Your Ad Here
2004 July 01 Thursday
History Of American Interventions Bodes Poorly For Democracy

How difficult is it to change a country into a democracy by intervention using military force? John B. Judis has an article in Foreign Policy about the history of failed US attempts to reform and democratize other countries entitled Imperial Amnesia. This article is an excerpted adaptation of his forthcoming book The Folly of Empire: What George W Bush Could Learn from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. His excerpt Imperial Amnesia reviews the history of US intervention in the Philippines, Cuba, and other lands.

As for the Philippines' democracy, the United States can take little credit for what exists and some blame for what doesn't. The electoral machinery the United States designed in 1946 provided a democratic veneer beneath which a handful of families, allied to U.S. investors—and addicted to kickbacks—controlled the Philippine land, economy, and society. The tenuous system broke down in 1973 when Philippine politician Ferdinand Marcos had himself declared president for life. Marcos was finally overthrown in 1986, but even today Philippine democracy remains more dream than reality. Three months before Bush's visit, a group of soldiers staged a mutiny that raised fears of a military coup. With Islamic radicals and communists roaming the countryside, the Philippines is perhaps the least stable of Asian nations. If the analogy between the United States' “liberation” of the Philippines and of Iraq holds true, it will not be to the credit of the Bush administration, but to the skeptics who charged that the White House undertook the invasion of Baghdad with its eyes wide shut.

Minor quibble: I'd put Indonesia at the top of the list of unstable Asian countries. Though if you include Papua New Guinea (PNG) as part of Asia then obviously PNG is worse. However, PNG is small enough that PNG can be managed by Australia and the Aussies can rule the Solomon Islands as well. But Indonesia can not be stabilized by a return of colonial administrations and its far more numerous Muslim populace would resent US military intervention. Whereas the Philippines still occasionally accepts US military missions to track down Muslim rebels. So Indonesia strikes me as the greater worry.

The American imperialists overestimated their ability to reform and reshape the world.

Some Americans argued the country needed colonies to bolster its military power or to find markets for its capital. But proponents of imperialism, including Protestant missionaries, also viewed overseas expansion through the prism of the country's evangelical tradition. Through annexation, they insisted, the United States would transform other nations into communities that shared America's political and social values and also its religious beliefs. “Territory sometimes comes to us when we go to war in a holy cause,” U.S. President William McKinley said of the Philippines in October 1900, “and whenever it does the banner of liberty will float over it and bring, I trust, the blessings and benefits to all people.” This conviction was echoed by a prominent historian who would soon become president of Princeton University. In 1901, Woodrow Wilson wrote in defense of the annexation of the Philippines: “The East is to be opened and transformed, whether we will or no; the standards of the West are to be imposed upon it; nations and peoples which have stood still the centuries through are to be quickened and to be made part of the universal world of commerce and of ideas which has so steadily been a-making by the advance of European power from age to age.”

The naivete doesn't end there. Woodrow Wilson thought he could make South America have successful democracies. Well, South America's democracies are still plagued with corruption, slow economic growth, and popular hostility to elected leaders that is so intense that some are forced from office.

Upon becoming president, Wilson boasted that he could “teach the South American republics to elect good men.” After Mexican Gen. Victoriano Huerta arranged the assassination of the democratically elected President Francisco Madero and seized power in February 1913, Wilson promised to unseat the unpopular dictator, using a flimsy pretext to dispatch troops across the border. But instead of being greeted as liberators, the U.S. forces encountered stiff resistance and inspired riot and demonstrations, uniting Huerta with his political opponents. In Mexico City, schoolchildren chanted, “Death to the Gringos.” U.S.-owned stores and businesses in Mexico had to close. The Mexico City newspaper El Imparcial declared, in a decidedly partial manner, “The soil of the patria is defiled by foreign invasion! We may die, but let us kill!” Wilson learned the hard way that attempts to instill U.S.-style constitutional democracy and capitalism through force were destined to fail.

Writing for the Christian Science Monitor Lucien O. Chauvin reports that democracies in South America are unstable and their populaces are deeply dissatisfied.

LIMA, PERU - Here in Peru, the president is polling in single digits, and some want to bring back a former strongman.

Just across the border in Bolivia, the government had to fend off rumors last week that the military was planning a coup.

Next door, indigenous politicians in Ecuador called for a general uprising to force the president out of office.

In Venezuela, the electoral board set a tentative date for a recall vote on its left-wing leader.

In fact, political conditions in Bolivia may be so bad that Mark Falcoff of the American Enterprise Institute has recently made the argument that Bolivia may be disintegrating.

Last October Bolivia experienced a social and political upheaval that forced the resignation of President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and shook the capital, La Paz, to its very foundations.[1] The headquarters of all the political parties supporting the government were burned to the ground; toll booths and other symbols of government authority were destroyed or disabled; even the Ministry of Sustainable Development--a magnificent Art Deco building that once housed the business offices of the Patiño tin empire--was gutted. Although a measure of normality has been restored since then, there is no certainty that stability is here to stay. As recently as late April, the lobby and lower floors of the congressional office building were demolished by a suicide bomber, and the successor regime--led by Sánchez de Lozada’s former vice president Carlos Mesa--is attempting to buttress its shaky legitimacy through a series of tawdry gimmicks. These include attempts to govern without parties; denying natural gas to Chile, Bolivia’s hated neighbor; threatening to overturn long-standing contracts with international energy companies; and brandishing a plebiscite which may well take the country--or at least an important part of it--outside the world economy. Republics do not normally commit suicide, but Bolivia may be an exception. If current trends continue, we may witness the first major alteration of the South American political map in more than a hundred years.

Haiti's another poster child of failed democratization. The US occupied Haiti starting under Woodrow Wilson 1915-1934 and again under Clinton beginning in 1994 with US forces leaving in 1996 and UN forces remaining a few more years. More recently George W. Bush sent in troops after rebels defeated Aristide's forces.

Writing for the New York Times Juan Forero reports that Latin America Is Growing Impatient With Democracy.

In the last few years, six elected heads of state have been ousted in the face of violent unrest, something nearly unheard of in the previous decade. A widely noted United Nations survey of 19,000 Latin Americans in 18 countries in April produced a startling result: a majority would choose a dictator over an elected leader if that provided economic benefits.

Is democracy a panacea? No. Is it easy to impose it and make it stick? No. The US has failed far more often than it has succeeded.

Consider Cuba. Before Castro became dictator Batista was dictator. But before Batista the United States intervened repeatedly with troops. Corruption and oppression by elected goverments got worse with time. The United States had to repeatedly play umpire over contested elections up until the point of pretty much giving up on maintaining a democracy in Cuba.

Under the tutelage of the United States, the political life of Cuba prior to 1933 followed a certain pattern. Incumbent presidents would attempt reelection, but if they were unable to secure their own party's nomination, they would shift their support to the opposition candidate. The incumbent president's candidate would inevitably win at the polls, either legally or fraudulently. The losing party would usually dispute the final results, claim that they were fraudulent, and rise in revolt. The United States would send an arbiter, sometimes backed by United States troops. The mediator would then call for new elections, but the incumbent president's opposition would not accept the arrangement and would boycott the polls. Thus the presidential nominee would win by default. This did not happen every time, however. In 1906 Estrada Palma refused to accept the United States compromise plan, which in fact favored him; and in 1924 there was no electoral boycott or rebellion.

Note that this saga of the repeated failure of democracy played out over a period of decades with US involvement. For Cuba the outcome was a communist dictatorship that lasts to this day. So US involvement does not necessarily eventually succeed. The Middle East is going to be no easier to reform than Latin America and the Caribbean. Well, our involvement in Latin America has lasted for over a century with uncertain results. Therefore I think it takes a lot of audacity for the neoconservatives to bill US efforts to build democracy in the Middle East as the most expeditious and certain way to deal with the threat of terrorism in the short to medium term.

There are many reasons why democratization can fail. I have listed several obstacles to democracy in the Middle East (see bullet list in the middle of that post). But that list is far from comprehensive.

Some people see moral virtue in being optimistic about the achievability of desired optimal outcomes and believe that to strive for anything less than the ideal is somehow immoral. But there are limits to our power. The United States had overwhelming military superiority over Cuba and Haiti and yet still was not able to work any lasting beneficial changes in either society. Idealism is the enemy of the good if idealism prevents a person from reaching a realistic appreciation for what is possible. Overreaching can (and has) often resulted not just in limited gains but even net losses. A panglossian view of the potential for the spread of liberal democracy is the enemy of the cause of liberal democracy.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 July 01 02:22 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation


Comments
Fly said at July 1, 2004 3:07 PM:

I read the John B. Judis article and found it unpersuasive, too many cheap shots and little serious analysis.

The Latin American examples are more interesting. I’ve been following the situation in Venezuela and Bolivia. Very complicated politics with cross border drug trafficing connections.

Venezuela looks like a strongman power grab under the guise of social reform. The middle-class is struggling to retain the institutions of democracy. I wish them well and have wondered what the US could do to help.

I don’t see many similarities between Latin American and the ME. The Latin American examples echo the old European claim that democracies degenerate into mob rule. If there is truth to that claim, how might that tendency be resisted? (The European model of rule by elite bureaucrats isn’t one I’d want to follow.)

I still believe it is important for the US to nurture democracies. The world is becoming too dangerous for failed states and dictatorships such as N. Korea.

CalBill said at July 1, 2004 4:01 PM:

Great article, but where were you (the linked article authors, that is) or others like you in fall 2001 when the "democratization" of the ME and other parts of the world were being discussed?

Randall Parker said at July 1, 2004 4:14 PM:

CalBill,

I was posting in advance of the war that I was a pessimist on Muslim democracy. See, for example: Pessimists on Muslim Democracy and Democracy Requires A Supporting Set Of Beliefs and Consanguinity prevents Middle Eastern political development. There are many more posts on my site that made similar arguments before the war and if you go read the links you will find that I linked to commentators who were making those arguments in advance. But those commentators were ignored by the mainstream. There are lots of neoconservatives and liberals who are wed to the idea that the world is full of oppressed people yearning to do all the things that would make democracy work if only they had the opportunity.

Even today with far more evidence accumulated about the obstacles there are still people claiming that we can democratize the Middle East. I do not know what to say to those people. I try to address those who at least are open to the possibility that any attempt achieve utopia will backfire.

Fly,

There are obvious parallels between the Middle East and Latin America:

1) History of strongman rule.

2) High levels of corruption.

3) Low living standards.

4) Lots of people with illiberal beliefs.

5) Iraq also features the same problem that Latin America has with splits between groups. In Latin America the splits are between Spanish and Amerinds with blacks playing a role in some countries as well. In Iraq we have the Sunni, Shia, and Kurd splits and even the addition of language splits. So we have religious, ethnic, and linguistic divisions.

Fly said at July 1, 2004 6:43 PM:

Randall, thanks. I agree with all five items on your list. I’d even throw in neighbors who want to stir up trouble as a sixth item. I could see using that list as a basis for improving US chances for success. How do we counter each item? What has worked in Latin America?

gcochran said at July 1, 2004 9:04 PM:

Anyone with a decent rough picture of the world in his head knew all these things - and knew that successful democratization of Iraq was unlikely, also not terribly valuable to the US. What can one say about a President who initiated such a project - one that was expensive (going on two hundred billion dollars), unlikely to succeed, and by no means necessary, since Iraq was no military threat to anybody (ask the Turks)

Well, obviously that President is a great fool. Worse thsn the _average_ President, even, which is saying something.

Many people seem to think that considering costs and likelihood of success in matters of state is somehow immoral, while ignoring expense and unfavorable odds is 'idealistic' - which is of course good. I guess 'idealistic' is just another word for stupid, then. Down with idealism!


Randall Parker said at July 1, 2004 9:27 PM:

Fly,

Americans are 5% of the world's population. We can't fix the world. We should acknowledge our limits.

We have tried for decades to fix some places and we have failed. We ought to learn that some things are beyond our reach. We ought to adopt more modest goals aimed more directly at defending our own interests.

gcochran said at July 1, 2004 10:11 PM:


I'm not completely sure we can't fix the world, although it's hard for me to see why anyone would bother. But we'd have to be clever about it. That's the one thing we haven't tried.

Fly said at July 2, 2004 11:55 AM:

Gcochan, what’s your alternative to the Bush plan?

What is your plan with dealing with states that preach hatred and fund terrorists?

What does the US do if China or even France harbors groups planning attacks on the US? As technology advances it’s going to get easier and easier for the terrorists.

I’ve agreed again and again with Randall that building democracies in the ME is hard. I’ve never claimed the problems he’s listed aren’t real. (He says impossible. I say hard because I believe the US has more capability than he acknowledges.)

I don’t believe we can pull back into a shell. That just gives our enemies more time to prepare our destruction.

I don’t believe police action is the answer. We must stop states from preaching hatred and funding terrorism and police action doesn’t do it. It also requires our “allies” help and too many countries want the US to be hurt.

We could just attack countries that are our enemies or who won’t stop preaching hatred or funding terrorists. That would be cheaper than “clean” wars and costly rebuilding. But then we’d be fighting the whole world. And many US citizens would rebel.

If the Bush plan works, then the US is a cowboy hero. Democracy flourishes and the tyrannies fall one by one. If the Bush plan fails, then the tyrannies still get the message that the US is gonna change them one way or another. The US looks like a naïve blunderer instead of a superpower bent on world domination. In the short term its more expensive. In the long run it is far less costly.

I agree the chances for success don’t look good. (Mainly because we don’t have time to persuade 1.2 billion Muslims that terrorism is bad.) But who has a better plan?

Until you produce a plan that I feel is more likely to succeed than the Bush plan then I’ll disagree with claims that Bush and the NeoCons are ignorant or naïve or living in a fantasy or are working for Israel.

PS
Randall, here’s Kerry’s position on immigration.
http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/opinions/articles/0702robb02.html

gcochran said at July 2, 2004 1:31 PM:


Fly: I think your entire worldview is nuts.


Fly said at July 2, 2004 7:00 PM:

“Fly: I think your entire worldview is nuts.”

Is this your alternative to the Bush strategy?

Kurt said at July 2, 2004 9:19 PM:

This article does not bode well for the Bush plan. The neo-cons like to cite Japan and Germany as examples of sucessful nation-building. The examples cited in this article are more numerous and representative of the middle-east than Japan or Germany.

The neo-cons correctly point out that it took 2-3 years to fully de-nazify Germany and that during this time, there was much unrest and terror attacks on the occupying forces. This suggest that the Bush plan should be given a fair measure of time to prove itself. If Bush is re-elected, I would give his administration an additional 3 years to eliminate unreast in Iraq and to put it well on the way to becoming a liberal democratic society. If the insurgency is still active after this three year period, it would be reansonable to say that Bush's plan has failed and that we should try something else.

My alternative to the Bush plan is this:

1) Reform the regulatory climate to make nuclear power more acceptable. Provide tax incentives and what not to build an additional 50-100 one gigawatt plants in the next 10 years. Increas that by an addtional 200-300 plants over the next 20-30 years. This gives us lots of electrical power.

2) Establish a series of x-prizes for the development of fuel-cells and other electricity to mobility technologies in order to end the need for fossil fuels for transportation.

3) Establish a series of x-prizes for the development of cheap access to space. Once we have cheap access to space, space-based solar power becomes economical.

4) Eliminate all foreign entanglements

The US$200 billion dollars that we are spending in Iraq could be much better spent on nuclear power, space-based solar power, and other methods of energy independence. This is a much more intelligent plan than Bush's plan and is better for our economy (the money stays in the U.S. or goes into space development, rather than being poured down a middle-eastern rat-hole)

I like Jerry Pournelle's idea of dealing with terror attacks on our country. Any time someone like Al Quada does an attack on us and people in the various middle-eastern cities cheer them on, we level those cities with fuel-air explosives, salt the ground around them, and build monuments in the form of a cross or a star where the city used to be. Then leave completely. After a few times, the middle-easterners will get the message that it is not worth attacking us.

Randall Parker said at July 2, 2004 10:59 PM:

Kurt,

There were particular conditions in Japan and Germany that made them far easier to reform. We could spend decades on Iraq and more hundreds of billions of dollars and still not succeed. I do not see the point of doing this.

I agree with you: Better energy policy is essential. We could eliminate our need to care at all about Middle Eastern oil fields. We could defund the Wahhabis. We could make the amount of money available for terrorism go down. We could put ourselves in a position of having far less interest in the Middle East.

Nobelist Richard Smalley argues for $10 billion per year to be spent on basic energy research (see bottom of that post). 10 years of that kind of effort would be probably well less than half what we will end up spending on Iraq. But with the energy research we'd get all sorts of real benefits in terms of lower energy costs, less need of imports, less national security threat, less need for military spending, and a cleaner environment.

Randall Parker said at July 2, 2004 11:00 PM:

Kurt,

There were particular conditions in Japan and Germany that made them far easier to reform. We could spend decades on Iraq and more hundreds of billions of dollars and still not succeed. I do not see the point of doing this.

I agree with you: Better energy policy is essential. We could eliminate our need to care at all about Middle Eastern oil fields. We could defund the Wahhabis. We could make the amount of money available for terrorism go down. We could put ourselves in a position of having far less interest in the Middle East.

Nobelist Richard Smalley argues for $10 billion per year to be spent on basic energy research (see bottom of that post). 10 years of that kind of effort would be probably well less than half what we will end up spending on Iraq. But with the energy research we'd get all sorts of real benefits in terms of lower energy costs, less need of imports, less national security threat, less need for military spending, and a cleaner environment.

Fly said at July 2, 2004 11:09 PM:

Kurt, those are interesting suggestions.

“1) Reform the regulatory climate to make nuclear power more acceptable. Provide tax incentives and what not to build an additional 50-100 one gigawatt plants in the next 10 years. Increas that by an addtional 200-300 plants over the next 20-30 years. This gives us lots of electrical power.”

I strongly agree. I’ve supported nuclear power for the last twenty-five year. My major concern with nuclear power has been nuclear proliferation. Some of the newer fuel pellet designs help address that problem.

So how do we get the nation on board? Should we be spreading the meme on the Internet? Get serious about energy independence and global warming, support nuclear power.

“2) Establish a series of x-prizes for the development of fuel-cells and other electricity to mobility technologies in order to end the need for fossil fuels for transportation.”

I don’t know that x-prizes would be effective in this area. I favor more direct government funding of advanced technology projects. Ventor’s project on bioengineering energy microbes looks promising. Once plant gene engineering advances, oil-producing plants might be cost effective.

I strongly support these efforts but I don’t think they will significantly impact energy usage in the next ten years. Nor will the research stop ME petro dollars from funding terror over the next decade.

“3) Establish a series of x-prizes for the development of cheap access to space. Once we have cheap access to space, space-based solar power becomes economical.”

I’m dubious about this one. A good friend worked on the solar satellite concept 25 years ago. We discussed it a lot. His conclusion is that it was a boondoogle, a way to get funding for interesting science but way too many problems to be practical.

The x-prizes are great and I would love to see a cheap, safe method to get into LEO. (How about flying balloons to reach a floating balloon station at over 60,000 ft. From the balloon station a LEO rotovator with 50 mile tethers matches velocity and picks up a cargo. Momentum is regained by catching incoming cargo. There is a conference on the Space Elevator concept this week.)


“4) Eliminate all foreign entanglements”

I don’t know what you mean by “foreign entanglements”. The world economy is pretty tightly knit these days. If you mean get our troops out of Germany and S. Korea then I agree. If you mean other countries should rely less on the US for protection and maintenance of world order, I agree. I you mean, force a drastic restructuring of the UN (possibly replace it with a Union of Democracies), I agree. I think a temporary halt to most immigration would be wise. (Assuming the US has the will to control immigration at all.)

If you mean a complete disengagement with the world outside of the US, I don’t think that is possible or wise. The US would still be threatened.

“I like Jerry Pournelle's idea of dealing with terror attacks on our country. Any time someone like Al Quada does an attack on us and people in the various middle-eastern cities cheer them on, we level those cities with fuel-air explosives, salt the ground around them, and build monuments in the form of a cross or a star where the city used to be. Then leave completely. After a few times, the middle-easterners will get the message that it is not worth attacking us.”

It may come to this. I believe one reason the US invaded Iraq was to send a message to the Islamic world not to mess with us. If the Iraq effort doesn’t change the ME and Islamic groups weren’t warned off by Afghanistan and Iraq, the American Street will be ready for harsher responses. I believe this path leads to total war.

Kurt said at July 2, 2004 11:30 PM:

My problem with the neo-cons was not their plan for intervention in the middle-east, per se. Rather, it is this attitude that they have expressed from time to time that having historical emergencies or "excitement" (in the words of Peggy Noonan) is actually a good thing because it forces people to rally around and derive their fullfilment from the accomplishment of the larger society than from their own individual lives. This sentiment has been expressed by people like David Frum, David Krystal, and some of the conservative christian types. I consider this to be a very fascistic attitude and I can find quotes in "Mein Kampf" that say the same thing.

I especially disliked a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal by Peggy Noonan where she seemed to find fault with Americans' desire for history to be "boring" (meaning no bad events).

There are many nasty things in the world we have to deal with. Like most libertarians, I was very anti-Iraq war, but have slowly come to change my mind on this. Ralph Peters (the only pro-war person whose opinion I respect) has me half-way convinced that the war was neccessary. Rightly or wrongly, we are in Iraq and there is a job to be done. When we have to do a job, we do it with grim determination to get it done as quickly and painlessly as possible, then return to nermalcy. We should never glorify these tasks or treat the "excitment of history" with glee.

The neo-cons seem to have this perverse desire to suck us all into the collective project of national greatness. I despise the collective notion of natioanl greatness and want nothing to do with it.

Invisible Scientist said at July 3, 2004 4:42 AM:

For unlimited energy that will be competitive with coal-fired plants, you might
do a Google search for the Integral Fast Reactor, which is not only 100 times more
fuel efficient in terms of Uranium, but it also uses its own long term nuclear waste
as fuel, leaving behind only low level nuclear waste which has a half life less than 300 years.
This type of breeder reactor means that there is enough Uranium for many hundreds of years
even if the entire world uses nothing but nuclear energy.
And even the latest generation conventional reactors of Westingouse ( do another Google search )
are much more efficient than the older designs, and in addition to being competitive with
coal fired plants, these also burn almost all of the long term nuclear waste (these are already
proven and working designs!)

And for fuel cells that can be charged with electricity generated by nuclear reactors,
please do another Google search for the zinc-air fuel cells, especially by Electric Fuel Corporation
which are already close to being competitive with gasoline. Such a pure electric bus was
demonstrated in New York last year, and it was able to operate the entire day on its own
power, with people in it.

Even if we spend as much as 100 billion per year on energy research, this kind of
Manhattan project would still be only 1 % of the GDP, which is 10 trillion per year.

Kurt said at July 3, 2004 9:26 AM:

I know about the integral fast reactor and agree that it is something that should be pursued. The IFR uses metallic rather than ceramic Uranium as fuel. This makes reprocessing easier and less wasteful. The integral part comes from the idea of having both the reactor itself and the reprocessing within the same structure. So, nuclear products do not have to be transported around to be reprocessed.

Since the nuclear power industry was "privatized" in 1991, the operating efficiency of plants has increased from around 65% up to about 90%. There have been significant advances in fission power and reprocessing as well. The modern designs for nuclear power plants are far better than the designs of the 1970's, and the 70's designs were quite good.

There is also the South African pebble-bed reactor as well as a variant of it being developed in Japan.

The next significant development in nuclear power will be fission with high-energy neutrons. U238 is fissle, but it requires neutrons with higher energy than what are produced with U235 or Pu239 fission. Some of these "fusion" devices, such as the farnsworth fusor and others, are good generators of high-energy neutrons. These devices, sold commercially as neutron sources, could be used as the triggering device for a U238 fission reactor. The advantages of such a reactor is that it is not a chain reaction, so a "criticality" accident is impossible. Also, since no U235 or Pu239 is needed for this kind of nuclear power, weapons proliferation is a non-issue.

If fusion and ZPE turn out to be fantasy, I think that nuclear fission power will come back in a big way.

Fly said at July 3, 2004 4:38 PM:

“Rather, it is this attitude that they have expressed from time to time that having historical emergencies or "excitement" (in the words of Peggy Noonan) is actually a good thing because it forces people to rally around and derive their fullfilment from the accomplishment of the larger society than from their own individual lives.”

I got all the societal fullfilment and accomplishment I needed from the advancement of human science, discovery, and technology. Like many other Americans I liked the world much more before 911. I see bringing down the Saddams as an ugly, thankless job. I don’t feel personally responsible for the ME, N. Korea, or Africa. I don’t believe the US is responsible for their failures. I’d rather spend US lives and treasure on bettering our own country. Unfortunately, failed states breed terrorists. I believe for our own security, the US must try to clean up the mess.

I have intelligent friends that seem to be living in denial. They have their work and families. They don’t know why we were attacked. They know little about Islam. They read the papers and watch TV news and hear blanket condemnations of Bush. They have friends in Europe and South America who denounce Bush. They want their pre-911 world back. They want the US to be loved. (They aren’t idiots and will listen to reason but they have neither the time nor the energy to dig through the news media spin.) Perhaps Peggy Noonan was describing their need to see the world as a good, nice boring place.

“The neo-cons seem to have this perverse desire to suck us all into the collective project of national greatness.”

I’m not motivated by the missionary appeal. We were attacked by thugs. We will continue to be attacked by thugs until the societies that nurture them are changed. I’m willing to expend US lives and treasure trying to change them in a “civilized” fashion. (At the same time we are sending the message that the US is very pissed. Continue messing with us at your own peril.) If the “civilized” approach doesn’t work, I predict tougher action ahead.

“I despise the collective notion of natioanl greatness and want nothing to do with it.”

I presume you mean the idea of a Fascist state, every one working together, thinking alike for the glory of the state. Dissent isn’t tolerated. Ants working for the hive.

How about a different concept of national greatness? A nation that promotes freedom, individual responsibility, initiative, and creativity. One that welcomes the best from other nations and cultures. (I know the reality isn’t so pretty. Still the US comes closer than most.)

Kurt said at July 4, 2004 10:19 PM:

Fly, you have a rational, healthy attitude towards the tasks that the Bush Administration is dealing with. My problem is that many people in Bush's administration as well as many people on the street who support the war are not like you.

I was on a hike in Japan with a group of Americans in fall of '95 (long before 9/11) and one of them expressed the notion that it would be good if there was an enemy to attack us so that we would go to war. He believed that a war would be good for America, because it would get everyone to "rally around the flag and think of themselves as Americans rather than just individuals doing theri own thing". I told him that America was founded on the principles of the rennasance and enlightment, and that one of the basic concepts there of is that the individual is inherently free (a sovereign entity) and that an organized society existed for the sole purpose of defending individual liberty by providing the "social infrastructure" for the basis of social contract and nothing more. I also told him that I rejected his collectivist notion of a greater societal goal and that he should too. He did not say anything after that on this topic.

My point is that I believe many of the neo-cons (I call them neonazi-cons) actually subscribe to this concept of a "greater social objective" rather than society existing meerly as an "infrastructure" to facilitate individual dreams and goals in life. The neonazi-cons favorite patron saint, Leo Straus, clearly believed in this sort of collectivism.

The war and rebuilding of Iraq needs to be watched carefully and its progress assessed from time to time. Are "milestones" being achieved? Or are we just wasting out time and money there? There need to be clear milestone objectives set and progress compared to that roadmap. If the milestones are not being achieved, then we need to try a different approach, or get out all together. The neonazicons also need to be kept on a very short leash. Bush seems to lack the intellectual fortitude to do this.

According to a history channel program I recently saw, the de-nazification of Germany and ending of resistance to the occupation took from the end of the war in mid '45 until mid '47. About a 2 year. 4 years ought to be enough with Iraq. If there is still significant resistance by spring of 2007, we need to get the hell out of there and stop pouring any more of our hard-earned money into that rat-hole. If we are able to end the resistance by then, the next step is to get the oil flowing again. Once the oil is flowing, we will be able to turn Iraq from a loss-center into a profit center. The resulting profits can then be used as a resource to destablize/reform the nearby countries.

Another logical target is Venezuela. It is oil rich and is also a (little-known) haven for middle-eastern terrorists.

Fly said at July 5, 2004 11:14 AM:

“My point is that I believe many of the neo-cons (I call them neonazi-cons) actually subscribe to this concept of a "greater social objective" rather than society existing meerly as an "infrastructure" to facilitate individual dreams and goals in life.”

Liberal Christians live by certain guiding principles. Principles such as love, faith, loyalty, humility, charity, tolerance, etc. seem to make a better society. The most powerful man in the world shares Christian principles and believes that God will judge him for his actions. That seems much healthier than a “sophisticated” leader that believes there is no right or wrong, only power. I am an agnostic/atheist so I don’t believe in God or Christ and don’t emotionally understand what motivates liberal Christians, but the US society may be better because most live by liberal Christian principles.

Bush’s beliefs will lead him to support actions that I don’t support (E.g., anti stem cell research, mixing Church and state.) but his belief in the American system constrains his actions.

Libertarians have guiding principles. I believe those principles tend to make the US a stronger, more adaptable, more creative nation. I share many Libertarian principles but am only willing to go so far.

Socialists have guiding principles such as guaranteed food, housing, health care, and education for all. I support these principles when implemented as a minimal safety net for citizens. I balk at equalizing outcomes, supporting a welfare class, providing universal health coverage, or providing social services to illegal aliens.

The neo-cons also have guiding principles such as the worldwide promotion of freedom and democracy. I find their principles useful for providing guidance. Many of the world’s nations fear US power. If that power is seen as being wielded against the worst abusers of freedom and democracy, the US should have more support by our “natural” allies. If the US is viewed as wielding its power purely in pursuit of nationalistic goals then more nations will act against us. (As a US citizen I feel our history speaks for itself. No nation should believe the US is out to build an empire or capture resources. As a person who participates on international forums, I know that most people outside the US don’t trust us. They see a history of self-interested intervention and discount the good the US has done. South Korean, German, French, Canadian, Mexican, etc. school children are taught how bad we are. The US is the “other” that nations react against. In the US, we are our own “other”.)

So many different and competing principles operating in our society. I don’t believe there is one right answer or one right approach. At best our society is in a dynamic tension that allows it to adapt to new challenges. At worst our society is on the verge of breaking apart.

So I don’t worry too much about the neo-cons. Too many other factors restrain them. Nor do I believe that they are all that uniform in belief. Intelligent people tend to disagree a lot.

“The war and rebuilding of Iraq needs to be watched carefully and its progress assessed from time to time. Are "milestones" being achieved?”

I strongly agree. Rumfeld’s memo on measuring progress in the WoT was a good sign. ParaPundit provides valuable criticism. I use other sources for balance from the positive side. Most articles are written with the purpose of persuasion to the author’s viewpoint so a balanced treatment from a single source is rare. (Perhaps by “balanced” I mean a view that agrees with my own.)

“Bush seems to lack the intellectual fortitude to do this.”

I really don’t know. The US doesn’t pick leaders based on I.Q., education, or proven management ability. Jimmy Carter was one of our most intelligent but least effective presidents. Clinton was intelligent, but seemed to have few guiding principles.

The choice seems to be between Bush and Kerry. I believe Kerry is more intelligent than Bush but I don’t trust Kerry’s character. His willingness to make tough, unpopular decisions, to go against his party base. Bush has shown fortitude (even if not of the intellectual flavor).

I believe Bush has bright advisors. I trust them more than I trust the team Kerry is likely to put together. I believe the US military will fare better under Bush.

Possibly Kerry could help heal rifts between the US and the rest of the world. Or he might sell out US interests in order to gain European popularity. (Likely Kerry’s values are closer to European values so he wouldn’t see it as a sell out. My asserting that his motive would be to gain popularity is common polarizing polemic.)

If Kerry is elected, I will try to support him, much as I support Bush now. When I disagree with his policies I’ll try to do so in a respectful, helpful way.

“Once the oil is flowing, we will be able to turn Iraq from a loss-center into a profit center. The resulting profits can then be used as a resource to destabilize/reform the nearby countries.”

I believe the best way to destabilize/reform the Iraqi neighbors is to make the Iraqis successful. I’ve already seen signs that some neighboring Arabs are jealous of the freedom and democracy they see growing in Iraq. With security and growing personal wealth Iraq could become an enticing model for the surrounding nations. I just hope there is time. (I know some fear Iraq will become a fundamentalist Islamic country so our efforts to rebuild will help our enemy. From reading Iraqi bloggers and US soldier blogs, I don’t think that is likely.)

“Another logical target is Venezuela. It is oil rich and is also a (little-known) haven for middle-eastern terrorists.”

Yeah, I think of Venezuela as an anti-Iraq, a formerly successful democracy going down the tubes that could harm democracy throughout the region. I don’t really know what the US can do. Overt US pressure on Chavez would likely backfire.


Post a comment
Comments:
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
URL:
Remember info?

      
 
Web parapundit.com
Go Read More Posts On ParaPundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright ©