When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

January 31, 2005

But, but, but... (Update)


Today, during a discussion on Fox News about the Iraq Election Moira Liasson objected to Brit Hume's contention that many people had been habitually skeptical about the odds of establishing a legitimate democracy in Iraq. Moira allowed that this just wasn't so, and that although many people had expressed skepticism about the details of the Bush plan nearly everyone had always had faith in the "will of all people to be free." Well, I can't speak for Liasson, nor do I know what she thought back then, but it seems to me her memory may be a bit "selective." Frankly, I don't know anyone who has more credibility with political sociologists on the topic of democratization than Amitai Etzioni, and over a year ago, back in November, 2003, I posted a comment to his blog post A Sociologist's Iraqi Exit Strategy. For documentation purposes you can find the original here, along with his response, but it's reproduced below for the sake of convenience:

I find your observations on this topic useful, but primarily as a way of motivating 'progressives' to reflect a bit on their positions. As a practical matter it is far too early to label the reconstruction effort a failure, nor is it particularly accurate to label it an 'afterthought.' One would think that had it been much more than that, that they'd have come in with a better plan, but I personally think it's more a matter of Republican naiveté about social legitimacy than the notion that the reconstruction wasn't important. In fact, for many of us the entry into the Middle East to establish a beachhead for liberal open society is at least as important as the WMD issue. I also have little confidence in the UN's ability and resolve when it comes to establishing such a beachhead, both because of the 'Euro-cocoon,' that many of the European members of the Security Council believe they are in and because the UN has no legitimacy as a democratic body.

My problem is that we appear to have a Republican administration that's willing to do the right thing, but doesn't quite know how... and a Democratic opposition that could probably muster the know-how, but doesn't want to for partisan reasons. The Democrats seem preoccupied with what I call 'little democracy,' and insist on training a microscope on those liberal societies that have already proven to be stable... just because they can. However, they neglect 'big democracy' at our peril. As for the UN and NATO, I honestly think they're not exactly the wave of the future, although the UN will survive as a kind of international debating society. What we need in their stead is some sort of deliberative body composed exclusively of democratic nations, since they together represent a cohesive 'meta-tribe' with common interests that, as a community, can probably begin to set the stage for a world absent totalitarian regimes like Iraq, Korea and Burma. They would represent a sufficiently dominant majority that those nations left outside the alliance would be compelled to liberalize in order to join the club. They'd be motivated by both pressure and attraction, or stick and carrot.

Amitai just couldn't see it:

Thanks for the very thought-provoking comments. As I see it, there is no way on earth that Iraq can be turned into anything that resembles a democracy in the immediate future (unless it is “defined down” so it does not mean a thing). It took the Brits (and us) generations; and the Iraqis are less prepared. It is not so much that the Republicans don’t how to do it – it cannot be done. Just look at our track record in third world countries.

"No way on earth." A year ago that was the standard wisdom, not only in academe, but in the derivative press establishment... so if Liasson thought differently at the time her memory is unreliable about her peers and about the "experts." But what's important isn't so much that I was right, but that Iraqis rose to the challenge that justified the faith some of us had in them... and that courageous Americans and Iraqis have paid a worthy price so that citizens of what was once the cradle of civilization could walk triumphantly to the polls today, to fulfill that ancient promise.

It would be well to remember, just for the sake of precision, that there are those whose vision fell short of their learning, and who are still inappropriately dismissive about hope that was expressed today by a people with the dragon still nipping at their heels. And it appears that Republicans have, in fact, finally been able to get the knack of the thing, shouldering a task that most Democrats seem to eschew out of some overly cultivated sense of sophistication about democracy in the small.

Update: Protein Wisdom has some observations about the impossible-but-easy nature of the problem

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at January 31, 2005 03:30 AM

Retaliatiory Launches

Heh. I remember how, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a number of Democrats who dislike confronting Communism suddenly talked up how much they'd been Cold Warriors. Looks like Arthur C. Clarke's Law of Revolutionary Ideas strikes again. ^_~

Posted by: The Snark Who Was Really a Boojum at January 31, 2005 11:04 AM

Everyone who has ever worked for NPR seems a few cards short of a full deck. Moira is no exception. She only looks bright in comparison to Juan Williams.

Posted by: Malloy at February 8, 2005 01:04 AM

free hit counter