Neoconoptics - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 08-14-2005, 06:30 AM Thread Starter
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The other two elections took place in the areas of our exertion: first the Afghan elections, scandalously underplayed by the American media, then the Iraqi elections, impossible to underplay even by the American media. The latter were a historical hinge point. After a string of other important steps in Iraq that had been confidently dismissed as impossible and certainly impossible to do on time—the writing of an interim constitution, the transfer of power to an interim Iraqi government—came the greatest impossibility of all: free elections as scheduled. The overwhelming popular turnout, in what was essentially a referendum on the insurgency and on the democratic idea, sent a clearcut message. Those who had said that the Iraqis, like Arabs in general, had no particular interest in self-government were wrong—as were those who claimed that the insurgency was a nationalist, anti-imperialist, and widely popular movement.

This is hardly to say that things have not remained difficult in Iraq. The insurgency is still raging. It has the capacity to kill, to instill fear, and perhaps ultimately to destabilize the elected government. What the election did do, however, was to confirm what was already suggested by the insurgency’s clear lack of any political program, any political wing, any ideology, indeed even any pretense of competing for hearts and minds. The election exposed the insurgency as an alliance of Baathist nihilism and atavistic jihadism, neither of which has a large constituency in Iraq.

And that is hardly all. The elections newly empowered fully 80 percent of the Iraqi population—the Kurds and the Shiites—and created an indigenous representative leadership with a life-and-death stake in defeating the insurgency. By giving that 80 percent the political and institutional means to build the necessary forces, the elections infinitely improved the chances that a stable, multiethnic, democratic Iraq can emerge, despite the current mayhem. As Fouad Ajami wrote in the Wall Street Journal on May 16, upon returning from a visit to the region:

The insurgents will do what they are good at. But no one really believes that those dispensers of death can turn back the clock. . . . By a twist of fate, the one Arab country that had seemed ever marked for brutality and sorrow now stands poised on the frontier of a new political world.

The elections’ effect on the wider Arab world was likewise both immediate and profound. Millions of Arabs watched on television as Iraqis exercised their political rights, and were moved to ask the obvious question: why are Iraqis the only Arabs voting in free elections—and doing so, moreover, under American aegis and protection? The rest is so well known as barely to merit repeating. The Beirut spring. Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon.Â* Open demonstrations and the beginnings of political competition in Egypt. Women’s suffrage in Kuwait. Small but significant steps toward democratization in the Gulf. Bashar Assad’s declared intent to legalize political parties in Syria, purge the ruling Baath party, sponsor free municipal elections in 2007, and move toward a market economy.1

Ajami has called this (in the title of a recent article in Foreign Affairs) the “Autumn of the Autocrats.� Not the winter—nothing is certain, and we know of many democratizing movements in the past that were successfully put down. There are too many entrenched dictatorships and kleptocracies in the region to declare anything won. What we can declare, with certainty, is the falsity of those confident assurances before the Iraq war, during the Iraq war, and after the Iraq war that this project was inevitably doomed to failure because we do not know how to “do� democracy, and they do not know how to receive it.

In Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere in the Arab world, the forces of democratic liberalization have emerged on the political stage in a way that was unimaginable just two years ago. They have been energized and emboldened by the Iraqi example and by American resolve. Until now, it was widely assumed that the only alternative to pan-Arabist autocracy, to the Nassers and the Saddams, was Islamism. We now know, from Iraq and Lebanon, that there is another possibility, and that America has given it life. As the Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, hardly a noted friend of the Bush Doctrine, put it in late February in an interview with David Ignatius of the Washington Post:

"It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

The Iraqi elections vindicated the two central propositions of the Bush Doctrine. First, that the desire for freedom is indeed universal and not the private preserve of Westerners. Second, that America is genuinely committed to democracy in and of itself. Contrary to the cynics, whether Arab, European, or American, the U.S. did not go into Iraq for oil or hegemony but for liberation—a truth that on January 30 even al Jazeera had to televise. Arabs in particular had had sound historical reason to doubt American sincerity: six decades of U.S. support for Arab dictators, a cynical “realism� that began with FDR’s deal with the House of Saud and reached its apogee with the 1991 betrayal of the anti-Saddam uprising that the elder Bush had encouraged in Iraq. Today, however, they see a different Bush and a different doctrine.

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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 08-15-2005, 08:17 PM
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Rose-colored neocon-optics

Nice of you to point out the author's name; Krauthammer. Drinking the cruel-aid one fistfull at a time. Wish I was that gifted at spinning $h!t into gold.
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