Wednesday, March 16, 2005

that roar you hear around the world?

It's freedom.

I thought these quotations would speak for themselves. Check out the rest by clicking on the title.

In the Middle East, a New World

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

-Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt, in the Washington Post

"A long-frozen political order seems to be cracking all over the Middle East.... This has so far been a year of heartening surprises--each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing."

-New York Times editorial

"More-aggressive U.S. policies in the Middle East--from the invasion of Iraq to President Bush's rhetoric about fostering democracy--are mingling with local politics to jostle once-unquestioned realities in the region."

-Wall Street Journal news story

"As thousands of Arabs demonstrated for freedom and was hard not to wonder whether the regional transformation that the Bush administration hoped would be touched off by its invasion of Iraq is beginning to happen.... Those who have declared the war an irretrievable catastrophe have been gloating for at least a year over the supposed puncturing of what they portray as President Bush's fanciful illusion that democracy would take root in Iraq and spread through the region.... Clearly the Arab autocrats don't regard the Bush dream of democratic dominoes as fanciful.... Less than two years after Saddam Hussein was deposed...Arabs are marching for freedom and shouting slogans against tyrants in the streets of Beirut and Cairo--and regimes that have endured for decades are visibly tottering. Those who claimed that U.S. intervention could never produce such events have reason to reconsider."

-Washington Post column by Jackson Diehl


...Read More!


  • I knew the Jumblatt quote was going to be used around these parts soon, so I think it would be appropriate to quite Jumblatt from two months ago:
    "We are all happy when U.S. soldiers are killed [in Iraq] week in and week out. The killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq is legitimate and obligatory."

    This notion that Bush’s Iraq policy has lead to the recent positive developments in the Middle East is simply ridiculous.
    While it may be instinctual for those still searching for a good reason to invade Iraq to pin the recent events in surrounding countries – Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, and Palestine – as a direct result of the Bush Doctrine, there are mountains of evidence that say otherwise and a molehill of evidence that says the Bush Doctrine had anything to do with it.
    First off, much of the braggadocio of the right these days about the success of Iraq has been centered around the instability within repressive governments that it created – the shock wave of freedom, so to speak. Let us remember that the Bushies promised that the Iraq War wouldn’t destabilize the region. Let us also remember that democracy wasn’t in the cards for the war, either, until Bush’s inaugural speech when his foreign policy became more idealistic than Peggy Noonan on Ronald Reagan’s birthday. Bush & Co weren’t talking about democracy in 2003, its was WMDs, baby! Smoking Gun! Hooowah! If anything, the goalpost revisionism is demonstrative of nothing more than Bush’s ability to effectively maneuver policy around on-the-ground events, not a coherent cause with long-terms goals that us stupid liberals were too shortsighted to consider.
    Secondly, there isn’t much evidence, in either of these case studies, that Bush policy had anything to do with these steps towards democracy. In Saudi Arabia, Bush hasn’t pressed the Saudis for anything of late, and even then its debatable whether or not these elections can count as progress towards democracy, considering women still can’t vote and the elections are for a parliament that can be dismissed anytime the crown prince wishes. In Egypt, Mubarak has made these kind of democratic statements in the past, and they have become anything but reality. Time will tell whether or not Mubarak will let someone else, strike that, someone else that is a legitimate, non-related candidate run against him. Certainly, the gains made in Palestine cannot be attributed to the Bush Doctrine. Arafat’s death is the prime reason anything is happening, whether it is positive or negative. Bush is already making ovations at giving money to the fledgling Palestinian government, a move that I support, but there’s no truly logical argument connecting Palestine to Iraq.
    I suspect I won’t get much of an argument on the first three, but most righties will say that the Cedar Revolution must be related to the Iraq War. I’d give them that the Iraqi elections influenced the Lebanese people, but definitely not the Iraq War. Sure, the Lebanese protestors attributed their motivation in part to the Iraqi elections, but does it make sense to contribute this to the U.S., when the only reason they agreed to the elections in the first place is due to a massive popular non-violent resistance campaign and a fatwa issued by al-Sistani. If the Lebanese were demanding regional caucuses to elect tribal governors, that’d be one thing, but they’re not, as far as I know. This reminds me of a logical fallacy someone taught me years ago: post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this). Moreover, the prime reasons for the Cedar Revolution are 1) Rafik Hariri’s death (hopefully not a product of U.S. policy), 2) Lebanese generational gaps growing weary of Syrian long-term occupation, 3) the realization that Syria is no longer needed to defend Lebanon from Israel, 4) the Iraqi elections, 5) Ukraine and 6) the assertion of non-violence as a means for political change in Iraq and Ukraine, a claim that Bush certainly cannot put at the center of his preemptive war doctrine.
    Many people have also commented on the value of Arab media like al-Jazeera and its decidedly anti-establishment tone in rousing up the people. Bush – who is no friend of al-Jazeera, cannot claim that he won the hearts and minds of Arabs everywhere in the same fashion as al-Jazeera has. And they’ve certainly done a better job spotlighting despotism in the Arab world than Bush has, who has left some countries on a pedestal and swept some of the more brutal regimes under the carpet of “friends and allies in the war on terror.”

    By Blogger rabbit, at March 16, 2005 at 8:59 AM  

  • Jordan,

    First off, i'm glad you are still reading this blog and commenting. Can't say that the rest of my friends are as active in writing as they should be...

    To clarify, I too am aware of what Jamblatt has said. That is why it is even more surprising that he would say such things. It means something is working here.

    The President's Iraq policy has a lot to do with the 'recent positive developments'. I would not attribute everything (certainly Abu-Ghraib is not a catalyst), but what the United States did in Iraq certainly affected what has occurred.

    I have proposed this theory before and I'm interested to see what you think of it: neo-conservatism is merely a means to a realists' end. That is, spreading democracy and freedom and collapsing repressive states not merely for the good that neo-conservatives proclaim, but for the inevitable result of a safer and more stable region beneficial to the United States.

    You are right; in 2003, it was all about WMD's. Why? Certainly there was error in that (hindsight is 20/20), but that was the most convincing argument to be made. Now you may believe that the President was lying (perhaps explaining our own political differences), but I do not. If the Presient made the pitch that creating a democracy in Iraq would be beneficial for the good of the whole, I doubt the UN would give him one single second to make his case. To clarify, I always thought that was one of our goals in Iraq. And I would not call that "goal-post revisionism". The President's goals are consistent with his NSS; Bush has made it clear that a democratic Iraq would have positive repercussions for the entire region (and the only destablizing aspect is that of despotic regimes collapsing and democracies emerging). Is democracy easy? No, it is not. None of our great philosophical minds from the past think democracy even works. But we know it takes time and not every one is going to get it right. Hopefully Iraq will continue to make the progress it is making, and the rest of the Arab countries can look to it as an example of what/what not to do.

    I think you are missing the bigger picture here though. You say that it is the Iraqi elections that have inspired the Lebanese people to protest and take to the streets. I agree with you there. But you conveniently ignore that without the Iraqi War, there would not have been any elections to influence what is occuring now!

    I do not make the claim that the President is responsbile for the Cedar Revolution, much less the progress between Israel/Palestine. His policies have started the movement that forces rulers of Middle Eastern countries to reconsider how they approach their methods of rule. I doubt we'll see the King of Jordan disappear anytime soon, but he certainly has to re-evaluate the way he rules (this is just an example). This is a push for moderation in all of the Arab nations. I say give them time, especially in countries like Saudia Arabia and Egypt. This isnt't going to happen over night, but it will certainly continue if they see their neighbors assert themselves peacefully for political freedom.

    By Blogger Byron, at March 16, 2005 at 11:06 AM  

  • Byron,
    As far as neo-conservatism as a means to realist's end, I think that's been pretty much the idea behind Iraq all along. Whether or not I'm comfortable with that means (which I'm not) is different story, as is whther or not the end is actually what a realist wants. More on this later.
    I've also heard the theory that the rationale was all part of a grand Straussian noble lie. I'm going to forget about whether or not such an act is ethical or not in this discussion because I just don't think that Bush had democracy on the brain for the whole time, especially not in the run-up to the Iraq War.
    Certainly democracy was going to be a part of post-war Iraq. Bush constantly referenced how "a free and democratic Iraq would make the world safer." But I think the Bushies were initially wary of democracy - for the very reason that democracy promotion is a dangerous mission - that people Bush didn't like would come to power.
    If Bush is serious about democracy, he's going to have to swallow Hezbollah as the majority political party of Lebanon. He's going to have to accept Hamas in the Palestinian government, he's going to have to welcome political participation by the voices of dissent that, especially in the Middle East, not only believe that the United States is a direct or indirect cause of their economic and political oppression. It's ben easy to accept the fact that Islamists won the eletion, but when they form a government and start making decisions, Bush isn't going to like it and we're going to go back to the old CIA engineered leaders and goverments tapmpered with by the U.S. Welcoming these radicals into the political fold is something I've advocated all along, with numerous examples of how getting armed militants like the insurgents involved in politicals as a way to de-radicalize them.
    I think this democracy stuff is going to come back to haunt Bush for this reason, that he and the corporations who have funded and bought his presidency are unwilling to face such a prospect. No doubt these groups believe that resources should be nationalized, that free trade policy is slang for U.S. domination, and that basically America is always wrong. If Bush is willing to swallow this pill, that's great. But there's absolutely nothing that would convince me of the fact that he will. As soon as somebody arises in one of these countries that is massively popular and massively anti-U.S., Bush will have a huge dillema. Does he tamper with democracy and "freedom," or does he flip-flop?
    Secondly, and this is less tangential, I promise, is there any evidence that the Iraq War, which certainly changed the status quo in the region, could have an effect on the surrounding countries. Did the Iranian Revolution spread Islamic fundamentalism throughout the region in the '80s? Not in the political arena, in fact, it only strengthened the hands of the authoritatrian rulers and caused them to tighten their grip on dissent. Turkey's secular militarism under Attaturk hardly resonated in the Arab world, and neither has Lebanon's government model that ensures the representation of minorities. History says that destabilizing political events in Middle Eastern countries has hardly any effect on other Middle Eastern countries except to strengthen the undesireables. And fighting the war on terror Bush-style has meant giving countries the green light on serious oppressive and authoritarian tactics that run directly counter to Bush's freedom agenda.
    You say I'm missing the bigger picture, but I think you're seeing the forest and not the trees, and in this case, it's the trees that matter. You're right, there would have been no elections in Iraq without the Iraq War, but thats a fallacy. There also would have been no elections in Iraq had there not been a massive popular non-violent uprising against the CPA demanding elections. Kris and I have a friend who spent the last nine months in Egypt, Beirut, Damascus and Amman. She was in Beirut for the bombings, the protests and the counter-protest. On the ground events
    Don't get me wrong, I think democracy promotion is a good thing, but not the way Bush wants to do it. There are some early indications of Bush actually wanting to help democratic movements, but true to Bush form, he flat out says he's doing one thing when his solution has absolutely nothing to do with the problem. Serious questions remain in Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Central Asia, Pakistan, the list goes on. I know this isn't going to happen overnight, but it's also not going to happen because we invaded Iraq. It's going to take much more than invading Iraq to moderate the Middle East, if that action can even be described in Orwell fashion as one that moderates Middle Easterners. I hope that Iraq makes progress as well, so someday they can hold an election in which candidates can reveal their identity, people can drive cars on election day, and the elected officials can meet outside the green zone and without mortar shells flying overhead. But part of that is letting the democracy that emerges in Iraq be what it is. And because the SCIRI basically won the election, I don't think Bush is going to be comfortable with that.
    Bush can ride high on his promotion of democracy, but I think the Republicans are going to be disturbed by the result.

    By Blogger rabbit, at March 18, 2005 at 10:04 AM  

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