Next?

Next?

: The American right and left are analyzing the Iraq vote on the wrong basis: It’s not about George Bush, pro or con. It’s not about America, pro or con. It’s not even about the war, pro or con. It’s about the Iraqi people and democracy and their future, for which there is only a pro, not a con.

But Hoder has a proper question in his post from the Iranian perspective:

On the one hand I’m really excited that Iraqi people have been able to start the path to a potentially democratic political system, on the other hand I’m really upset that this will embolden neoconservatives and will be seen as a confirmation of their dangerous plans for the world.

If the goal is democracy and freedom and human rights — and I do believe that is the goal that with which there is no good argument — then the proper question is: How? How are these goals achieved for fellow citizens of the world who do not enjoy enjoy these fundamental right? Is diplomacy sufficient? Is war justified? Are there alternatives? Does this first step toward democracy in Iraq put pressure on the rest of the Middle East? These are all the right questions to ask. It’s not about us, folks, it’s about the rest of the world.

  • http://www.hfienberg.com/kesher/ Yehudit

    I’m left wondering what is the oh-so-dangerous neoconservative “plan for the world.” I thought it was spreading democracy and freedom. Sounds good to me. But I invite the usual nay-sayers to show me exactly why (i.e. with links to real statements by real neocons) they are so dangerous.

  • Faramin

    Yehudit,
    If you haven’t figured it out yet, you never will.

  • Faramin
  • pianoman

    Nice. How about some juicy quotes from F911 while you’re at it? Or Robert Scheer?
    “If you haven’t figured it out yet, you never will.”
    Propaganda 101: Declare victory, and retreat.

  • http://oliverwillis.com Oliver

    War is justified as the last resort in order to ensure freedom. Simply going to war because it feels good will result in a similarly bankrupt postwar.

  • afshin

    Hossein, like most of his ilk (see: faramin,) just hates jews.

  • pianoman

    Oliver: You think the Bush Administration went to war with Iraq because it would “feel good”? Or were you just posting a hypothetical?

  • stevek

    Jeff, I think you have hit the nail squarely on the head when you point out that the Iraqi elections are really about the future of Iraq. I think, though, that there’s another nail to be hit, and that you (among most others, it seems) completely pass it by on your way to grease whatever other wheels may squeak… (they offer prizes here for mixed (and mangled) metaphors, right?)
    The troublesome step is this:
    “If the goal is democracy and freedom and human rights — and I do believe that is the goal that with which there is no good argument — then the proper question is: How?”
    I’m going to set aside for now the whole thorniness of ends/means duality. I’d like to focus on the phrase “democracy and freedom and human rights”. Now, I’d agree that there is no good argument about the desirability of these things. I mean, I grew up in America, I know that “democracy” and “freedom” and “human rights” are warm and fuzzy words, they make me feel good, and to be against feel-good words would be.. um, very bad. (I learned this the hard way by (only once!) speaking out against “equality”.)
    But, seriously: if we (um, I mean they – the U.S. Gov’t) are going to reshape the world in accordance with some principles, it is very dangerous for the names of those principles to roll so easily off the tongue. Pretty soon, then, we’ll all be “proud to be an American / Where at least I know I’m free”… as we receive our chocolate rations at the reeducation camps.
    We caution against it all the time, but I believe that Americans REALLY ARE taking freedom for granted. In the words of another great cliche, “Freedom Isn’t Free.” Not only must we be prepared to make sacrifices for freedom in times of war, when tyrants threaten to take our freedom by force (there are exactly 2 wars for which I am completely confident this applies) – we must, at ALL times, be vigilant against losing our freedoms due to the corruption of our government.
    We haven’t been vigilant enough in this regard over the past couple of centuries. And I would argue that we are already unacceptably unfree, and that the process is accelerating.
    Generally, I think that today “freedom” and “human rights” are threatened as much by “democracy” as by anything else. If we don’t learn to become more specific about what we mean by “freedom”, then we’ll find, at home, ever fewer specific freedoms, and, abroad, that we have spent lives toward what has become a chimera.
    And if we don’t understand the difference between “freedom” and “democracy”, we are bound to lose both. I am very happily surprised that the Iraqi elections exceeded my expectations – I pray that it helps to bring freedom to Iraq. The impression I have is that many people there really do want freedom, and that the grim state of their nation will give it a sweetness that we have forgotten.
    I am far more pessimistic about America.

  • http://www.glcq.com paul_lukasiak

    the problem here is simple…an election in a country like Iraq does not a democracy make.
    Democratically elected leaders can quite easily abandon democracy once they are in power—especially in nations without strong democratic traditions, and that have very serious problems. The appeal of an authoritarian government that “restores law and order” should not be underestimated, especially in a nation like Iraq.
    The possibility of a civil war is significant in Iraq at this point. It is doubtful that a democratically elected Shiite government could fight that civil war without resorting to anti-democratic methods. Whether the Shiite militias that have had two years to get organised will even respond to elected authority (this is especially true of the militia controlled by al-Sadr…) is an open question.
    In sum, the celebrations accompanying the Iraqi elections were premature in the extreme — especially given the presence of US troops under the leadership of a president who hasn’t even had the sense to get rid of the advisors that got us into this mess in the first place.

  • http://www.glcq.com paul_lukasiak

    But I invite the usual nay-sayers to show me exactly why (i.e. with links to real statements by real neocons) they are so dangerous.
    because the neocons have a vision of democracy (i.e., if it doesn’t include absolutely free markets, its not “democratic”) that is inconsistent with the needs and desires of the rest of the world.
    The reason why Iraq is such a mess right now is because Bush put these kinds of neo-cons in charge of Iraq policy, rather than listening to the experts.

  • Derrick

    The funny thing is that the elections in Iraq were smoother than the first post-war elections in Germany and Japan.

  • stevek

    Paul, I couldn’t agree with you more about the President’s faults. The way he runs his administration reeks of cronyism and yessirism. I also understand your offense at all the self-congratulatory nonsense that, were I an Iraqi, I would find intolerably condescending. I’ll also agree that the future course of Iraq is far from being determined. We aren’t at the happily-ever-after, and, indeed, the vantage of the future may show all of what we’ve done for folly and evil. Sure.
    But look, man – a couple of days ago, I was really, seriously expecting a bloodbath. I thought that hundreds would be dead, and thousands wounded, and Iraq not one step closer to either “freedom and democracy” nor to “expelling the foreign invaders”.
    I know that I haven’t done a single durned thing to bring this about. But isn’t it, for cryin’ out loud, something to feel GOOD about? The lack of a huge massacre, even? Or even the prospect that this DOES bring a “free” Iraq, and an end to the occupation, maybe just a teensy little half-step closer?

  • tb

    I beg to disagree with you Jeff, this is in very large measure about us. We bankrolled this adventure and sacrificed our young to accomplish it. This comes at a high price for America. You talk spreading democracy as though its no more a consideration than handing out May baskets. This Iraq adventure was ill though out, hustled to the American voters as a political gunfight then horrendously executed. Hoder has stated the obvious and the very reason this adventure is embraced with extreme trepidation by caring citizens. To imply this is not about America is to be polyannish and ignorant of the facts.

  • Mark

    Lest we forget what those “neo-cons” did to Afghanistan’s democracy.

  • stevek

    Paul – I think I have found one of the bases for our disagreement. To me, “democracy” is dangerous, to a large degree, because it so often does come to interfere with free markets. “Free markets”, if the phrase means anything, means free people freely deciding what economic activity to undertake. It is, in my view, the very basis of civilization. I would forswear voting ever again, PLUS donate $10,000 to any (non-terrorist-sponsoring) cause THAT I HATE, if in exchange I could enjoy participating in a really free market for the remainder of my days.
    Now, I don’t think that we enjoy a truly free market anywhere in the world, and that the chief culprits are democratic governments, and those who direct them for the sake of greed or “fairness” or whatever else they think gives them the right to redistribute wealth. (i.e., rob people)
    I would also suggest that the policies of the U.S. Government – as well as those pushed by Bush – interfere with free markets in many dangerous (and deceptive) ways. But you should give free markets a break. Why do you think you have a better life in so many respects than any monarch could have enjoyed even a couple of centuries ago? The welfare state?

  • pianoman

    Paul said: “Democratically elected leaders can quite easily abandon democracy once they are in power—especially in nations without strong democratic traditions, and that have very serious problems.”
    Since it’s easy for this to happen, you should be able to provide many examples of where it *did* happen.
    (Don’t say “Do your own research”. You asserted this, now back it up.)

  • http://www.glcq.com paul_lukasiak

    But look, man – a couple of days ago, I was really, seriously expecting a bloodbath. I thought that hundreds would be dead, and thousands wounded, and Iraq not one step closer to either “freedom and democracy” nor to “expelling the foreign invaders”.
    Yesterday was, in fact, one of the bloodiest days in Iraq so far–but it could have been far worse (I was particularly worried by the reports that close to a dozen police cars have been stolen in recent weeks, because they were the only vehicles allowed on the roads.) But, I think you were overestimating the strength of the insurgency—or at least the number of people ready to blow themselves up at any point.
    Paul – I think I have found one of the bases for our disagreement. To me, “democracy” is dangerous, to a large degree, because it so often does come to interfere with free markets.
    Then I would suggest that you refer to yourself as “pro-freedom” rather than “pro-democracy”, because there are lots and lots of people throughout the world who are willing to give up the risks involved in economic self-determination for a guarantee of economic security. And they vote that way.
    Indeed, the extreme emphasis on individuality that exists in America is completely unknown in many cultures. We reject things like racial and ethnic identity, while most cultures embrace a collective form of identity (often tribal) in which racial and ethnic identities are a given because of the homogenous nature of those cultures.

  • http://www.glcq.com paul_lukasiak

    Since it’s easy for this to happen, you should be able to provide many examples of where it *did* happen.
    Hitler, Putin, and that guy in Haiti, right off the top of my head…
    (and I’m sure you would think that Chavez in Venezuela qualifies, right?)

  • John Thacker

    Paul Lukasiak–
    Nope, you’re wrong about neoconservatives. They’re absolutely NOT “free market above all” folks. In fact, I (and others) think that they haven’t gone far enough in giving Iraq a free market. Please inform me as to how we’re forcing Iraq’s economy– note that we left in place their ridiculous gas subsidy.
    The neoconservatives historically have the “neo” because they came to conservatism later. Mostly they were former Democrats and socialsts who decided that socialsm didn’t work, but for pragmatic reasons, not ones of principle. They were the ones who brought social science to the Right. They were people who decided that the Left was not doing a good job opposing dictators of the Left, and thought that Communism was the greater evil. The neoconservatives are moderates in most things (think the Weekly Standard), but absolutists when it comes to spreading democracy.
    What differs them from the Liberal Interventionists is a willingness to use American power in more situations, especially in cases where the UN (or Germany, or France) doesn’t approve. (Or when a Democrat isn’t President, since Kosovo wasn’t UN approved.) They supported Bosnia and Kosovo, unlike some sections of the Right. But they’re are somewhat more willing to act in situations which are of strategic value to the US, whereas many on the Left see strategic value to the US as tainting any foreign policy endeavor.
    In other words, the neoconservatives were the Michael Tottens, the Roger Simons, perhaps even the Christopher Hitchens of their days. They started out on the Left, some even on the far-Left. But what they saw as the Left’s blindness to evil forced them, often unwillingly, to the Right.

  • John Thacker

    Mr. Jarvis–
    Your filter rejects post with “social*sm” in them, due to containing the name of the drug “cial*s.”

  • John Thacker

    Hoder is naturally worried about being invaded. The neoconservatives certainly don’t intend to invade everywhere. And anyone who reads their various journals and articles knows that there’s a lot of debate about Iran, because neoconservatives, like most others, think that Iran has at least a decent chance at reforming itself, at its own revolution. Of course, going after nuclear weapons and threatening to use them as soon as they get them has given us pause, as well it should.
    Iraq lacked that chance. Iraq had so many factors that meant that there was only one way to get rid of Saddam.
    We’ve come a way from when some people were bashing Bush for not going after Iran and North Korea first, but being distracted by Iraq.

  • robert_higgins

    America has got to wake up! What is wrong with the people in this country? Cant they see how hatefilled the Right wing is?
    If they could see blogs like this making fun of Hillary Clintons collapsing i think the average american would start to wise up.
    They claim GOD struck Hill. down! Can you believe that?
    Read it for yourself
    http://musingsofafatkid.blogspot.com/2005/01/god-strikes-hillary-down.html

  • stevek

    Paul:
    But, I think you were overestimating the strength of the insurgency—or at least the number of people ready to blow themselves up at any point.
    I think you’re right about the latter. In many ways (I’m as guilty as anyone) I think it’s silly to speak of “the insurgency” – the authors of violence in Iraq seem to have an almost infinite range of motivations. I think (I hope) the elections have shown that many of the “insurgent” groups wanted the elections to take place, and maybe even see this tentative step as promising legitimacy.
    Then I would suggest that you refer to yourself as “pro-freedom” rather than “pro-democracy
    Actually, this was what prompted me to post here to begin with – I am, generally, anti-democracy. I don’t care what the will of “the people” is – I deeply do not care. I see its exercise thwarting the cause of freedom all around the world and in my own neighborhood. It’s bad enough to rob / imprison / kill someone becasue you don’t like the choices they’ve made – to go on to wash your hands in the sewer of “I do this in the name of the people!” is just criminal.
    And the whole thing reminds me, in many respects, of the nightmare of government “school”.
    …there are lots and lots of people throughout the world who are willing to give up the risks involved in economic self-determination for a guarantee of economic security. And they vote that way.
    Ah, but their votes, once distilled through our representative legislature and filtered through the VERY demanding Constitution we’ve got, still result in everyone being told what to do, with the implicit threat of violence to back it up. This is outrage enough. Take Social Security, for instance.
    But the idea that these collective choices ‘guarantee security’ is just plain wrong. I beg to disagree. First, the guarantee is only as good as the guarantor – do you think it impossible (for instance) that some future government of the U.S. could simply stop making Social Security payments? But this idea also is rich with hubris, for it assumes that the world of human activity can be expressed in terms of systems and institutions, that nature will never stick in her sometimes-ugly head. The government guarantees me a safe retirement? They might as well guarantee that it won’t rain at my wedding.
    Indeed, the extreme emphasis on individuality that exists in America is completely unknown in many cultures.
    That is chief among the reasons why I would never emigrate from America. And it’s very surprising to encounter the absence of that emphasis among other cultures. Last year, the French government prohibited the wearing of head scarves as a symbol of Muslim faith. As an American, I found this appalling – but all the French people I spoke to were resoundingly in favor of it. It is harmonious with their attitude of “laisite” (maybe misspelled) – as they all told me, the French consider it somewhat rude to emphasize one’s differences in identity. (All of them also expressed their consternation that France is so filled with Muslims.)
    This is completely alien to me. What I may wear is, really, no more a matter for the Federal government than is what I eat for dinner, what I smoke in my pipe, how I raise my kids, how I prepare for my retirement, what I do with the fruits of my labors, etc. etc. There should be clear limits as to the power of States (responsible for millions of times as much atrocity, throughout the centruies, than terrorists) over the people. In America, there are, thank God. We should take them seriously.

  • tim wg

    this will embolden neoconservatives and will be seen as a confirmation of their their dangerous plans for the world
    People, you’re missing the important part…
    his post from the Iranian perspective
    HA. Democracy is “dangerous” according to Iranians. Now I understand it!!!
    BTW, security (WMD’s anyone?) is the real reason to invade Iraq. Although stockpiles were not found, they did discover traces of WMD’s and remnants of programs. After winning the war, the goal is democracy to ensure no more wars against Iraq. What if there is a domino effect? Iran, you may need to watch out. The next WMD is democracy.
    How could FREEDOM and SECURITY not go hand in hand?

  • stevek

    Robert Higgins,
    Yes, I’m awake to how hate-filled the Right is. This Hillary thing is no big deal – surely you’ve seen worse than that! Also, they speak for God as a matter of course, leading them into blasphemy on top of blasphemy. But then, I’m not so hot about the Left, either.
    Frankly, I feel bitterly betrayed by politicians from both sides of that divide, which is looking increasingly fake. Few politicians on either side had the brass, for instance, to actually vote for a declaration of war against Iraq – similarly, few on either side had the courage to vote against the resolution that “authorized” our involvement there. You’ll admit, I take it, the cowardice that kept the Right from actually coming out and doing the Constitutional thing. Why can’t you see the cowardice that made the Left complicit too?
    This country is never going to get back on the right track until enough people come to understand that they aren’t God, nor are their most beloved leaders, that all are fallible, and none are good. Maybe with such a foundation we could have a nation that is less arrogant, narcissistic, belligerent, depraved, and thoroughly socialyst.

  • EverKarl

    A couple of observations based on John Thacker’s comments:
    “In other words, the neoconservatives were the Michael Tottens, the Roger Simons, perhaps even the Christopher Hitchens of their days. They started out on the Left, some even on the far-Left.”
    Exactly. This is why the Left demonizes them. The neocons are viewed as traitors. Their existence is a reminder that their ranks are shrinking.
    “We’ve come a way from when some people were bashing Bush for not going after Iran and North Korea first, but being distracted by Iraq.”
    Here, I would respectfully disagree. I am confident that the Left would have opposed going after Iran or North Korea first. We would have heard about what a danger Saddam was to the whole world, his flouting of U.N. resolutions, his genocides. The Left would have quoted President Clinton discussing the danger of Saddam passing along WMDs to terrorists.
    The Left was profoundly unserious about addressing terrorism, particularly state-sponsored terrorism; they still are. They will say things like “War is justified as the last resort in order to ensure freedom. Simply going to war because it feels good will result in a similarly bankrupt postwar.” They will say them after having advanced very different reasons to support Kosovo, which posed much less of a threat to U.S. national security. So I would argue that we have not come a long way. I would argue that there has been no progress at all.

  • ojala

    emboldening neoconservatives
    I assume by dangerous plans, Mr. Holder is referring to the saber rattling with respect to Syria and Iran. Frankly, I’m not interested in sending troops to either country. Yet, I’d like to see Syria’s purchase of weapons from Russia and Iran’s determination to build nuclear weapons stopped in its tracks.
    With respect to Saudi Arabia and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, we could use a bit of emboldening. If the advent of democracy is Afghanistan and Iraq gives the region the impetus to enact political, economic and religious reforms and to fully embrace the “road map” – let’s go.
    In my wildest neoconian dreams – Bush goes for the gold and sends Condi to broker peace once and for all between Israel and Palestine.
    It would be too ironic if Bush lived out his retirement at his ranch in Crawford with what should have been Clinton’s legacy.

  • http://www.blogoram.com UML Guy

    President Clinton had no chance at a Middle East peace legacy. None. That required the cooperation of Arafat, which was never going to happen.
    I dislike President Clinton in all sorts of ways, but I think he made every possible effort to make peace in the Middle East during his tenure. No one could have done more than he did. But it wasn’t going to happen.

  • http://toddpearson.blogspot.com Todd Pearson

    How do bloggers who have predicted inevitable doom in Iraq react to good news?
    Eric Alterman: “I don

  • http://www.hfienberg.com/kesher/ Yehudit

    “an election in a country like Iraq does not a democracy make.”
    Of course. This election is one small step among many that were taken as soon as Saddam was deposed and will be taken in the months ahead. Click on “graphics”/”overall timetable”
    The whole point of delaying elections for several years was to allow civic institutions to take root which mitigate against individuals seizing power. Like independent judiciary, disciplined independent military, local governance, a start on a legal system that protects individual rights, etc.
    This has been done but should have had more time to jell, but Sistani wanted elections sooner, so Iraq had them now instead of a year from now. If minority parties couldn’t get their act together in time to get more seats, blame Sistani not Bush.
    But so much could have gone wrong on Sunday and so much went right, that is cause for jubilation. Iraqis who feel unified and successful in taking a first step to determining their own destiny are going to be much less likely to allow a civil war, so your support of their jubiliation will help keep it from happening. If the whole internaitonal community gloomily pissed on the whole thing, that would be very hard on Iraqi morale, which would make it easier for civil war to break out. Self-fulfilling prophecy.
    John Thacker understands the neocons.

  • http://www.hfienberg.com/kesher/ Yehudit

    If no one else will post a link to a definition of neo-con, I will.

  • http://RuthCalvo Ruth

    Thanks Jeff, for cutting to the basics.
    Another factor for being glad of the election’s success thus far is that tyrants throughout the Arab world would use a disaster to justify their continuance of power-based peace.
    But as for neoconservativism being composed of fleeing liberals?? Isn’t definition of neocons a little bit romanticized when it assumes real values, as this movement is one of political ambition over the backs of founders who had sincere principles of limited government (neocons increase government exponentially), economic stability (neocons have put the country into desperate and possibly inextricable bankruptcy, currency crises, possible decades-long impoverishment of the populace), constitutionality (we have unconstitutional war, revocation of Congress’ role in setting economic policy, budget process at the last minute when it is constitutionally mandated that a budget be enacted well before the end of the Congressional session, etc.) and decency (violations of human rights in the name of security are too numerous to mention). Does anyone else see the tactics of cynical power grabbing? Which is hardly a characteristic of the fleeing liberals envisioned by the above comments.
    This war is going to establish permanent bases for the military in Iraq (12 was the number officially recognized) and was managed by false information. This is a basic love of democracy and freedom?

  • ojala

    Does this first step toward democracy in Iraq put pressure on the rest of the Middle East? And, can that pressure be applied in unexpected ways?
    Rice: Israel Must Withdraw from More than Gaza and Samaria
    “Rice met with Prime Minister Sharon’s top aide Dov Weisglass in Washington on Monday. She explained to him the U.S. position that the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza is acceptable only as a prelude to the full Road Map plan proposed by President Bush.”
    “Secretary Rice is expected to arrive in Israel in the coming days. Upon assuming her post as Secretary of State last week, Rice said she sees the implementation of an arrangement in the Middle East a “personal objective.”

  • Mikey

    Its a start, and start far better than that which was under the Hussein family. That start is for them, and it is also for the rest of the people in that benighted region.
    After all these years I remain amazed at how pessimistic the left has become. No hope, no joy, no longer the willingness to try something, make something better. Surprisingly, they turned that over to the right. Can’t even feel happy for one day that the Iraqi people are starting on the long road out of serfdom, but have to carp that it isn’t perfect yet, and worse that it can’t be real because George W. Bush and the American Government are sponsoring it. Can’t acknowledge any good may come from that direction, ever.
    Not all, but far too many voices have done so. Kinda sad, really.

  • Jimbo

    I am happy about their elections, but the true measure of a fledgling democracy (as it was for the US under Washington) is the NEXT election — the one where power is handed peacefully from the loser to the winner. So let’s give them all the support in the world and keep on defeating those who would prefer violence and death to the rule of just law.