Saturday :: Nov 25, 2006

Promoting Democracy in Iraq

by soccerdad

Stephan Holmes in the London Review of Books reviews After the Neocons: America at the Crossroads by Francis Fukuyama. Fukuyama was a neocon intellectual who actively promoted the war in Iraq but has recently parted ways with his neocon brethren.

Mr Holmes frames the issues well:

The question is: does Fukuyama tell us anything that we don’t already know? Can he explain how ‘the irresponsible exercise of American power’ became ‘one of the chief problems in contemporary politics’? Can he help us understand how ‘so experienced a foreign policy team’ could make ‘such elementary blunders’? Can he indeed tell us why the administration decided to do what he and his former allies had encouraged them to do: namely, to transform Saddam’s isolated dictatorship into a central battlefront in the global war on terror? This is the essential issue because, as Fukuyama now admits, the Iraq war has ‘unleashed a maelstrom’, inflaming the anti-American extremism it was ostensibly launched to quell.

Mr. Holmes discusses at length 2 major propositions from the book.

… first, that Cold War habits of eocon mind are alive and well in the Bush administration; and second, that the neo-con ‘democratisation’ project clashes with the assumptions those same neo-cons make about the terrorist threat and what to do about it.

He posits that the neocons were completely unable to adapt following the fall of the USSR, continuing to see major threats to the US everywhere. This inability to change in the post cold war environment combined with an insatiable desire to remain important led them to “see” these, as yet unappreciated, threats. We also now know that the neocons had over-hyped the capabilities of the USSR. So it is clear that the use of fear has always been central to their approach.

Whatever their motives, they tended ‘to overestimate the level of threat facing the United States’. They also resorted impulsively to old tropes, excoriating liberals for a spineless unwillingness to confront the enemy, and even for being soft on terrorism, just as an earlier generation had accused its liberal cohort of being soft on Communism. The Soviet Union collapsed because of ‘its internal moral weaknesses and contradictions’, Fukuyama tells us. But the neo-cons credited President Reagan with ending the evil empire by forcing the Russians into an economically unsustainable arms race. As we know from the case of bin Laden and the Afghan Arabs, the illusion of having brought down the USSR can reinforce latent psychological tendencies to megalomania. Fukuyama does not highlight this parallel. But his account suggests that many neo-cons, like many of the jihadists, experienced a high when the Soviet Union came crashing down in 1991, for somewhat analogous reasons and with distressingly analogous results.

In addition their rhetorical approach also remains the same.

It is also important to remember that during the Cold War neo-cons had adamantly opposed détente. They didn’t believe that the US should learn to coexist with the Soviet Union, insisting instead that it could win an uncontested victory. Coexistence, they argued, implied accommodation, which would turn into appeasement, which would soon dissolve into capitulation.

Mr. Holmes is clear that the stated importance of democratization of Iraq championed by the neocon intellectuals and pundits was not seen as that important by Bush and Cheney.

As for the neo-con democratisation project, Fukuyama writes that the disgraceful failure of the war party around Cheney and Rumsfeld ‘to think through the requirements of post-conflict security and nation-building’ reveals the emptiness of their feigned interest in the fate of post-Saddam Iraq. For the vice-president and secretary of defense, the suggestion that the invasion would bring about ‘Iraqi democracy’ was merely an ‘ex-post effort to justify a preventive war in idealistic terms’. Their cavalier attitude to the sovereignty of other nations was the flip-side of their unapologetic commitment to America’s globally unlimited freedom of action.

Mr Holmes then discusses in detail the logic, from the neocons point of view, for the promotion of democracy in the Middle East, an approach that he claims Cheney and Rumsfeld had no interest in. The establishment of Democracy in the Middle East as a way in stopping anti-American attacks is based on 2 ideas for their origin: unhappiness with the autocratic governments and the backing of these governments by the US. The easiest way out of this problem would be to simply withdraw our support for these governments and simply leave the area. Of course, given the US’s need for ME oil this isn’t happening. So that leaves establishing Democracy. He notes that there are at least two major flaws with this thinking.
1. the unfounded assumption that periodically elected governments in the region will necessarily be stable, moderate and legitimate, not to mention pro-American. and 2. no one in the US government has any idea how to promote democracy
With respect to the later issue he writes

Cavalierly designed by mid-level bureaucrats who were both historically and theoretically illiterate, the administration’s half-baked plans backfired badly. This should have come as no surprise. And prospects for reform in the Middle East have not been improved by the perception that democratisation in the region, at least when promoted by the West, spells violent destabilisation, criminalisation and a collapse of minimally acceptable standards of living.

Possibly the most concise, accurate summary I have read yet. However, why was it done this way? As Mr. Holmes stated, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld were not really interested in establishing a democratic Iraq. So the attempts at doing so were just a way of providing a justification for the war. The plans were never designed to succeed, simply because the leaders didn’t care. This is the point that is not understood clearly by most: They don’t care. They don’t care about the people of Iraq, their health, their children or their lives. Once you accept this line of thinking, then everything becomes much clearer with respect to the course the war has taken.

So “Bringing democracy to Iraq” is simply a ruse, a tale to be told to keep the sheeple from figuring out what is going on. The true approach and intent of this administration can be seen in the pictures of pickup trucks full of dead bodies in Baghdad, in the destruction of the “Cedar Revolution” in Lebanon as well as its physical destruction, and in the oppression of the Palestinians in Gaza. It’s simply about raw, brutal power, domination of the weak by the powerful, it is imperialism in all its worst forms, and it is our legacy. So ultimately the plan of this administration can be summed up by a quote from Rumsfeld when he said “Eventually they will tire of being killed” . And of course if he were to be honest he would have finished his sentence with “and until then we will continue to kill them and get them to kill each other”.

soccerdad :: 4:19 PM :: Comments (16) :: Digg It!