Monday, October 07, 2002
# Posted 10:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Perhaps one should not be surprised by Bush's reliance on his personal assessments of foreign officials, since the President himself declared that "Good diplomacy really depends on good personal relations." (WashPost, May 23, 2002 [no permalink]). Personally, I'd prefer a president who focused his diplomacy on advancing American interests, American security and American values. Especially if his glaring lack of expertise in international relations causes him to mistake others' empty promises for actual commitments to helping the United States.
By the way, I find it interesting that Josh also linked to Frank Foer's article on Annan's sympathy for Iraq without any reference to its criticism of Bush's naivete. A hanging curveball, my friend? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, October 06, 2002
# Posted 9:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Also on democracy and Islam: David Ignatius takes Bush to task for not laying out plans for postwar Iraq, while profiling some of those Iraqi dissidents who are.
Also check out William Buckley's contribution to the debate on democracy promotion and nation-building, which comes at the end of an article on US diplomacy at the UN. Thanks to CalPundit for finding it. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
The point of Dowd's column is to show that the conflict with Iraq may have a lasting impact on the balance of power in American politics because it has facilitated the construction of a coalition between evangelical Christians and mainstream Jews, both of whom are deeply concerned about Israel. Yet unsurprisingly, Dowd spends most of her column inches mocking Jerry Falwell for comments that are mock-worthy but no different than anything he has said before. All we get about American Jewish perspectives on Israel is this:
Influential Jewish conservatives, inside and outside the administration, have been fierce in supporting a war on Saddam, thinking it could help Israel by scrambling the Middle East map and encouraging democracy.My first problem with this comment is that it implies that "influential Jewish conservatives" derive their recommendations from US policy in the Middle East from a narrow consideration of Israel's interests. That is both insulting as well as just plain wrong. It is insulting because it implies that "influential Jewish conservatives" (IJC's) place their loyalty to Israel ahead of their commitment to the United States' values and interests. That sort of assertion is not all that different from saying that committed Jews cannot be good Americans. That sort of assertion is wrong because I have worked for, met and read the work of many IJC's and can testify that they are no less committed to American values than they are to Jewish ones. In fact, many of the individuals Dowd criticizes -- such as Robert Kagan and William Kristol -- are experts on American politics and policy who happen to be Jewish. Thus, it is not even clear why their ethnicity is relevant.
My second objection to Dowd's comment is her implication that the alleged ulterior motives of IJC's invalidate the proposition that toppling Saddam might enhance Israeli security by changing borders in the Middle East and encouraging democracy. Since the current borders in the Middle East seem largely conducive to conflict, I can't imagine what's wrong with changing them. And as for encouraging democracy, Dowd makes it sound about as wholesome as a conspiracy to rob Middle Easterners of their cherished authoritarian governments. Of course, one might give Dowd the benefit of the doubt and say that encouraging democracy is not immoral but simply foolhardy, a position taken by many during recent blogospheric debates on democracy and Islam.
On that note, I'd like to give a long overdue shout out to Winds of Change, which has assembled a user-friendly set of links that draw together all the main contributions to the democracy and Islam debate by OxBlog, Michiel Visser and others. Thanks!
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Saturday, October 05, 2002
# Posted 12:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In other good news, both Kofi Annan and inspections chief Hans Blix have endorsed the need for a new resolution. If one passes, that would help ensure Turkish support for US military operations, a significant advantage in light of that nation's position adjacent to Iraq. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, October 04, 2002
# Posted 7:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
This morning, Rep. Mike Thomson (D-Cal.) -- you know, the guy who went to Iraq with McDermott and Bonior but didn't make a fool of himself -- wrote in the Post that "The strongest military power in the history of our planet isn't enough to protect a New York transit bus from a suicide bomber. As Americans, our strength has always been our ability to help others experience the benefits of freedom." Let's prove him right by focusing now on the future of a democratic Iraq. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, October 03, 2002
# Posted 5:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In the summer, Vice President Cheney and others said it was the imminent threat of Iraq's acquiring nuclear weapons that required action. But when international agencies and allied intelligence services said they were skeptical that Iraq had the materials for such weapons, even if it had the desire, other explanations were forthcoming.
If the current negotiations at the UN last longer than the Bush administration expects, don't be surprised if the justification for Iraq shifts once again -- in a manner that perfectly complements the administration's new timetable.
And while we're on the issue of insufficient preparation for a war with Iraq, take a look at this op-ed in the WashPost, which points out that no one has considered how Saddam's use of chemical and/or biological weapons will affect the Kurdish allies we will be depending on to help topple Saddam and rebuild Iraq.
Also see today's NYT op-ed on the absence of administration plans for how to deal with Iraq's Shiite majority, which is in no way represented by the dissident groups with which the State and Defense Departments are accustomed to working, namely the Iraqi National Accord and the Iraqi National Congress.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
There are two possible reasons Bush failed to address congressional criticism of Iraq -- both Republican and Democratic -- before taking his demands to the United Nations. First, Bush fundamentally underestimates the importance of securing congressional support for US foreign policy. Second, when the President declared the threat from Iraq to be immediate, he didn't mean "immediate" in the sense of this month or this year. Or both.
So all in all, I think Josh has given me a hanging curveball to hit out of the park. Perhaps if Josh had praised Al Gore and Jim McDermott for their criticism of the administration -- because it isn't a "bad thing" that our decision-making process looks messy to outsiders" -- then I might have conceded the point. But all things considered, the dissent of Lugar and Hagel from Bush's foreign policy is evidence of bad implementation of administration policy. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, October 02, 2002
# Posted 5:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
DIPLOMACY 102: Presenting a united front to one's allies as well as one's enemies is critical to a successful foreign policy. One might hold the Democrats responsible for not accepting the President's initial draft of a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. But now that Republican senators are challenging the President, one has to question his capacity to lead. As Chuck Hagel observed, "Diplomacy is essential for creating the international political environment that will be required for any action we take in Iraq, especially how we sustain a democratic transition in a post-Saddam Iraq," Hagel said. As postwar Afghanistan has shown, the United States has refused either keep the peace or take charge of the process of reconstruction. Yet if winning the peace is as important as winning the war, the United States will needs it allies to support is efforts.
Now, if Bush can't get Republicans to support his efforts, it shouldn't come as a surprise that he has done nothing to shore up the support of firm allies such as Tony Blair. Lacking support within his own party, Blair had to accept a resolution at a Labor Party conference pledging the government to participate in an invasion of Iraq only "after the exhaustion of all other political and diplomatic means." If the United States has to invade Iraq without even British support, it will become all but impossible to secure other nations' support for the war on terrorism. As such, Bush has to consider not just what Americans think of his public statements, but also what Britons think.
In order to increase the credibility of his public statements, the President has to take positions that remain conistent over time. Yet as David Broder points out in the WashPost, Bush has abandoned almost all of the fundamental positions he has taken over the course of the past year. In January, Bush gave us the 'axis of evil'. Yet now he has sent a high-level envoy to negotiate with North Korea, is ignoring Iran and demonizing Iraq. While critics of the President may have been wrong to dismiss his State of the Union speech as empty rhetoric when he gave it last January, recent actions have given substance to such views. By the same taken, Bush's initial insistence that Iraq represents an immediate threat to American security has been exposed as hollow by his newfound willingess to navigate the intricate process of securing support from the United Nations.
The most recent statement that may come back to haunt the President is his insistence that "you can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror". If credible threats of force convince Saddam Hussein to disarm, Bush will have to postpone indefinitely his plans for regime change in Iraq -- an implicit acknowledgement that Saddam is not bin Laden. Ultimately, Bush will only be able to restore his credibility -- especially on the international stage -- if he considers the long-term viability of his public statements before he makes them. Restoring credibility matters because the words of an American president have the potential to sway world opinion. As Bush's speech to the UN showed, even a president with damaged credibility can recapture the initiative with nothing more than words. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
# Posted 5:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Then again, what should we expect from a President whose control of the intelligence services has degenerated to a point where he can't even get them to produce an "NIE", or National Intelligence Estimate, for Iraq? Instead, Defense Department hawks and CIA "doves" (relatively speaking) produce competing analyses for the President. While debate is good, this one has degenerated into nothing more than a war of prejudices that is endangering the quality of US contingency plans for war with Iraq.
PS And in case you still don't believe Afghanistan is engulfed in chaos, read this. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
PS For a history of Al Gore's flip-flopping on Iraq, see here. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
# Posted 4:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
First, "it's entirely possible that we just don't know enough" about Iraq to plan for an occupation. I find that to be a disturbing thought. First of all, the administration has an obligation to establish clear expectations about the nature of postwar Iraq before committing itself to regime change. While nothing could be worse than the current government, that is hardly an excuse for not wanting the best possible government to replace it.
Moreover, how can one defend ignorance on the part of our intelligence organizations, which are allegedly the world's most sophisticated? As Nicholas Kristof has discovered while reporting from Iraq, there are self-evident divisions among its population which led to horrific violence after the Gulf War and which will do so again if the United States doesn't plan for the occupation. The fact that Kristof is aware of such divisions also suggests that the administration has no excuse for ignorance.
Josh also asserts that "laying out a formula in advance may not be the most effective way of democratizing Iraq". As in wartime, communicating one's tactics to the enemy may result in a catastrophic defeat. I would argue otherwise, however. Since there is no question that the most important influence in post-war Iraq will be the United States, it has much to gain by establishing firm expectations about what sort of behavior it expects from the numerous religious, political, and geographic factions vying for power. If we are to avoid the horrific violence Kristof describes, then signalling our intentions to the potential perpetrators of such violence is a must.
Third, Josh suggests that the moderate successes achieved in occupied Afghanistan are reason to trust the administration's ability to handle whatever situation arises in postwar Iraq. I think that such an approach reflects an excess of optimism with regard to Afghanistan. As The New Republic reported in May, the US has let Afghanistan descend into warlord rule once again despite Bush's extravagant promises of a Middle Eastern Marhsall Plan. But what should one expect if the US has still not accepted the idea that peacekeeping forces have to operate outside of Kabul?
Even more damning, from a both an ethical as well as a strategic perspective, is that the administration has slashed aid to Afghanistan by 60% for fiscal 2003 while creating bureaucratic fictions to prevent the disbursement of aid Bush personally promised Hamid Karzai. Unsurprisingly, farm subsidies have fared better when it comes to administration budget plans. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, September 23, 2002
# Posted 5:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Grand Strategy is a term which foreign policy analysts use to describe a strategy which integrates military, diplomatic and economic efforts to achieve one's objectives. If you read one book about grand strategy, it should be John L. Gaddis' Strategies of Containment. While the words 'grand strategy' don't often make it onto the front page of the NY Times or WashPost, it is pretty much standard for incoming national security advisers and secretaries of state to write an article in Foreign Affairs taking apart their predecessors' strategy. In January 2000, Condi attacked the Clinton administration for having no strategy whatsoever, a criticism which wasn't all that far off the mark. While most such attacks are usually little more than campaign rhetoric that gets discarded once the election is over, one might have had some hope that Condi would actually listen to her own advice. After all, her essay talked about the importance of realism, a Kissingerian school of thought which has long emphasized the importance of grand strategy.
While the essence of grand strategy is common sense, taking a common sense approach to something as complex as US foreign policy and the war on terrorism is never easy. One of the most basic common sense clichés of the grand strategist is that you have to think long-term. At the moment, that means thinking seriously about what Afghanistan and Iraq should look like five or ten years from now. There is no reason to think that the Bush administration is doing this, however. As the WashPost pointed out this morning, Powell and Rumsfeld's inability to offer anything more than vague comments about the future of Iraq suggests that they will treat it the way they are Afghanistan: by talking about the importance of democracy and then doing nothing about it.
While the administration has talked a good line about how promoting democracy helps create governments fwho are both friendly to the United States and against terrorism, there is little indication that they are serious about it. As Mike McFaul points out in an op-ed in the Post, the adminstration has been neglected the cause of democracy in the former Soviet Bloc as much as it has in the Middle East. This is exactly the kind of mistake a grand strategy is designed to avoid: neglecting a critical issue just because it isn't in the headlines. By clearly laying out one's objectives, a grand strategy prevents policymakers from being caught up in the headlines -- exactly the mistake which Rice accused Clinton of in her article in Foreign Affairs.
Another important aspect of grand strategy is its ability to help integrate different aspects of one's foreign policy. For example, how should the United States' (official) commitment to promoting democracy in the Middle East relate to its attitude toward the UN? Regardless of what one thinks in principle of unilateralism or multilateralism, the Bush administration should recognize that both the UN and our European allies will almost inevitably play a critical role in building democracy in any nation that the US liberates from dictatorship. Remember, it isn't the US who is keeping the peace in Afghanistan. And it won't be our troops who stay behind in Iraq, either. If building democracy is so critical to US national security -- which I believe it is -- then perhaps we shouldn't be so eager to antagonize the UN before we even get rid of Saddam Hussein.
Here is one common sense way the Bush administration might reconcile its skepticism of the UN with its critical role in postwar reconstruction: Yesterday, the Iraqi government announced that it would reject any new UN resolution on inspections. That is unilateralism. Thus, it is something that the US can use to get the UN on its side instead of Iraq's. If Saddam is going to reject a new inspections program anyway, then the US can secure UN and European support for war with Iraq without even risking the possibility of having to go the inspections route. All we have to do is pass a resolution, have Saddam reject it, and invade with UN support. While I have argued that coercive inspections can work, this suggestion makes sense even if you think otherwise, as the Bush adminstration clearly does.
Can the US get back on track and fight the war on terrorism in accordance with a well-planned strategy? I'm not optimistic. If you can't get your secretary of state and secretary of defense to agree on the basics of foreign policy, having a strategy is all but impossible. And the only way to get cabinet members to work together is to have a strong president who can force them to get in line. Yet as Bush repeated so often during his campaign, the success of his foreign policy will depend on the expertise of his cabinet. During the campaign, Bush avoided the question of how he would resolve controversies within the cabinet if he himself lacks either extensive knowledge or a firm stance on US foreign policy. The apparent answer is that he can't.
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Sunday, September 22, 2002
# Posted 11:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Friday, September 20, 2002
# Posted 4:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Instead, Bush has focused his efforts on battering Congress into submission. Rather than sending Congress a precisely-worded request for the authority to invade Iraq in the event that it refuses to disarm, Bush has submitted a draft resolution that gives him unlimited authority to deal with threats in the Middle East by any means necessary. Even if one fully agrees with Bush's definition of the threat from Iraq, one ought to recognize that provoking a split with Congress is counterproductive if, at the same time, the administration wants to demonstrate its resolve before the United Nations.
This is not to say that the Democratic Party has sought to establish a bipartisan front. As E.J. Dionne argues in the WashPost, Democrats have levelled the unreasonable charge that Bush is provoking a conflict with Saddam in order to improve his party's chances in November. Nonetheless, both the administration and congressional Republicans have taken advantage of their legitimate position on Iraq to hurt the Democrats on the homefront. This is not the way to establish a unified front which will show the world that the US means business when it comes to fighting terrorism. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
CORRECTION: Apologies to Mike Daley for misstating his position on German democracy and the rise of Hitler. He observed that Hitler was elected, but did not argue this constitutes an argument for the position that successful democracies rest on cultural foundations rather than institutional ones. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, September 19, 2002
# Posted 7:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
What no one seems to have noticed is not that just Däubler-Gmelin's comparison is not just offensive, but also that it rests on a historical fallacy, namely that Hitler provoked WWII in order to distract the German public from domestic issues (just as Bush is allegedly doing now). In fact, Hitler was extemely popular at home, at least as far as a dictator can be. German credited him with pulling them out the Great Depression as well as restoring their national pride after an embarrassing defeat of WWI. Hitler then took advantage of his popularity to provoke a war that most Germans would have considered ludicrous if proposed by anyone with less credibility than Hitler.
While we happen to be discussing Germans and history, it is worth addressing another common misconception which has cropped up in two separate responses to my posts about Islam and democracy. According to the authors, Mike Daley and Michiel Visser, Hitler's ascent to power in the democratic Weimar Republic provides strong evidence for the argument that democracy rests on cultural foundations rather than legal or institutional ones. As Vissier sums it up, "democratic Germany produced Hitler".
Or did it? The word "produced" implies that Hitler actually won his power at the polls rather than taking it by deception and force. The story of Hitler's rise to power has been best told by Gordon Craig in his magisterial work entitled Germany, 1866-1945 and, in greater detail, by Henry Turner in Hitler's Thirty Days to Power. The authors are both historians, at Stanford and Yale respectively. I had the privilege of having Prof. Turner supervise my undergraduate thesis, and owe what I know of the German past to him.
A brief summary of Hitler's rise to power is as follows: The Nazi Party was a marginal force in German politics until the Great Depression. In 1933, the Party reached the height of its legitimate power when it won more than 30% of the vote in consecutive parliamentary elections. (Another common fallacy is that Hitler was elected to office by a majority). The Nazis refused to form a coalition government with any other party, however, since Hitler's goal was to achieve absolute power. When the Social Democratic (SPD) government of Chancellor Heinrich Brüning fell in 1933, the political chaos of the Weimar Republic reached new depths. With the SPD unable and the Nazis unwilling to govern (via coalition), it became impossible to elect a new government. Instead, President Paul von Hindenburg used his emergency powers to appoint a chancellor with the right to rule by fiat for 60 days. He then replaced this chancellor with another 60-day stand-in. With constant rioting in the streets and the economy a wreck, these delaying tactics failed to achieve the stability Hindenburg hoped for.
Desperate to form a legitimate government, Hindenburg turned to Hitler. In exchange for a promise to collaborate with other right-wing parties as well as hold elections elections within two months, Hitler won the right to rule by fiat for 60 days. That was all he needed. Hitler began to persecute his opponents and tried his best to rig the elections. The Nazis got close to 40% as a result. Then, by banning the Communist Party and locking the SPD out of parliament -- literally -- Hitler forced the passage of a bill which gave him the right to rule by fiat indefinitely.
Does this complex process demonstrate that democracy cannot succeed in the absence of strong cultural foundation? Or that a ruthless liar can take advantage of a profound crisis to destroy a democratic system of governments supported by a strong majority? You decide. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In my last post on democracy and Islam, I accuse Mike of "reject(ing) the possibility of democratization in the Middle East." Mike responds that I mischaracterized his argument since he in fact wrote that "to bring about liberal democracy in the Middle East is both necessary and incredibly difficult" -- but not impossible. Mike is right that he never said it was impossible. Point...Visser.
But I was reading between the lines. If one adopts the position, as Mike does, that the cultures of the Middle East cannot serve as the foundations of democratic governments, then it follows that democratization is not possible. To confirm this inference, I quote Mr. Visser himself:
"In order for the political system of democracy to work properly over the longer run, you need certain things --civil society, rule of law, constitutional and limited government, secure property rights, freedom of the press, etc. Without these props, the democratic form of government will collapse into anarchy or tyranny (as Plato pointed out). These props, however, don't come falling from the sky. They're the byproducts of an advanced culture -- the Middle East isn't advanced enough, it's that simple."
Strangely enough, this quote comes from the same post -- today's post -- in which Mike says that he believes that democratization in the Middle East is, in fact, possible. Sorry my Dutch friend, you can't have it both ways. Point...Adesnik.
Now that this point has been clarified, we can return to the question at the heart of the debate about Islam and democracy: Does the absence of a democratic culture in the Middle East rule out the possibility of (successful) democratization? The argument for this position is rather self-evident: The same cultures that produced the Taliban, the ayatollahs, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are not likely to produce a George Washington anytime soon.
I counter such assertion by arguing that cultures are much more malleable than we often recognize. Twenty five years ago, numerous experts on Latin American politics came to the sobering conclusion that Latin America's imperial, Catholic, Hispanic heritage would prevent it from ever producing stable democratic governments. Yet in the 1980s and 1990s, a democratic revolution swept Latin America, leaving not a single military government behind. Of those new democracies none has yet fallen (though one wonders about Venezuela). Unsurprisingly, "culturalist" approaches to Latin American politics are now discredited.
Is there any reason to believe that such a pattern will repeat itself in the Middle East? First of all, patterns do not repeat themselves. Individual men and women have to make patterns repeat themselves. As in the case of Latin America, the most important individuals will be not just local reformers, but the President of the United States and his advisers. The fate of democracy in the Middle East depends on the firmness of the United States' commitment to it.
What I believe is that there is a willingness to embrace democracy among the peoples of the Middle East should the United States make an unequivocal commitment to it. In Latin America, one of the fundamental prequisites of establishing lasting democratic forms of government was widespread and profound resentment of the brutality which military governments had inflicted on their own citizens. This brutality is similar to that of the Taliban and the ayatollahs, a fact which explains pro-democratic sentiment in Afghanistan and Iran. Liberated Iraqis will not doubt show similar preferences. The real question is whether states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt can move straight toward democracy without first experiencing a fundamentalist interlude which discredits the brutality of radical Islam.
This question has no predetermined answer. If the Bush administration and its successors back up their pro-democratic rhetoric with pro-democratic substance, then the answer may be one we want to hear. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Also worth reading is the WashPost editorial documenting Vladimir Putin's effort to turn the war on terrorism to his own brutal and dictatorial ends. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I'm brining Mr. Vissier to your attention at this moment because his blog, the Visser View, has posted a direct challenge to a September 15th post in which I asserted that . His critique is founded on the distinction between democracy and liberal democracy, which is defined as a democratic form of government that protects individual rights in addition to having its citizens elect their representatives. With considerable justification, Michiel asks his readers to:
Just consider this: if countries like Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt were democratic, i.e. if its citizens would vote for its politicans, under current conditions, would those countries be ruled by politicians more or less anti-Semitic, more or less anti-American, more or less belligerent? Is the Arab street really more enlightened than a dictator such as Mubarrak?
Without much effort, one can imagine a scenario in which a haphazard democratization process transforms the Middle East into a collection of unstable radical republics committed to anti-Western, anti-American agenda.
In order to respond to such a critique, I think one has to recognize the intellectual source of such arguments, namely Fareed Zakaria's 1997 article in Foreign Affairs entitled "The Rise of Illiberal Democracy." (This link will only take you to a summary of the article. The full text is reserved for subscribers. If you would like the full article, just send me an e-mail.) Zakaria argues that what differentiates democracies in the developing world from those in Europe and North America is that the latter represent the fulfillment of a centuries-long process which gradually established the rule of law as an inviolable principle of government. This much is hard to disagree with. The controversial conclusions which Zakaria draws from his summary of Western political history is that developing nations invite chaos when they adopt democratic forms of government. As such, Western idealists with an interest in promoting democracy abroad ought to support Third World dictators who can provide the stability needed to establish the institutions on which liberal democracy rests.
Zakaria's belief that developing nations cannot support functioning democratic governments rests not just on the self-evident absence of a Western legal tradition, but also on the controversial assertion that anti-democratic elements in the culture of developing nations prevent their population from having the sincere commitment to democracy on which its existence depends. This assertion, unsurprisinlgy, has provoked considerable criticism. As the recent history of Chile, El Salvador, Cambodia, South Korea and the Philippines has shown, even those peoples whose cultural heritage is not favorable to democracy are often willing to overthrow dictatorships and then remain committed to democratic reform. At the moment, no serious scholar of development and democratization would assert that culture is the primary (or even a primary) determinant of a democratic government's viability.
An understanding of Zakaria's perspective on culture is extremely important to responding to Vissier's argument because he adopts Zakaria's perspective explicitly, writing that "democracy in and of itself is just a form of government. It means power for the people. Its quality thus depends on the quality of its people. That in turn brings us to the culture and level of development of the potential voters in the Middle East." From there, Vissier goes on to reject the possibility of democratization in the Middle East.
One might argue, of course, that in the Middle East the rise of fundamentalist Islam will ensure that culture/religion becomes the primary determinant of democracy's success even if it was not so in Latin America or East Asia. The lack of democratic precedents in the Middle East makes it hard to refute such an argument. However, the example of Iran provides an interesting perspective on such questions. In the immediate aftermath of the 1979 revolution, the Iranian republic seemed fully committed to the Ayatollah Khomeini's anti-Western radicalism. Yet with the passage of time, it is becoming increasingly evident that Iranians resent the impositions on their personal and political freedoms imposed by their fundamentalist government.
The fact that Iranians are willing to embrace Western democratic ideals is particularly signficant since Iran had been so brutally manipulated by the West in the decades before the revolution. Yet even this heritage has not prevented its people from embracing Western ideals. Imagine then what might happen in countries that have had better relations with the West. First of all, Afghans' appreciation of the United States' role in liberating them from the Taliban dictatorship suggests that if the Bush administration forcefully confronts the local warlords who are holding back the democratization process, then the people will support it as well. The potential for establishing real democracy in Palestine is less evident. Nonetheless, it seems that only Arafat's brutality and the US-Israeli willingness to look the other way has prevented the PLA from becoming more democratic than it is. In fact, the fate of democracy throughout the Middle East may depend on the willingness of the United States to actively support it. While the people may want it, only American pressure can overcome the elites' effort to preserve their own power.
On a final note, I think it is important to point out that a potential democratization of the Middle East will be gradual. Rather than resulting in the sudden creation of numerous radical fundamentalist republics, it is more likely that democracy will first establish itself in a limited number of states before spreading to their neighbors. If any given state becomes excessively radical or belligerent, the United States will have the means to confront both diplomatically and military. Thus, the gradual democratization of the Middle East should not disrupt the war on terrorism.
Thanks again to Michiel for raising this important issue. I look forward to his response. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The Bush administration's rhetoric has created a diplomatic environment highly conducive to achieving the American objective of disarming Saddam Hussein. While the US dutifully plays the role of Bad Cop by threatening Iraq with a unilateral invasion, the UN unwittingly plays the role of Good Cop, doing its utmost to achieve disarmament via inspection rather than invasion. The impact on Saddam has been apparent: his immediate acceptance of the demand for unconditional inspections.
While the Good Cop/Bad Cop idea is somewhat plausible, I don't even find it convincing myself. Why not? Because Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney just seem so sincere in their demands. One struggles to detect even the hint of an admission on their part that European demands are legitimate. Their sincerity is reinforced by the unabashed unilateralism of the Bush administration in the months before September 11th. Nothing the Bush administration has done on either the domestic or international front has suggested that it has either the imagination or the discipline to follow through on even the sort of moderately sophisticated public relations campaign that a convincing Good Cop/Bad Cop strategy would require.
This doesn't mean, however, that the United States shouldn't start to implement such a strategy as of this moment. The lesson of the past week has been that neither the UN nor Saddam has the will to sustain their resistance to a credible American threat. Bush conceded virtually nothing to the UN in his speech last Thursday. And yet neither Kofi Annan nor the European diplomatic corps has thought to demand further concessions. Instead, they are so glad that Bush recognized the legitimacy of the United Nations that they are now willing to do anything short of sanctioning an invasion in order to disarm Iraq. Saddam got the message immediately and accepted inspection with embarrassing speed.
If the US can bend others to its will this easily, there is no reason to hold out for an invasion of Iraq. Instead we can have the UN and our allies do the hard work of disarmament for us. This position entails the premise, of course, that inspections can work. While intelligent observers such as Michael Kelly and Josh Chafetz have made a strong case that they cannot, a special report issued by the Carnegie Endowment asserts that they can. (The report is available in PDF format and must be downloaded).
The fundamental premise of the Carnegie report is that inspections can work IF backed by considerable military force. The report thus refers to its proposal as one for "coercive inspections". Such a program force would the dispatch a heavilty armed task force possessing both units capable of securing entry to all weapons productions sites in Iraq -- without advanced warning -- as well as units capable of paving the way for an invasion force should Iraq fail to comply. There is reason to believe that even Russia and China would support such a plan and that Saddam would be intimidated enough to accept it. The Carnegie report makes the critical argument that the failure of inspections in the 1990s reflects not just misguided implementation procedures, but a fundamental failure of political will that CAUSED the failure of the plan's implemenation. In light of how malleable the UN now is, there is good reason to believe the US could keep it in line long enough for inspections to work. And if Saddam resists a UN-approved plan, the Bush administration will have the green light for a unilateral invasion that it has been demanding all along.
There are also strategic reasons to believe that coercive inspections are better than an immediate invasion. As the Carnegie report argues, the first and foremost reason is that if Saddam believes the US is committed to an invasion, he will attack Israel with chemical and/or biological weapons. Even the most convinced hawks cannot deny our moral obligation to protect our only dependable ally as well as the only democratic state in the Middle East. What the Carnegie report fails to do is think long-term about the impact of coercive inspections. If Saddam disarms, he will no longer be able to rely on the implicit threat of murdering tens of thousands of Israelis in order to deter further US action. Once Saddam disarms, the US can begin to prosecute him for his human rights violations and other crimes. As they did in Kosovo, there is every reason to believe that America's allies will be more than willing to countenance a humanitarian war against Iraq. (Somehow, the European public finds the idea of fighting an offensive war for the doctrine of human rights more compelling than a defensive war to stop a brutal dictator with weapons of mass destruction).
In addition, the precedent of disarming Iraq via coercive sanctions will set a powerful precedent which the United States can take advantage of to disarm other rogue states. The long-term justification for such a strategy is the fact that in a world where only the members of the Security Council possess nuclear weapons, the United States military can do whatever it wants -- short of invading Moscow or Beijing -- to whoever it wants. The great challenge then would be to use such power wisely. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, September 15, 2002
# Posted 9:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"What gives America its unprecedented power and influence today is the fact that, more than at any time in history, the world has come to accept the Western values of peace, democracy and free markets — around which American society is organized. That is the truly significant trend in the world today — not terrorism or anti-Americanism."
It doesn't hurt that we're rich or that our military has come close to perfecting the fine art of ass-kicking. Even so, wealth and power are not enough. Imperial Germany, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Soviet Russia all possessed incredible economic and military might. In each case, however, this power became a liability rather than an advantage, since each of the four used their power to antagonize others, eventually provoking a massive response from their adversaries. In all of history, only the United States has combined wealth and power with the admiration of other nations, thus consolidating its dominance in an unprecedented manner. What makes us different is our commitment to peace, democracy, and open markets.
So then, does the Bush administration recognize the importance of acting in accordance with our ideals? In his speech to the United Nations last Thursday, Bush declared that "the people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine, inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world. These nations can show by their example that honest government, and respect for women, and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond."
Bush's actions have not been as impressive as his words, however. According to the editors of the WashPost, "despite the president's clarion call for Palestinian democracy, the administration has quietly joined Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in opposing the holding of Palestinian national elections anytime in the near future." As far as Afghanistan is concerned, the administration has not done much better. For an argument to that effect, see James Dobbins' op-ed in the NY Times, entitled "Afghanistan's Faltering Reconstruction".
The war on terror will only end when democracy reigns in the Middle East. If the Bush administration recognizes that, the war may not have to last as long.
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# Posted 9:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
1) "If I found in any way, shape or form that [Saddam Hussein] was developing weapons of mass destruction, I'd take 'em out."
The answer is George Bush. The quote is from a campaign speech given on December 2, 1999. The source of the quote is WashPost columnist George Will.
Will cites Bush's Dec. '99 speech to show that the President's focus on Iraq is nothing new. Will's article provides an interesting contrast to that of Stephen Hayes , which I talked about in my last post. Hayes sought to undermine Bush's Democratic critics by showing that they were hawkish on Iraq when Clinton was president. Neither Hayes nor Will recognizes that the United States' record of talking tough about Iraq but doing nothing about it has undermined American credibility on the Iraq issue. Bush's tough talk from Dec. '99 -- followed by a lack of action in the first eight months of his presidency -- shows that he is no better than Clinton on this issue.
But who is better? Glad you asked. The answer is, of course, Tony Blair. The British prime minister is the only hawk who recognizes that the real reason that the United States and its allies cannot tolerate the continuing existence of Saddam's regime is that ever since September 11th we have become aware of the need to preempt terror. As Blair said:
"Suppose I had come last year on the same day as this year -- Sept. 10. Suppose I had said to you: There is a terrorist network called al Qaeda. It operates out of Afghanistan. It has carried out several attacks and we believe it is planning more. It has been condemned by the U.N. in the strongest terms. Unless it is stopped, the threat will grow. And so I want to take action to prevent that. Your response and probably that of most people would have been very similar to the response of some of you yesterday on Iraq. There would have been few takers for dealing with it and probably none for taking military action of any description."
Thanks to George Will for that quote as well. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, September 13, 2002
# Posted 12:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
1) "We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st century...They will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build arsenals of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. We simply cannot allow that to happen. There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein."
2) "If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow...Some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal."
3) "Look, we have exhausted virtually our diplomatic effort to get the Iraqis to comply with their own agreements and with international law. Given that, what other option is there but to force them to do so?"
4) "Saddam Hussein has already used these weapons and has made it clear that he has the intent to continue to try, by virtue of his duplicity and secrecy, to continue to do so. That is a threat to the stability of the Middle East."
Answers: Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton, Tom Daschle and John Kerry. Not in 2002, of course, but in 1998.
The source for these quotes is Stephen Hayes' insightful article in the current issue of The Weekly Standard. Hayes makes the valid point that certain Democrats' hesitation to endorse President Bush's aggressive stance toward Iraq comes off as rather hypocritical. However, Hayes misses a more subtle point that can be taken from the words of Clinton, Daschle and Kerry: Bush's stance on Iraq lacks credibility precisely because Clinton took an equally strong stance and then did nothing about it. This inaction suggested that Clinton never believed his own words in the first place. If one were a European critic of Bush, why would one assume that current talk of an Iraqi threat is any more serious than it was four years ago?
The answer, in short, is September 11th. From that day on, Americans became aware of the need to preempt terrorism. Americans began to recognize that the profligate rhetoric and subsequent inaction of the Clinton administration was a major strategic failure. Now the time has come to take care of business that wasn't taken care of before.
President Bush, however, has failed to present the case against Saddam in such terms. Instead, he has focused on documenting the threat which Iraq would pose if it added a nuclear element to its already extensive arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. As such, he has failed to distinguish his own stance from that of Clinton. Until he does, the critics will continue to ask: Why now? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, September 12, 2002
# Posted 1:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While the day is only half over now, I don't expect to find much more consolation than I already have. The only thing that has made me feel better is just looking at the flag and knowing that others are doing the same.
While it wouldn't be fair to expect the nation's editors and columnists to repair with words what done with force, I was nonetheless disappointed by what the NY Times and WashPost had to offer.
The one silver lining for the day was Tom Friedman's column. While the bulk of it was taken up with an excessively cute (dare I say Dowd-esque?) anecdote about Friedman and his rabbi, the column ended with a clear and powerful message about how to win the war on terrorism:
"Our only hope is that people will be restrained by internal walls — norms and values. Visibly imposing them on ourselves, and loudly demanding them from others, is the only viable survival strategy for our shrinking planet."
No matter how many military victories we score, terrorism will not end until there is a generation in the Muslim world which rejects the call for jihad. Mind you, this assertion does not reduce the necessity of demonstrating our resolve on the battlefield. Until there is a new generation, we will have no choice but to defend ourselves with force.
However, the long-term objective of changing how the Islamic world thinks cannot be achieved with force alone. Nor can it be achieved through economic development. While force and development may enhance our prospects, what we must ultimately demonstrate is our moral superiority. And that entails bringing democracy and human rights to the Middle East.
As such, President Bush's column in the NYT is nothing less than disturbing.
After numerous vague references to "great-power rivals", "international order" and the "balance of world power" that call to mind the amoral realpolitik of Henry Kissinger, Bush finally addresses the issue of democracy and human rights. Strangely, he first insists that he is dedicated to promoting democracy in Russia and China. Later on, he adds that "America will also take the side of brave men and women who advocate human rights and democratic values, from Africa to Latin America, Asia and the Islamic world."
What could such a vague statment possibly mean except that the United States is much less concerned about promoting democracy in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia than in Russia and China? While one could not expect Bush to name those regimes as targets for the euphemistic process of "regime change", he at least could have said that the absence of democracy is the cause of terrorism and the spread of democracy the only cure.
Maureen Dowd took her usual swipes at Bush and Martha Stewart.
The WashPost led off with a column by Francis Fukuyama from which I expected great things.
After all, it is Fukuyama who has reminded us time and again that the Cold War was a war of ideas which the United States won because the ideas of democracy and capitalism proved superior to the ideas of totalitarianism and communism. Instead, Fukuyama resorted to the sort of Kissingerian realism that pervaded Bush's article in the Times. According to Fukuyama, it is the sheer might which the United States possesses that scares other nations. In fact, "Americans are largely innocent of the fact that much of the rest of the world believes that it is American power, and not terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, that is destabilizing the world. And nowhere are these views more firmly held than among America's European allies."
Such a materialistic approach fundamentally fails to explain, however, why Europe supported the war in Afghanistan but is against war with Iraq. Perhaps that is why Fukuyama hedges his bets (and contradicts himself) by then asserting that Europeans, in contrast to Americans, "tend to believe that democratic legitimacy flows from the will of an international community much larger than any individual nation-state."
The rest of the columns in the Post, as well as its editorial are not noteworthy. However, if one has an axe to grind with moral relativists, one should take a look at George Will's column. That said, all the best on this sad day.
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# Posted 1:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Sontag's latest missive see Andrew Sullivan's latest work at Salon.com
If you still think Sontag deserves more after a shellacking like that, take a look at Jonah Goldberg's comments in the National Review's 'Corner'
As Goldberg points out, it is extremely ironic that Sontag has chosen to criticize American involvement in an endless war without even mentioning that Al-Qaeda's jihad - a war that will only end with the establishment of a universal Islamic dominion - is responsible for provoking the current "war on terrorism".
The one point I take issue with in Goldberg's response to Sontag is his implicit acceptance of Sontag's point that a decision to embrace endless war - such as Al-Qaeda does its jihad - is necessarily a bad one. Goldberg's decision to list the Romans, the Mongols, and the Vikings as other societies that have embraced jihad-like endless wars suggests that such wars reflect an endless appetite for conquest and destruction.
Now here comes my unique contribution to the Sontag bash-fest:
THERE ARE SUCH THINGS AS GOOD ENDLESS WARS.
The United States waged an endless war for four decades in order to contain Soviet aggression. Now, "Wait just a second," you might say. Didn't the Cold War come to a conclusive end in 1991? (As if to reinforce that point, the internet café I´m sitting in has just begun to play "Winds of Change" on its sound system.)
Yes, the Cold War came to a conclusive end. But in 1947, when George Kennan designed, and the Truman administration implemented the strategy of containment, the United States had no idea whether the war would ever end. Kennan suggested that if the United States held fast for 10 or 15 years, the Soviet Union might call off its relentless effort to expand. Yet this hope contrasted strongly with Kennan's own recognition that expansion was an ineradicable element of Communist ideology. (Goldberg might have listed the Soviet Union as another historical example of a society committed to endless war).
Regardless, the United States committed itself to the endless war against Soviet imperialism, a war that could not end for as long as the Soviet Union continued to exist. Well into the 1980s, few saw any hope of the Soviet empire crumbling. Yet that did not mean that the American decision to contain it was wrong. Rather, it was a moral imperative. It was an unavoidable prerequisite of defending our way of life.
Without question, the United States made terrible mistakes in its war against Soviet aggression. McCarthyism. CIA coups in Guatemala, Iran and Chile. Vietnam. Yet the US also learned from its mistakes and corrected them.
Today's war on terrorism has much in common with the war on Soviet expansion. It will only end when our enemies cease to be who they are. While negotiations on specific points may be possible with certain of our enemies (Iran comes to mind), we can not negotiate an end to the war on terror. By the same token, we were able to negotiate specific arms-control pacts with the Soviet Union but never an end to the Cold War.
As such, it may be best to think of the war on terrorism as war in which our enemy is an ideas as much as it is a state or a terrorist network. We are fighting against the idea that violence against civilians is legimitate. In light of the intimate connection between this idea and the ideas which form the corps of fundamentalist Islam, we may find that we are fighting it as well.
Will the war ever end? I don't know. If it does, it may end as suddenly and as surprisingly as the Berlin wall fell. One day, in Cairo and Baghdad and Teheran, the masses may flood the streets with peaceful demonstrations that force their governments to let them listen to the music, watch the films and think the thoughts that they want.
In light of the incredible hatred which the Islamic "street" often indicates that it has for the United States and the West, such an outcome may beyond the realm of the possible. Yet in the first decades of the Cold War it also seemed as if the masses supported the perverse agendas of their governments. In time, they became disillusioned. All we can do is fight and wait.
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# Posted 12:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik