GOOD TO SEE THAT WORKED OUT: FURTHER THOUGHTS ON MIDDLE EAST DEMOCRACY
The advance of hope in the Middle East also requires new thinking in the capitals of great democracies -- including Washington, D.C. By now it should be clear that decades of excusing and accommodating tyranny, in the pursuit of stability, have only led to injustice and instability and tragedy. It should be clear that the advance of democracy leads to peace, because governments that respect the rights of their people also respect the rights of their neighbors. It should be clear that the best antidote to radicalism and terror is the tolerance and hope kindled in free societies. And our duty is now clear: For the sake of our long-term security, all free nations must stand with the forces of democracy and justice that have begun to transform the Middle East.
Encouraging democracy in that region is a generational commitment. It's also a difficult commitment, demanding patience and resolve -- when the headlines are good and when the headlines aren't so good. Freedom has determined enemies, who show no mercy for the innocent, and no respect for the rules of warfare. Many societies in the region struggle with poverty and illiteracy, many rulers in the region have longstanding habits of control; many people in the region have deeply ingrained habits of fear.
For all these reasons, the chances of democratic progress in the broader Middle East have seemed frozen in place for decades. Yet at last, clearly and suddenly, the thaw has begun. The people of Afghanistan have embraced free government, after suffering under one of the most backward tyrannies on earth. The voters in Iraq defied threats of murder, and have set their country on a path to full democracy. The people of the Palestinian Territories cast their ballots against violence and corruption of the past. And any who doubt the appeal of freedom in the Middle East can look to Lebanon, where the Lebanese people are demanding a free and independent nation. In the words of one Lebanese observer, "Democracy is knocking at the door of this country and, if it's successful in Lebanon, it is going to ring the doors of every Arab regime."
Across the Middle East, a critical mass of events is taking that region in a hopeful new direction. Historic changes have many causes, yet these changes have one factor in common. A businessman in Beirut recently said, "We have removed the mask of fear. We're not afraid anymore." Pervasive fear is the foundation of every dictatorial regime -- the prop that holds up all power not based on consent. And when the regime of fear is broken, and the people find their courage and find their voice, democracy is their goal, and tyrants, themselves, have reason to fear.
-President George W. Bush
Speech at the National Defense University,
March 8, 2005
The status quo, Scowcroft said, is not necessarily a good thing, but it might be better than what follows. "My kind of realism would look at what are the most likely consequences of pushing out a government. What will replace it?" What will replace autocratic but stable governments, neoconservative thinkers say, is whatever the people of the Middle East decide will replace them. Robert Kagan, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a Kristol ally, has written critically of the Bush Administration's incomplete adherence to its own anti-tyranny doctrine. Referring to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Kagan wrote, "Perhaps there is concern that too much pressure on Mubarak might produce a victory by the Muslim Brotherhood, the most popular Egyptian opposition party, which has been outlawed by the government. That's a risk, of course, but if the Bush Administration isn't willing to let Islamists, even radical Islamists, win votes in a fair election, then Bush officials should stop talking so much about democracy and go back to supporting the old dictatorships."
Scowcroft believes that the Administration has already gone too far in Kagan's direction. "Let's suppose Mubarak disappears and we have an election," he said. "The good guys are not going to win that election. The bad guys are going to win that election. The bad guys are always better organized. Always. The most ruthless, the tough ones, are the ones who are going to rise to the top in a chaotic society. That's my fear."
-Breaking Ranks: What Turned Brent Scowcroft Against the Bush Administration
By Jeffery Goldberg
From the October 31, 2005 issue of The New Yorker
In April of 2005, Syrian forces evacuated Lebanon after a 29-year occupation. The Bush administration and its allies were gleeful to the point of delusion. The Syrian disengagement, they argued, reinforced the "inevitable march of democracy" that they have been almost evangelical about since before the invasion of Iraq.
The events of this past week have demonstrated pretty clearly the limits of the Bush Doctrine. As I write this, an independent, democratic Lebanon is being shelled from south to north by an independent, democratic Israel. Both Syria and Iran have been placed on notice by Israel that they could well be next. The independent, democratic Palestinian Authourity in Gaza has been under seige for weeks.
To listen to the administration over the course of the last three years, this is precisely what wasn't supposed to happen. For three years now, the U.S government, joined by the amen choir of the conservative pundity, assured us the democracies do not attack one another, and that Arab democracies would serve to enhance the security of both Israel and the United States.
This theory was nonsense and I've used the space to say so over the last three years. Repeatedly.
The Bush Doctrine is predicated on the idea that a democracy cannot be anti-Israel or object to American foreign policy. That this suggestion was childish is now beyond any doubt.
That the Palestinian people would elect Hamas was one of the most certain things in modern history. Although a terrorist entity, Hamas has devoted a great deal of its resources to building schools, infastructure and funding charities in the former Occupied Territories. They did this as the Fatah government of Yassir Arafat built a fortune from the foreign aid meant for his people and established a criminal empire of political corruption and state-sponsored terrorism. The Palestinian people also believe in their heart of hearts that their country was stolen from them in 1948 and Hamas reflected that belief.
To suggest that Hamas wouldn't be elected is to suggest that Vidkun Quisling could have been elected to govern Norway in the fall of 1945 instead of being put before a firing squad. They may not be right, either logically or morally, but that is what the Palestinian people honestly believe. Democracy has only given voice to the anti-Zionism of the people. No longer can it be argued that it is a governmental problem. In fact, bringing democracy to the Palestinians before a final settlement with Israel may have made any settlement impossible. Subsequent events have shown that there was at least a cold war under the authoritarian Arafat, as opposed to a hot war with a democratically elected Hamas.
The "liberation" of Lebanon has served only to highlight the intrinsic problems in that nation. Lebanon was mired in a sectarian civil war for 16 years, and that war was brought to an end in part due to the expansion of Syrian occupation. Indeed, the Syrians were instrumental in releasing the American hostages held in that country during the 1980s following the first Persian Gulf War. Were the Syrians an ideal pacifying force? Certainly not, but they did stop the slow-motion suicide of that nation.
Lebanon has often been described as "the Switzerland of the Mediterranean." But with its competing sectarian ethnic groups, it's more like Bosnia with better weather. It has the same problems that Iraq does. Almost equal parts Shi'a, Sunni, Druze Muslim and Christian, the various sects have been competing for political power for over a generation.
The world's most dangerous terrorist group, Hezbollah (for more sophisticated and organized than al-Qaeda), made Lebanon its home during the civil war. It never left of its own accord, and Israel has been unable to dislodge it, despite repeated attempts, United Nations Resolution 1559 and the Taif Agreement, which was brokered in Saudi Arabia and ended the civil war, and specifically called for the disbanding of Hezbollah and mandated the presence of a Lebanese army in southern Lebanon to protect the Israeli border.
The problem is that, like Lebanese society, the Lebanese military is riven with sectarian divisions. The majority Shi'a population support Hezbollah. Even if the Lebanese army were an effective fighting force (which it isn't), Hezbollah would make short work of them - possibly leading to a splintering of it and a re-ignition of the civil war. Remember, even the vastly superior Israeli Defense Force (IDF) could not win decisive victories against Hezbollah.
It was left to the Syrian occupiers to keep Hezbollah in check, if only somewhat. As the Syrians retreated from Lebanon, so too did their ability to influence Hezbollah. Hezbollah is now, for all intents and purposes, the dominant political power in Lebanon. How "democratic" does that sound to you?
This is how we got where we are today. Hezbollah has joined Hamas in a (likely coordinated) two-front war against Israel, and Israel has decided to retaliate as only they can. American rhetoric aside, al-Qaeda does not threaten the very existence of the United States. They will kill as many Americans as they can, yes, but they will never establish a caliphate in Connecticut. Hamas and Hezbollah actually do threaten the existence of Israel, and Israel will defend itself by any means necessary.
President Bush has demonstrated that he is possessed of a humongous set of balls in calling for Israel to show "restraint." Should Prime Minister Olmert show the same "restraint" President Bush did against Saddam Hussein, who represented nowhere near the threat to the United States that Israel's enemies do? To listen to Bush and his proxies four years ago, you could have been forgiven for thinking that there were Republican Guard divisions on the outskirts of Lexington, Kentucky. Well, the Israeli city of Haifa is being hit by Iranian-supplied rockets and artillery today. I think we all know just how "restrained" President Bush would be under similiar circumstances.
My friends, Haifa is what a national security threat looks like. Israel's enemies were not granted visas, like the 9/11 hijackers. They infiltrate and kidnap with impunity. They launch rockets and murder soldiers and civilians alike. And President Bush has the unmitigated fucking cheek to urge "restraint?" Precisely who the fuck does he think he is? After his invented reasons for invading Iraq (a war I continue to support for altogether different reasons), who is he to say how Israel defends herself?
Iraq is falling to pieces in the name of Bush's democracy rhetoric and Lebanon is in its death rattle largely due to same. The administration gambled that democracy could be brought to the Middle East without upsetting regional military stability. We are now seeing the results of that gamble. I sincerley hope my friends who supported the President like how that picture looks.
Winston Churchill once said that "democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." He couldn't have been more right. Democracy is a fragile thing and requires near perfect conditions for it to flourish. If you were to ask most black Americans about democracy, they would tell you that they didn't taste it until 1965. They had fought and died for it, to be sure, but they couldn't do anything untoward, like exercise their right to vote under it. The state of Florida has continuing and repeated problems exercising their democracy.
There is but one democracy in the Middle East, Israel. If anyone has suffered the consequences of the Bush Doctrine, it is them. President Bush has created repeated messes in the region, particularly in the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon, and Israel is left to pick up the pieces. God only knows what will happen if a democratic Iraq survives with a functioning military. No one has ever addressed what a democratic Iraq's stand on Israel's existence will be. There is no guarantee that a democratic Iraq - assuming that it doesn't fall apart as soon as American forces leave, like South Vietnam - won't sponsor what they see as "freedom fighters," but we know to be terrorists. What if a government made possible by the United States constitutes a threat to Israel's survival?
That possibility may be discounted by friends of the administration, just as warnings of democracy in Lebanon and the PA were.
In regard to the Middle East (which seems to be the only place it applies), the Bush Doctrine has been naive at best and literally retarded at worst. Engaging in daydreaming does not a forward-looking foreign policy make. Any place where democracy has been imposed by external force, it has failed. Very few serious observers now feel that Iraq will be a Jeffersonian democracy any time in the forseeable future. And Israel is now punishing Lebanon for its failed democratic infastructure. Yes, Syria was embarrassed by its forced withdrawl from Lebanon, but Lebanon may soon return to where it was in 1976.
It is highly unlikely that Israel will crush Hezbollah, and it is impossible for a democratic Lebanon to control them. Instead, the experiment in democracy is likely to cause all-out civil wars in both Lebanon and Iraq, enhance the regional power of Iran and Syria, and pose the greatest security threat to Israel in its history. We are now in a situation where the fantatical Whabbist regime in Saudi Arabia is the most moderate influence in the Middle East.
But when democracy fails, urge restraint. After all, President Bush hasn't been wrong so far, has he?
Easy Listening Recommendation of the Day: The River of Jordan By: The Louvin Brothers From: Satan is Real
Labels: Fun With Politics, I See Monsters, Sunday Papers