Tuesday, March 01, 2005

After the recent collapse of the Syrian government in Lebanon and the announcement of upcoming elections in Egypt by President Mubarak, there's been renewed dialogue among many American liberals about whether Bush's "domino" plan for democracy in the Middle East can now qualify as a success, and if so, what to do about it.

As someone who in America qualifies as center-left, what bothers me about this discussion is not the topic but the impetus -- namely, the presumption that if democracy proves to be viable in the Middle East, then Bush has won and those who have opposed Bush's doctrine have somehow lost.

This utter nonsense.

Suppose that a few years ago, prior to the Iraq war, Bush had held a private conference with an array of liberal leaders, in a sincere effort to forge a unified foreign policy.

If he had asked, "Does everyone agree that non-state terrorism is the principal threat to our national sovereignty?", the answer would have been yes.

If he had asked, "Does everyone agree that non-state terrorism principally arises within Islamic countries ruled by non-democratic regimes?", the answer would again have been yes.

And if he had asked, "Does everyone agree that in order to secure our national sovereignty, our first priority ought then to be fostering stable democracies in the Islamic world?", the answer would yet again have been yes.

But if, at this point, he had asked, "Does everyone agree that toppling Saddam Hussein and instituting democratic constitutionalism in Iraq is the principal way in which we can foster democracy in the Islamic world?", the answer would have been a resounding no.

If I haven't been clear enough, the point I'm trying to make is that the left has always been for democracy in the Middle East. What it has opposed are both Bush's particular strategy and his execution of it.

And in this regard, the Bush team has only been somewhat successful. The elections in Iraq last month do indeed seem to have been a tipping point, and it is likely that the developments in Lebanon and Egypt would not have occurred had that election been a failure. But against those successes are counterpoised a string of abject failures which will likely haunt American foreign policy for years to come: most notably, the systematic use of torture at Abu Graib, and the continued allegiance to and tacit approval of a patently un-democratic Saudi Arabia.

That said, even such a tempered evaluation makes me cringe, because it presumes that the American left and the American right have the most at stake in the Middle East. If democracy continues to develop successfully in the Arab world, the true victors will of course be its people, and the losers those who repressed them.


Blogger decavent said...


I like it very much. I also was wondering if you had fallen off the face of the earth after your exodus from Los Angeles. I've got one of these things too. Man, it's great to vent (even if no one is reading it).

Check Me OutHope all is well in Austria.


5:03 PM  
Anonymous addison said...

For an interesting (though neo-con) pre-invasion analysis of how attacking Iraq is the only way to achieve peace in Israeli-Palestinean conflict see the following article by Scott Doran, a Princeton professoor.


10:43 AM  
Anonymous The Only One Capable of Writing that said...

The road to democracy in Baghdad should be paved with the blood of Iraqi terrorists.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Is democracy in the Middle East good for the US at all? If Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya all had free and fair elections - Would the US like who the elected leaders? Take a look at Venezuela where the people have elected Castro Part II.

So I 100% agree with you - Democracy in the Middle East would be a victory for the people of the Middle East. The US, however, might be better off with the current political make-up of the Middle East.



2:36 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home