Monday, March 27, 2006

Wet Feet Are Still Wet Feet Mr Fukuyama.

Francis Fukuyama (professor at Johns Hopkins University) and Adam Garfinkle (editor of the American Interest) took up some prime real estate recently with an editorial in this Monday's Wall Street Journal.

The thesis of their editorial was "A Better Idea".

How do I know that this was their thesis? I'll give you one clue.

The title.

I'm nothing if not observant.

Other than "the title", there is no "Better Idea" listed in Mr. Fukuyama's and Mr. Garfinkle's essay. But they do seem to enjoy pointing out why we apparently need "A Better Idea".

To give you a better idea (no seriously for a minute) of what they are talking about I will post most if not all of the article and hope that the Journal doesn't decide to sue me.

Again, from page A16 of Monday's Journal. Go buy a newspaper or something.

A Better Idea
March 27, 2006; Page A16

As an editorial on this page recently asked: "Anyone out there have a better idea" than the Bush administration's policy of high-profile democracy promotion in the Arab and Muslim worlds as a means to fight terrorism? Well, yes, there is one. That better idea consists of separating the struggle against radical Islamism from promoting democracy in the Middle East, focusing on the first struggle, and dramatically changing our tone and tactics on the democracy promotion front, at least for now.

I for one would be all for "separating the struggle against radical Islamism from promoting democracy in the Middle East" if it wasn't for that unsettling reality that "the struggle against radical Islamism is partially if not completely dependent on the success of democracy in the Middle East." The two are inextricably linked. Much as the struggle for independence in this country was dependent upon a representative republic succeeding, Islamic terrorism will never truly be defeated until Islam itself is able to adapt to modern culture. The authors continue-

The essential problem with the administration's approach is that it conflates two issues that are separate. The first has to do with violent, antimodern radical Islamism (on display both in the reaction to the Danish cartoons and in the mosque bombing in Samarra); the second concerns the dysfunctionality of political and social institutions in much of the Arab world.

But let's completely ignore the fact that the former would never even come close to existing if not for the latter. Do go on.

It is, of course, the administration's thesis that the latter condition causes the former.

Well, and everyone who knows anything about the Middle East, or modern western civilization for that matter, yes.

-it is also its contention that U.S. Cold War policies of support for Arab "friendly tyrants" are mainly to blame for Arab authoritarianism. Thus did the president say in November 2003 -- since repeated several times by Condoleezza Rice -- that we sacrificed freedom for stability in the Middle East for 60 years, and got neither.


It follows from this view that if the U.S. stops supporting authoritarian regimes and instead does all it prudently can to bring about democratic ones, our terrorist problem will be dramatically reduced if not altogether solved.

No, it means that during the Cold War we made icky friends in hopes of a greater good, and now that the Cold War is over we no longer have to stand on the sidelines while "Arab authoritarianism" assists Islamic fundamentalists in blowing up 20 acre holes in downtown Manhattan. We can strike back.

Authoritarian political cultures do function as enablers of radical Islamism, but the essential cause of the latter -- today as before, in dozens of historical cases concerning violent millenarian movements -- is the difficulty that some societies and individuals have in coming to terms with social change. That is why rapid modernization is likely to produce more short-term radicalism, not less. Muslims in democratic Europe are as much a part of this problem as those in the Middle East. This is not a trivial point; it is a central one that directly challenges a key tenet of the administration's view.

No one said anything about this being a "short term" conflict. Just ask the Gulf War I veterans. I don't think anyone is suprised that jihadists flocked to Iraq like, well, sandpaper when we decided to remove Saddam. I actually prefer that the really crazy ones fight our marines instead of our airline stewardesses. It may make more of them in the short term, but the suicidal Islamists don't get to vote. Their "short term" ends quite abruptly.

What the administration sees as one problem ought to be seen as two. Radical Islamism needs to be dealt with separately from democracy promotion. This involves doing everything we can to ensure the political success of the governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also involves killing, capturing or otherwise neutralizing hard-core terrorists in many parts of the world, and keeping dangerous materials out of their hands, in what will look less like a war than like police and intelligence operations.

Does anyone else feel that that part seems like it was lifted from another essay?

"Don't see A as B.

In order to ensure the success of B we must kill A. But make it look like police stuff."

But the threat above all lies on the level of ideas. Just as it proved possible to stigmatize and eventually eliminate slavery from mainstream global norms without having first to wait for the mass advent of liberal democracy,"

Funny that, turns out they actually were related- Democracy and equal rights for all mankind. They sort of happened together, like peanut butter and chocolate.

"it should be possible to effectively stigmatize jihadi terrorism without having first to midwife democracies from Morocco to Bangladesh.

Well it wasn't possible for us to "stigmatize" (nice word!) Nazi Facism or Japanese Imperialism without "midwifing" democratic processes. You have to put something in its place. Democracy seems to be the most advantageous fit at this time.

The United States and its Western allies should be helping genuine, traditional and pious Muslims to reassert their dominance over a beautiful and capacious religious civilization in the face of a well-financed assault by extremist thugs. (This, of course, is not a new idea, but we have barely begun to take its implementation seriously.) We should also be vigorously supporting the Danes and genuine European liberals when they are attacked by illiberal and violent Islamists.

You want to invade Denmark Now? And liberate them from fundamentalists? Didn't we just do that, like, 60 years ago? We have to do it AGAIN? I'm confused. Why does this keep happening in Europe?

Promoting liberal and democratic institutions in the Middle East should be decoupled from this fight, since it is a much more long-term project -- and a project in need of significant redesign. The Bush administration has not admitted to itself the degree to which it has been knocked off its own timetable by the chaotic situation in Iraq.

Could you be more specific? Timetable? You mean everything isn't perfect yet?

Its Broader Middle East and North Africa initiative to promote democracy in the Middle East through high-profile rhetorical support for democracy and funding for local democratic organizations was originally conceived as a way of capitalizing on the momentum gained from a successful Iraqi transition to democracy. But there is no such momentum right now, only backlash. Many would-be democratic opponents of regimes in places like Syria or Iran now say they'd prefer the status quo to the situation the Iraqis are in.

So, is this a "they'd be better off with Saddam in power" kind of point? I'm sick of those quite frankly. Yes, THE TRAINS SURE DID RUN ON TIME. We get it, yes.

This does not paint a rosy picture for the Bush administration's new initiative to promote democratic regime change in Iran; it will be hard to find any takers for the $75 million in new funding for this purpose.

Yeah, cause all they care about is the $75 million, right? Ugh.

To put it mildly, the Iraq war has not increased the prestige of the U.S. and American ideas like liberal democracy in the Middle East. The U.S. does not have abundant moral authority for promoting the rule of law, since the first thing people in the region associate with America today is prisoner abuse at Guantanamo, Bagram and Abu Ghraib.

Oh come on! Stop patronizing. The very first thing they think of? Not "democracy, whisky, sexy"? The first thing is Abu-Ghraib?

Many Americans have explained these events to themselves by saying that the abuse was an aberration that has been hyped by enemies of the U.S., and that in any event such things just happen during wartime. Perhaps; but the fact remains that Guantanamo is still open, and nobody except for a couple of lowly enlisted soldiers have been prosecuted for prisoner abuse by the Bush administration. Fair or not, American insistence on rule of law and human rights looks simply hypocritical.

Um, they didn't abuse anyone at Guantanamo. What are they talking about? The prisoners left healthier then they came and then returned to fight US SOldiers again. Which technically sounds like the US Criminal justice system, but I digress.

The Bush administration has indeed opened up new space for debate and political participation in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

By killing the Fascists and Fundamentalists. The US Military is quite good at that actually.

But recent elections in Iran, Egypt, Palestine, and Iraq have either brought to power or increased the prestige of profoundly illiberal groups like Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood; even our putative friends in the Shiite alliance that did well in last December's Iraqi elections have been busy institutionalizing an intolerant Islamist order in the parts of Iraq they control.

Hey, we elected guys like David Duke in this country. Nobody said democracy was perfect.

Administration principals speak of creating public space for dissent and debate lest it all be driven into the mosque, with the risk that this "might" bring illiberal groups into power. The tide of public opinion today is not running in favor of pro-Western secular liberals, however, but rather the Islamists. In many Arab countries this means that premature democratic elections will most definitely and predictably bring the mosque into the public square while driving out all other forms of expression. The tolerant are making democratic way for the intolerant, who in turn are very likely to block the possibility of any reverse flow of authority. How such dynamics promote liberal democracy in the longer run is hard to see. More likely, U.S. policies that foster pro-Islamist outcomes will delay political liberalization, help the wrong parties in the great debates ongoing in Muslim societies and, quite possibly therefore, make our terrorist problem worse.

Or we do what exactly? Sit around and hope that Osama gets bored with us? Where is this elusive "Better Idea"?

That was the title of this essay, right?

We need to change tactics in the way we go about supporting Middle Eastern democracy. The administration's highly visible embrace of democracy promotion as a component of its national security strategy (as outlined in last week's official document on the subject), and its telegraphing ahead of time of intentions to bring about regime change in places like Iran, only hurt the cause of real democrats in the region.

So you want democracy, but just not so quickly? This is a better idea why, exactly?

The effort to push countries toward early national elections, given the rising Islamist tide today, will invariably force us into the appearance of further hypocrisy when they produce results we don't like. There are many other democratic institutions we can help foster, such as local elections or non-extremist civil society groups. Moves afoot in Congress to channel democracy support through the State Department are well-intentioned but counterproductive: The last thing that democracy activists need right now is more American fingerprints on outside funding. Private foundations and groups with some distance from the administration like the NED or private NGOs will have better luck disbursing money than U.S. agencies. There are many quiet ways we can and should support democratic groups in the region, by working, for example, with other countries that have recently undergone democratic transitions that may have greater credibility than Washington.

I'm not sure if the authors realized this, but their is a dearth of Arab-middle eastern countries that "have recently undergone democratic transitions" besides Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a weird twist, despite its emphasis on democracy in Iraq, the administration would have let funding for long-term democracy promotion through groups like the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute lapse but for a last minute congressional earmark. We are pushing too hard in the wrong places, and not hard enough in the one place where it matters most.

Or, one might say we were paying the only people who ever really get these things done, the US Military.

We should not even think about wanting to roll back recent election results; rather, the emphasis should be on pressuring newly empowered groups to govern responsibly. Islamist parties in Egypt and Palestine have gained popularity in large measure not because of their foreign policy views, but because of their stress on domestic social welfare issues like education, health, and jobs, and their stand against corruption. Fine, let them deliver; and if they don't or turn out to be corrupt themselves, they will face vulnerabilities of their own not far down the road.

So, pretty much what we're doing now, right? Again, how is this a "better idea"?

Democracy promotion should remain an integral part of American foreign policy, but it should not be seen as a principal means of fighting terrorism. We should stigmatize and fight radical Islamism as if the social and political dysfunction of the Arab world did not exist,

But the two are dependent on each other. To ignore this fact means that we will continually play infinite "whack-a-mole" with radical Islamism.

and we should shrewdly, quietly, patiently and with as many allies as possible promote the amelioration of that dysfunction as if the terrorist problem did not exist. It is when we mix these two issues together that we muddle our understanding of both, with the result that we neither defeat terrorism nor promote democracy but rather the reverse.

Anyone catch that? This is what they pay for at John Hopkins?

THAT is what you call a "Better Idea"?

Good lord. Save your money folks.

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