Imperial Requiem

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

ex-Generals and strategy

This is going to be a weird post, because I'm pretty sure I don't have all the info on the topic. But I want to make this post, if only to generate some healthy stepping stones for criticism and debate on the issue.

Alot of ex-generals from the 80's, 90's, and even a few generals who served in the GWOT have take the time to bash Rumsfeld and his Iraqi War Plan. Specifically, they're bashing him for not putting "more troops on the ground" in Iraq during and after Operation Iraqi Freedom. They might be right; they might be wrong. I don't want to make the mistake of engaging in partisan attacks on them because frankly, they ARE military, and as such, they deserve my undying respect and they deserve every bit of honor.

However, Rumsfeld also deserves that same respect and honor, and I will also balk at even the ex-generals making ad hominen attacks on him. If they want respect, give him respect too, and shitcan the "he's killing American soldiers!" schtick. It makes them sound whiny, defensive, and it does not serve in the stead of an arguement. They'd be far better off articulating their own positions, rather than trying to give the media red meat in going after Rummy. Oh, and I'm not even sure what they're doing- in terms of the red meat attacks- is allowed in the military, active or not active duty.

However, is the "more boots on the ground" concept an actual strategy? Or is it a "it wasn't my idea!" type of pass-the-buck excuse? It's no secret that the generals in the US Army are very much anti-Rummy. This comes from a bunch of different viewpoints. Some are Cold Warriors (like Ralph Peters, btw) who don't like the fact that Rumsfeld wants to change the US military away from the hidebound concepts of massing armor and infantry for cataclysmic confrontations with the WARSAW PACT, or something in Asia. Rumsfeld wants to create a US military that can meet massive conventional war scenarios, but also meet more local insurgency and quick deployment scenarios as well. He's put the emphasis on basically re-creating the US military on a SPECOPS/Marines format. This is also part of why the Army's pissed off; they're being told to become the Marines. Full disclosure- I support Rumsfeld's plans in reshaping the US military in this fashion. I'm also willing to say that he's made mistakes, but I mean that in the same way that Ulysses Grant or George Patton made mistakes.

Another group are the Clinton-era generals, who may have been political generals who got their job by kissing ass like politicians do. That may be the case, but I think it's more a case of their views of the US military in the post-cold war era. Without the Soviets and the Iraqis "contained" after 1991, they turned to do more global peacekeeping operations rather than head on military confrontations. It was something more on the lines of a cost-benefit analysis and corporate managed system than what you had before the 1990's and after. Their track record was one of very timid action- the aftermath of Mogadishu, Bosnia, Kosovo, Operation Desert Fox, and the response the USS Cole and Embassy Bombings. Limited operations, with limited insertion, and limited gains (as well as limited to no casualties). It could well be a top-down arguement from the Clinton Administration (which admittedly had more of a law-enforcement attitude) than something designed from the military, but these generals would probably not have liked the idea of a "storm of steel" vis a vis the 1980s or the 2000's. Casualty lists and political polls meant everything to them, one way or the other. They never would have done OMAHA Beach, but rather, would have timidly accepted doing UTAH Beach.

Neither of these two groups do I really have any fault with. They served their times well, and still should speak up and make criticism. But is their criticism in regards to Rummy I think have a few problems:

1) What would "more boots on the ground" actually accomplish? They weren't needed in the actual Operation Iraqi Freedom (and you could make an arguement the shutdown of the Turkish/Northern Iraqi front did more to hurt the Coalition than not having a 500,000 man army). They aren't needed now. During the fall of 2003 through to the fall of 2004, would it have made a difference? My personal feeling is that they could have a better arguement for saying that Rumsfeld's Pentagon didn't react quickly enough to the insurgency, rather than any other arguement. That being said, he DID react to the insurgency by the fall of 2004 and frankly, from then to the present day, the US Army has done pretty well, despite what the media's saying.

2) In going with the fact that the US Army has preformed well since the fall of 2004, why have they not pointed this out? And what also, would they have done in the stead of Rumsfeld? I have heard no actual fleshed out strategies for dealing with the insurgency/terrorists in Iraq other than the "boots on the ground" concept and alot of complaining about combat casualties. They may have an arguement I haven't seen, though. But without that arguement, their "boots on the ground" statments come off as far more like talking points than anything else. I think this is important, because alot of what I'm hearing is hyperbole, and there's not enough real constructive criticism going on.

3) Notice also that we're not hearing anyone complain from SPECOPS, the Marines, the Navy, and the Air Force? Why is this just an Army issue? Shouldn't it be a issue that crosses throughout the Armed Forces? I could be wrong here, and that there have been other branches complaining, but I don't see that. It's just the army. Why is that the case, and why haven't the other branches been speaking out?

4) With the ex-generals who were not involved in the GWOT, how much of what they're saying comes from their inside sources in the military, or from watching the mainstream media? How much reliance should I or shouldn't I place on their statements? On top of that, I do know a few of them have books coming out- General Zinni does- and that their statments are clearly timed to coincide with their book tours. Should their statements then be construed as timely advertising for their book tours? With Zinni, I find it highly disengeuous to be playing this game at this time (not necessarily for those who DON'T have books out).

5) Also, what about the Iraqis? Is there any complaints coming from their commanders? So very little of the debate actually centers around the fact that the whole arguement is taking place right in the middle of Iraq. Seriously, shouldn't the generals on both sides of the arguement be taking into account that there are other players involved in the game here? This also includes the Coalition forces. Speaking of them, why haven't I heard their ex-generals complaining as well?

6) Some current and former generals have also come out in support of Rumsfeld. Why doesn't this get played up more, and what kind of criticism do the ex-generals who don't support Rummy have to say about their support of him?

7) Bush handily won the military vote in 2004. They also are re-enlisting far ahead of the targeted numbers. Asides from the normal gripes that soldiers deal with, I haven't heard much from them at all during this whole debate. hy doesn't any of these arguements deal with the common soldiers?

8) Throughout American history, there have been many issues of civilian-military command. Lincoln and McClellan never got along- to the point where Lincoln demoted and fired McClellan. Burnside also completely screwed the military over worse than anything Macnamara could have done in 'Nam. FDR (and everyone else) hated MacArthur; that's why Eisenhower was chosen as the Supreme Allied Commander. Patton also repeatedly got himself into trouble during WW2- and he was the US's best general. Truman fired MacArthur when he got bitchy about the Korean War and started openly defying Truman's orders. Clinton fired General Clark when he disobeyed orders and damn near started a conventional war with Russia during the Kosovo War. And I'm reading a book on the Yom Kippur War- the Israeli commanders constantly clashed; the Egyptian commanders constantly clashed. But they both effectively fought the war. And so did the Union Army in the Civil War, and the Allied Armies in WW2. Should this problem also be viewed within this same prism? The whole story needs context. Is this the right context, or should there be another one? I personally view this as just one more notch in the whole arguement over civilian-military command, and it's just broken out into the open more thanks to the 24/7 news cycles.

This could all be pedestrian, but these questions need to be answered. As it is, neither the ex-generals (with the possible exception of Zinni, who I think is clearly playing the political shell game) nor the Rumsfeld camp are in the wrong at this point. So much of it's muddled by the red-meat-gotcha journalistic attitude of the mainstream media. These generals- on both sides- should not be given a free pass just beacuse of prevailing political attitudes on either side of the spectrum. Criticism is healthy; demagogurey is not. Let's ask real policy and strategy questions, please, and not engage in "baby-seal killer!" type of whining.

UPDATE: A few more points I want to add:

9) Why haven't these ex-generals also gone after Bush and Tommy Franks? What is it about Rumsfeld that makes them go after him, and not the others?

10) why is the media playing up Colin Powell's position in all this? It's been proven already that Powell was behind the push to go to the UN, which backfired, and then Bush turned towards Rummy and Wolfowitz for the war plans. So Powell basically felt he was "betrayed". Spare me that whiny bullshit. Powell's adept at the political game and he has had an axe out for Bush for years now, ever since Rummy won the arguement over the Iraqi War. He's spent all his political capitol trying to say "neener neener, I told you so!" if only so he can get back at his rivals in the Bush Administration. He's proven himself to be politically adept at being a grade A schmuck. I don't trust a goddamn thing he says on this issue, if only because of where he stands on it. I'd rather listen to Zinni, and I don't want to at that.

11) If these ex-generals are so intent on getting rid of Rumsfeld, who do they want Bush to replace him with? I pray they're not thinking Powell, because that would be the stupidest shit I've ever heard. I haven't heard any names being bandied about; and I also haven't heard any reason to kick Rummy out during the middle of the GWOT. Is that a smart idea? What kind of message would that send to the troops, and to our enemies? Would it be one of "hey, we got someone better in place to kick ass!" or would it be "Gee, all we need to do is prove to the ex-generals that we can cause casualties and they'll always have the trump card of playing political musical chairs with their SecDefs!" I think it would be closer to the latter.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Looking Ahead Part 3

Now that I've dissected the immigration and national security issues to an extent, what else is there to touch upon? Oh, yeah, the fact that the Dems are going to make the mid-term elections all about impeaching Bush. You don't think so? Russ Feingold is trying to Censure Bush right now, in Congress.

So far, most of the Democrats in Congress have maintained silence on this issue, or have tried to dodge it. But with Feingold's act- which was designed to jumpstart his 2008 Presidential campaign- it's now on the table for the mid-term elections. Give the Dems Congress, and they'll try to impeach Bush. Nevermind that Cheney will be President, and most likely Frist will be VP (because, frankly, the Dems won't get the Senate). Sure, the Dems will ignite their base with such tactics, but even the mere mention of it will do the same for the GOP.

And with a GOP base that has been apathetic towards their Congressmen, the Dems have just given them a reason NOT to be apathetic anymore. They'll put asides their differences with most of their candidates, and vote for them just to NOT have a Coup de'etat. And they'll also get alot of moderate dems to refrain from voting for the more unhinged ones. They'll think "gee, we're doing exactly what the GOP did to Clinton. This isn't right." And they'd be right (for the record, while I deplored Clinton's actions, I also deplored the call for impeachment over the Lewinsky stuff).

Things could still change between now and November. They could completely back off of this agenda. Or they could go full force for it. But as it stands, this issue just gives the GOP initiative for the fall.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Looking Ahead Part 2

The second issue that's going to affect the 2006 mid-term elections is the issue of immigration. In fact, it already is. There have been pro-immigration rallies throughout Souther California in the recent weeks, and they've been heavily covered by the news media, new and old.

The problem with those rallies is that they're getting the kind of attention that they don't want. Many of the immigrants in the rallies were seen carrying Mexican flags- not American flags. And alot of them were espousing pro-Mexican rhetoric. When you get images of illegal immigrants taking down an American flag and hoisting up an Mexican flag, and then putting an American flag upside down underneath it, on American soil, you know they've just lost 95% of middle America (Michelle Malkin). Here's some more info: Michelle Malkin 2, Dallas News, and Captain's Quarters. In conversations with regular Americans, people are starting to get fed up with the immigrant problem in the US. I don't mean the immigrants who want to be here, legal or illegal. Most of the immigrants that are in the US are from Mexico- and a great deal of them don't support America, and are actually sent here by the Mexican government, to add the money they make to the Mexican economy. Why should the US support people who are mooching off our economy? By and large, in my conversations with average Americans, they don't like this. At all.

And this isn't an issue that the Democrats want to reach the surface. Years ago, they would have been able to say that those that opposed the immigration were "racists" and "unamerican". At this point, that rhetoric will sound shallow when faced with the type of shennanigans that were going on at the pro-immigration rallies, which were featured on mainstream news. A wide swath of America doesn't like what they're seeing.

It remains to be seen if the Republican party will get behind this issue- Bush already is, proposing work visa programs and amnesty programs for the illegal immigrants who want to be in the US, and tougher measures in keeping immigrants out. To be frank, why else would there have been a meeting between Bush, Vincente Fox, and Stephen Harper (the new Canadian PM) this past week? They watched the news, and all saw that the illegal immigration issue had jumped the shark.

The problem for the Republicans (as well as the Dems) in Congress is that they see the Latino community as a voting bloc. They're mostly right, and that bloc basically can have an impact on elections. However, those that are against illegal immigration represent a far greater bloc. As the issue is being presented to the public- this is the type of issue that the Dems don't want to be a factor in the mid-term elections. They know they can get snazzy headlines with this, but they won't be able to get the voters with stupid crap like what I posted. It's out in the open, and it will have a ripple effect.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Looking ahead Part 1

Since the Democrats want to look ahead to the fall elections, I might as well do that, too. The Dems apparently decided to pull their heads out of the ground long enough to issue their foriegn policy strategy: THE DEMOCRATIC PLAN

Pardon me while I laugh. There are other bloggers who have stated that they believe that the Dem's strategy feels like some powerpoint session that they pulled out of their ass (Brian Dunn). The sad thing is, is that those bloggers are pretty much right. The Dems plan boils down to:

-We'll get Osama! Somehow! But we will! And we'll also raise the dead! Somehow! But we will!

-We'll pull out of Iraq because we have no idea how to fight a war and win it. But we'll go fight Osama! Somehow! But we will! And we'll save you $150 on your Geico bill, too!

-Oh, we'll fight him and Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Somehow! Never mind that would mean war with Pakistan, who's ALLIED with us in the Global War on Terror. But we will!

-We'll increase the number of Special Forces while completely ignoring the state of the regular armed forces. Just don't tell anyone that this is codeword bullshit for "we'll pretend to fund SPECOPS while we cut the rest of the army, again. And turn the Global War on Terror over to the UN."

- We'll stop nuclear proliferation with Iran and North Korea by talking sternly to them! We'll send those bad boys to their room! Nevermind that they're already laughing at us! We'll laugh at ourseves too! We will!

- We'll pretend the NSA is illegal as long as a Republican is in office. And conveiniently forget that Democrats in office have used it for the same purposes.

- Bush is wrong, we're right, neener neener neener. See? We told you we're right. Therefore, we are right.

That's what it boils down to. There's nothing in there that actually talks about real concrete policy issues, or fundamental strategies. It's all a hodgepodge of catchphrases designed to try to sell you a retail product that they don't have any expertise talking about. Much of it's "what Bush says, we're against" without saying what they're actually for or even really denying that Bush is actually wrong about it (just that he's FOR it, rather than them being for it first). In short, it's nothing more than rehashed crap from the Kerry campaign. Gee, that helped them out in 2004, didn't it?

I considerably doubt that they'll be able to gain a foothold on this issue. Most of the polls out in the media consistently underrepresent Republicans and overreperesent Democrats and their allies among independents. Republicans also tend to do better on election day, on average, than the Democrats do. Part of this is because they're focused on grassroots campaigns and mixing it with a national strategy. The Dems have not had one since 2000. All they have are a base who is reflexively anti-Bush, and not much else. That's not enough to win in November 2006.

It does help the Dems that the GOP seems to be floundering right now, but if all the Dems can do is come out with a lame PowerPoint presentation of rehashed failed concepts for their foriegn policy strategy, it's not as if they're doing great, either. This is an issue in which they're signaling that they're going to shoot themselves in the foot with, once again.

Here are some other links talking about the Dem's plan:Big Lizards, Big Lizards 2, Captain's Quarters and TKs

Monday, March 06, 2006

They're still at it

Some of the so-called Conservatives out there are still whining about Iraq. As in my previous posts, Derbyshire along with CliffMay, Francis Fukuyama, and William F. Buckley, are continuing their rants against the Iraqi war, if only because they believe that the situation there is untenable, and, more to the point, they never signed on to nation building after deposing Saddam.

For the first part, they point to the issue of the potential for Civil War in Iraq, with the bombing of the Golden Mosque as the flashpoint. To this, I say: stop watching CNN, MSNBC, and reading the NY Times. Start readingBill Roggio's The Fourth Rail- and Threats Watch- Both sites posit a far more complete view of what's going in in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond. There was no civil war- there was an attempt to create a civil war, but it's an attempt that by and large, failed. But those writers, editorialists, and pundits all screamed bloody murder the moment that the Mosque was blown up; they didn't bother to wait for follow up information that would vaildate their claims for a full-blown civil war; they didn't bother to read beyond the basic mainstream media (who do NOT have the ability to understand the GWOT with their media structuralization and ideologies); and they've never been to Iraq.

And yet, guys like Derbyshire get the chance to pontificate to people who HAVE been to Iraq- that they have less worth then the Derbyshires of the world. Ralph Peters was in Iraq recently, during the unrest that happened after the bombing of the Mosque. And yet, all Derbyshire and his ilk could do is say "he reported from a Humvee, that's not really visiting Iraq" (paraphrased). Um, well......that's more than you've done, Derbyshire. You get a free pass at bitching when you do exactly what Ralph Peters does, and nothing less. Oh, and now that things are calming down (to an extent) in Baghdad, what do these writers have to say for themselves? A simple "oops" won't suffice.

The second point irritates me even more: That they don't care one way or the other that Democracy should be exported to Iraq or the Middle East, and that their sole goal was to eliminate Hussein as a threat to the US and the West. To that, I have just this to say:

Why can't the Middle East become a democracy?

Their reponse is that Islam is not suitable for Democracy, and that that Arab people don't ultimately want Democracy. Well, as for Islam + Democracy, we just don't know. It's never really been tried before. To say that it won't work is an assuption without any facts behind it. But what we DO know, is that the people of the Middle East want prosperity and economic freedom. They've taken to that pretty effectively- when they've been allowed it. And the easiest way to ensure economic freedom is through democratic governments. Socialist, autocratic, or Tribal governments won't work in the globalized world of today. That effectively leaves them with democracy. And why shouldn't they get their chance at democracy? Because they're, well, not American? Or European? That they bow 5 times a day to Mecca? And don't drink wine? I hope you readers see where I'm going with this: I can't help but think that the simple, underlying reason that these writers don't want to see nation-building and democracy in the Middle East is because they are not American, Europeans, Judeo-Christians, and as such, are lower than the former, and deserve their lower stature. IE; I find it a fundamentally racist arguement. I want to hesitate from saying that, because it really veers into potential ad hominen territory, but I can't shake it. The whole "they're not us, and thus are not worthy" arguement that I'm seeing them make I just find utterly vile. And so goddamn stupid that it's the type of strategy that would make counter-insurgency operations in the overall GWOT virtually impossible. It's be a magnet for AQ and their sister organizations to rally anti-American rhetoric around.

All these writers want is to replace Hussein with another dictator who's just be "our son of a bitch". And what, pray tell, would that really accomplish? That we're only looking out for our own self-interests, and are willing to trample over everyone in order to get it? That once we depose Hussein, we leave, install a puppet regime, and leave them to their own devices? With Al Qaeda and other terror organizations inside and outside Iraq? That's really bright. I just find it irresponsible- on the left or the right- to want to pull out or just not STAY in the first place, when what we're really doing is waging an offensive struggle that will take decades to complete. Their strategy does nothing more than create a holding pattern throughout the world. That's like trying to fight WW2 from Britain, and never launching a sea/land/air invasion of the European mainland.

Oh, and speaking of WW2, wouldn't you say that the rebuilding of Germany and Japan into democracies went pretty well? What does that say about our potential for nation building? And, as for their commentary that "democracies don't necessarily not fight other democracies", other than the Hamas controlled PLO, when has that happened? Yes, terrorists can use democracies for underground organization and resources, but it's not like France, Britain, the US, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Italy on a governmental or mainstream societal level conspired with the terrorists to launch terror operations. That's nothing more than a straw man arguement that's just there to make the writers look good and goes nowhere. I'd rather spend more time arguing about the merits of our actual CI operational plan than theoretical conceptualizations that would even annoy most Wall Street brokers.

So, what else is there to say about these writers? Time will tell, but I for one, don't want to be associated with their increasingly unbalanced rhetoric and ad hominen attacks. Get in a HUMMV and go to Iraq. Or read from people who have. And learn.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Democracy Matters, part 2

In doing some more thinking about the democracy issue in Palestine, I must point out that there is the chance that Hamas will turn it's back on it's terror past and work towards rebuilding Palestine from the rubble that Fatah had left it in, and hopefully work alongside Israel in this regards. But considering there terrorist past, I'm not holding my breath for this. That being said, the Likud was originally Menachem Begin's party, and his Irgun- Jewish terrorists- eventually joined the Israeli government and Begin became Prime Minister of Israel. Irgun was never heard from again. So there's always the possiblity of terrorists disarming. But I'm not holding my breath.

The other issue that I've seen arise is that somehow, democracy matters little in the Global War on Terror. There are posts at National Review Online from Ian Murray , John Derbyshire , and Andy McCarthy discussing the merits of promoting Democracy abroad, and in the GWOT. They basically say that Democracy, while worthy, is a bitch to establish in an area of the world that doesn't necessarily have it, will take a long time, and shouldn't be the main focus on the GWOT. They believe that the search for WMDs and terror networks should be.

To start off, I think it's a mistake to go the WMD/terror network route as the primary route. Make no question, denying the terrorists those type of weapons and diluting and/or destroying networks is something that needs to be done. No one wants to see rouge states selling Al Quaeda or Islamic Jihad nuclear weapons. And we want to destroy Al Quaeda, as well. But that's only a facet of the arguement, since, as they have said, there are alot of other terror networks that exist, and it's unrealistic to destroy all of them. This is where their arguement fails- the first part, is that they're clearly looking at the GWOT position from a very presentist standpoint: Iran. They're trying to take what was a democracy + WMD + terrorist issue for Afghanistan and Iraq, and turn it into a rouge state + WMD + terrorism issue with Iran. I'm not saying they're not right or wrong about it, but rather, that its the wrong arguement to make.

Ultimately we're going to face another one of their myriad terrorist groups, fighting Al Quaeda all over again. That's what their future leaves us with- playing whack-a-mole for the next 50 to 100 years. Now, what happens if you change the conditions in the middle east, make a middle class a viable option and foriegn policy in the hands of elected lawmakers whose jobs rest on not pissing the world off (and in turn pissing their bosses- the people- off)? Is terrorism more or less of a proposition in those regions? Hell, let's put it this way: now that Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia are moving towards their own version of democracy, where are the terrorists? Maybe they're getting funding from those countries (they're definitely still getting funding from parts of the Saudi Royal Family). But are they having a grand old time on the ground? Hell no. In Iraq and Afghanistan, they are facing off against the American army and getting their asses handed to them. But more to the point, they've been totally rejected by the Iraqi and Afghani people, who really don't want a Shari'ia Islamic state and have lived under tyranny for too long to like it. The Iraqi and Afghanis are fighting their own battles against the terrorists. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is ostracized, and terrorism will be seen in the light of the bombing of Rafiki Hariri, their former Prime Minister. And the Saudis? In the midst of fighting what amounts to a civil war with Al Quaeda, they pulled a 180 and moved towards democracy- still fledgling- but a move nonetheless.

So, where does this leave us? With fledgling democracies. Yes, it'll be a bumpy road, and it won't be American or even European style Democracy. But does anyone see these nations wanting to openly or even covertly fund terrorists? Heck no. Muslim terrorism works on feeding off of resentment and hate- especially towards the west. The NRO writers are forgetting a key part that makes democracy work: Capitalism. Giving each person the chance to make their own life in economics goes a long way towards solving the problems of the middle east, which has economies that became stagnant a long time ago. Al Quaeda themselves have admitted that the democratic movements have hindered them greatly- almost as much as fighting the Americans.

One of the NRO writers said that exporting democracy fails for the US- and uses Haiti as an example. That's nothing but a straw man arguement, Haiti is a former french colony that quite frankly, isn't worth the US putting alot of money into(and we haven't, like we are with Afghanistan and Iraq). Haiti just can't survive as a soverign nation like Portugal or Singapore can. It should have been absorbed into a larger coalition/conglomeration a long time ago, but the anti-colonialist mentality we're in will keep that from happening for the entire Caribbean. Thus using Haiti as an example completely pulls it out of it's context, and tells me that the NRO writer wasn't even attempting to play fair. Don't get me wrong, I'd like to see Haiti become stable and democratic. What about 2nd world countries that we could elevate to 1st world democratic and capitalist societies? Taking a third worlder like Haiti is ALOT more of a pain in the ass than taking Italy, Germany, Japan, South Korea, El Salvador, and the Phillipenes and turning them into soverign democratic/capitalist states. Did it take time? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. Will we be right all the time? No- Cuba and Vietnam were clearly mistakes. But my point is, is that none of those states will turn back to their barbaric pasts, nor would they even consider supporting terrorism. It's concievable that individuals within those countries could pull off terror cells within those countries, but the govermnents and police structure are actively searching for them. It's alot harder to pull terrorism off in countries that don't want it.

This brings me to my last point: the Global War on Terror is about many different things. On one hand, it's about removing rouge states that have WMDs that want to sell it to terrorists. On another hand it's about destroying terrorists. And lastly, it's about bringing democracy to the regions of the world that could concievably be state sponsors of terrorism. Al Quaeda and its ilk worked well in the 1990s only when they had explicit state support. You need all three strands (and there are prob more that I'm not thinking of) in order to combat terrorism. The NRO writers are probably right- we won't be able to destroy terrorism. We haven't destroyed Naziism or Communism. It's still there. But we can certainly destroy it's ability to project itself outward. There hasn't been an attack on the US since 9/11 for a reason. They can't reach us. And I'm sure, after London, they won't be able to reach the UK again. Same with Russia after Beslan.

It's almost as though the NRO writers are disdainful of the prospect of freeing the middle east from the funk it's been in since the inception of Arab nationalism. Like the region's not worth it (btw, I'm not sure that' s not some sort of passive view of "damnit, they're not us. They're poor muslim arabs! Screw them! They shouldn't get what we have!" mentality in there, and that saddens me). And they're despairing at the long term goal of eliminating the ability of the terrorists to project themselves- as if that's nothing but a pipe dream. They want something more local- fighting Iran and Al Quaeda. That's fine and well, and I want both the local and long term goals, but their viewpoints will do nothing to change the situation. In 10 years from now, if we fought like they wanted us to- we'd have another dictatorship in Iraq, Afghanistan would be a morass again, and we'd still have Al Quaeda to fight. We'd have given AQ setbacks, but the conditions in the Middle East would be the same as it was on 9/10. This would be like doing just an air war over Germany in WW2- it'd probably destroy significant parts of the Wehrmacht, but it wouldn't destroy Germany. We'd still be fighting them. We'd still be fighting the terrorists too, only they'd have a leg to stand on.

Democracy matters, folks. It's at least more hopeful for the middle east than what they had previously. It might seem quaint- and it might create a new form of democracy- but it's not unattainable. Only those with short visions fail to see what Germany and Japan have become.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Democracy Matters

In President Bush's speech last night, he talked about how the oppressed of the world want freedom and liberty, and that democracy is the best way to give them that. He also mentioned that democratic countries don't war with other democratic countries, and that it is the best way to eliminate the terrorist menace that the world's currently facing. I have to agree with these statements, in that since the creation of functional democracies, they have not gone to war with one another in approximately 200 years of history.

Democracies CAN go wrong, though. The French Republic failed, descended into the Reign of Terror and then the dictatorship of Napoleon. Germany's Weimar experiment failed utterly- either the Communists or the Fascists gaining control in 1932/33 would have dissolved the Reichstag. Even the United States had it's Civil War over different concepts of democracy and liberty.

But here's the rub: Democracy has to work when there's a functioning system that allows for the democratic process. And that means you have to have political parties that are willing to play the political campaign dance, and build party platforms. And both parties ultimately have to be offering different things, rather than just be rivals for power with nothing to hold the center together. That brings me to the situation in Palestine.

There are folks that are saying- both on the left and the right- that the Palestinian election showed that Bush's words are nothing but hollow idealism. The Palestinians did vote in a relatively free and clean election, and they did have a choice- between Fatah and Hamas. And Hamas won the election, and still want to destroy Israel. That must mean that the will of the people of Palestine have been answered, and that democracy doesn't necessarily bring about peace and stability.

Well, yeah, sometimes democracies can be really shitty, and could cave in. But was the Palestinian elections democratic? Let's be clear: it was an election. That does not mean that it was democratic. But wait, you say, there were two parties with divergent issues involved in the election, Hamas and Fatah. Theoretically, Fatah was not calling for the destruction of Israel. But realistically, they were mouthing placards to the western media in english, while going to rallies in Palestine and asking for war in arabic. Neither had the best interest of Israel in their minds. Some are saying that Hamas was more willing to fix Palestine up in the election- to improve it's roads, schools, and hospitals- while Fatah was willing to basically give the people the status quo. However, considering their foriegn policy goals are their main reasons for existence- neither has any track record of providing services for the people other than as a by product of their terror systems.

That leads me to believe that ultimately, the election was about two things. First, it was about gang rivalries- two groups largely with similar ideas but who both wanted power, and all the trappings that came along with it. The second, was that neither party really had a platform- and anyone saying that Hamas really will fix the roads is missing the forest for the trees. For all intents and purposes, this was a one party election- both parties concepts ultimately dovetail together. There wasn't much of a choice here- and Gaza itself is effectively entirely a Hamas stronghold. There was no Fatah presence there. This isn't a democracy, it's one giant party masquerading as two parties. Sure, they probably won't get along, but that has more to do with "my hand's in the cookie jar, and yours is not" than "we disagree with your energy policy, it's not a realistic proposal based on your bugetary constraints, and we'll block it in Parliament/Congress". And both parties are definitely well versed in terror tactics in their own backyard. They don't like dissent. That makes it a one-party system that's not afraid to use terror and muscle in order to keep the streets theirs.

Just look at the fledgling democracies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia (yes, even Saudi Arabia) and compare them to the situation in Palestine. In all cases, they have actual political parties that have actual political platforms that are generally dedicated to the rule of law, and are in political debates in their various governmental institutions. Even in Lebanon, while Hezbollah is still around, they are isolated and ostracized from the rest of the Lebanese government. The Palestinian people have had themselves an election- but they don't know the first thing about having political parties represent them. They have gangs who have controlled them by fear and intimidation for the better part of 15 years.

So, going back to Bush's statements- democracy works, when you have people who want it and are willing to live within it. It doesn't work when you have people who want nothing but power for themselves and the only thing that differentiates the various factions is weather or not they'll harass you today or tomorrow. If Hamas wanted to be responsible for the people, they'd immediately recognize Israel, drop their war with them unconditionally, and accept whatever borders the Israelis want to give them. They'd then get the money and support they need from the international community. But they will instead continue their mad dream to topple Israel- and suffer the consecquences. The Palestinians just voted for a different brand of gun. The Israelis will vote on which party will best protect them and govern their country. They don't fear the leadership of the Likud, Kadima, or Labor parties.

I don't think the Palestinians know what their system is, other than naked agression and gang warfare. Great election, folks! Maybe they'll vote to make new roads after Hamas gets them into a disastrous war with Israel.