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May 27, 2004

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» What Drezner Missed from The Bonassus
Drezner is mostly correct: our failure in Iraq was due to implementation, not the basic concept. But he ignores a viable alternative policy put forth repeatedly by opponents (and proponents) of the war. [Read More]

» Democracy in Iraq from Political Animal
DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ....Dan Drezner — with attaboys from Matt Yglesias and Von — asks today, "Was the very idea of bringing democracy to Iraq ill-conceived, or did the problem lie in our implementation?" He thinks the idea itself is still... [Read More]

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One would have thought that the lesson of the World Wars was that long-term occupation creates democracies (e.g., Germany and Japan).

Go to it Mr. President? In what alternative unviverse are we speaking? Surely it's not the country under this Administration. The only way we will not dig this hole any deeper is if 'The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight' known as the Bush Administration stops firing in any direction until the Kerry Administration takes over the reigns after the election. This group of neocons has never seen a pile of dog crap that it neglected to step in. Sheer repeated incompetence should never be rewarded.

The invasion of Iraq may be justified in order to protect ourselves or our allies,

I know there are folks who believe Iraq was a threat (either through the instability a madman represented or the demonstrated "will" and/or "capacity" to develop weapons of mass destruction, but the question of whether we were ultimately protecting ourselve or our allies through the invasion must include a broader examination. Was invading Iraq without a larger coalition/UN mandate to invade a good idea? Would it have been better to put more focus on the Pakistani/Afghanistani border for a longer period? Would it have been better to build up our military so that an insurgency in Iraq didn't stretch us so thin (how would be invade Syria tomorrow if we had to)?

We are weaker today, morally, militarily, diplomatically, than we were before the invasion. The idea that we're better able to protect ourselves because of the invasion doesn't make any sense to me.

Von,

Could you elaborate a little more on what you (or Drezner) mean? On the one hand, I take the statement "the neoconservative plan of democracy promotion in the Middle East remains preferable to any known alternatives" to mean that we should invade countries, overthrow regimes, and attempt to rebuild them in our image. and growing prosperity make democracies."

On the other hand, you say "wars do not create democracies ... Rather, long periods of stability

Personally, I find the neoconservative plan of democracy promotion to be inconsistent with "long periods of stability and growing prosperity." But then I also find the neoconservative plan of democracy promotion to be pretty much a fantasy.

Abu Aardvark has a very good post on what he calls the "rollback fantasy" in Iraq. http://abuaardvark.typepad.com/abuaardvark/2004/05/rollback_fantas.html

For myself, I am a little tired of people saying "well the war was a good idea-- it just wasn't executed properly." Frankly, attempting to reconstruct our version of what we think an Arab country should look like by force was not a good idea, and almost by definition would not be executed properly.

It's akin to saying a brain transplant (into, say, our fearless leader) is a good idea, if only it can be executed properly.

oops, sorry for the format error in that post,

"and growing prosperity make democracies.'"

belongs at the end of the following sentence.

Also, Tony, do you think maybe we shouldn't draw facile comparisons from Germany (which IIRC actually had a democracy between WWI and WWII) to Iraq?

As I said over at MY, this was a brainless article by Drezner.

I'll be kinder to you ... but this nonsense cannot stand:

This means, perhaps, preferring more expensive Iraqi oil to a cheaper Saudi alternative.

It's a commodity.

"To be sure, democracy promotion is far from easy. Indeed, regime change in the Middle East looks like a lousy, rotten policy option for addressing the root causes of terrorism, until one considers the alternatives--appeasement or muddling through. The latter option was essentially the pre-9/11 position of the United States and its allies, and has been found wanting."

The last bit really annoyed me, plus I think it's wrong. I think we need more non-military democracy promotion in the ME - more than not a lot. Drezner's pretending a serious soft-power approach was actually tried.

I think this was on of T. Friedman's good weeks.

Responding to Doh (quoted below) and Rikefan:

I take the statement "the neoconservative plan of democracy promotion in the Middle East remains preferable to any known alternatives" to mean that we should invade countries, overthrow regimes, and attempt to rebuild them in our image.

One of my central criticisms of the "war" on terror -- of which I think Iraq is now a part -- is that people presume it's a hot war, and that therefore the military will play a pre-eminent and eternally active role. Not so. The right model for this conflict is not a hot war, a process of constant invasion, but the cold war: A series of strategic moves, 95% without violence, intended to bring about long-term change. Remember, we beat the Soviets by (essentially) outperforming their economy and outspending them.

So, it'll probably come as no surprise that I think economic exchanges (MEFTA, anyone?) to be a better means to reach our goal of ME reformation. I don't know if that satisfies your criticism(s), but I hope it makes my position clearer.

This means, perhaps, preferring more expensive Iraqi oil to a cheaper Saudi alternative.

It's a commodity.

So what, ADSF? I'm suggesting that we consider giving Iraq an economic preference, which means that we prefer certain of their products not based on those products' market-defined merits but on certain external merits.

well, I don't agree with your last comment (it's oil for food territory!), but I agree 100% with the comment before that.

Thanks for the clarification, Von. I think I share much of your position, but I would describe it as much closer to Clark's strategy, rather than Wolfowitz's.

On the other hand, there's probably some hard thinking that would have to be done about what sort of economic means would be helpful. Arab economies are a lot different than those of, say, Central American developing nations. After all, many Arab countries have more or less enjoyed long periods of stability and prosperity, but that hasn't made them more democratic.

I guess that's why I agree that "muddling through" with a variety of non-military, democracy-building programs isn't such a bad option.

Most of life is "muddling through."

von:

The right model for this conflict is not a hot war, a process of constant invasion, but the cold war: A series of strategic moves, 95% without violence, intended to bring about long-term change.

Yes, that would be a good thing. It's just not an option we have available to us. There are many differences between the War on Terror and the Cold War but one enormous, total, essential difference is deterrence. The USSR was deterrable. OBL is not.

Deterrence is what gave us the time for the Cold War strategy to work. We don't have the time for a fifty year plan to work.

Deterrence was working fine with Hussein...

...just had to throw that in there.

Deterrence is what gave us the time for the Cold War strategy to work. We don't have the time for a fifty year plan to work.

Keep up the good work in Irak, and you won't have ten years!

The WOT like the WOD are idiotic concepts that can't stand any reasonnable scrutiny. How do you fight against a tactic? A war against Al Quaida would make sense, but it would really involve very little violence, lots of developmental help and not make for great TV.

Deterrence was working fine with Hussein

Unless you were one of the 5,000 Iraqi children (or someone who loved them) under five years old dying each month during that deterrence.*

....just had to catch yours and toss that back.

*Again, not that this was a stated reason by The Administration for the invasion, or anyone can be completely comfortable about "trading" 10,000+ other Iraqi lives as well as 800+ of our soldiers, or that I think anyone, anywhere would prefer that Hussein was back, or still in power, but it sure has been a happy byproduct IMHO.

Edward:

Deterrence was working fine with Hussein...

I agree. However, deterrence was obviously not sufficient to prevent the destruction of the World Trade Center. Additionally, I think it's at least arguable that 9/11 was the price we paid for deterring Saddam.

Edward, I think you know that I opposed the war in Iraq. But we're there now and I—along with you, I believe—am convinced we've got to make lemonade out of this lemon.

I heard Kerry's address today. It's hard to get an eyelash between his position and GWB's unlike his primary stump speeches. He just doesn't like the results and he's got inordinate confidence in his own abilities to achieve different results using essentially the same approaches.

So if any of you are in favor of immediate withdrawal from Iraq who's your standard bearer? And I hope you've got stock in Alcoa.

However, deterrence was obviously not sufficient to prevent the destruction of the World Trade Center. Additionally, I think it's at least arguable that 9/11 was the price we paid for deterring Saddam.

Could you make that connection explicit, please?

Sure.

Deterring Saddam had two components: control of the airspace in the north and U. S. troops stationed in Saudi Arabia in the south. Osama bin Laden explicitly condemned having these troops stationed in "the land of the two holy mosques".

So under this theory 9/11 was OBL's revenge for our desecration of Saudi Arabia.

BTW, this is not necessarily my position. I'm just functioning as Devil's Advocate here.

Deterring Saddam had two components: control of the airspace in the north and U. S. troops stationed in Saudi Arabia in the south.

Ah, gotcha. I'd sort of forgotten that was the ostensible reason they were there.

BTW, this is not necessarily my position. I'm just functioning as Devil's Advocate here.

Understood.

"achieve different results using essentially the same approaches."

Why is that unlikely? It happens every day around my workplace. There are projects that will fail or flourish depending on who's carrying out essentially the same approaches.

sidereal:

Why is that unlikely? It happens every day around my workplace.

Take France, for example. The problem in securing French support seems to be not so much that Bush went about it the wrong way as that France's current diplomatic strategy is to oppose U. S. power. It's not the messenger, it's the message.

Additionally, check the Democratic roster for likely foreign policy mavens. Okay, now name three major foreign policy achievements of the Clinton administration (I can name one—Northern Ireland).

Finally, for all I know Kerry may be a very bright and capable guy. But he has neither diplomatic nor real executive experience. So he'll have a lot of catch-up to do. Did I accidently make a small funny there? Very small?

The problem in securing French support seems to be not so much that Bush went about it the wrong way as that France's current diplomatic strategy is to oppose U. S. power. It's not the messenger, it's the message.

I disagree to some extent. Chirac's an intransigent asshole at the best of times, but I suspect a better diploment would have had much more success in getting French support -- certainly, popular French support -- than did the Bush Administration.

You're correct that we probably couldn't have got the French onboard an entirely American-run venture -- which Iraq effectively is -- but that kind of compromise is an inextricable part of diplomacy. To put it another way, a better diplomat wouldn't have asked for the things that Bush asked for; the skill of the diplomat and of the executive would be measured by how much control they ceded versus how much support they gained, a far too complicated question for me to analyze.

There are many differences between the War on Terror and the Cold War but one enormous, total, essential difference is deterrence. The USSR was deterrable. OBL is not.

Deterrance works with states, however, in which OBL (and the like) must function. There is a very clear model for what will happen to your state if we determine that a terrorist strike was directed by persons within your borders, and you did not (and do not) take steps against those persons: We overthrow your regime, we hunt you down, and we try to kill you. 99% of state actors will be deterred from giving assistance.

We should we talking very softly in the Middle East, and brandishing an awful big stick. It will work.

"in which OBL (and the like) must function."

This is incorrect and I believe a terrible error. Of course they technically have to be in states to function, but I assume you mean they must be supported by states. Otherwise you're advocating nuking the US if terrorists are found here.

Osama's camps in Afghanistan were an act of hubris, not a requirement. Ask yourself this: was state support a factor in the execution of 9/11? I can't see how. The terrorists lived here, communicated here, were supported here, trained here, and carried out the deed here.

"State support" is, I believe, mostly a straw we hang onto because it's the only way we know how to fight wars.

"...or claim that we could've erased a thousand years of history if only we had devoted one more armored calvary division."

Wait, I thought this wasn't a Christian Crusade?

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