Monday, October 14, 2002
# Posted 7:30 PM by Daniel
# Posted 10:00 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
There is also some good news from Afghanistan, whose government has apparently won the respect of international donors for its budget and development plans. Still, the government is so poor that unpaid soldiers and police officers are resorting to looting and robbery. The solution is obvious, Mr. President: Hire Afghan officers to find the DC sniper... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, October 13, 2002
# Posted 2:28 PM by Daniel
Saturday, October 12, 2002
# Posted 9:41 PM by Daniel
Friday, October 11, 2002
# Posted 11:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
For a look at State Department efforts to prepare exiled Iraqis for their role in reconstructing their homeland, click here. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Wednesday, October 09, 2002
# Posted 11:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
"..evangelism for the freedom of men impelled America to what can fairly be called "preventive wars," or armed interventions, in the Persian Gulf, in Haiti, in Bosnia and in Kosovo. Actually, only the Persian Gulf War rises even to the justification of preventive war. The others -- all launched by a Democratic administration with the support of liberal Democrats -- enjoyed no justification under the logic of imminent threat. They were primarily about nothing but the freedom of men.
And since preventive wars tend to be followed by nation-building, here are a pair of articles, by Mark Danner and Fawaz Gerges, on the fate of postwar Iraq. Both should encourage those skeptics who do not believe we can build a democratic Middle East. But I like Danner's description of why a democratic Middle East would matter so much to US security:
Behind the notion that an American intervention will make of Iraq "the first Arab democracy," as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz put it, lies a project of great ambition. It envisions a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq — secular, middle-class, urbanized, rich with oil — that will replace the autocracy of Saudi Arabia as the key American ally in the Persian Gulf, allowing the withdrawal of United States troops from the kingdom. The presence of a victorious American Army in Iraq would then serve as a powerful boost to moderate elements in neighboring Iran, hastening that critical country's evolution away from the mullahs and toward a more moderate course. Such an evolution in Tehran would lead to a withdrawal of Iranian support for Hezbollah and other radical groups, thereby isolating Syria and reducing pressure on Israel. This undercutting of radicals on Israel's northern borders and within the West Bank and Gaza would spell the definitive end of Yasir Arafat and lead eventually to a favorable solution of the Arab-Israeli problem.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Some citizens wonder, "After 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now?"Three weeks ago, OxBlog observed that:
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:
Thus, I say without reservation that Bush's Cincinnati speech was an improvement over his previous efforts in numerous respects. As usual, I agree with more than 80% of what the President says on foreign policy. Now if you have been reading my posts this past month, you might wonder how I can characterize myself as someone who tends to agree with the President on foreign policy, at least since September 11. The answer is this: I criticize the president not because I disagree with him, but because I believe he has demonstrated a certain incompetence in his efforts to achieve objective that he, I and almost all Americans share. Convincing me isn't hard. What I'm concerned about is whether Bush rhetoric and decisions will elicit the right response from our allies as well as our enemies. From that point of view, there were still a number of problems with the Cincinnati speech.
1) Bush said that:
In addition to declaring and destroying all of its weapons of mass destruction, Iraq must end its support for terrorism. It must cease the persecution of its civilian population. It must stop all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It must release or account for all Gulf War personnel, including an American pilot whose fate is still unknown.
These sentences imply that Bush is moving away from a strict definition of regime change, which entails replacing Saddam's dictatorial order with a democratic one. While disarming, reducing persecution and stopping illicit trade are all good things, none of them demands the removal of Saddam Hussein from power, i.e. the sina que non of regime change.
Such a change of course would be disturbing. In light of the fact that Bush has expended so much of his political capital establishing the legitimacy of regime change -- both at home and abroad -- one wonders why he is backing off from it now. Has something changed? As far as I can tell, his words on Monday night represent a poorly designed effort to reconcile the demands of regime change with the more moderate position of the United Nations, which is only demanding Iraqi disarmament. If Bush wants to cooperate more closely with the UN, however, he should acknowledge his differences with it and agree to collaborate for the purpose of achieving common objective. To do otherwise is to damage his already questionable credibility.
2) Bush also stated that:
Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable. The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations, that America speaks with one voice and it is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something.
While I myself have emphasized the importance of a united front, framing the resolution as an effort to achieve a united front seems somewhat deceptive. As I understood, the purpose of the resolution is to respond to the immediate threat to US national security posed by Iraq. In light of such an immediate threat, the President much have the authority to use force without waiting for congressional approval. Yet nowhere in Bush's speech was there an explicit statment that Iraq presents an immediate, i.e. within-the-next-few-months, sort of threat to the US. In fact, the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq suggests that Saddam will not use chemical or biological weapons unless attacked first by the United States. Thus, it seems that the President has finally backed off from his untenable argument that Saddam might attack at any moment. While that decision is for the best, it still highlights the fact that this administration has a lot to learn about establishing its credibility on the world stage. Moreover, if the Iraqi threat isn't immediate, the President could have waited until after the upcoming elections to submit his resolution to Congress, thus avoiding the partisan wrangling that has undermined the President's own efforts to negotiate with the UN.
3) Finally, Bush still hasn't mastered the art of demonstrating that "Iraq is unique". According to the President:
I said that those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves. Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, the instruments of mass death and destruction, and he cannot be trusted.It seems to be that if one substitutes the word "Iran" for the words "Saddam Hussein", the above sentence would still make sense. What Bush seems unable to say is that Saddam is unique because he remains in violation of the disarmament accord that ended the Gulf War. He is an international outlaw. And on September 11th the United States learned just how far outlaws are willing to go to destroy us. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, October 08, 2002
# Posted 9:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
According to the WashPost: "The White House selected the location for the speech -- Ohio -- because there were no competitive races in the area that would make Bush appear to be playing politics with the war."
According to the NY Times: "...the president's paramount focus this evening was the people, and he spoke not from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but from Ohio, a swing state vital to his own electoral prospects two years from now." (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Public opinion seems to be moving toward the president as well. While the NY Times published an editorial entitled "A Nation Wary of War" and the WashPost observed that only a "bare majority" supports invading Iraq, both failed to note that having any sort or majority favor military action before the President announces it is extremely rare. The Post did note, however, that public support for military action has always risen sharply after the US commits itself.
Opposition among Democrats seems limited to those who do not seem tor recognize that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are a material threat to international law and security. As Ted Kennedy observed: "What the administration is really calling for is preventive war, which flies in the face of international rules of acceptable behavior." Perhaps someone should remind the Senator that Saddam accepted UN demands for disarmament in exchange for an end to hostilities in the Gulf War. His constant violation of multiple UN resolutions are therefore grounds for renewed inspections backed by the threat of force.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
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!
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
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