Thursday, October 27, 2005

A More Complete Answer 

In response to the discussion of the Iraqi vote, "Western values" and the invasion that set all this in motion Manateechik asked a sincere and valid question:
should we invade some more countries so that they can be Westernized?
While I posted a lengthier reply to her question at Spiral of Lies, in my own comments I offered the short response that I didn't think the option should be completely ruled out. I take the opportunity now to somewhat flesh out that reply.

I whole heartedly support this Administration's commitment to achieving lasting meaningful peace through promoting and spreading democratic reforms in oppressed countries, a goal that would not have been foreign to JFK. Say what you want, but history clearly demonstrates that working democracies are much less likely to start wars with other working democracies. Take Europe, for example, and contrast the continued bloodshed seen throughout the 18th and most of the 19th centuries under the various kings, tsars, kaisers and emperors with the 20th century, where WWI saw the fall of the last Empire on the continent and WWII was entirely precipitated by totalitarianism in the form of fascism. If, in fifty years, we see a Middle East that has a similar level of democracy and peace as Europe everyone gains.

Let me be clear, I certainly do not believe in running roughshod over anyone who disagrees with us or some grand vision of the US as being on a democracy crusade (vote or die!). At this time, though, we are at war, a grand struggle like most we fought in the last century in which it was a war of ideas as much as of military. This war is very much like any conflict, however, in that the failure to achieve clear and unambiguous securities may lead to catastrophic results. To minimize the potential for such results we must be ready to go where it is needed to destroy terrorists and terrorist organizations, to deny them the resources (weapons, money and infrastructure) they need to fight and to promote the democratic reform and societal transparency (i.e. "Western Values") that will deter the reconstitution of terrorists. In those cases where we are unable to achieve these goals with the cooperation of a nation's government it would be both foolish and foolhardy to anticipate overall victory without retaining a military option.

Further, the willingness to act provides a deterrence all its own. You must not forget that Bin Laden himself said that the US unwillingness to act and basic retreat after loosing soldiers in Somalia were critical in his estimate that we were a "paper tiger" and ripe for a killing blow and many shared his opinion. Following our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, though, there are many who have changed their minds. The cooperation of Libya was paramount in not only removing another thorn from our sides but also in exposing the A. Q. Khahn nuclear weapons technology transfer ring, and none but the most steadfast partisan can say with a straight face that this capitulation had nothing to do with the rapid collapse of Saddam's power. Likewise for the unprecedented rash of elections, opening of political processes to opposition parties and proliferation of women's suffrage seen throughout the region in countries such as Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Lebanon and even Saudi Arabia. Again, the idea that all this happened in a vacuum without being influenced by events in Iraq is laughable.

In Afghanistan the President said "hand over the Terrorists or we'll remove you from power." When the brutal totalitarian government of the Taliban refused to provide the securities we needed he did just what he promised. In Iraq the President said "open your WMD programs to real transparent and complete verification or we'll remove you from power." Again, when the brutal totalitarian government of Saddam refused to provide the securities we needed he did just what he promised. If the time comes and this President is forced to tell Iran "abandon your nuclear weapons programs and open your country to real inspections or we'll remove you from power," do you think he'll be taken seriously or as a paper tiger? Do you think our commitment and resolve in promoting "Western values" in Iraq will have gained us any non-military leverage over Syria, Iran or Saudi Arabia?

So when I say "it should not be completely discounted" I mean that promoting democratic "Western values" is a hard job, and doing so in the face of bloodthirsty, power hungry tyrannical governments it is damn near impossible without having a credible threat of forcible removal. It's not nice and it's not pretty, but it is also undeniable that without the application of force the world would never have seen the end of the likes of Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini or Saddam.

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