Imperial Requiem

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.