June 20, 2004

Reverse Augustinianism

"It is important to remember that freedom is not the same thing as democracy. When people are liberated, they become free to be what they already are. They almost never are already a democracy. Democracy is an elaborate structure of principles and institutions. It is built, not found. The liberation of Iraq is only a condition for the democratization of Iraq. Finally the fate of Iraq is in the hands of Iraqis. If Iraq becomes a theocracy, or succumbs to a strongman, or collapses as a state, all this, too, will be the work of a free Iraq. For this reason, it is important to remember also that democratization is essentially a policy of destabilization. It demands the overthrow of one political culture so that another political culture may take its place. (That is why the outrages at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere are not only repugnant but also disastrous: "Hearts and minds" are precisely the field upon which democratizers make their stand. In this regard, nothing could be more damaging to the future of Iraq than Iraqi anti-Americanism.) It is absolutely astonishing that the planners of this war expected only happiness in its wake. Their postwar planning seems to have consisted in a kind of reverse Augustinianism: goodness is the absence of evil, Saddam is evil, Saddam's absence is good. They failed to intuit all the other evils that would emerge in the absence of this evil. They did not recognize the multiplicity of Iraq's demons; which is to say, they did not recognize Iraq. Here, too, they operated unempirically, in a universe of definitions and congratulations."

--Leon Wieseltier, writing in TNR.

Read the whole thing.

There are so few journalists of his caliber.

And don't miss John McCain (also writing in TNR's special Iraq issue) either:

Should we have done things differently? Of course. We should have worked harder before the war to get more European allies on board and offered greater political support to those nations that did join our coalition. We should have invaded with more troops, acted more quickly to stop looting, stabilized key cities, secured arms depots and borders, and established checkpoints in key areas. We should have handed power more rapidly to Iraqis. But were we wrong to invade? No. On the biggest question of all--whether Saddam had to go, by force if necessary--we were right. I would do it again today.
Posted by Gregory at June 20, 2004 02:51 AM
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