Gerecht (US Right-winger): anti-American democracy is fine - "The fall of Saddam Hussein has already accelerated convulsive democratic debates in Arab lands and in their more combative and open expatriate media. The region's dictators and kings may have a difficult time stuffing this discontent and dissent back into the tried-and-true shibboleths—principally anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism—that have consumed the intellectual energy of so many, and offered the autocrats a safety valve for popular dissatisfaction with the regimes in place. Arab left-wing intellectuals seem today less domesticated than they were just a few years back, when they eagerly turned most of their venom toward Israel and Ariel Sharon. Muslim fundamentalists, especially in Egypt, still the lodestone among Arab nations, seem much less likely to play along, and are increasingly backing the popular push for more open political systems."
by Reuel Marc Gerecht
|Note: This was originally published as one of long series of short
commentaries by a variety of right wingers in which they were asked
their opinion on four questions:
1. Where have you stood, and where do you now stand, in relation
to the Bush Doctrine? Do you agree with the President’s diagnosis of the
threat we face and his prescription for dealing with it?
2. How would you rate the progress of the Bush Doctrine so far in
making the U.S. more secure and in working toward a safer world environment?
What about the policy’s longer-range prospects?
3. Are there particular aspects of American policy, or of the administration’s
handling or explanation of it, that you would change immediately?
4. Apart from your view of the way the Bush Doctrine has been defined
or implemented, do you agree with its expansive vision of America’s
world role and the moral responsibilities of American power?
The entire paper (36 commentaries) can be downloades as a file by clicking here .
Although President George W. Bush didn't
invade Iraq in order to bring democracy to
the Middle East—and neoconservatives, with exceptions,
didn't advocate war with that in mind—
building democracy now defines U.S. policy in the
entire region. If democracy succeeds in Iraq, then
America, regardless of who sits in the White
House, will certainly become more active in promoting
representative government. If democracy
fails there, then we will become much more timid
in encouraging political reform.
Despite the numerous, serious mistakes of the
Bush administration in the occupation of Iraq,
democracy's chances there remain decent so long
as the Shiite political center behind Grand Ayatollah
Ali Sistani holds. But failure in Iraq may not
necessarily dim the prospects of democracy elsewhere
in the Muslim world.
The fall of Saddam Hussein has already accelerated
convulsive democratic debates in Arab lands
and in their more combative and open expatriate
media. The region's dictators and kings may have a
difficult time stuffing this discontent and dissent
back into the tried-and-true shibboleths—principally
anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism—that have
consumed the intellectual energy of so many and offered
the autocrats a safety valve for popular dissatisfaction
with the regimes in place. Arab left-wing
intellectuals seem today less domesticated than they
were just a few years back, when they eagerly turned
most of their venom toward Israel and Ariel Sharon.
Muslim fundamentalists, especially in Egypt, still the
lodestone among Arab nations, seem much less likely
to play along, and are increasingly backing the
popular push for more open political systems.
Failure in Iraq would mean a civil war between
Sunni and Shiite Arabs that would allow for the
rise of a Shiite strongman in Baghdad. Even so,
however, this might not at all be seen by Egyptians
as a sufficient reason to keep President Hosni
Mubarak's family in power. The rest of the Arab
world is, like Egypt, overwhelmingly Sunni. With
the exceptions of Syria, tiny Bahrain, and Lebanon,
democracy in the Arab world would be an intra-
Which brings us to a series of important questions
for the Bush administration and its successor.
Let us suppose that, regardless of what happens in
Iraq, the democratic movement among Arabs
pushes forward, but, as is probable, with Muslim
fundamentalists in the lead. Will the administration
shy away from democracy promotion if and
when it becomes clear that Muslim fundamentalists
will initially do very well in most Arab lands
where free elections are allowed?
I myself would argue that the political and cultural
evolution of Sunni fundamentalism is central
to the death of bin Ladenism, and that democratic
politics are an essential part of that evolution. This
means that democracy's advance in the Middle East
is likely to be a very anti-American process. (Think
Latin American anti-Yanquism on speed.) To my
mind, this is a painful but necessary step in the evolution
of Islamic activism.
Has the Bush administration thought this
through? Has it tried to explain to itself, let alone
to the American people, how democracy may unfold
in the Muslim Middle East? Has the President,
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, or
Karen Hughes, the new public-diplomacy czarina,
called a conclave to figure out what the administration
actually believes? It would not appear so.
As for those in the administration who believe
that Muslim liberals, progressives, and moderates
are the real key to democracy's future in the region—
a view that I find in error, but certainly an estimable
aspiration—have they troubled to explain
how we are going to locate and support such individuals
over the heads of the present dictators and
kings? Will we endorse open elections where fundamentalists
can compete with liberals and others, or
will we advocate banning fundamentalists from the
election process even when liberals in these countries
tell us that doing so will undermine them and
us? Should we treat Muslim fundamentalists as beyond
the pale, or even as Nazis, as some have argued?
(Given that Iran is full of fallen hard-core fundamentalists
who now sincerely advocate democracy,
the parallel seems strained.)
Another question is useful in considering this
complex of issues: are Muslim democracies that re-
[strict women's social rights in practice morally superior
to Muslim dictatorships that advance them
in theory? I think the answer is an emphatic yes,
but the administration has so far shown little desire
to argue this possibility, thereby allowing the New
York Times columnist Maureen Dowd to suggest
that Saddam Hussein, who was the first Middle
Eastern dictator to institute rape as an official
means of mind control, was more pro-woman than
the democratically sanctioned constituent assembly
that drafted Iraq's proposed constitution. Women's
rights are a hot-button issue in the United States.
It would be wise for the administration to explain
how it intends to handle this issue in the socially
conservative Middle East.
George W. Bush is one of our most revolutionary
Presidents, but regrettably his administration
shows little more intellectual ferment than his father's.
That is in part because many inside the critical
institutions of foreign policy—the State Department,
the National Security Council, the Central
Intelligence Agency, and the Pentagon—don't
really believe in expanding democracy, at least not
in the Muslim Middle East. And even among those
who share the President's commitment to expanding
representative government, and who understand
that democracy is an essential component in
the big-picture fight against Islamic extremism,
there is enormous nervousness about significant
change in the status quo. Truth be told, the Bush
administration was not that upset when Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak stole his reelection.
Four years after 9/11, it is still possible to see the
United States wavering in its commitment to
democracy more than in its commitment to the
rulers of the Middle East. It is not hard to imagine
Washington's bureaucracies trying hard, once
again, to cast the fight against Islamic extremism as
essentially a police and intelligence action, which
would mean drawing closer to the dictators and
kings who run the Middle East's security and intelligence
services. If the President isn't vigilant, we
could soon be living again in a pre-9/11 world, in
which democracy seemed a premature idea for
people more suited to prayer and despotism.
There's been at least one posting about this in our main forum ("Civil war in Iraq" thread)
Created by keza
Last modified 2006-10-16 06:10 AM
Last modified 2006-10-16 06:10 AM