Tuesday, May 25, 2004

An End To Hubris?

"An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror," the book co-authored by neo-conservative champions Richard Perle and David Frum, lays out the neo-conservative manifesto for radically re-assessing U.S. foreign policies and goals in the post-9/11 world. Among the many recommendations, the authors call for either direct U.S. military action, or simply fomenting and funding armed uprisings, against Syria, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Lybia, to name a few. This series of preemptive, or perhaps more accurately preventitive, wars would be fought for the dual purpose of ensuring our security from these potentially hostile nations, as well as spreading democracy to these totalitarian states.

Furthermore, the authors take an extremely hostile and confrontational view of the U.N., and even the European Union, arguing that the U.N. is an enemy to peace, and that we must "acknowledge that a more closely integrated Europe is no longer an unqualified American interest." They urge, instead that we act unilaterally.

So, along with an extremely ambitious and misguided policy prescription for the use of American military prowess in numerous countries around the globe, they advise against earnestly seeking contributions from the international community, with the exception of Great Britain.

Hopefully Frum, Perle and their neo-con cohorts are learning some valuable lessons about the challenges faced when even an extremely effective fighting force, such as the U.S. military, attempts to conduct a successful war and subsequent reconstruction in a more or less unilateral fashion. Maybe they are also learning about the logistical and troop strength shortcomings of even this fighting force, which should temper their grandiose vision of a series of wars spanning several continents and bodies of water.

In addition, the current travails in Iraq must be informing the neo-conservative movement about just how overly optimistic the belief that democracy can be spread at the barrel of the gun is. But why did would it take the current turmoil in Iraq to teach what history has already shown, by overwhelming evidence, to be the case?

As quoted from an article appearing in The Nation:

"The record is clear--most of the democratic transitions that have taken place in the world in the past two centuries have had nothing to do with foreign military intervention or military pressure, while most US military interventions abroad have left dictatorship, not democracy, in their wake. The two cases that neocons constantly return to, Germany and Japan, are among the few cases where democracy has been restored (not created ex nihilo) as the result of a US invasion. The Soviet bloc democratized itself from within in the 1990s, even though the United States did not bomb Moscow, impose a martial-law governor on the Poles or imprison former Hungarian Communist officials without charges in barbed-wire camps. In Latin America, Mexico became a multiparty democracy instead of a one-party dictatorship without US Marines posing for photos in the presidential mansion in Mexico City, and it was not necessary for American soldiers to kill tens of thousands of Argentines, Chileans and Brazilians for democracy to take root in those countries.

One must hope that American soldiers leave behind a functioning democracy in Iraq--rather than the dysfunctional autocracies and kleptocracies that were the legacy of US military occupations in the Philippines, Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Mexico. But it is likely that, if and when liberal democracy comes to the Muslim world in general and to the Arab world in particular, the gradual, largely bloodless transition will resemble those in Soviet Europe and Latin America and will not be the result of US military action or intimidation. The neocons--and the humanitarian hawks on the left--are simply wrong about how best to spread democracy."

In the latest reminder of just how daunting the task of implementing democracy via invasion is, U.S. military and civilian authorities in Iraq are trying to confront the increasingly thorny issue of the ubiquitous armed militias currently operating in Iraq under scores of different banners, and representing a wide range of ethnic and religious groups. In what is the latest catch-22 to confront U.S. policy makers, the two possible courses of action each present their own dangers.

The first option is leaving the militias intact and somehow trying to coopt and assimilate them into Iraqi national security forces but the problem is, as excerpted from an article in today's New York Times, 'We are not going to get free and fair elections, and we are not going to get sustainable democracy of any kind in Iraq unless we make some kind of progress in demobilizing these militias,' said Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a former senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority."

The other option, actively disbanding the militias through force and coercion, is also a risky and problematic endeavor. As quoted from the same New York Times article:

"In a news conference this month, Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the commander of the American division that has been battling the Mahdi Army, said he might be willing to accept members of that militia into a new, 4,000-man security force he and his men are creating to police areas like Karbala and Najaf.

'If the militia dissolves tomorrow, what I've got is 600 unemployed young men on my hands,' General Dempsey said. 'Some of them are probably decent young men who have been badly led astray.'"

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