Thursday, September 05, 2002

In the comments section of my post on Saddam: myth vs. man (or whatever), a few people pointed out that Iraq is simply the first step- that the fact that Saddam is really just another dictator who happened to invade the wrong country at the wrong time is meaningless because he's only the first of many dictators that will be the subjects of American intervention. This isn't a new theory, although I hadn't been directly addressing it, preferring to stick with the simpler question of invasion of Iraq and what it would mean for the concepts of sovereignty and legitimacy, as well as the usefulness of deterrence. (I might set up a "best of" link on the side so I can simply point people in the right direction... at the moment, however, a quick trip to the most recent set of archives should turn up ample links to this sort of thing.)

However, as seen on The Rittenhouse Review, this sort of argument is becoming more mainstream, now being found on the pages of the Wall Street Journal in this article by Michael Ledeen, whom TRR calls "the most dangerous man in the world".

TRR isn't exactly sympathetic:

The ├╝ber-hawk advocates not just one war but four wars, or more accurately, one gigantic, almost simultaneous war against Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, in that order. (Not Libya?)

Not surprisingly, Ledeen's contribution to the national debate includes some of the most dubious propositions and questionable assertions currently in circulation, all presented with an arrogant certaintude that displays a complete disregard for history, politics, religion, and, indeed, humanity.
Not that this is anything of a surprise, of course, but TRR follows up with a series of quotes from the article in question. TRR quotes a whole laundry list, but I'll just bring up one or two.

"If we come to Baghdad, Damascus and Tehran as liberators, we can expect overwhelming popular support."

Um, no. Whether they have sympathy for democracy and the West or not (and why would they? Baghdad and Tehran are the home of the "Axis of Evil") they're not going to be friendly to an invading foreign power that has been demonized by their society for a generation. Whether that demonization is valid or not is unimportant- it exists, and it must be acknowledged. Any attempt to democratize the Middle East is going to be the act of a foreign power against a hostile citizenry, especially if it follows up an invasion.

(This will be especially true if the situation in Afghanistan doesn't improve, because it will prove their belief that American attempts at societal change are flighty, unserious, and transitory, to be overlooked when the Next Big Thing comes along.)

This is the other one that caught my eye:

"This war cannot be limited to national theaters; we face a regional challenge and must respond accordingly. But it is both a just war and one for which we are marvelously well suited."

Actually, the United States is unique in how badly suited it is for just such an enterprise. This the heart of the (oft-overstated) leftist critique- that the United States cares little for democracy and liberality outside of its own borders, and will act against it when its interests are involved. The United States might be uniquely suited to armed intervention, but any attempt by the United States to effect democratic change is going to be resisted hard, and long, and through the use of endless examples of American hypocrisy. Whether or not these charges are true or not is immaterial; the simple reality is that the United States is not seen internationally as either a disinterested party, an honest broker, or a force for democracy outside of its own narrow interests, and that perception will poison any attempts by the United States to introduce liberal secular democracy into the region. Even if it's done with the best intentions, nobody will believe it. While it's a valid goal and something that needs to be done anyway, attempts to force or cajole the Middle East into doing what the U.S. wants them to do will almost definitely backfire. The U.S. has too much of a history- somebody else needs to do it.

Who that "somebody else" should be is, of course, the question. I have an idea in mind, but I'll save that for later.

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