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Friday, February 08, 2008

Relevant then, relevant now

I was "cleaning up" the drafts in the blog and ran across this from 11/13/04:

Dunno why I never posted it.

Makes sense now, and I thought it made sense then.

George Will NAILS it on why I am against the war in Iraq, in some hypothetical questions for Condoleeza Rice in her upcoming Senate Hearings. I quote:
" The president says it is ``cultural condescension'' to question ``whether this country, or that people, or this group, are 'ready' for democracy." Condescending, perhaps, but is it realistic? Tony Blair says it is a ``myth" that ``our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture." Are there cultural prerequisites for free polities? Does Iraq have them? Do the Palestinian people, after a decade of saturation propaganda inciting terrorism and anti-Semitism? Does the United States know how to transplant those prerequisites? "

Those questions (or, those questions) encapsulates what I believe to be the fatal flaw in the idea of extending democracy to the middle east by way of military power. That vision is the core of the so called "neocon" plan for the middle east.

Bush haters will tell you that Iraq is just a cynical grab for power, and that Bush and company are simply imbeciles, evil plutocrats after oil, or both. I don't think so. While I am cynical enough to question almost anyone's motives, I think the impetus for our intrusion into another sovereign country really does lie in seeking security. Our leaders really do believe that a "friendly arab democracy" will be a hedge against radical islamic attacks.

George Bush and Tony Blare are both a professing Christians. They have stated that they believe that the desire for freedom is resident no less in the hearts of Iraqi's than in the hearts of westerners. That is a non-religious way of stating a Christian doctrine --or part of the doctrine--that all men share the imprint of their Creator. Christians call this the "image of God." This is an example of how I believe well meaning people can take a fact, combine it with good intentions, and misapply it.

Is it a noble thing to fight for the rights of peoples to enjoy freedom? Sure. And they want freedom because they share the same desire for freeom that their Creator instilled in them, right? What is so wrong with using our massive military might to accomplish it?

Again, George Will gets it. Stated simply, there are cultural prerequisites for the responsible exercise of freedom. Attempt to transplant democracy into a culture which is not ready for it, and you wind up in a colossal exercise of futility. Jeffersonian Democracy was formed in the crucible of a world which had been profoundly influenced by Calvinistic Protestantism. Despite the attempts to rewrite history, Chrisitanity nurtured and shaped the views of western Europe, and the rights of the individual at the core of western democracy sprang from it. That belief is totally lacking in the mideast. Our secular society studiously ignores its own roots when it can, and mocks when it cannot, but we are coasting on a heritage we just can't pick up and transplant at will.

The middle east of today shares no such culture or history. Afghanistan and Iraq are experiments in whether western style democracy can take root and grow in Muslim countries. I hope they work. I really, really do. But I doubt it.

I think this foolish in the extreme. The very last warning by Washington in his farewell address was against foreign entanglements. Our attitude should be that of cheerful, well wishing indifference to other countries.


Eighteenth and nineteenth century Christian England viewed its imperialism as a beneficence to its subjects. The problem was that they were blind to some critical truths. Men in power are blind to their own stupidity when exercising that power.

1 comment:

El Guapo said...

Not so fast Snark. I believe freedom is a basic human desire. And I believe the taste of freedom, no matter how small, can radically change a human. But what you say is applicable if freedom has no way to sustain itself. If a man is free but can't feed himself or his family then basic human needs will take precedence. Nonetheless, I agree with your assessment delineating one of the reasons Bush and company decided to tangle with Iraq. There are a multitude of reasons though. I think you correctly nailed down one of the most important ones. Later, D