Monday, August 22, 2005

Carnival of the Reason writers

Great stuff at Hit & Run this morning:

Michael Young, in a WSJ Op-Ed, has an original take on the Iraq war & the Middle East. It's tough to summarize (please RTWT), but he's basically saying that liberal-minded Arabs should be asserting their self-interest a lot more effectively than they are:
From the Arab side, encouragement of a democratic Iraq, and its fulfillment, would have proved the viability of an Arab democracy, denting Israel's presumption that it is the "only democracy in the Middle East." By becoming a dominant cornerstone of U.S. policy, Iraq would have relativized Israel's paramountcy; and a truly representative Iraq would have highlighted Israel's denial of Palestinian representativeness in the occupied territories. For all these reasons, American achievement in Iraq could have been looked on with greater self-interested approval and imagination by the Arab publics. It never was.

[...] By refusing to profit from the prospective democratic upheaval that Saddam's removal ushered in; by never looking beyond the American messenger in Iraq to the message itself; by lamenting external hegemony while doing nothing to render it pointless, Arabs merely affirmed their impotence. The self-pitying Arab reaction to the Iraq war showed the terrible sway of the status quo in the Middle East. An inability to marshal change for one's benefit is the stuff of captive minds.

Not exactly a feel-good story, but a fascinating perspective.

Still on Iraq, Nick Gillespie notes the stern words of Republican and unimpeachably right-wing Senator Chuck Hagel's ("we're not winning"), and has this to say:
Whatever else you can say about Iraq, this much seems inarguable: The Bush administration has failed to define the parameters of success there in any really convincing way. And whatever the successes of the occupation may be, they've done a piss-poor job of making clear a) what they are and b) precisely what level of American sacrifice is both required and acceptable.

Inarguable indeed - this failure can not be schlepped off on the ol' MSM.

And on a much, much lighter note, Julian Sanchez informs us that Hunter S. Thompson's ashes were shot off in fireworks on Saturday night. Click through for the funniest post header you'll read this week.


At 3:42 p.m., Blogger sacamano said...

I'm somewhat uncomfortable with any argument that takes as its central thesis that we know better how to help them than they do themselves, and that they are unable to change without our help.

"Arab societies must indeed open up from inside, but absent an echo, sometimes a determining one, from outside--including the option of foreign military action--little will change."

Really? Without foreign military action Arab societies are unlikely to change? Is this really the message that we want to be sending? Is it really the message we want Arabs in Iran or Saudi Arabia to embrace: "We are powerless, please come and invade our country and liberate us from ourselves."

If this is the justification for invading, is there any wonder that Arabs in other countries have explicitly rejected it?

It is also strangely inconsistent with Reason's usual approach. Dastardly liberals, for example, far from being seen as necessary echos for reformation of the Catholic Church are usually portrayed as nannyish, unwanted, outside interference. Likewise, the argument that addicts are incapable of change without mandatory drug treatment programs is seen as ridiculous.

Speaking of paternalistic messages, I also have trouble with this statement:

"[b]y never looking beyond the American messenger in Iraq to the message itself . . . Arabs merely affirmed their impotence"

Which message does Mr. Young have in mind? Not the notion that Arabs, themselves, are incapable of change, I assume. I guess he must be referring to the messages of liberation offered by the West. The problem is that, to date, the Coalition of the Willing has provided all kinds of messages for invading Iraq - many of them contradictory. In fact, until recently the primary messages revolved around protecting Western interests (i.e., to eliminate WMD's, prevent the spread of terrorism, etc.) from those very Arabs. This isn't exactly a message to build a new Iraq around. There is no doubt that this message has been tailored to one of bringing democracy, liberation, etc., but does anyone honestly believe that this is the main reason the US went to Iraq?

In this respect, perhaps Arabs (itself a caricature of the region's diversity of opinion) have not overlooked the message for the messenger, but rather they have looked at the multitude of ever-changing messages and decided that they just aren't convincing.

Maybe it is the case that many Arabs - far from failing "to see the advantages in the removal of Saddam" - simultaneously saw disadvantages of accepting change on someone else's terms and timeline and knowingly decided that the equation wasn't as favourable as we would like to believe.

But who knows, maybe he is right and Arabs are too dumb, or stubborn, or lazy, or simply have "an inability to marshal change for [their own] benefit" because of "captive minds" - whatever that means.


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