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May 25, 2005

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yes, it's definitely time. but, there's no chance Bush will do it. i don't know if there's a chance any Dems will do it either, but at least no Dems i know of are trying to present themselves as God's Gift to Democracy.

$0.01

If we really want to spread democracy globally and abide by the spirit of the 2005 Inaugural, then that means more pressure and more influence-wielding on our allies to reform. There is no justice without freedom. * * * Uzbekistan is another story. Our tools are pressure, exhortation, sanction and condemnation. We should use all of them, early and often.

Charles, how does that work when we're hat-in-hand to Karimov? What's he going to do if we use those "tools"? Cringe and comply? Or get on the phone to Peking, or Moscow?

Uzbekistan is another story. Our tools are pressure, exhortation, sanction and condemnation. We should use all of them, early and often.

Should, but won't, so long as the Bush administration finds it useful:

Uzbekistan's role as a surrogate jailer for the United States was confirmed by a half-dozen current and former intelligence officials working in Europe, the Middle East and the United States. The CIA declined to comment on the prisoner transfer program, but an intelligence official estimated that the number of terrorism suspects sent by the United States to Tashkent was in the dozens.

Any condemnation of Karimov by the Bush administration can only be regarded, both by Karimov and by his people, as pure PR for the benefit of the American public. The Bush administration would not find a democratic, humanitarian regime in Uzbekistan nearly as useful as a partner in the "war on terror".

Short form: I agree with you, Charles, surprisingly enough - but you'll get more support from me in what you're saying than you ever will from the Bush administration.


I have no problem at all with using nonviolent means to try to move other governments toward democracy. I would love it, actually, if we really truly committed to such a policy. I do remember, however, how the word "democracy" and the idea of "promoting democracy" has been used to justify the promotion of American influence through the imposition of dicatorships or support for the worse villians in the targeted country. i think that Charles is sincere--I have my doubts about the Bush administration.
Also, if the non-violent route is going to be taken we have to have clout of a non-violent kind. That means economic, moral, or political clout. it seems to me that we have been squandering all three.

"Our tools are pressure, exhortation, sanction and condemnation."

I have no problem with using these tools in Uzbekistan, although I would prefer that sanctions be used only if all else fails as too many innocent people are harmed by them. However, I don't understand why you don't suggest the same tools for Iran. What are you suggesting we do in Iran? You've said you don't want to use military force, a viewpoint I wholeheartedly support, but it's not clear to me what methods you do think might be useful and effective.

By the way, I note that Saudi Arabia rates a 7 (the worst rating) in both political rights and civil liberties on the Freedom House table. Iran got a 6 in both. Once again, why call for regime change in Iran and not Saudi Arabia?

Once again, why call for regime change in Iran and not Saudi Arabia?

it's a dark, slippery and flammable subject. we'd best not discuss it.

Charles, I've had nothing but horror for Karimov's regime, and I've written a number of times about it, most recently six days ago, here.

But about this:

Under the Pakistani model, the government has an obligation to uphold and preserve the Muslim style of life, and practices such as drinking, drug use, and prostitution are illegal.

Ugh.

There's nothing more inherently wrong with a "Muslim style of life" than there is with Britain having the Church of England as an established church, with guaranteed seats in the upper house for the top religious positions, or with those countries that are officially Catholic. And last I looked, our country banned drinking for 14 years, and still bans drugs and prostitution. Where's your "ugh"?

I don't otherwise disagree with you. But I think that if we're going to be for democracy, and we should, that we can't contest Muslim countries wanting to have some Muslim content to their governments. (I'll again commend this very short book, readable online, The Islamic Paradox: Shiite Clerics, Sunni Fundamentalists, and the Coming of Arab Democracy, by Reuel Marc Gerecht, to all.)

Once again, why call for regime change in Iran and not Saudi Arabia?

I thought that Charles' inclusion of Saudia Arabia in the lead-in was at least a tacit admission that they too are part of the problem, but a problem (like Pakistan) that is more nuanced than Iran because they are an integral part of Bush's implementation of the WOT.

Dianne: Once again, why call for regime change in Iran and not Saudi Arabia?

It's an interesting question, but not one I imagine that Charles, or any other supporter of George W. Bush, would want to discuss.

OK, I'll go for the other side in this. Yielding to no one anywhere in veneration for the fine civil system bequeathed to us by our founders (in form if not always in practice) and zeal for nearly total separation of church and state -- a battle we have fought here in North America from Roger Williams onward -- I'm not interested in making adoption of our framework by other countries the principal goal of our foreign policy.

(Let me here digress and say that I took the opposite position during the Cold war, but now think I was a little too doctrinaire.)

The principal goal is prevailing in our "war" against AQ. To the extent we can do this while helping other countries fre their citizenry, that's a fine thing. When, however, we have to endure a monster on our side, I'm willing to go along, for a short term, nose held, so long as we're actually making progress in the war.

Even without oil, regime change in Uz or SA is not likely, in my view, to bring us closer to victory over AQ, but is more likely to be counterproductive. Hostility even more so -- and I think the Syrians cutting off cooperation this week is Exhibit A.

We need the cooperation of bad people to catch worse people. A price has to be paid for that cooperation. I've no problem at all dropping a bad guy when his usefulness is at an end (Saddam after 1988), or working, quietly, with our allies to move them in the right direction. (I think we could be doing more with SA, but that's pretty uninformed, and the results of the recent elections don't look all that good.) But open hostility to someone whose help we need is ideological rigidity.

(Of course, it is up to us to decide what help we want. I think that rendering prisoners to Uz, or admitting confessions gotten there under torture is beyond the pale. We are always responsible for our own conduct.)

"But open hostility to someone whose help we need is ideological rigidity."

I'm pretty rigid about regimes that boil its citizens alive on a whim, and massacre crowds when being more efficient. I'm just sadly, sadly, rigid about that sort of thing. I also don't believe in choosing short-term goals without consideration of long-term effects, and weighing them against each other. (Note that this statement does, in fact, allow a bit of wiggle room for "cooperation with bad people," but only within strict limits.)

Essentially this boils down to a free pass to collaborate with tyrants so long as you wag your finger at them from time to time, picking only the weakest to actually take a hard stand on. Perhaps that's reality, but it's hardly the sort of thing we thought we were hearing when Bush noted:

We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people.

Success in our relations currently only requires you let us build an airbase in your deserts.


CharleyCarp, I do believe what you're saying is probably far, far closer to Bush foreign policy (hell, to any administration's foreign policy, and I don't just mean US administration) than it is to the ideals professed of "promoting democracy" or "promoting freedom".

Not that I agree with it or like it: but practically speaking, it's just straightforwardly what happens. No government is entirely innocent in this.

Sometimes the contradiction is so gross it reeks more than most: I'm thinking of Tony Blair claiming that the UK would from now on (this was in 1997) have an "ethical foreign policy" - which, it was rapidly made clear, did not in any way mean they would not within five years have quadrupled the level of public money which would be used to support some extremely dubious militaristic and environmentally-destructive projects overseas, or force the sale of a military air traffic control system on Tanzania. (cite)

With Bush, some of the contradictions reek to high heaven: his claims to support democracy while supporting a military coup in Venezuela against a democratically-elected government is the most obvious one. (Or referring to Pakistan as a model of democracy, when it is governed by a dictator who took power in another military coup.)

Of course Bush spouts hot air about democracy and freedom. But by his actions, there's no reason to suppose he means it.

It is nonetheless annoying to hear Bush claim "they hate us because of our freedoms" - when the fact is, the problem is not the freedoms of the US: it's America's perfect willingness to use its superior power to suppress freedom elsewhere exactly as it suits US foreign policy of the moment. As Rumsfeld observed, "Freedom is messy" - free democracies cannot be relied upon to support US foreign policy, whereas tyrannical dictators may well do so for a quid pro quo.

Jes -
Not sure I have ever heard Bush refer to Pakistan as a "model of democracy." He has said some pretty nice things about Musharraf, and generally seems to turn a blind eye to the abuses and outright collaboration by (a)Pakistan's intelligence services with AQ and (b) Pakistan's nuclear establishment with the black market nuke trade, but I don't think he has ever actually called Pakistan a democracy.

I also don't believe in choosing short-term goals without consideration of long-term effects, and weighing them against each other.

Agreed. I think that many folks arguing for regime change are making exactly this mistake.

"Perhaps that's reality, but it's hardly the sort of thing we thought we were hearing when Bush noted:

"We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people.""

It's exactly the thing that I thought I was hearing - lies and BS to cover the truth.

In 1943, had I been alive and asked by FDR, I would have said, "Hold off on talking about regime change."

We co-operated with Stalin because there was no real alternative. The historical revisionists who have been writing Bush's 'analysis of history' know this is the case, yet advocate a far higher standard of never co-operating with any thugs, ever. If that is the standard that Bush wants to use, I think he'll have a hard time, but the United States is in the position today that we do not have to co-operate with a single government on the planet that represses its people. We were wrong to co-operate with the Saudis, Uzbekis, and Pakistanis in the past and we continue to be wrong in co-operating with them today.

Our argument has always been that these people can help us, yet when we ask, somehow the help never arrives. The Saudis never take responsibility for funding the schools that turn out suicidal zealots, the Pakistanis never actually catch the people we are after, the Uzbekis never do anything but embarrass us by managing to treat prisoners worse than we managed to. Each of these so-called allies is both a short-term and long-term problem for us. We have been fools to be manipulated by them.

No, petroleum is not an excuse, nor should it be. The Saud family betrayed us in the '70s. We must assume that they will do it again if it is convenient, therefore we cannot allow ourselves to be held hostage to such an evil family. We must be willing to do what it takes never to owe them anything, never to rely on them for anything. They cannot be trusted and we would be fools to try to trust them.

In The SOVIET UNION!!

hit the button too fast!

What's he going to do if we use those "tools"? Cringe and comply? Or get on the phone to Peking, or Moscow?

Exactly.

Did someone say something about Karimov and Beijing?

Once again, why call for regime change in Iran and not Saudi Arabia?

And the preferred alternative in Saudi Arabia is what exactly, Dianne? The country is chock full of Wahhabis and neo-Salafis who would turn back Arabia's clock by 500 years if they ever took the reins of power.

There's nothing more inherently wrong with a "Muslim style of life"

Unfortunately, Gary, none of the governments in Asia, Africa or the Middle East that have been under sharia or theocracy have been compatible with freedom and the means (democracy) to achieve freedom. A communist style of life has met with just about the same rates of success. On a personal level, the "Muslim style of life" is one issue, the problem is when it's applied on a governmental scale.

BTW, I'm a big fan Gerecht. Very clear-headed writer.

"Unfortunately, Gary, none of the governments in Asia, Africa or the Middle East that have been under sharia or theocracy have been compatible with freedom and the means (democracy) to achieve freedom."

Yeah, that's why the Islamic parties in Turkey were repeatedly kept out of power for decades. Now, of course, they are suffering horrible under such an Islamic government, that the injustice is simply palpable.

Oh, wait.

(Have you read this specific Gerecht book, though?)

The principal goal is prevailing in our "war" against AQ.

I agree, but what is the best way to do it? Yes, we need to attack them and kill them, dry up their money sources and make sure they live their remaining days as fugitives, but what about the root causes? To me, the root causes are AQ's vile ideology and the environments where they're allowed to fester and grow. Those environments happen to be unfree countries. None of the countries where AQ has footholds are free. They have little or no representation or respect for human rights and freedoms. What's the best to counter this? Attack the ideology and promote other more tolerant forms of Islam. We also need to change environments. Free societies don't put up with extremist sects very well. They lose in the marketplace of ideas.

With Bush, some of the contradictions reek to high heaven: his claims to support democracy while supporting a military coup in Venezuela against a democratically-elected government is the most obvious one.

FTR, Jes, the Bush administration did not endorse the April 2003 weekend coup in Venezuela. The story is here, written by a Venezuelan who was there.

Gary, I haven't read your Gerecht link, but I'll give it a shot when I have a block of time.

st, Bush called Pakistan a democracy in his interview with Carole Coleman on Irish television in June 2004:

Well, I think, first of all, you've got a democracy in Turkey. And you've got a democracy emerging in Afghanistan. You've got a democracy in Pakistan.
You can watch the whole thing if you want to cringe through Bush dealing with an insufficiently subservient interviewer, or skip to about the 25-minute mark.

CB: I think that a policy of trying to bring about a reformation within Islam is a Fools Errand. Our involvement hinders the project because, in my opinion, the primary appeal of these ideologies is as a response to humiliation at the hands of the West. More humiliation is not the cure.

As for whether the existence of "free" societies will have a positive impact, I think there's far too little evidence to support this. Atta and the guys didn't abandon the quest when they got a chance to live in Florida. Plenty of AQ supporters live in Germany. There are Islamist extremists all over the place, anywhere people feel viscerally the sting of the Moslem world's humiliation.

That's the bigger question however. I see no reason on earth that we can't wait to worry about that after the entire AQ leadership is safely behind bars.

Charles: Unfortunately, Gary, none of the governments in Asia, Africa or the Middle East that have been under sharia or theocracy have been compatible with freedom and the means (democracy) to achieve freedom.

I'd say that many of the older forms of governance (14th century through 18th, to pick a pair of arbitrary cut-off dates) were just as compatible with democracy as the contemporary governments in Europe. The difference is... well, legion, really, and far too complicated to get into here but, simply put: they didn't advance down the freedom track and we did. One step in the right direction might be -- and I stress, might be -- to try to resurrect those older forms of government (or polities, if that's too abstract) in an effort to do it right the next time.

BTW, good post, Charles. :)

And now that we're all set... anyone want to burn a few joss sticks to summon the spirit of the Rampaging Katherine? I hear she knows a little about Uzbekistan's, um, "peculiar institutions"...

FTR, Charles: The Bush administration immediately endorsed the Pedro Carmona government briefly formed by military coup: and blamed Hugo Chavez for "provoking" the coup. (Venezuelans responsible for the coup who were visiting the White House in the months before the coup were received by Otto Reich, Bush's pro-terrorist appointee.) Those are facts available and on the record.
Further, it is alleged:

Now officials at the Organisation of American States and other diplomatic sources, talking to The Observer, assert that the US administration was not only aware the coup was about to take place, but had sanctioned it, presuming it to be destined for success. cite

So much for Bush's "support" for democracy.

Those are facts available and on the record.

I know this is true -- I happened to be out drinking with a friend of mine the day Bush endorsed the usurping government and we had some unkind things to say about this -- but I don't happen to have a cite handy. Any suggestions?

On which note, your latter cite is, um, way broken.

CB: I think that a policy of trying to bring about a reformation within Islam is a Fools Errand. Our involvement hinders the project because, in my opinion, the primary appeal of these ideologies is as a response to humiliation at the hands of the West. More humiliation is not the cure.

I have this image of the Ottoman Empire's subsidizing Martin Luther. I'm sure that such a deed's becoming public would've been the death knell of the Reformation.

"And the preferred alternative in Saudi Arabia is what exactly,"

Democracy. Democracy in Saudi Arabia does not mean election of a government acceptable to you, me, or George Bush. It means a government acceptable to the Saudi people and one that will go away again when it is no longer acceptable to them. If, at the moment, they would elect an Islamic fundamentalist government given the chance, that's their decision. I think it would be a profoundly bad idea, but I'm not Saudi so I don't get a vote in their elections, if and when they have them. You also note no particularly viable democratic movement in Uzbekistan but still suggest that we should do whatever we can to encourage that country to develop a democratic movement. I agree, but would like to see the same for other countries in which the US has influence and are seriously lacking in freedom.

Thank you, Mr. Bird. And important topic and a good post.

Options in Saudi Arabia may be changing shortly. King Fahd is hospitalized and the Kingdom on a state of alert.

"King Fahd is hospitalized and the Kingdom on a state of alert."

Since Fahd hasn't been compos mentis in an eternity, it's most likely it will change nothing when he dies.

Gary,

That depends upon whether there's a power struggle (not merely if any of the other half-brothers want to challenge Abdullah for the kingship, but also (and more likely) if Abdullah wanted to make any changes but felt constrained until he became king).

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