- Western democracy cannot simply be imposed on an eastern culture that has no democratic traditions and no institutions to support it. The idea that we could impose representative democracy on a country with an authoritarian history and a diverse religious population is simply misguided. Iraq was held together by a strongman with dictatorial powers: that is its history, and its future (if it has one) as a single nation. In order to bring about order in Iraq with the Sunni and Shiite factions at each other's throats would require a degree of cruelty that we are unprepared and unwilling to exercise--and rightly so. But we should have known this is what it would require, and, being unwilling to engage in it, we should not have acted as if we were.
- Democracy should be seen as one of many legitimate forms of government, and should not be viewed as a religion. Just because we are a democratic republic does not mean that everyone else has to be. We should acknowledge Winston Churchill's assertion that democracy is the worst form of government ever devised by man--except for all the others that have been attempted throughout human history. Even if we believe that republican democracy was the best form of government, we are not therefore obliged to demand that every other country practice it. There are other forms of government that we ought to see as acceptable and legitimate, and to think anything else is utopianism. The messianic political rhetoric of the Bush administration in this regard is a recipe for foreign policy disaster.
- America should strive to be a republic and should avoid thinking and acting like an empire. We are not the world's police force, and we need to get over it. American political leaders should have one objective and one objective only: the interest of the United States. Imposing democracy on the world doesn't accomplish this end and only detracts from it. We should help our friends and penalize our enemies, and when we do the latter, it should take some other form than invading them--unless they are on the verge of invading us. The only way Iraq could have done that to us was with weapons of mass destruction, which they didn't have.
- Military action should be swift, severe, and short-lived. If there was evidence that someone in Iraq was involved in 9/11, then we should have taken them out and gone home. As it stands, there is little hope of stabilizing Iraq in any short period of time, and we are in the dilemma of either making a long term commitment that is politically unfeasible or leaving the country in chaos and the middle east in instability. When you try to own a country that isn't yours, it ends up owning you.
- The United States should never try to run another country. We have our hands full trying to run our own. The war has sapped our resources and left us less capable of dealing with problems in our own country--and less able to be flexible in dealing with other foreign policy crises that could easily and quickly arise. North Korea, which is far more of a threat than Iraq could ever have been, might need our attention, and there still exists the possibility that mainland China could attack Taiwan. Our military presence in Iraq renders us incapable of dealing with either of these problems.
- The American military should be seen as a military, not a political tool. Although some people blame the military for Iraq, they need to remember that it was politicians, not the military, that made the decision to invade Iraq. When you ask a military force to perform a police function, you shouldn't be surprised when it doesn't turn out well, and when it doesn't, you should blame the people who made the decision to use them--not the ones who are being used--in this way.
- Misguided foreign and domestic policy leadership by the head of a political party can haunt that political party for a whole generation. The previous generation of Americans judged the political parties by two leaders: Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. The identity of Republicans and Democrats was based on the American public's opinion of these two presidents--to the benefit of Republicans and the detriment of Democrats. Whoever is identified with the Democrats (possibly Clinton), this generation will see the Republicans in light of the Bush administration. His hubristic foreign policy, his lack of fiscal restraint, and his abandonment of small government conservatism has squandered the Reagan legacy, and the result could be many years in the wilderness for the Republican Party. Republicans will spend many years trying to reclaim what they have lost. They may be given plenty of time to work on it.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Seven things I still believe
Several websites (several of which are conservative) have printed lists of beliefs they had before the Iraq War that had to be abandoned because of it. A number of blogs, including Eunomia (Daniel Larison's blog), The Daily Dish (Andrew Sullivan), Crunchy Cons (Ron Dreher), and In the Agora, have all spoken on what they no longer believe. Being a paleo-conservative skeptical from the outset, here is my list of beliefs that have been confirmed over the course of the War: