February 11, 2006

Dear Hamas... from Russia with Love?

Vladimir Putin, supreme commander of Russia, has apparently been making overtures to Hamas. At a Kremlin news conference he invited them to Moscow for "talks". Later in the speech he pointed out that, “The Russian Foreign Ministry has never regarded Hamas as a terrorist organization.” If Putin wants to cozy up to an organization that advocates the annihilation of a race of people that’s his business. What I am more disturbed by is his characterization of the Hamas election victory as, “A big blow to American efforts in the Middle East, a very serious blow”. What does he mean when he says “American efforts”? Why does he explicitly say "American" efforts and not "The efforts of the International Community"? Does he not share our goal of bringing peace to the region or is he implying that we have some dastardly ulterior motive? Like many critics of President Bush's Middle Eastern policy, I believe he’s confusing our desire to bring democracy to the Middle East with our appreciation of having “friendly” governments in the region. This comment by Putin is just the latest example of what seems to be a concerted effort by some of our opponents, political and otherwise, to misinterpret our intentions in the Middle East. To start, a distinction has to made between the desire to bring democracy to the middle east and the desire to have a non terrorist (or terrorist friendly) government holding power in the region. Lately, our rhetorical enemies have been trying to muddle the two issues in an attempt to somehow show that America's policy in the region is flawed. For whatever reason, they fail to grasp the fact that, while we are seeking to bring democracy to the Middle East, it does not however mean that we will be hand picking the governments that may come to power. Moreover, it is possible to be in favor of promoting the advancement of democracy in the Middle East while at the same time not being thrilled with the results. Our main goal is: democracy, in and of itself. If the government that the people elect is reasonable (you know, like not having a stated policy promoting genocide) and/or “friendly” to our interests that would be a desirable result for sure. However, it would miss the point of democracy if we were to install the government of our choosing and therefore we would never have any part of it. The Bush doctrine on this is clear and straightforward: For the most part, democratic nations don’t attack each other in anger. Therefore, if we can effect the advancement of democracy in a turbulent region of the world, then the population of that region would be more inclined towards peace. Nowhere in the Bush doctrine does it say, “We will allow the people to vote, but if we don’t like the results than we reserve the right to install who we want.”

This discussion is also very relevant to what is occurring in Iraq. The vultures waiting in the wings, who want to see Bush fail in Iraq are getting ready to use, in their insidious arsenal, the fallacious idea that, if a non secular or “unfriendly” government does come to power in Iraq then Aha…Bush has failed. In reality, one has almost nothing to do with the other. In Fact, if an “undesirable” result does occur in a fledgling democracy it actually lends credence to the Bush Doctrine. It proves that America is genuine in its simple desire to bring democracy to the region, period. We don’t get to determine the results. That we helped bring a degree of democracy to whatever given country is enough.

If a population elects leaders who are corrupt, inept, or war-like then they will have to deal with the ramifications that will inevitably follow. They will have to learn the hard way, through additional years of instability and bloodshed most likely. It’s a form of political “growing pains” because after all, democracy itself is always a work in progress. For example, I don't believe that the people of France enjoyed the "Reign Of Terror" which followed the French Revolution but it was part of their transitional period between absolutism and democracy. The Riegn Of Terror was an awful and bloody period but because it occured does not mean that the people of France, ultimately, are not better served by being able to enjoy the benefits of a democratic society.

Some anti-Bush socio-political ”experts” point to this fact that, in some cases, a country becomes more violent, initially, after democracy is realized and then they conclude, "Aha…Democracy is not desirable." This analysis misses the big picture. That a democracy may be more violent initially than a previous form of government does not overrule the idea that, in the long run, democracy is more beneficial to a population than any other form of government. Hence, the Bush Doctrine in the Middle East is a worthwhile approach and is not rendered invalid or flawed if the results of a given election are not to our liking.


Anonymous said...

It is true that democratic nations don't normally attack each other. But it's not always the norm. Of course that would depend on what the definition of a democratic government is. According to the Bush doctrine it is any country that holds elections. And elections are the farthest thing from a democracy that can be achieved.

China calls itself a democracy and it's far from it also. The Soviet Union held elections all the time and considered its communist government as being democratic. North Korea calls itself the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. So if we look at it that way then democractic governance becomes very sloppy and less "safe."

But not to put words in your mouth, I'll buy into your contention and point you are making, but only very loosely.

I do have to disagree with your belief that the Bush doctrine is the spread of democracy, because I view the Bush doctrine as being pre-emptive invasion rather than waiting around for a threat to attack us first. Spreading democracy is hardly unique to Bush, and he is hardly unique to the desire to make the world safe for democracy. American invasion into a foreign land to ensure the survival of democracy is nothing new and hardly only Bush's doctrine to claim. So I suppose that I do disagree entirely with Bush being held to the "desire to bring democracy to the region, period. We don’t get to determine the results. That we helped bring a degree of democracy to whatever given country is enough." I'm just not feeling it.

I'm also a bit confused by your third paragraph. Are you starting off describing the current American administration?

I do agree that democracy is the best form of government for the people. And in no way is my little essay on the main page a decry against democracy. I'm very much an American when it comes to this. But, again, I just don't think that Bush is solely held to the spread of democracy in Iraq. Wait a minute, now I'm really confused. I thought we invaded to disarm Iraq of WMD. Bush didn't mention anything about elections and democracy. The Bush doctrine is ultimately pre-emptive invasion.

Jaz said...

Re: Third paragraph. I should have said, “If a burgeoning democracy elects leaders who are…”

Interesting points about China, and Russia, and North Korea. But does anyone really consider those countries democratic, as in a Popular Sovereignty? Should I have said a “Western-style democracy”? If you really want to nit pick, the United States doesn’t meet the strict definition of direct democracy but the representative democracy we have seems to work reasonably well for us. Any country can call itself a democracy I suppose, but we all should know what is meant in terms of “bringing democracy to the Middle East”. We’re not talking about a Soviet-style Communist pseudo-democracy. It should be apparent that we would prefer a western style democracy for these fledgling governments in the Middle East. It would be great if they could achieve anything approaching the Governments of: the US, Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, Japan, Canada, and many others, you get the idea. We would like the Middle East to start down the path towards modernity and ultimately, Enlightenment, as in “The Age of Reason”. (Which, with the recent logic-defying behavior of the Middle East at large over this cartoon controversy, has apparently not reached them yet.
There are many concepts that could be considered “The Bush Doctrine” I suppose. Part of the Bush playbook is definitely “the pre-emptive strike” which you articulated so well one would almost think you were in favor of going into Iraq when we did. You’re right that Bush has no exclusive claim to wanting to spread democracy but it is big part of his “playbook” if you will, or part of the Bush philosophy.

It’s too bad you don’t accept my belief that Bush is genuine in his desire to bring democracy to a given country first, as a primary objective and second, as a bonus it would be great to have friendly governments in the area. Everyone is so cynical about our noble intentions in the Middle East. The Bush Administration is very aware of and sensitive to this. We have to proceed very carefully. We can’t be perceived by the Middle East and the world to be directly influencing the outcome of democratic elections and/or hand picking the governments that come to power. Our enemies, rhetorical and otherwise, are already dusting off the phrase “Puppet State” and are getting ready to start throwing it around as soon as any kind of government that may be on the same page as us emerges in the Middle East. That’s why, for better or worse, if “unfriendly” governments do come to power it actually lends credence to the Bush philosophy of just wanting to bring democracy to a country. That “undesirable” results occur in a new democracy is actually a vindication of what I referred to as the “Bush Doctrine” in its true and noble desire to bring something approaching western style democracy to the Middle East in the hopes that, perhaps many generations later, they will ultimately become overwhelmingly reasonable and therefore (relatively) peaceful.

Anonymous said...

Interesting points about China, N. Korea and the Soviet Union indeed. And yes, some people do cosider those to be democratic states especially with popular sovereignty. They consider themselves to be democratic, and like you mention, do not consider the American government democratic at all. So I suppose you make my point for me very well. That America should not be the lone judge of determining what is democratic or not. It's an endeavor that we will fail at, and are failing at. For Iraq is the farthest thing from a democracy there ever could be. And burgeoning isn't even close to describing Iraq. Elections are not democracy, period.

Forcing the Middle East down the path towards modernity is not the same thing as creating burgeoning democracies. Not even close to being the same thing. The very foundation of any government is legitimacy. And democracy imposed from the outside is not a legitimate means of governance for any peoples. The imposition of democracy defeats the very nature of such a government.

As long as we are occupying Iraq, it will be viewed as a puppet state in the public opinion of the Middle East. Hearts and minds require a much different strategy than holding elections.

You are correct to assume that I did support the invasion of Iraq right from the beginning. A post-9/11 world would not tolerate a tyrant/terrorist such as Saddam. But it also must be made clear that Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11. And Iraq is nothing that Bush promised.

I do disagree completely with the notion that spreading democracy is part of Bush's playbook. Bush said numerous times that he does not believe in nation-building. Any conservative, by nature, cannot support nation-building. Judging from the situation in Iraq, I do believe Bush disdains the thought of being responsible for the welfare of a foreign country. How else to explain the carnage? If Iraq is the model for 21st century American interventionism and that of the "Bush doctrine," then we are in real trouble.

You are correct that I do not accept your belief that Bush is genuine in the primary objective of bringing democracy to Iraq or the Middle East. Our primary objective for the invasion of Iraq was to disarm a tyrant of WMD. We cannot re-write history to cover up the fact that establishing democracy was fourth or fifth on the list somewhere. Bush invaded to disarm, a noble feat that I agree with. Budding democracy at $100,000 a minute of taxpayer money, three years into a war that was supposed to last a matter of weeks is rather different altogether.