March 14, 2005

The Iraq Effect

Mona Eltahawy:

The invasion of Iraq was the equivalent of a bucket of freezing water thrown in the face of an Arab world in deep slumber.

There, I've said it. Can we move on now?

There is a way to talk about the effect of the Iraq war on the rest of the Arab world without actually supporting that war. This time last year and the year before, I marched in demonstrations in New York against the war on Iraq, which I did not believe was launched in the name of democracy and freedom. But we would be lying to ourselves if we didn't acknowledge that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is a major catalyst for what has been happening lately, be it in Egypt, Lebanon or Saudi Arabia.

As an Egyptian man told me recently, if there was a "domino effect" sparked by the invasion, it was one of questions.

"The U.S. invasion revealed the ability to overthrow one of the worst tyrants around and led to this question: If this regime collapsed, why not the others? Why shouldn't Syria leave Lebanon? Why shouldn't we change the Egyptian regime? Isn't it enough (kifaya) already?"

A bucket of freezing water thrown in the face is one of the more apt analogies I've seen yet. And this from someone who protested against the war!

Be sure not to miss the estimable Youssef Ibrahim either:

"His talk about democracy is good," an Egyptian-born woman was telling companions at the Fatafeet (or "Crumbs") restaurant the other night, exuberant enough for her voice to carry to neighboring tables. "He keeps hitting this nail. That's good, by God, isn't it?" At another table, a Lebanese man was waxing enthusiastic over Bush's blunt and irreverent manner toward Arab autocrats. "It is good to light a fire under their feet," he said.

From Casablanca to Kuwait City, the writings of newspaper columnists and the chatter of pundits on Arabic language satellite television suggest a change in climate for advocates of human rights, constitutional reforms, business transparency, women's rights and limits on power. And while developments differ vastly from country to country, their common feature is a lifting -- albeit a tentative one -- of the fear that has for decades constricted the Arab mind.

Indeed.

MORE: It's a "democratic, electric shock." But not everyone is seeing it quite this way...

Posted by Gregory at March 14, 2005 03:06 AM | TrackBack (9)
Comments

While I generally agree with this blog's crowing over the "Arab spring," I nonetheless think you rather selectively quoted Ms. Eltahawy --- the rest of the article is the "BUT....."

Posted by: Sanjay Krishnaswamy at March 14, 2005 03:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Iraq invasion has acted like a chemical catalyst, triggering reactions throughout the region. . . but this isn't to say that the outcomes will approximate our interpretation of modernization and western democracy. . . I tend to think that this bubbling of political expression will at best simply re-direct their grievances inward for a time, buying us some years until the east/west clash re-emerges...more:

Posted by: Spear Shaker at March 14, 2005 03:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Such a sad story, a liberal finally has the courage
to let the president have one small victory and the
rest whine.
What else is new?
Hang in there, there will be stories you can tell
when things go wrong, and then Kerry can run
our country.
Then you can withdraw the troops, stop helping
the Iraqi people, watch them die, and be happy.
You will have something to be proud about, right?

Posted by: CJG at March 14, 2005 04:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lets not forget the incredible stroke of luck with Arafats death. The tide turned at that critical point. A reasonable man elected by the Palestinian people, Isreal forced to negotiate with a reasonable man or risk ruining their position with the US and the world. Noone can argue with a people risking their lives to place their votes, even though half of the country couldnt because of the lack of security therefore a guaranteed majority win (sounds like the republican vote challenge tactic used here).
The election in Saudi is lip service as told to me by a Saudi gentleman recently. None of the municipality positions will hold any power. The assasination of a loved politician in Lebanon causes a surge of social unrest, opening an emotional wound and a door for change. People emboldened and empassioned. The attempted murder of a popular politician in the Ukraine brings people into the streets to fight for him and the promise of democracy. Luck and timing-Not the domino theory.

Posted by: Christy Prosapio at March 14, 2005 04:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Luck and timing-Not the domino theory.

Oh yes, we certainly wouldn't want to give George W. Bush any credit for anything. Especially not if we're rabid moonbats.

Posted by: farnham at March 14, 2005 04:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Christy, we'll grant you that Arafat's death made a lot of progress possible.

Makes you wonder why we didn't whack him a decade ago, eh?

But I digress. Arafat's death is one reason why events are moving in favor of democracy. So is the fall of Saddam. Remember, Qaddafi himself said, "I saw what happened to Saddam and I became very afraid." Egyptians, Lebanese, other Arabs in the region have passion and hope now where four years ago there was none.

It's good that tyrants are afraid of their people. It's good that ordinary people (not dissimilar from you and me) have hope. It's good that people in a dozen places in the Middle East are now willing to challenge the monarchs and despots that have ruled them.

One key catalyst has been the removal of Saddam. If you can't acknowledge that, you simply can't be taken seriously in any discussion of the matter.

Posted by: Steve White at March 14, 2005 04:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And so the dangerous game continues. The people keep pushing for democracy and reform, the thugs pull back.

The question is, will they continue to pull back, or will they fight back? And if they fight back, and see that all they get will be finger-wagging from the U.N., well, we're back to where we were, aren't we?

In the Ukraine, it wasn't just the people power that changed events, it was those in charge of the military who had decided that, if ordered to roll out the tanks, weren't going to do it.

Now we're watching Lebanon and wondering, which way will it go this time?

Posted by: Bill Peschel at March 14, 2005 04:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bill (and others),

Yes, it continues, as those with power gained without the consent of the governed rarely surrender it peacefully, but sometimes they do as we saw in the old Soviet Bloc and elsewhere. Freedom has a price; it appears the first step toward securing freedom often starts with a willingness to pay that price. While Iraqis did next to nothing to dispose themselves of their dictator (for quite obvious and understandably practical reasons), their act of voting in the face of promised terrorist reprisals indicates a broad willingness to take risks to secure freedom. The effect of this upon neighboring Arabs, while not specifically quantifiable, certainly is meaningful and beyond doubt. Those crabbing that Bush deserves no credit for this, like Prosapio above, would better serve us by explaining how they'd have got there better and sooner than Bush did. My guess is they have no answer but more crabbing. When an Arab thanks an American for their freedom, they sure as hell won't mean the Prosapios of the world.

Posted by: Tim at March 14, 2005 06:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The problem I see is the Arab people themselves. I am not yet convinced that there is broad political will upon the part of the Arab people to join the modern world in the sense that the Ukraine, or Chile, or other countries throwing off brutal dicatorships have done.

To me there is still too much excuse making for the miserable state of the societies of Arab countries, the poverty, violence, lack of civil organizations, strongmen and theocrats, and not a Vaclav Havel or Lech Walesa or such like among them. No leadership and no civic organizations and citizen agreement.

Yes Bush and Iraq were catalysts, but the reverse is also true, WHY were Arab societies frozen like insects in amber? When every other society was changing, why did they fall into paralysis?

Posted by: Jim Rockford at March 14, 2005 07:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jim Rockford -

One reason they fell into their paralysis is because you can't have a modern society when you repress half the population - in Islam's case, women. Society cannot advance when half the brainpower, half the labor, half the ideas are locked away and ignored - the women. It isn't just a human rights issue (though that is important); it's resources.

Also, it ain't "pc" but IMO the participation of women in a society tends to have a mitigating influence on testosterone-fueled violence and lawlessness. Women, generally, aren't interested in repressing others and fighting for territory etc. They want to "nest," have families, feed their families, defend their children, and raise their children and live decently. It's a whole other attitude missing from Islamic countries, where women and their voices are locked away and ignored.

Posted by: flick at March 14, 2005 12:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hehe, had an aunt once who travelled extensively and was a real pistol in her day. She once commented, "If the world was run by women there would be no wars. A hell of a lot of assassinations but no wars."

Posted by: Faith+1 at March 14, 2005 01:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Perhaps we are finally seeing the mythical Arab street.

Posted by: David at March 14, 2005 02:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What an odd little perspective you have there Christy - "Lets not forget the incredible stroke of luck with Arafats death. The tide turned at that critical point. A reasonable man elected by the Palestinian people, Isreal forced to negotiate with a reasonable man or risk ruining their position with the US and the world."

How to start - lets begin with the decision by George W Bush to exclude Arafat from the political discussion early on in his Presidency - long before the master terrorist had finally become worm food

A decision that was derided in Europe as typical "Cowboy Diplomacy" and not smart at all

Now that Arafat is dead it would seem that not having him involved has become a good thing in the eyes of these same europeans and US moonbats

Seems Bush was right about that too eh

As for Israel being "forced" to deal with a reasonable Pali leader ( how reasonable he turns out to be will be found out in the Pali civil war btw ) - such a comment speaks volumes about your ignorance

The Israeli's had dealt with Arafat to no avail until they finally concluded that this was not a man you could partner with for peace

The US came to the same conclusion soon after

And Europe is only realizing this now that the bastard is dead

To suggest that Israel chose not to work for peace as you do is vile anti-semtic filth so typical of a european attitude toward Israel

Just blame the jooo's eh - it makes life so simple

Posted by: Pogue at March 14, 2005 02:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Faith+1 --

I wonder what's going on in the households in Iraq right now - not to diss the Iraqis, mind you, but radical islam allowed and even encouraged brutality towards disobedient wives.

I wonder if more women are taking the kids and leaving their husbands. I wonder how many terrorists are being turned in by disaffected wives. Heh.

Posted by: flick at March 14, 2005 03:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Arafat's death would mean nothing if we hadn't been pushing for real Palestinian elections before he died. What would have happened if we had been dealing with him and then he croaked? Where would the "negotiations" have gone then? They would have been handed over to whatever kleptocrat was standing nearest the body.

Bush's refusal to deal with Arafat's bloody hands kept Barghouti from being elected while in an Isreali jail and led to Abbas' election, because he offered the prospect of real reform for the PA and he was a man that Sharon and Bush would be willing to deal with. It's not as if the invasion of Iraq has been the only element of American foreign policy in the region that has yielded substantial dividends. Our opposition to Syria (in the form of resolution 1559) has allowed us to be on the right side of the Lebanese front as well. Bush has done many things right in the last four years and it's time people started recognizing that.

His administration has been led by sound principles that people had forgotten about between Reagan and W. That is what has made all the difference. It has allowed us to be on the side of freedom, not stability and it has put us in a position to take advantage of new opportunities as they arose instead of trying to manage and restrain the human impulse toward liberty. All that is left is to see whether his doctrine of "the transformative power of liberty" will really hold up. I'm optimistic.

Posted by: The Apologist at March 14, 2005 03:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

flick,

Its difficult to leave your husband when you know that the outcome is likely death.

That said...there is another option. They can fight back. And if a few start others will too. My grandfather was a mean man, but he never beat my grandmother, because quite frankly, she'd beat him back -- with a frying pan.

It seems that the challenge for men is to conquer their violent tendencies. But I think it is equally a challenge for women to overcome their passivity. We "just take it" too often -- and usually the result is passive aggression, unhappy children, and often unhappy husbands.

Posted by: Carolynn Gockel at March 14, 2005 04:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Christy - "noone can argue with a people risking their lives to place their votes, even though half of the country couldnt because of the lack of security therefore a guaranteed majority win (sounds like the republican vote challenge tactic used here)." Woof! You must be fantastically challenged to bark such nonsense. The Iraqis risked death to vote - the Democrats got out the dead vote - big difference.

Posted by: Mark Marshall at March 14, 2005 05:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

(from that article in "The Nation"):

"The onus is on Washington to prove that its new rhetoric is not a disguise for an aggressive campaign for Israeli and US dominance in the region."

Oh ... it is, is it?

Posted by: Knemon at March 14, 2005 10:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And American people wonder why much of the rest of the world think they are arrogant and obnoxious.

I'm a vociferous critic of George Bush, because he epitomises by and large the kind of comments made here by his avowed supporters. Arrogance, a lack of common sense, and failure to see beyond the immediate and obvious issues, as well as a blind belief that the American way is the only way.

That said I am pleasantly surprised at the positive turn of events we've seen in the Middle East since January. I'm impressed by the way the White House has adopted a greater emphasis on finding diplomatic solutions and their efforts to engage with Old Europe - who I will happily concede at times have their heads buried up their proverbials.

If the momentum continues I may even cease to consider GWB the worst president in US history since Nixon.

But I would like to challenge his avowed supporters here to consider the following. There are still some grave questions concerning the White House's performance to date. Domestically performance has been very poor, and there is still a considerable taint surrounding some of the dealings and reasonings the administration has used to justify its actions. To make a couple of analogies, when a bully does a good turn they are still a bully, and if we liken the last 3 months to baseball one good innings does not win the game. Have the means justfied the ends. In my opinion (and it is only my opinion) in most cases it hasn't been.

I also see a certain Irony in GWB defining goal of bringing freedom and democracy to the world at a time when American Civil Liberties and Freedoms have been eroded to such a degree - not a little hypocritical.

Rather than blindly react to my comments I'm hoping some of you will instead question why the rest of the world holds such a view of America. Criticism is not always a bad thing if makes you stop and question what you are doing. It appears the Bush admininstration has realised this, and is adopting a different aproach, without necessarily taking their eye off the end game. I just hope that some of Bush's supporters here will do the same....

Posted by: Aran Brown at March 14, 2005 11:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A day is coming when the left whinge realizes they were lying to themselves and were wrong all the time.

That might not happen for awhile.

Posted by: Josh at March 15, 2005 12:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I'm hoping some of you will instead question why the rest of the world holds such a view of America."

Accounting for someone else's ignorance is simply impossible. You're going to have to figure out why you're all so wrong on your own, but here's a hint...

"Domestically performance has been very poor..."

This is simply inaccurate. Why you believe something as ridiculous as this is a mystery to me, but I imagine it has something to do with "disreputable sources".

"...and there is still a considerable taint surrounding some of the dealings and reasonings the administration has used to justify its actions."

This is suitably vague. If you don't have an argument, just offer accusations couched in a considered and deliberate tone. Maybe nobody will notice. As to your characterizations of GWB...

"Arrogance..."

He was right. You were wrong. That he doesn't apologize to you for your embarassment does not make him arrogant. But your slander makes you petty.

"a lack of common sense"

Are you paying attention to Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Palestine? I don't think you know what your talking about.

" failure to see beyond the immediate and obvious issues"

An unwillingness to overcomplicate problems is a sign of a problem-solver. The desire to overcomplicate a problem is a sign of cognitive dissonance, an advanced delusional state, or a lack of experience in actual problem solving. I leave it to you to determine which is the case.

"as well as a blind belief that the American way is the only way"

Absent any serious alternatives, it is. If you don't like the way we do things, then you do it. Don't expect us to give you influence simply because you exist. If you have a good idea, we'll use it. If you have a talent, we'll use it. If you have resources or distribution systems, we'll use them. And we'll thank you for your help afterwords. But we won't stop doing what we think needs doing just because you object. To make that demand is the height of arrogance.

All of these criticisms and more are the reason we don't listen to ankle biters like yourself. In short, when you write things like this...

"If the momentum continues I may even cease to consider GWB the worst president in US history since Nixon."

and this...

"It appears the Bush admininstration has realised this, and is adopting a different aproach..."

and this...

"I also see a certain Irony in GWB defining goal of bringing freedom and democracy to the world at a time when American Civil Liberties and Freedoms have been eroded to such a degree - not a little hypocritical."

You appear to be uninformed and...unserious. You have no credibility with any serious opposition. The only people who find your comments worth reading are people who already agree with you. Which is probably why we don't "question why the rest of the world holds such a view of America." Yours is a fundamentally uninformed and unserious view.

Posted by: The Apologist at March 15, 2005 01:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thanks for proving my point. Ys its true - it would appear that the majority of Americans who post on this blog are arrogant, nationally insecure uneducated, gullible twats.

Sorry Greg - you happen to be a Bush supporter you can have a reasoned debate with, but it appears most of the posters here confirm my suspicions.

But hey Apologist and others - no skin off my nose. My country isn't targeted by terrorists who target your country to a large degree because of your nations appalling foreign policy record. Nor do I live in a country where the media is so utterly driven by wall street ratings and political macinations you have no hope of ever seeing an objective piece of reporting. At least one that isn't buried in the midst of some fairly over the top conspiracy internet sites, which by their very nature would understandably put someone with your viewpoint off ever seeking an objective counterview to tose of the mainstream conservative media. (and I'm the first to admit their is a load of drivel and dross on the internet too - the difference is that it doesn't masquerade as being objective like the mainstream media does)

As it stands apologist I can quote plenty of evidence to support my claims. You however appear more than happy to simply refute my suggestions with a childish inference that I appear uninformed and ergo lacking in intelligence or somehow equate that because I am critical of GWB's record to date that somehow I'm a handwringing leftie apologist. Well I'm happy to debate with you if you can provide evidence to support your claims... If not well I'm hardly going to waste my time...

Not the least of which you missed the entire point of my post. I challenged you to think about why the world is so critical of US actions over the past 4 years. Yet you proved my point with your instant over the top reactionary combative post. Disappointing but not unexpected.

Posted by: Aran Brown at March 15, 2005 04:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aran your comments are simply embarassing. You don't just read the Independent do you? From here in the UK it sounds like you print the editorial every day and memorise it. You genuinely read like someone who has never even visited the United States.

Your view is typical of that of a Euro-elite. If you don't like what the United States is doing, then why don't you do something about it? Why are European nations incapable of having real impact on the world stage? The reason is they forfeited the ability to have such impact in favour of generous welfare state arrangments that left Europe toothless, even to prevent a 'never again' genocide directly on the borders of the EU.

I challenge you to recognise that 'what the world thinks' is irrelevent when no suitable alternatives are on the table. 'The world' thought Reagan's arm buildup was a bad thing, they were wrong (unless you subscribe to left-wing revisionist history), and I have no reason to believe that 'the world' is any more accurate now. Events will overtake your view in short order, I hope you don't hurt yourself moving goalposts around and struggling for extra layers of nuance.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson at March 15, 2005 03:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110006422#hero


Woah there, the Arab street finally makes an appearence and actually comes out for freedom, even quoting G.W. Bush! There goes that unilaterally critical world again!

Posted by: Andrew Paterson at March 15, 2005 04:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Andrew - embarrasing?? Why? Because I can think for myself and challenge commonly held misconceptions? My views come from a wide range of media sources - so that where possible I have a balanced perspective from left and right - where as you appear to draw all of your comments from Fox. Besides, what can one do when one lives in the South pacific in a country of 4 million people, when the worlds only real superpwoer decides to act unilaterally?

One word - Nothing. Iraq proves that point exactly. I don't come from a "Euro-Elite" POV either - which you would have noticed if you read my post correctly.

My criticism of US policy stems directly from Bush's foreign policy record - No where in my post did I even comment on the Balkan atrocities, and Europes response to it - although I've also seen plenty of criticism of US inaction over that too.

In particular I'm critical the US's unilateral action in Iraq which i believe has further weakened the UN, set a dangerous precedent for dictators the world over (the doctrine of premptive strike), and weakened the efforts of those who'd prefer to take a diplomatic approach the worl over. The UN is already a vry weak organisation, but one that I beleive is absolutely necessary to balance power in the world. It absolutely needs changes made tom make it more effective, but ultimately its effectiveness is deermined by the extent that member nations are willing to work within its framework. The UN is critically important to a small nation like mine that lacks economic or military clout when it comes to keeping world order.

We know that the raison d'etre for the Invasion of Iraq was based on grossly exagerated Intelligence reports and more or less fabricated claims of Iraqi ability to launch a military strike. Now ultimately the outcome has been good, and had the UN authorised the Invasion I would have wholeheartedly supported it. For the US to act unilaterally, AND illegally under international law is a disaster for the UN and for those who seek to use diplomacy as the first, second, and third ports of call before resorting to force. For reasons that I would have thought were obvious. And to prempt your next comment, do I support diplomacy in the face of genocide? Of course not. But despite Saddam's oppression of the Kurds and his own people the siutation in Iraq was nothing like Bosnia - and therefore never warranted an unauthorised invasion.

Your "what the worl thinks is irrelevant" comment is typically arrogant, short sighted and naive - precisely what we've come to expect from those who support the Bush Administration's previous gunboat approach to diplomacy. (Thanks god they are adopting a more considerate approach). I challenge you to tell 1 billion Chinese that their views are irrelevant. Maybe when China and the US stare at each other down gun barrels over Taiwan perhaps you'll realise that the US must listen to the rest of the world. After all despite what you might like to think the US does not have a monopoly on freedom and democracy - and in fact under the Patriot Act appears to have even less of either than before.

Posted by: Aran Brown at March 15, 2005 08:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BTW Andrew I've been to the US a multitude of times. I like American people a lot - just detest this particular government - although to be fair the result fo the past 3 months are softening my opinion slightly - particularly after their new found, more diplomatic approach.

Posted by: Aran Brown at March 15, 2005 08:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aran,

I know you may not like the response of your critics here, but your complaints are as unspecific as theirs. I'll blame you for that for now, because it is hard to confront coherently arguments that cannot be specified. When I think I can figure out exactly what you are referring to your arguments have been very questionable. I suggest taking each point and elaborating exactly what you are arguing and you might get more intelligible responses.

Example, on civil liberties. You seem to claim that our low standing in the world is in some ways connected to our reduced civil liberties or maybe it is that we should at least feel like hypocrites because we have restricted our liberties in a rather extreme manner, or something. Now I am no friend of the Bush administrations policies in this area, but I lack any hysterical reaction either. Mostly because I suspect we are lucky the restrictions haven't been more extensive (and I feel a democratic administration would have been no better, worse in some ways, better in others.) Whatever the truth of that, the fact is that the kinds of policies this administration has put in place are far more liberal than what existed pre 9/11 in almost any other western nation, much less the rest of the world. Restrictions have been even more pronounced in the west since then. If the administration were to attempt to put in place the restrictions on civil liberties that exist in France, Germany or the UK, or make the rights of the accused as weak as they are in any of those countries or allow domestic intelligence agencies the freedom to operate that exist in those three nations both of our parties would erupt in open revolt.

So how could a world which is so much less attuned to civil liberties feel we are to be upbraided for our far more liberal system? I can only assume ignorance. I am not accusing you of ignorance; maybe I just misunderstood your point.

Or this:

“But despite Saddam's oppression of the Kurds and his own people the siutation in Iraq was nothing like Bosnia - and therefore never warranted an unauthorised invasion.”

Hmmm…. Could you explain that please? Is it number of deaths? Saddam wins hands down there. Aggression against his neighbors? Saddam wins again. I can think of other rubrics to use, but I can’t think of any that show Bosnia as a worse situation from a human rights standpoint. That doesn’t make the Iraq War the right thing to do, but I don’t get your comparison.

Anyway, I suggest starting over, make your points, defend each with specific examples and you might get better responses. Your defensiveness has led you to respond with ad hominem attacks and vague accusations. You are getting it back in return. Diplomacy works even better here than in the UN. I hate to see you ganged up on, because some of your points may have merit if I could be sure what you are really saying. As for everybody else trading flames, why don't we tone it down a bit? No reason to make him blow a gasket and waste comment space.

Posted by: Lance at March 15, 2005 10:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aran: "And American people wonder why much of the rest of the world think they are arrogant and obnoxious."

Actually, no, we don't. We no longer care what other people think.

Aran: "I like American people a lot - just detest this particular government - although to be fair the result fo the past 3 months are softening my opinion slightly - particularly after their new found, more diplomatic approach."

Then you actually detest more than half of the people of the US.

Come clean... you only like Americans who agree with you.


Posted by: mamapajamas at March 16, 2005 12:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thanks once again for proving to me how arrogant some Americans are. I'm still wondering why. 250 million Americans... 2 billion Chinese and Indians... Good luck with that.

BTW I don't dislike Americans who support Bush - only those who are arrogant, obnoxious, shortsighted, ignorant and unable to have a constructive and informed debate.

Posted by: Aran Brown at March 16, 2005 12:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If one could take Bush at his word then his so-called attack on the despots of the Middle East might mean something, unfortunately, while he speaks the imagery of democracy, he walks the walk of supporting order and stability of the despots of The Midle East. What has he said or done to bring democracy to Saudi Arabia, the Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qattar, et al. He as befriended Libya, he has ignored Algeria, and do we really think he is ready to abandon Mubarak. Is this democratic electric shock? I don't think so.

Posted by: Bill at March 16, 2005 01:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aran: "Thanks once again for proving to me how arrogant some Americans are. I'm still wondering why. 250 million Americans... 2 billion Chinese and Indians... Good luck with that."

And you'd probably be even more shocked to hear how little I care.

Posted by: mamapajamas at March 16, 2005 01:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Democracy is the absolute worst form of government ever foisted upon the people of this world -

Except for all the others.

Call it luck (Ararat's death) if you like. Call it a renewed Arab Spring, if you like. Call it manna from heaven, the alignment of the stars or the texture of the tinfoil in the mullah's turban.

When you clear away the rhetoric the truths become rather self-evident. Many Americans objected to our war in Iraq. Some held these beliefs out of a sense of human compassion while the majority held (and continue to hold) these beliefs out of a sense of partisan political hatred stemming back to the 2000 election cycle when they felt "their guy" got the short shift by the very same court system they so warmly embrace as the "Special Reserve Legislature of the United States of Anarchy".

For those human beings who were divorced from the political earthquakes in the USA, the emergence of the idea of true spiritual freedom, freedom of ideas, freedom of assembly, and the right to elect the leaders of their own choice is not an easy thought to embrace - especially in the turbulent Middle East where there has been (sadly) a procession of fatally flawed dictators who could only manage to rob their subjegated populations of their dignity and economic prosperity.

But they were all deceived...

The new reality of satellite communications, 24-hour news shows, and the emergence of the modern American conservative movement in direct opposition to the "traditional" liberal media elements that coddled, supported, and shilled for these dictators has sent a tremor around the world that continues to dislodge support and inspire human dialogue on a level heretofore unimaginable.

Verily, the dam has already cracked and is leaking more and more by the moment and these erstwhile leaders and "nationalists" in the Middle East had best not be away from home when the dam gives way and the masses start swimming towards the only shoreline now open to them - the land of freedom and self-determination.

When I was a boy there was a prevailing liberal thought process that said it was foolish to oppose the expansion of communism as it would spark a world war of unimaginable destruction and death that wasn't worth it. Yet, there was a small group of us who were determined that we would rather die free men, even if we be left on our knees than subrogate the dreams of all of the people of this planet to the whims of those who seek power for power's sake and couldn't care less how many innocents had to die for the cause of revolution.

So have heart and hope. The Middle East woke up and found out it had the power to determine its own future. The sacrifice of lives and national treasure of the United States is (once again) being proven a gift so great that it cannot be denied.

The greatest gift we have to give we have already given.

Posted by: Clint Lovell at March 16, 2005 01:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mama... and when the next terrorist attack take place on American soil - cos it wont be happening in my back yard, I will wonder and hope sincerely you made it...

Posted by: Aran Brown at March 16, 2005 04:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hi Lance,

Thanks for your comments. Fair Call - and I appreciate the gentlemanly approach to the debate!. I will endeavor to explain myself better.

Regarding civil liberties, whilst I am no scholar of the American Constitution and Bill of Rights, but having taken the time to do some reading around this, I beleive it to be a truly amazing set of constitutional documents unparalleled anywhere in the Western world, and probably should mean as much if not more to the US people than the Magna Carter does (which is the basis for our modern legal system). The Declaration of Independence is also of great important - if not as a legal document but as a means of articulating the spirit of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

I will admit having my opinion influenced by the writings of Peter McWilliams, but based on what I interpret the original intent of the Constitution, The Bill or Rights and the Declaration of Independence to be, the American people have had an enormous number of their civil liberties which were afforded to them under the constitution, eroded by governments over the past 100 years.

However none had really eroded civil liberties the way that the Bush administration has. For example
the patriot act does away with some of the most crucial and fundamental freedoms any individual living in a democracy has come to expect - the right to a fair and timely trial, and by extention freedom from arrest and imprisonment without trial.

Furthermore, and equally as scary is the encroachment of the Church on the State. This is fundamentally in opposition to the constitution and in particular the first ammendment "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances"

I'm not aware of how many people are aware of the religious persuasion of the founding fathers (being deists - who fundamentally were not Christians - but instead I guess believed in the spirituality of reason - poor description - see the URL for Peter McWilliams far more apt description - http://www.mcwilliams.com/books/books/aint/203.htm). They believed that for freedom to truly exist then all men should be free to pursue whatever religious beliefs they desired.

Contrast these beliefs against the Bush administrations support (and federal funding) of only abstinence based sex ed policy (which recent evidence tends to find are at best ineffective and often worse than less morally driven and more objective sex educational programs), and the Bush Admininstrations more or less publically avowed christian values. Which are completely protected under the first amendment. As are any individuals rights NOT to be forced to follwo the same beliefs. By attempting to pass into law, any law that is based on religious principles the Republican party is acting very much at odds with the intent and purpose of the constitution and 1st ammendment.

Now the picture I'm trying to paint, is that for GWB's very noble aim of bringing Democracy and Freedom tothe world (and not unreasonably, by extension making the US safer), is all well and good, but this is the same administration that has so seriously eroded civil liberties. Ergo my comments of hypocrisy. I kinda like to callit democracy-lite. The real reason GWB wants to bring freedom and democracy to the world is the protect US interests. The side benefit is of course will be that it brings freedom and democracy to opressed people - and this is of course a truly great thing. But what I am critical of is the hypocrisy of preaching freedom and democracy, whilst systematically dismantling it at home. The folks at home ont like it, but the Bush Admininstration and GWB would quite probably be better received if they openly admitted the reason to bring freedom and democracy to the middle east ion particular is to make the US safer. But I guess that woudl mean admitting the US is not invincible - which is probably political suicide.

Recent events are also proving GWB right in some respects - and I'm certainly humble enough to appreciate those benefits the the Iraq invasion has brought - despite the enormous amunt of work left to do, and despite my fundamental objections to the means used to bring about the end.

The next logical step in this debate then comes back to, but the patriot act is necessary - after all the US is technically at war. True - absolutely true.

To which my counter is: US foreign policy in the Middle East since the creation of the state of Israel has unfortunately, when combined with the religious persuasions of the people and political instability of the region, and the oppressive rules theocracies that have been in place in most nations have in my, admittedly limited understanding, resulted in the hostility to which the US is viewed by much of the Muslim world. Which is effectively yet another rehash of the religious conflict of the crusades, but with the inflammatory effect of the need for oil added in for good measure.

I can understand why the US has been so involved in the region from a number of perspectives. Firstly with such a number of unstable theocracies and dictatorships in play, and the vital need to secure the supply of oil, and at the same time prevent the Soviets at the time from being able to manipulate of cut-off the supply of oil, I do apreciate the why, even even the hows of American involvement in the region.

But I believe ultimately US foreign policy has resulted in the current state of affairs. Could things be done differently - I don't know. But, and this is a criticism of US foriegn policy, management practices etc the world over - Americans beleive that the American way is the ONLY way to do things. Its call ethnocentrism, and its still a major component of the US Psyche - which is obvious to most of us who aren't Americans. I will now digress for a short example of this.

I experienced US ethnicentrism first hand working for a US multinational. Our company was the most profitable company in its industry in SE Asia when the US multinational purchased the company I worked for. Within 2 years they had implemented a range of management practices that were completely counter to the management practices and culture of the way we did things. End result - within 4 years the region was making a loss. Why? because the US head office could or wouldn't understand that the way we did things might have been different but it worked.

The comments of a few of the posters here make it completely obvious that ethnocentrism is alive and well - "what the rest of the world thinks is irrelevant" "we don't care". Which in my opinion has to be a very short sighted view. Ethnocentrism has its place, as we do need to value things that are our own, but of course that cuts both ways. If we are now seeing the results of US foreign policy - and these are the prevalent attitudes of some posters here are representative of the American people, then were are things going to be in 50 years?

I have to point out at this juncture superpowers are not lasting a very long time anymore. Granted the US is the current superpower. But can she really compete with the chinese for example who have 4 times the population and who are exploding growthwise. Likewise India. I think its a given that the balance of power will shift over the next 50 years, and if you're an asshole when you're on top, people will take great delight in kicking the shit out of you when you're on the way down.

Anyway thats probably very long and rambling a bit, but I hope it articulates my point about the freedom thing.

I guess the distinction I'd draw between the Kurds and the Bosnian situation, and I'll admit its pretty narrow, is that Saddam did not actively engage in practice that I would equate to genocide. Yes he ruthlessley oppressed the Kurd and killed huge numbers or Kurds, but from what I understand he didn't quite cross the line of actively trying to exterminate them. His oppression of the Kurds from what I understand had more to do with political oppression than genocide.

What quite clearly happened in the Balkans, was genocide where different ethic groups were subjected to ethnic cleansing, forced repatriation and other activities consistent with genocide. The distinction is pretty narrow, but I would hope clear enough. I should go and find some more info to support this - but its been a long day and I'm keen to leave work so I will leave that for now.

Bringing that up incidentally, was more to contrast the legitimacy of action in the Balkans - what should have happened in Rwanda, and what should probably be happening now in Darfur, as opposed to the invasion of Iraq, in which Saddam's oppresion of the Kurds was never given as a reason prior to the invasion.

The premise for invasion was given as the failure to comply with Weapons Inspections - encompassing Chem, Bio and Nuclear Weapons, and the flawed intelligence suggesting the possession of WMD and the capacity to launch a strike comprising of WMD inside 45 mins - which we now know to be a load of poop. I addition was the clearly false (although luckily for Bush now, never quite boldly or clearly articulated) suggestion Iraq was involved in 9/11.

I'm not going to rehash those arguments further as this will end up going in circles, but I'm trying to articulate the fact that like it or now, when you do some reading of things outside of the mainstream media, the is a dark underbelly to US foreign policy. The arrogance on the surface does reflect some unpleasant aspects of US Governments and their foreign policy, and the rest of the world doesn't like it. Yes the US is the superpwoer of the worl now - but will it be so in 50 years time?? And if not then will you reap what you have sown...

Lance, don't know if this makes it any clearer - its been a long day down in this neck of the woods, but I do appreciate your comments and hopefully I have been someway up to the task of debating with you!

Cheers

Posted by: Aran Brown at March 16, 2005 06:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hi Lance,

Thanks for your comments. Fair Call - and I appreciate the gentlemanly approach to the debate!. I will endeavor to explain myself better.

Regarding civil liberties, whilst I am no scholar of the American Constitution and Bill of Rights, but having taken the time to do some reading around this, I beleive it to be a truly amazing set of constitutional documents unparalleled anywhere in the Western world, and probably should mean as much if not more to the US people than the Magna Carter does (which is the basis for our modern legal system). The Declaration of Independence is also of great important - if not as a legal document but as a means of articulating the spirit of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

I will admit having my opinion influenced by the writings of Peter McWilliams, but based on what I interpret the original intent of the Constitution, The Bill or Rights and the Declaration of Independence to be, the American people have had an enormous number of their civil liberties which were afforded to them under the constitution, eroded by governments over the past 100 years.

However none had really eroded civil liberties the way that the Bush administration has. For example
the patriot act does away with some of the most crucial and fundamental freedoms any individual living in a democracy has come to expect - the right to a fair and timely trial, and by extention freedom from arrest and imprisonment without trial.

Furthermore, and equally as scary is the encroachment of the Church on the State. This is fundamentally in opposition to the constitution and in particular the first ammendment "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances"

I'm not aware of how many people are aware of the religious persuasion of the founding fathers (being deists - who fundamentally were not Christians - but instead I guess believed in the spirituality of reason - poor description - see the URL for Peter McWilliams far more apt description - http://www.mcwilliams.com/books/books/aint/203.htm). They believed that for freedom to truly exist then all men should be free to pursue whatever religious beliefs they desired.

Contrast these beliefs against the Bush administrations support (and federal funding) of only abstinence based sex ed policy (which recent evidence tends to find are at best ineffective and often worse than less morally driven and more objective sex educational programs), and the Bush Admininstrations more or less publically avowed christian values. Which are completely protected under the first amendment. As are any individuals rights NOT to be forced to follow the same beliefs. By attempting to pass into law, any law that is based on religious principles the Republican party is acting very much at odds with the intent and purpose of the constitution and 1st ammendment.

Now the picture I'm trying to paint, is that for GWB's very noble aim of bringing Democracy and Freedom to the world (and not unreasonably, by extension making the US safer), is all well and good, but this is the same administration that has so seriously eroded civil liberties. Ergo my comments of hypocrisy. I kinda like to call it democracy-lite - its not democracy for the oppressed because its good for them (which is a very paternalistic attitude anyway), but because it protect US interests. The nice side benefit is of course will be that it brings freedom and democracy to opressed people - and this is of course a truly great thing.

But what I am critical of is the hypocrisy of preaching freedom and democracy, whilst systematically dismantling it at home. The folks at home wont like it, but the Bush Admininstration and GWB would quite probably be better received by the rest of the world if they openly admitted the reason to bring freedom and democracy to the middle east in particular is to make the US safer. But I guess that woudl mean admitting the US is not invincible - which may be political suicide.

Recent events are also proving GWB right in some respects - and I'm certainly humble enough to appreciate those benefits and successes that the Iraq invasion has brought their an globally - despite the enormous amunt of work left to do, and despite my fundamental objections to the means used to bring about the end. I think in the ontext of this article it has also given the Dictators around the world a wake up call - which is no bad thing!

The next logical step in this debate then comes back to th point I would guess you might argue - that the patriot act is necessary - after all the US is technically at war. Which is true - absolutely true.

However to which my counter is: US foreign policy in the Middle East since the creation of the state of Israel has unfortunately, when combined with the religious persuasions of the people and political instability of the region, and the oppressive rules theocracies that have been in place in most nations have in my, admittedly limited understanding, resulted in the hostility to which the US is viewed by much of the Muslim world. Which is effectively yet another rehash of the religious conflict of the crusades, but with the inflammatory effect of the need for oil added in for good measure.

I can understand why the US has been so involved in the region from a number of perspectives. Firstly with such a number of unstable theocracies and dictatorships in play, and the vital need to secure the supply of oil, and secondly, at the same time prevent the Soviets at the time from being able to manipulate of cut-off the supply of oil, I do apreciate the why, even even the hows of American involvement in the region. Also given the prominence of Jewish business interests in the US economy there is of course great support for Israel, who has for a long time suffered the enemity of much of the Arab world.

But I believe ultimately US foreign policy has resulted in the current state of affairs. Could things be done differently - I don't know. But, and this is a criticism of US foriegn policy, management practices etc the world over - most Americans seem to believe that the American way is the ONLY way to do things. Its call ethnocentrism, and its still a major component of the US Psyche - which is obvious to most of us who aren't Americans. I will now digress for a short example of this.

I experienced US ethnocentrism first hand working for a US multinational. Our company was the most profitable company in its industry in SE Asia when the US multinational purchased the company I worked for. Within 2 years they had implemented a range of management practices that were completely counter to the management practices and culture of the way we did things. End result - within 4 years the region was making a loss. Why? because the US head office could or wouldn't understand that the way we did things might have been different but it worked.

The comments of a few of the posters here make it completely obvious that ethnocentrism is alive and well - "what the rest of the world thinks is irrelevant" "we don't care". Which in my opinion has to be a very short sighted view. Ethnocentrism has its place, as we do need to value things that are our own, but of course that cuts both ways. If we are now seeing the results of US foreign policy - and these are the prevalent attitudes of some posters here are representative of the American people, then were are things going to be in 50 years?

I have to point out at this juncture superpowers are not lasting a very long time anymore. Granted the US is the current superpower. But can she really compete with the Chinese for example who have 4 times the population and who are exploding growthwise. Likewise India. I think its a given that the balance of power will shift over the next 50 years, and the moral of the story is - if you're an asshole when you're on top, people will take great delight in kicking the shit out of you when you're on the way down.

Anyway thats probably very long and rambling a bit, but I hope it articulates my point about the freedom thing.

I guess the distinction I'd draw between the Kurds and the Bosnian situation, and I'll admit its pretty narrow, is that Saddam did not actively engage in practice that I would equate to genocide. Yes he ruthlessley oppressed the Kurd and killed huge numbers of Kurds, but from what I understand he didn't quite cross the line of actively trying to exterminate them. His oppression of the Kurds from what I understand had more to do with political oppression than genocide.

Which is not quite the same as what clearly happened in the Balkans. That was genocide - where different ethic groups were subjected to ethnic cleansing, forced repatriation and other activities consistent with genocide. The distinction is pretty narrow, but I would hope clear enough. I should go and find some more info to support this - but its been a long day and I'm keen to leave work so I will leave that for now.

Bringing that up incidentally, was more to contrast the legitimacy of action in the Balkans - what should have happened in Rwanda, and what should probably be happening now in Darfur, as opposed to the invasion of Iraq, in which Saddam's oppresion of the Kurds was never given as a reason prior to the invasion.

The premise for invasion was given as the failure to comply with Weapons Inspections - encompassing Chem, Bio and Nuclear Weapons, and the flawed intelligence suggesting the possession of WMD and the capacity to launch a strike comprising of WMD inside 45 mins - which we now know to be a load of poop. I addition was the clearly false (although luckily for Bush now, never quite boldly or clearly articulated) suggestion Iraq was involved in 9/11.

I'm not going to rehash those arguments further as this will end up going in circles, but I'm trying to articulate the fact that like it or now, when you do some reading of things outside of the mainstream media, the is a dark underbelly to US foreign policy. The arrogance on the surface does reflect some unpleasant aspects of US Governments and their foreign policy, and the rest of the world doesn't like it. Whilst a number of you like to think that that doesn't matter, again I think that is a very short sighted view. Why? Well the US is the superpower of the world at the moment - but will it be so in 50 years time?? And if not then will you reap what you have sown?

Lance, don't know if this makes it any clearer - its been a long day down in this neck of the woods, but I do appreciate your comments and hopefully I have been someway up to the task of debating with you!

Cheers

Posted by: Aran Brown at March 16, 2005 06:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry double post!! - If Greg cares to delete the first one.. cool...

Posted by: Aran Brown at March 16, 2005 06:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aran, where do you live? I'm particularly interested in your assured claim that the next terrorist attack 'wont be happening in my back yard'. From my understanding of Al Qaeda brand terrorist groups, if you live in a non-islamist state then you can make no such declaration. Spain discovered this after its efforts to appease following the Madrid bombings. Since then they've prevented and uncovered far more deadly attacks than those which led the Socialist, anti-iraq war political party into government. A belief that you are somehow safe because you do not reside in the United States is naive in my opinion, and isn't compatible with the efforts of Al Qaeda brand terrorism to strike all over the world.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson at March 16, 2005 12:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Andrew - I can assure you I live in quite probably the safest Western nation to live in - which is never 100% safe, but its not European, Its not US or UK, ad its not Australia - the prime Western Nations for targeting - New Zealand.

Too small to be of influence, and to the credit of our PM (who's as a socialist oriented PM I'm generally opposed to her policies), who has been unfailing inproviding legitimate support to the WOT, she drew the line at illegally invading Iraq - thereby making NZ less of a target.

The most likely terrorist action we would ever face here would come from internally - not Islamicists - we're too small to be of influence or interest, and only should the Islamiscists manage to somehow convert the western world to a wahabist type theocracy would we ever likely become a target worth looking at - which is of course extremely unlikely.

The only likely thing I would forsee here, is that we would probably be used as a potential staging point for an attack in Australia. However whilst we didn't partcipate in Iraq (although we are providing post invasion support and reconstructions services - not a lot given our small size but a contribution nonetheless), we did in Afghanistan and generally have been an ally of the WOT. I would hope that our intelligence services are working with those of the US, UK and Australia to try to ensure that we do not have any cells operating here.

Whilst you're right in the sense that from Al Qaeda's perspective we are therefore the enemy, a large scale terrorist attack in NZ serves very little purpose as we are to small and lack any real influence over our much larger allies - so why waste what must be increasingly scarce resources to attack here?? It would provide no real benefit to their objective - at this stage of the game.

That is why I am pretty confident that there would not be an islamic terror attack in New Zealand. If we ever are subjected to a terrorist attack here (aside from the French blowing up the Rainbow Warrior here in 1986, killing a New Zealander - hence no love for the French), it will most likely be a dissident Maori Organisation.

Posted by: Aran Brown at March 16, 2005 07:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aran,

I appreciate your response. Many of your comments have some merit and your conclusions as well, but fundamentally I believe they show a certain amount of unfamiliarity with your subjects which I can list as the US in general, its history, and present policies. I don’t really hold this against you as in the case of SE Asia most of us here have even less knowledge. Throw in the misleading portrayal of the US in the media, especially overseas, and I can’t see how you could be much more generous than you are. Certainly the media here is as bad in showing us an accurate picture of the rest of the world.

Let us start with your discussion of civil liberties.

“the patriot act does away with some of the most crucial and fundamental freedoms any individual living in a democracy has come to expect - the right to a fair and timely trial”

This is not exactly what our Constitution grants us, but I get your drift. In general this is an issue and has been one for a long time. Most of the issue we have of receiving a fair and speedy trial however has to do with attempts, wise or not, to give more protections to defendants. Once again I compare our system to the west in general where trials are much faster on the whole because defendants have far fewer rights. That may be good or bad, but Bush has had little to do with it.

However, I believe you are more specifically referring to our detention of terror suspects. I too find much of this disturbing, though it has been a rarity so far and mostly has not applied to US citizens. The very few instances where US citizens (such as Jose Padilla) have been detained have crossed a number of legal grey areas. We are working through them but it hardly can be said that our system as a whole has watered these protections down. More to the point few countries can claim any better policies. Bush may be wrong here, but he has not dismantled our civil liberties even on this narrow issue, especially in comparison to the rest of the world. We still have more guarantees here even if the administrations views on this issue were to prevail. As for Bush in comparison to the past, Bush’s response has been measured compared to our past as well as other nations. I don’t agree with all of it, but compare his policies to FDR’s during WWII (such as the mass detention of Japanese citizens) or Lincoln’s during the Civil War (he suspended Habeas Corpus.) Thus I can find little reason to support the view that other nations can point fingers at us for uniquely depriving our citizens of these rights (in fact, just the opposite, we can point ours though pointing is rude) or that before Bush “none had really eroded civil liberties the way that the Bush administration has.” Most periods of crises have resulted in much worse here and abroad. That is true in Europe right now where defendants in France and Britain face much more difficult systems.

“I'm not aware of how many people are aware of the religious persuasion of the founding fathers (being deists - who fundamentally were not Christians - but instead I guess believed in the spirituality of reason.”

I tire as well of some Christians acting as if our founding fathers were a uniform group of like minded Christians. However, it is not true that they were primarily deists. A few were. Still I think this is a distraction because it is true that as a group they were trying to avoid a religious government. However, they obviously conceived of it differently than you do as they allowed much more religious influence on the government than George Bush.

“They believed that for freedom to truly exist then all men should be free to pursue whatever religious beliefs they desired.”

I see no evidence the Bush administration has in any way contradicted this belief, either in policy or rhetoric. People are not being denied this freedom and Bush has explicitly made this a core belief, here and in his promotion of democracy abroad. He has in fact been criticized for insisting too strongly that other peoples should have that freedom as well (we can’t force our beliefs on others being one argument, though of course he is really saying that others shouldn’t be able to force their views on others; or that it is unrealistic, which is a much better critique in my mind).

“Contrast these beliefs against the Bush administrations support (and federal funding) of only abstinence based sex ed policy (which recent evidence tends to find are at best ineffective and often worse than less morally driven and more objective sex educational programs)”

Forget whether they are effective or not (and I have seen evidence both ways) it is not true that we only have abstinence only sexual education. Nor is it true that one has to be a Christian, or even religious to believe such programs should be supported. It may or may not be wise policy to support such programs, but they do not violate our constitution. We cannot in the name of freedom of religion or conscience eschew any programs a religious person may like. Many devout and traditional Christians favor increased spending on support for the needy. Does that mean because they help elect a President that we should then cut all welfare programs?

“Contrast these beliefs against …the Bush Admininstrations more or less publically avowed christian values. Which are completely protected under the first amendment. As are any individuals rights NOT to be forced to follwo the same beliefs.”

Once again, I can see no reason that our civil liberties are threatened by Bush’s avowed beliefs any more than they were by FDR’s, Reagan’s or Bill Clinton’s. If he was passing laws whose only justification was to advance a certain religion I would be concerned. However almost all laws express some moral preference, those informed by Christianity are as legitimate as any other. I am a secularist, but that doesn’t mean nobody else’s views count. Bush is not the most outspoken Christian to occupy our Presidency. Also, the Civil Rights movement in this country was explicitly based on religious principles; does that mean we secularists can’t support them? Should we go back to Jim Crow because Martin Luther King was a minister? I think that makes as little sense as saying I couldn’t support them because Communists also supported equal rights for African Americans. I can agree with both groups when I think they are correct.

So in the end I see Bush as far more friendly to civil liberties than the nations who accuse us of hypocrisy, he oversees a government that has overreached in some areas, but less than many previous presidents and starting from a civil liberties base much higher than his predecessors in the first place. We have more civil liberties than we had 30, 50 or 100 years ago.

“The real reason GWB wants to bring freedom and democracy to the world is the protect US interests.”

No kidding. However you are wrong if you think he doesn’t care what happens to people overseas. He has many faults, this isn’t one. Do US interests come first? Of course.

“the Bush Admininstration and GWB would quite probably be better received if they openly admitted the reason to bring freedom and democracy to the middle east ion particular is to make the US safer.”

Bush has said this over and over. In fact as Eric Martin has pointed out elsewhere, a strong critique of Bush is that the notion that those promoting democracy in the way he and thinkers such as Wolfowitz propound, will not work and will not necessarily make us safer. Well if the idea can be critiqued he must have the idea for the critique to be relevant. So your charge of hypocrisy here falls a bit flat. The belief may be wrong, but he has that belief.

“Americans beleive that the American way is the ONLY way to do things. Its call ethnocentrism, and its still a major component of the US Psyche - which is obvious to most of us who aren't Americans.”

Wow. Aran, I am trying to be kind here, but doesn’t a statement like that fairly reek with ethnocentrism itself? I have traveled a fair bit in my life and I would suggest such attitudes are well nigh universal. Your example of the US multinational is telling. I have no reason to question your account. It may well be quite accurate. However, don’t other countries multinationals do the same? I know from personal experience the Japanese and Chinese feel their way is the best. Sometimes it is. I suggest the US has been successful enough to say sometimes we are right as well. Funny, I would say that one reason US multinationals have been so successful is that we learn from other cultures very well and absorb outside ideas rather quickly, at least compared to the rest of the world, definitely more so than the French or Japanese. We adapted Japanese management methods to our own quite successfully for example. I am not suggesting we cannot be arrogant and have other faults as you suggest. However, what culture is that not true of?

As for your own example, I would suggest such conflicts arise from many factors. I can’t speak to yours directly, but often the fault is as much in the acquired company’s workforce refusal to see the benefits of new approaches as management’s inability to adapt to the new company. Ultimately it is management’s job to understand and lead through that dynamic, but it doesn’t mean the original workforce is not an issue; just you have to figure out what battles you can win and lose, even if you are right. Whatever the case, it is never merely American’s unwillingness to learn from others, others are unwilling to learn as well. Multinationals from other countries have the same issues when they locate here. They cannot always get the local workforce to adapt to the new methods, nor are they always able to adapt to the different workforce. Who is the problem? Guess it is all the way you look at it.

“But can she really compete with the chinese for example who have 4 times the population and who are exploding growthwise. Likewise India.”

I reject that we have been assholes, but even so, yes we can compete. Will we, is another question, but population is not the main determinant. In fact, I would suggest without a fairly democratic, open country China has little hope of overtaking us militarily if we do not allow them to. Of course a democratic, open China would have little reason to go to war with us anyway. I hope they do well; it is in our interests and theirs.

“I guess the distinction I'd draw between the Kurds and the Bosnian situation, and I'll admit its pretty narrow, is that Saddam did not actively engage in practice that I would equate to genocide. Yes he ruthlessley oppressed the Kurd and killed huge numbers or Kurds, but from what I understand he didn't quite cross the line of actively trying to exterminate them. His oppression of the Kurds from what I understand had more to do with political oppression than genocide.

What quite clearly happened in the Balkans, was genocide where different ethic groups were subjected to ethnic cleansing, forced repatriation and other activities consistent with genocide.”

Aran, everything you mention happened on a larger scale in Kurdistan. There was ethnic cleansing, forced repatriation, massacres, etc. The Bosnian situation also arose from a desire for political oppression, as did Rwanda, southern Sudan and Darfur now. Bosnia wasn’t because the Serb’s woke up one day and decided to kill other ethnic groups. It was the result of a perceived political end eventually finding a means. More importantly you will notice from my response I did not limit it to the Kurds. I suggest you study up on the Marsh Arabs for example. Also your distinction seems a bit arbitrary even if it were accurate. If “genocide” or “ethnic cleansing” were the only justifications then I am to understand a homicidal fascist need only make sure that his murders are sufficiently dispersed throughout the various ethnic and religious groups to avoid the charges of genocide or ethnic cleansing. So Saddam can murder a million of his own citizens with impunity, but if he had concentrated on only a particular minority and forced them to reservations, but only killed say 80,000 or so it would justify intervention? I find that odd, maybe even repugnant, but it follows naturally from your distinction. I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you either were unaware of the scope of Saddam’s brutality or just haven’t thought it through yet. In Saddam’s case he both murdered across the board and pursued near genocidal policies against various minorities. He fits either way. Still doesn’t mean you should support the war, but my initial objection to your original statement stands.

“as opposed to the invasion of Iraq, in which Saddam's oppresion of the Kurds was never given as a reason prior to the invasion.”

This is incorrect. I suggest you review the congressional authorization for the use of force. It explicitly mentioned such matters and many more.

“The premise for invasion was given as the failure to comply with Weapons Inspections - encompassing Chem, Bio and Nuclear Weapons, and the flawed intelligence suggesting the possession of WMD and the capacity to launch a strike comprising of WMD inside 45 mins - which we now know to be a load of poop. I addition was the clearly false (although luckily for Bush now, never quite boldly or clearly articulated) suggestion Iraq was involved in 9/11.”

Again, whatever many people want to say was Bush’s reason for going to war, the resolution and many speeches made clear that WMD was not the only reason. Similarly, whatever people want to claim, Bush never claimed Iraq was involved, though he never ruled it out. We’ll just have to disagree about whether the rest was a load of poop.

Thanks for your patience.

Posted by: Lance at March 16, 2005 08:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hi Lance,

Thanks for your reply. I do freely admit that my knowledge of some of the topics discussed is not as indepth as yours, on those points I will happily concur I may have been in error or not in possession of the full facts, and accept the validity of your statements.

A couple of quick clarifications. Yes I was making a pretty sweeping generalisation about American Ethnocentrism, However recent history has a few examples of this - none more so that the invasion of Iraq, in which the US was the prime architect - supported of course by the UK and others. This was despite pleas from many other nations to allow diplomacy to run its course. In my opinion (and its only my opinion) had diplomacy been allowed to run its course ultimately the invasion would have most likely been sanctioned by the UN - if for no other reason that there is no forseeable way that Saddam would have behaved any other way.

The benefit of having waited would have meant much greater support from Europe in particular, and meant the UN would have greater validity (admittedly small as it still would have been) for settling international disputes than it now does. The doctrine of pre-emptive strike is a very dangerous one - who to say the Chinese could not adopt the very same doctrine and strike at the US over Taiwan??

I'm also quite aware of ethnocentrism of other cultures - and stated that it has its place. However my criticism of US ethnocentrism stems from the arrogance that goes with it. Again a generalisation, but probably a reflection of the view of the US held by much of the world - and clearly reflected in the comments of some here. Could this be said of the Japanese, Chinese and others? Absolutely, but then they have not recently illegally invaded a foreign contry recently either... (Chinese aspirations towards Taiwan aside)

With reference to the religious thing. You are absolutely right in many of your comments. I based my opinions on the abstinence programs based on information I read at home here that the Bush Administration was approving federal funds for Abstinence based programs only.

You are also right that securlarists have no right to force out beliefs on others either. I was not clear on that. I'm not against any kind of program that delivers benefits to others even if it is religiously affiliated provided that the decision made concering funding and the like are based on efficacy - not its religious affiliation. Again I'm making assumptions, but given the influence of the religious right, I would assume that there have been laws passed recently that are influenced by religious principles.

Can I suggest you read Peter McWilliams online book if you haven't already - it articulates some of what I'm trying to say much more clearly than I have, and is interesting reading for anyone whos interested in any "consensual crime" issues - from drugs to abortion to pornography or whatever.

www.mcwilliams.com

It has influenced some of my thinking around my huge personal interest in ways of solving the current social maladies that face most Western nations, and believe some of the answers lie in a setting aside the "left-right" political ideologies that still underpin a great deal of politics across the western world, and looking at solutions based on merit. Likewise resolving some of these problems probably also requires putting aside religious principles - aftyer all morality never fed anyone!

The Kurdistan issue - To be honest I never saw the constitutional case - and should have! I once again based my opinion on my memory of what I saw in the media here during the period. I stand corrected, although it must be said, it was certainly not a main plank of the case for invading, based on the media's reporting.

As much as I disagree with the way the Iraq invasion took place - at the same time the results have been OK thus far - probably a C/C+ grade so far - but not the disaster it could have been.

China: I guess time will tell. I suspect that if China adopts the Singaporean approach to rule (benevolent dictatorship) then the next 50 years may be very interesting. I still think that a pop ration of 4:1 will ultimately overcome America's current technological advantage in the long trm - and lets not forget the Chinese are developing their technology and research capabilities at a rapid rate!

On the subject of benevolent dictatorships - it also goes to show that there are alternatives to democracy. That whilst we might reject them - such systems might still be acceptable to other people in the world - we should not let our "ethnocentric" (tongue in cheek!) world view speak for those who may be perfectly happy under such a political system.

Lastly, again I wasn't perhaps clear. Whilst it was never explicitly stated by the Bush Administration I found some evidence a wee while ago while surfing through that there was an inference made that Iraq was implicated in 9/11. It was never stated openly, but the inference was there. It was an archived report quoting condi I think who made an inference - although not a clear link that Iraq may have been implicated. I'll try to find it.

In support of this - something like 65% of Americans at the time of the invasion thought that Iraq was involved in 9/11. Now whether the Government was reponsible for that, or whether it was a media invention, the fact is the US government was happy for the US population to hold that erroneous belief as it made it easier to sell, the case for the invasion. I can understand why, but I guess at the end of the day if you had held that belief and found out info to the contrary - wouldn't you begin to wonder what else you'd be lied to about?

Anyway thanks for pointing out some holes in my knowledge. My views on the Bush Administration have softened - as they should in light of recent events, but there have still be a lot of mistakes in my opinion, and the long term outcomes of those remain to be seen. I do live in a small country, and so international affairs have great import here because that have such an impact on our nation - paerticularly economically. Decision made by the the large players on the national stage ultimately affect us - even though we have no ability to influence those decisions.

I hope that clarifies a few points. Thanks for your reply - I appreciate the time and effort you've taken. Damn - where did my lunch hour go?

Posted by: Aran Brown at March 17, 2005 12:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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