Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Bush Undermines His Own Point

While visiting Georgia (the country) this week, Bush credited the current president Mikheil Saakashvili with leading the movement that began the recent wave of democratic revolutions in Ukraine and Lebanon. This former Russian republic erupted in mass demonstrations after dictator Eduard Shevardnadze rigged elections. Saakashvili famously burst into the Georgian parliament bearing a rose and demanding Shevardnadze's revolution.

Bush made a point of saying that Georgians' actions in 2003 encouraged Iraqis to go to the polls to elect their National Assembly.

But wait a second. If you buy this sort of domino-theory idea that political movements are contagious across regions, would it have been necessary to invade Iraq to create democracy there? According to Bush's own logic, the Georgian, Ukrainian, Lebanese, and Palestinian democratic movements would have certainly created the stirrings of democracy in Iraq. Iraqis might have even risen up in full-scale demonstrations or rebellion themselves.

It seems, then, that Bush doesn't hold as much faith in the spread of democracy as he claims publicly. If we accept, as Bush has apparently done privately, that democracy will not spread from one country to the next, then we should be attempting to destabilize other dictatorships around the world in order to spread democracy. But if that's the case, why haven't we invaded Uzbekistan or Belarus? Both are ruled by neo-Stalinist dictators and both are strategically important former Russian republics. (Not to mention genocide-ridden Sudan, where we choose to engage in failed diplomacy instead of sending troops.) If Bush says that we shouldn't invade them for fear of ticking off Russia, then it follows that we shouldn't have invaded Iraq for fear of further provoking al-Qaeda.

But if Bush did believe in the spread of democracy, why would we have invaded Iraq? It's obvious that a democracy movement hatched in Iraq would have been far more successful than one born of a US invasion. If Georgia was the catalyst that Bush claims it was - and if Ukraine and Lebanon are continuations of a single "wave," as it were, - a strong democracy movement would have been inevitable in Iraq. Making it work, would have required only small-scale aid similar to that given to Ukrainian winner Viktor Yushchenko.

The irony, of course, is this - by positing a somewhat dubious "domino theory" of democracy and placing Georgia at the center, Bush has made the most convincing argument against the invasion of Iraq that he launched. Of course, expecting Bush to see that is too much to ask.


Anonymous said...

Having lived in Ukraine, I can only speak from the conversations I had with the Ukrainian people and the things I saw. The Orange Revolution occurred not because there was an "ideological spark" from witnessing the Revolution in Georgia. The Ukrainian people, since breaking from the Soviet Union in 1991 have sought to achieve a sound democracy and have long leaned on the United States as a foundation for democratic ideals. As a result of the regions history, Ukraine has been burdened with socialist/communist dogma that without the intervention/political influence of the United States, might continue to be accepted throughout Easter Europe today. Perhaps the United States, although executing the task inefficiently, needs to continue to do as it did during the cold war; instill an ideology of democracy and freedom into the minds of the people who have been restricted the ability to think for themselves. The only reason that Ukraine and Georgia have been able to successfully carry out these Revolutions is because they had a stable enough foundation of self-determination and freedom to overcome corruption. Iraq on the other hand, with its numerous tribes and diverging concepts of law and truth, could not effectively pull off a Revolution without starting a civil war. I don’t believe in war and I don’t believe democracy has a standard American blueprint that all countries must use, but I do believe, after seeing what socialism did to the Ukrainian people, that sometimes people/nations don’t know what democracy/freedom really is.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Jeff... while I agree with your conclusion that the war in Iraq was not justified, I think these are among the weaker arguments you've made.

Let's assume the hypothetical universe that the right seems to live in at the moment, in which the entire reason for going into Iraq (from the beginning) was to liberate the Iraqis and bring democracy, apple pie, and Superman to the oppressed. Furthermore, let's assume that was an appropriate and achievable goal.

In that case, it would make sense to encourage such change on every front. Military action is the obvious one, and we have a big fat checkmark in that column. But if there is this infectious "democracy" going around former Soviet republics, then it also makes sense to encourage and commend it, since that influence would presumably reduce the effort and cost of the military action.

In other words, in Bush's world the burden of proof is on you to show that democratic influences would definitely have caused a democratic revolution in Iraq in order for you to use it as an argument against military action. Otherwise, Bush can simply say that the military action was justified (without saying that it was itself necessary), and that democratic influences were just an extra aid to our cause.

- pierce

Jeff said...

"In that case, it would make sense to encourage such change on every front. Military action is the obvious one, and we have a big fat checkmark in that column." - Pierce.

The key phrase here is "encourage such change." Maybe it's only blindingly obvious to me, but if you're a Western power trying to foster goodwill towards Western ideas in a country suspicious of the West in general, the last thing you'd want to do is invade them, even if there is a tyrant involved. Delicacy and patience is what is necessary in such cases. Invading would be - and was - like trying to use a jackhammer to whittle a sculpture. You might get something that looks pretty, but only by blind luck. I guess that's the piece of the argument that I left out in the main post.

Jeff said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Wow, nothing could make me more curious about what you wrote than the taunting message that a post has been deleted... Anyway, responding to the comment that's still there:

Now you're back on track. That is the assumption that we are correct in challenging, that military action was necessary or even beneficial to our "cause" of spreading democratic ideals. In that respect, you and I totally agree. For every Iraqi we've killed, we've created a family that hates us and, by extension, the causes we represent.

Our problem is that its an assumption that many people in this country (including our leaders) do not share. The U.S. has a long history of addressing its goals with force, to varying degrees of success.

The difference between then and now is that the real enemy we face isn't a sovereign nation that we can defeat by breaking it's back. Rather, we create this enemy by trying to fight it. The effects of military action, and the environment it leaves behind, are the ideal breeding conditions for terrorist ideology.

By the way, congrats on your engagement which no one ever told me about. :)

- pierce