Monday, August 07, 2006

As you know, our Leader, Dubya, is very proud of the sort of democracy that we have achieved in Iraq. Indeed, when Russian President Putin commented that "We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy they have in Iraq", Dubya immediately riposted, "Just wait".

So, it is worth knowing what one of the architects of this grand success, such as it is, thinks of problems of democratization elsewhere in the Arab world. Here's an NPR interview with Noah Feldman, who is, among other things, a former advisor to the Iraqis on constitutional law, commenting on problems posed by the participation of Hezbollah as a minority party in the democratically elected Lebanese government. I can't find a full transcript, just audio, but Feldman's own summation will serve as a reasonable precis of the whole:

Interviewer: But what happens when those [armed] groups are the ones with the political power in a country?

Feldman: Then I think the answer for us as outsiders to say is, "Look, we can't tell you who to vote for, but we can tell you how we're going to treat your nation from a perspective of policy, and if you elect a government that's hostile to us or our allies, we're just not going to deal with that government. We're going to treat you as a hostile state."

Because, of course, we've matured past the naive stage where we attempted to deal diplomatically with hostile states. Look at what we got out of the Cuban Missile crisis, to take only one example of that failed strategy --- decades of further uncertain nuclear standoff. Now, one might say that this was a better outcome than the full-scale nuclear exchange that we nearly got instead, but that is a weak perspective, showing a lack of will. That the nuclear exchange would have killed hundreds of millions of people is, in fact, an expression of the chief virtue of the manly approach which does not shrink from conflict --- it leads to outcomes with finality.

So, we no longer "deal with" states with hostile governments. Better by far to invade them, or just bomb the crap out of them. In this instance, for example, that will give the vast majority of Lebanese, who didn't vote for Hezbollah, and who are getting the crap bombed out of them anyway, an incentive to not vote for them again --- the hope that maybe, someday, if they thank our allies enough for bombing them, and us for supplying the bombs, and they keep on pulling levers, then maybe someday we'll stop. Even in a culture dominated by notions of honor that lead to vicious blood feuds, that will surely prove more appealing than, say, picking up a gun and shooting back.

So, there's a clear, simple message here, as Feldman explains:

The message there is that democracy is just fine, but there's no excuse making for the public when they've elected, democratically, a government that goes out and breaks international law, or that violates the borders of its neighbors, or that acts against American interests.

So, no matter how the civilians of Beirut actually voted, the bombs are their fault. Besides which, why would a legitimately elected government ever act against American interests anyway?

So, this is the kind of clear-eyed thinking that has brought us our success in Iraq, which will soon be spreading throughout the Middle East. And this was on liberal NPR, so you know this isn't just some right-wing nut.

More wisdom from the same source perhaps this time next year, or whenever it is that I next have the stomach for commentary from "liberal" NPR.


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