, then what consequences do you perceive to result from failure to create a democratic state in Iraq?

Will those consequences result ultimately in greater or lesser hardship for us?

When, if ever, should nation-building of the type we are trying in Iraq be fostered by the United States?

There are some other questions, too.
Do critics of democracy believe we would be significantly better off with the reign of an Arafat? Do they believe that Iraq, which consists of a freely elected, multiethnic government whose leadership is fighting terrorism instead of supporting it, was better under Saddam Hussein than it is now? Do they believe that it was better to have the Taliban control Afghanistan, not Hamid Karzai? Do they believe we should support more repression within Arab societies? In the past, Western nations tolerated oppression for the sake of "stability." But this gave rise to resentments, anger and an ideology of violence—and on Sept. 11, 2001, that ideology struck with deadly fury.
What are your answers to these questions?
 
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Communication is a two way street, at least under consensual terms. I’m not sure this particular blog post rises to that standard, when citing language such as the following:

Do critics of democracy believe...

Is that how you normally address someone you are trying to convince of your ideas? "Hey, totalitarian scumbag, you’re wrong!"

There are some interesting questions in the post, which I might otherwise respond to... but if I’m just some "enemy of liberty" in your eyes then why bother?
 
Written By: Nicolai Brown
URL: http://www.nicolaibrown.com
Amen, brother Brown. And as for this:
In the past, Western nations tolerated oppression for the sake of "stability." But this gave rise to resentments, anger and an ideology of violence—and on Sept. 11, 2001, that ideology struck with deadly fury.
That sound you hear is my derisive snort. Ward Churchill thinks that, too - chickens coming home to roost and all that. But when he says it, it is outrageous.

Democracy, by itself, is no panacea. Hayek said so and he was quite correct. Without the rule of law, in which the individual’s liberty interests are guaranteed by such as our Bill of Rights, democracies can be just as tyrannical and vicious as any dictatorship. It is not possible to create a culture fertile for the rule of law and individual liberty, at the point of a gun. But you can establish a democracy that installs an Iran-friendly mullahcracy.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
Is that how you normally address someone you are trying to convince of your ideas?


I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I’m asking questions. Moreover, that’s a quote from the article that occasions the questions, not my rhetoric. I am not in the practice of editing the language of articles that pique my interest.

Lighten up, Francis.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
That sound you hear is my derisive snort.
I’m shattered by your derision.

Truly.
Ward Churchill thinks that, too - chickens coming home to roost and all that. But when he says it, it is outrageous.
No, when Ward Churchill says that, he does so in association with a number of other outrageous things. He uses it as a kernel of truth that forms a basis for an unreasonable world-view.

That you imply otherwise is...factually incorrect.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
Hayek also said the opposite of a Democracy is authoritarianism, and the opposite of Liberalism is totalitarianism.

And how many totalitarian governments have voluntarily given their people Liberty?

And so, if liberating people from their totalitarian government is a just pursuit, how do you change totalitarian governments into liberal democracies?

Or do you not bother?

Because the cost of freeing others is to high. Or may suffer an indeterminant outcome.

And who’s to say that every case must fit the same template. This administration certainly hasn’t.

For all the rhetoric from certain quarters, of a cowboy, go-it-alone administration, we sure do seem to be going to the UN, and other partners around the world in trying to deal with the chronic problems of our age.

Problems that have been left to fester by the realists playing at maintaining "stability."

I’ve asked this question before, "Peace at what cost?"
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
A liberal democracy would be great, and I’d support any effort to secure that if it were a likely outcome. That’s a mighty unlikely if, though, and hence my indifference to pulling out pronto.
 
Written By: jpe
URL: http://
No, when Ward Churchill says that, he does so in association with a number of other outrageous things. He uses it as a kernel of truth that forms a basis for an unreasonable world-view.

I see. Dale Franks agrees with Ward Churchill that we culpably brought 9/11 upon ourselves.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
Ignorance is bliss, and when Saddam ruled the roost we were mostly ignorant of how he managed to do that. The media was complicit and no one cared too much. Yes, now we can see the civil war in Iraq, but just like the Soviets had no air crashes, you have to wonder how much of a hidden civil war was occurring in Iraq before we invaded?
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
And what costs have anyone here been asked to bear in our efforts in Iraq?

Currently, NONE, except the shared burden of future taxed revenue.

The only Americans who are making any real sacrifice are the soldiers in our armed forces. And nobody coerced them (in the true sense of the word) into joining the military. They volunteered.

The wives and family of those troops are also making a sacrifice, but that is not of anyones doing but the troops who volunteered.

The Congress gave the authorization to use military force. No one coerced them into making that decision.

Have we lost any liberties in our war with Iraq?
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
The thing is, there are different degrees of hardship. And in that context, Iraq is very relevant. For opponents of trying to democratize Iraq, some questions have to be asked. For our purposes, let us assume that we are talking about a form of liberal democracy. As I wrote years ago, Democracy itself is not a panacea.
Opponents of trying to democratize Iraq? I’m all for trying it, within limits, of course. Problem is, no one has tried it yet. Bush certainly hasn’t, if that is what you are implying. Trying implies that one is making at least a half-serious effort at the task. Bush isn’t even half serious, judging by his performance, or lack thereof.

Bush never understood the nature of the effort. If there are opponents of democratizing Iraq, it is Bush’s supporters. After all, if you throw your weight behind a man to accomplish an effort who is wholly incapable of achieving the effort, you certainly cannot label yourself as supporting the effort.

Those who believed that Bush was ever capable of bringing about democracy in Iraq have displayed such a serious lack of judgment that they have essentially discredited themselves with respect to the issue of how to democratize Iraq.

It’s a question of judgment. And those who have backed this war with Bush at the helm have shown they have no judgment. It’s that simple.

 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
What level of effort to you perceive to be necessary to promote stable democratic governance?

Massive, in terms of manpower, money and time. This is why bipartisan support is critical; the commitment to long-term engagement in the foreign country must be able to survive US domestic elections.

What level of hardship is too much to continue?

If we as a society have made a honest commitment to success, none. If the current plan is not working and there is no desire to change course, the very next penny and drop of blood.

Do you believe that Iraq exists in a vacuum, i.e., that our efforts to democratize Iraq, or our failure, has no larger consequences outside of that country?

no.

If not, then what consequences do you perceive to result from failure to create a democratic state in Iraq?

Iraq is democratic; but Iraqis have no liberty. Our failure is in providing security, not in voting. The consequence of our failure is that Iraqis are turning to anyone who will provide security. The hard men, the religious extremists, are showing that they can and will provide that security. The price of our failure is that a secular totalitarian state will become a religious totalitarian state that is entangled in a deadly religious war.

Will those consequences result ultimately in greater or lesser hardship for us?

Jury is still out; Iran may still be willing to make a grand bargain so that it keeps access to world oil markets.

When, if ever, should nation-building of the type we are trying in Iraq be fostered by the United States?

Presuming that you mean the kind of nation-building that we achieved in Germany, whenever we feel the need to send our troops anywhere. Once we decide to invade / occupy / liberate a country, there really is no substitute for victory, where "victory" means that the occupied country’s central government has a monopoly on the use of force internally, and externally is more-or-less welcomed into the community of nations.

to the remaining questions: There is a big difference between democracy and liberty. Iran, for example, is a democracy of sorts. And before we believe that we can change much of the world for the better by bringing democracy to some of the world’s most repressive governments, we need to remember that we are perceived as the allies of many of those governments. Having the underground opposition come to power would only enfranchise our enemies. For example, free and fair elections in Eygpt and Saudi Arabia would bring the Muslim Brotherhood, who have no love for the US, to power. Arafat was a vicious corrupt terrorist; but neither the US, nor Israel nor the Palestinian people are being well served by the democratically elected Hamas.

The foregoing is why I believe that punitive, even decapitating, strikes against Iran is an utterly insane strategy. The Iraqis will rally around the flag and swear vengance. The US built several nuclear weapons in the 1940s; sixty years later it’s even easier to do. As I live only a few miles from the Port of Long Beach, which is a very likely target for a ship-borne nuke coming across the Pacific, I would really prefer not to end my life in a nuclear fireball, thanks very much.
 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
OK, here goes:

What level of effort to you perceive to be necessary to promote stable democratic governance? While much depends on the characteristics of the country in question, with it obviously requiring more effort in some places than in others, since we’re talking about Iraq, my quess is that it will take several hundred more billions of dollars and the lives and bodies of several thousand more of our troops to bring it off. And since we can’t go on long term with a "guns and butter" approach to funding both domestic and foreign goals, and since there’s no chance that any President is going to actually tame domestic spending/entitlements, chasing democracy in Iraq is going to lead to some serious tax hikes in the not-too-distant future.

What level of hardship is too much to continue? All of it. Of course, keep in mind that my preference was for us to go in, get rid of Hussein, make sure there were no WMDs and get out, leaving the mess for the Iraqis to deal with on their own... albeit with the cloud of a repeat performance on the horizon should they revert to form. As much as I like the idea of liberal democracies around the world, I don’t think that is a goal we should be wasting the lives of our military on... nor is it worth the $500 billion or so it will, at a minimum, end up costing us to bring democracy to one small corner of the world. For the lives and money we will end up leaving in Iraq, we could have invaded them every couple of years to throw out the then-current crazies in charge and make sure there weren’t any WMDs (remember, we lost a fraction of our troops and spend a relative pittance getting rid of Hussein... the big spending, in lives and money, came from trying to implement Bush’s new world order.

Do you believe that Iraq exists in a vacuum, i.e., that our efforts to democratize Iraq, or our failure, has no larger consequences outside of that country?
No, there is no such thing as a vacuum. But... it ought to be clear to everybody paying attention that our difficulties in pulling off Bush’s not-so-excellent adventure in Iraq has left us totally incapable and uninterested in trying to pull an encore performance anywhere else. Had he pulled it off, it’s possible that there would have been a ripple effect... but since he didn’t, it’s as close to a vacuum as nature will allow.

If not, then what consequences do you perceive to result from failure to create a democratic state in Iraq?
Since this is an experiment that won’t be repeated, the consequences of us not pulling it off are limited. And whether we pull it off or not, the crazies will still hate us (and have plenty of places from which to plan their attacks upon us), the European and UN elites will still think we were wrong to use military force, the MSM will still be trying to sell the story that everything is going wrong in Iraq and the Democrats will still be trying to purge their party of anyone who was to the right of Michael Moore.

Will those consequences result ultimately in greater or lesser hardship for us? To answer, let me turn this around. I believe our staying in Iraq and trying to pull off the this-could-be-impossible is harmful to America. It’s costing us money we don’t need to be spending, lives we don’t need to be wasting and it’s denying us the ability to focus our efforts where they really need to be focused... such as on preventing Iran from going nuclear. And, as much as I think the crazies on the left are utter and complete idiots, the rancor between the sides isn’t doing the country any good (tongue in cheek as I typed this last bit).

When, if ever, should nation-building of the type we are trying in Iraq be fostered by the United States? Bush was right in 2000. Nation building is not what we’re here to do. We can encourage, we can support financially, but it’s not something we ought to ever try on the scale Bush is trying to do with Iraq. Powell was wrong... just because we break it doesn’t mean we have to fix it.
 
Written By: steve sturm
URL: http://thoughtsonline.blogspot.com/
I see. Dale Franks agrees with Ward Churchill that we culpably brought 9/11 upon ourselves.
In a sense, I certainly do. Not that we were "owed" it, or that we "deserved" it. But some government report in the aftermath of 9/11 correctly nailed the reason for the attack.

It was not because they "hate our freedom". We were attacked because they hate our foreign policies. We didn’t deserve it, but there’s no doubt that we were attacked because of our actions.

In that sense, the "coming home to roost" idea is absolutely correct.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
It was not because they "hate our freedom". We were attacked because they hate our foreign policies. We didn’t deserve it, but there’s no doubt that we were attacked because of our actions.
I suppose the fact that the preferred outcome for our enemies is our conversion or submission to Islam is entirely coincidental.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
I suppose the fact that the preferred outcome for our enemies is our conversion or submission to Islam is entirely coincidental.
Huh? Are you suggesting that the 9/11 attacks were an attempt to convert the US to Islam?

Look, I’m aware of the desire among some to spread Islam, if necessary by the Sword. But those aren’t the immediate goals of the organizations, or even the medium-term goals. Right now, they’re just trying to wage war on the infidels who are causing them problems.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
In the past, Western nations tolerated oppression for the sake of "stability." But this gave rise to resentments, anger and an ideology of violence—and on Sept. 11, 2001, that ideology struck with deadly fury.
But it did not.
It was not because they "hate our freedom". We were attacked because they hate our foreign policies. We didn’t deserve it, but there’s no doubt that we were attacked because of our actions.
The ideology actually claimed by the terrorists (and they probably should know what they believe) predates the existance of the United States. How could American tolerated oppression have given rise to an ideology 100s of years before the pilgrims were born? Some additional evidence that oppression per se is not causing the terrorism, can be found in the absence terrorist threats to from Sth America and Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia where the USA has also condoned oppression for the sake of stability.



PS - For opponents of trying to democratize Iraq, some questions have to be asked... S Korea and Chile were examples of oppressive regimes tolerated by America; Haiti and Georgia are examples of democratized countries.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
How could American tolerated oppression have given rise to an ideology 100s of years before the pilgrims were born?
Who said it did?
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
Jon - It was not because they "hate our freedom". We were attacked because they hate our foreign policies. We didn’t deserve it, but there’s no doubt that we were attacked because of our actions.
Jon is correct. Bush just pulled the stuff about how Arabs hate & envy us for our Bill of Rights and woman’s lib and all that other drivel he was spouting from late 2001 to late 2005 right out of a neocon-scripted Teleprompter.

And Muslim Arabs are not freedom-hungry folks just waiting to moderate their "noble Religion of Peace" from those that "hijacked it" and act just like infidels if only they could vote on it.

Because Arabs are like that, no post-war planning or security forces needed to be ready once we "liberated the freedom-lovers".
Troops told the Iraqi children loved Americans and so did most Iraqis were confused - when all they playgounds they built and dedicated "to the children" and toys were ripped apart as soon as they left Fallujah, Baquaba, etc.

It is discouraging that Bush grabbed a set of beliefs right after 9/11 and has stubbornly refused to change his mind even when events over time, and the failures of his perceptions - are obvious to all.
 
Written By: C. Ford
URL: http://
Who said it did?

Peter Wehner, first quote - your quote seems similar.
this gave rise to resentments, anger and an ideology of violence—and on Sept. 11, 2001, that ideology struck with deadly fury.
What ideology does he refer to if not Al Qaeda’s? Usama says his belief comes from the Koran and the practice of Islam. If this is true then a democratization process is irrelevent as long as wealthy Islamist states exist to promote Islamist thought.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
It was not because they "hate our freedom". We were attacked because they hate our foreign policies.
Actually, they hate us because we - or our proxies - kill them. Pretty simple.
I suppose the fact that the preferred outcome for our enemies is our conversion or submission to Islam is entirely coincidental.
Yes, the goal of the Sunni insrugency in Iraq is to make sure that the citizens of Minot, North Dakota, each buy a prayer mat and prostrate in the direction of Mecca five times a day. Because the insurgency is certainly not concerned in any respect with simply (re)gaining political power in Iraq.

You must be mainlining the Kool Aid, Billy.

Until we understand the complexities and subtleties and differing interests in the Middle East, we will never achieve anything there. The "dumbing down" of our Middle East policy - as evidenced here by Billy - e.g., all who oppose us are terrorist fundamentalists bent making the world Islamic - is a major impediment. Our own President did not understand the distinction between Sunnis and Shiites until the eve of war in 2003. And he is ultimately in charge in Iraq.

Again, the most important question that should be asked is this: Given that Bush is virtually the last person in the world who should be in charge of our endeavor in Iraq, given his complete ignorance and inability to understand what is going on the Middle East, and his complete lack of curiousity about the region, how can we best achieve our goals in Iraq, in spite of the fact that Bush is President?

Until you answer that question, you all sound like fresham in college opining about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
"Do they believe that Iraq, which consists of a freely elected, multiethnic government whose leadership is fighting terrorism instead of supporting it, was better under Saddam Hussein than it is now?"

Is the Iraqi government really fighting terrorism? Let’s see. Moqtada al-Sadr’s men are vital allies of Maliki’s government. So much so that Maliki nipped the whole US anti-death squad campaign in the bud by complaining about attacks in Sadr City and the threat to "national reconcilation." Oh, and Maliki and his cohorts were the first national leaders in the Middle East (outside Syria and Iran) to publicly praise Hezbollah. So no, I don’t think the Iraqi government is "fighting terrorism instead of supporting it."

Was Iraq better under Saddam? Depends who you ask. For the Sunnis? Absolutely. For eveybody else? No. But does that mean it was all somehow "worth it?" Not given the actual alternative.
 
Written By: Elrod
URL: http://
Actually, they hate us because we - or our proxies - kill them. Pretty simple.
I suppose the fact that the preferred outcome for our enemies is our conversion or submission to Islam is entirely coincidental.
You - or your proxies - kill them because you resist the temptation to follow their especially constricted and brutal form of Islam.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
You - or your proxies - kill them because you resist the temptation to follow their especially constricted and brutal form of Islam.
We kill them because they want us to follow their religion? I see.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
We kill them because they want us to follow their religion? I see.
You see their religion is bad, it is supremacist and expansionist? Good for you.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
So, MK, how do you find your way to work in the morning? After all, President Bush (the all-powerful) doesn’t know how to get there. Therefore, you must not either.

Or so appears to be your argument.

I really didn’t realize that the entirety of our federal civil service and all the individuals of our military were directly controlled by Bush’s orbital mind control lasers. No wonder he can seem dim at times; he’s the controlling intellect for over a million humans.
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
It is not possible to create a culture fertile for the rule of law and individual liberty, at the point of a gun.
Really? You can’t think of a single counter-example at all?
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
"It is not possible to create a culture fertile for the rule of law and individual liberty, at the point of a gun."

And on a completely unrelated topic, anyone here have any info about this thing called the American Revolution? I heard there were once slaves in America, but now that group enjoys the rule of law and individual liberties. How’d that happen?
 
Written By: Come on, please
URL: http://
Here’s my attempt at answers on the Iraq democratization project, which I might write into a formal article for Security Studies.

Generally speaking, democracy and democratization is good. However, democracy imposed by military force is more likely to fail and more likely to be a net moral evil. But the invasion of Iraq, though I did not and would not have supported the action, I might have supported the results. It wasn’t doomed.

It would have required responding to the feelers from Iran and working with them from the beginning - impossible due to Bush’s "Axis of Evil" possibility and fundamentalist mindset. It would have been a Shiite semi-democracy, but more democratic and less under Iran’s sway than what will be the result now, with Sunni and Kurd buy-in.

The invasion in Iraq was bad because it was overambitious. Because of the total lack of democratic history of the country. Because of the saturation of the area with weapons. Because, most of all, of the dangerous and uncooperative neighbors. The Bush administrative made no attempt to win the cooperation of states on Iraq’s border and no serious hand to coerce/threaten them. It chose instead to stick fingers in ears and ignore them.

Better would have been to start, as has been said, with Israel/Palestine, which was very close to working out in 99 before the major players blew it up. Better to allow the Egyptian government to topple and make a serious attempt to work with what came next. Better to do more with less blunt instruments. Blunt instruments always seem to solve problems while actually enlarging them.

And indeed, if you were determined to invade Iraq and make it a democracy, we did indeed use just enough troops to fail. Our reconstruction effort, even before security went to heck, was a terrible, corrupt, chaotic, joke, like the Katrina response in another country. I don’t know if that was the best our government is capable of doing, but I doubt it. And I do blame Bush, the DOD, and his appointees for most of it.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
unaha, the ideology existed, but so what? Every world religion held the goal of conversion by the sword for a thousand years, but behavior varied widely. Under the relatively liberal Ottoman empire, Muslim citizens weren’t very interested in world conquest. As Christian conversion-by-the-sword tendencies were at their strongest under.... serfdom and autocracy.

Once upon a time - oh, the 1700- 1800’s Muslims lived in relatively liberal states and there were relatively few problems.

As for Sub-Saharan Africa, you think white people in Zimbabwe agree with you?
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
It would have required responding to the feelers from Iran and working with them from the beginning - impossible due to Bush’s "Axis of Evil" possibility and fundamentalist mindset. It would have been a Shiite semi-democracy, but more democratic and less under Iran’s sway than what will be the result now, with Sunni and Kurd buy-in.
How do you come to that conclusion? Why do you think that Iran’s actions would have been any different no matter what the agreement?
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
glasnost,
There was a period where religions would use Christian creed as a form of pan-nationalism and impose penalty upon those (internal and external) who did not agree - pogroms, crusades. This does not mean all Christianity is bad, it means that the perverted use to enthrall people as serfs to the religion was bad. Same IMO with Islam generally benign, but when used as pan-nationalism to keep populations in thrall it is very bad.



About the Whites in Zimbabwe, the Tutsi in Rwanda and the Karen in Burma - different tribal wars for land. Situation normal.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
Well, Mark, if Dubya and his team were thinking instead of emoting and pandering in 2002, they’d have noted that Iran wanted Hussein out at least as badly as us and held the invasion of Iraq out for Iranian concessions up front.

That much is just for starters and almost certainly would have worked, especially under Khatami.

Secondly, with Iran publicly endorsing our invasion, we could have come to Iraqis and Sunni states and said, essentially, "we’re the only ones who can hold Iran back" - and induced them to cut support for the Saddamn-led insurgency in 2004.

With Sunni and Kurd buy-in to the Iraqi state, Iranian control would have been relatively weak.
Now it is strong.

That’s my "smart people invade Iraq" alternate reality in which the damage could have been minimized. What’s yours?
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
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Written By: OOOYY
URL: http://

 
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