Bush's flashy love affair with democracy is a fallback position: it ascended when the original rationale for the war in Iraq—the threat of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction—receded. Bush was dismissive of "nation building" in his 2000 presidential campaign. By the 2004 race, however, a staple of his stump speech was, "Freedom isn't America's gift to the world. It's the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world." A lovely sentiment, a beautiful line, a potentially disastrous policy.
Democracy...demands that people take charge of their lives and make informed decisions. That takes time, the careful accumulation of the habits of citizenship. Bush's "gift" formulation sends exactly the wrong message; it leads people to believe that all they need is a purple finger and life will get better. The President seems a victim of that same delusion: he seems to believe that we can get away with promoting democracy through glorious rhetoric without doing the slow, expensive, heavy lifting of nation building.
Bush's global-democracy, uhhh, crusade, is yet another triumph of spin over substance, a broad-brush carelessness that feeds off emotional election-day highs, flag waving and freedom rallies across the region but which has led, in every case, to severe hangovers.
From Afghanistan to Egypt, not one country that has had an election in the past year has emerged more stable as a result of the experience. In Iraq, three elections—the last one little more than a "census," in the words of Iraqi journalist Nibras Kazimi—have increased the probability of partition or civil war and installed a corrupt, Iran-leaning government of religious conservatives, which will undoubtedly remain in power when the new "permanent" government is formed. In Afghanistan, elections have brought narco-warlords to positions of significant power. Even the Potemkin elections in Saudi Arabia and Egypt resulted in the aggrandizement of religious extremists. There was the election—more a selection, really—of foulmouthed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, who has turned out to be far more radical than the ruling mullahs anticipated. And now Hamas in Palestine.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Joe Klein points out how GW's naive, child-like, simplistic thinking continues to get this country into terrible situations, ones we'll be cleaning up and fixing for many years to come:
Posted by Grey Matter at 12:08 AM