The wrong trousers

Many conservative pundits have begun marching to the steady drumbeat for another war. Who will it be? Syria, or Iran, or both? Whoever it will be, it won’t be places where actual terrorists are and the reasons will be certainly be all wrong. One reason, one dishonestly asserted in the absence of any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is that democratization of the Middle East will end terrorism. So, Victor Hanson argues that the US should support democracy in the Middle East (by something more forceful than words). A noble goal, but the first reason he offers for it is this:

>First, Islamic terrorism has a global reach. Even just a few operatives are able to destroy the foundations of Western air travel, finance and civic trust.

Whatever this has to do with democracy he does not say. No amount of democracy (say that enjoyed by the citizens of Great Britain) can stop a few crazies from blowing up some trains and buses and planes. Besides, the causes of Islamic terrorism, as far as we have been able to tell, don’t have a whole lot to do with their lack of a representative forms of government. And it’s a gross oversimplification to lump all of Islamic terrorism (read any terrorism in the Middle East) into one category. Consider, for instance, the difference between Sunni and Shiite, for starters, then add the difference between the locally directed terrorist versus the one with global interests.

And to complete the revision of history, he claims that

>In truth, fostering democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq was not our first, but last choice. What the U.S. is trying to do in the Middle East is costly, easily made fun of and unappreciated. But constitutional government is one course that might someday free Middle Easterners from kidnappings, suicide bombers and dictators in sunglasses.

It is easy to make fun of what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially since it has done so little to free *anyone*–least of all the Iraqi and the Afghanis–from kidnappings and suicide bombers.

4 thoughts on “The wrong trousers”

  1. Sure, the idea that democracy will stop terrorism is ridiculous. But why do you say “Whoever it will be, it won’t be places were [sic] actual terrorists are”? Do you simply deny the State Department’s findings that Iran and Syria are the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism?

  2. First–thanks for the edit. I fixed it.

    Second, since Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, I don’t have a lot of confidence that the next country to be attacked will have much to do with 9/11 either. Iran and Syria, for instance, clearly had nothing to do with 9/11 and likely have nothing to do al Qaeda. Iran and Syria sponsor terrorism, but mainly against Israel–that’s the locally directed kind of terrorism that no amount of democracy will solve–until, at least, their problem with Israel is solved. As it stands, although terrorism is one word, it is hardly correct to treat it–even in the Middle East–as having one manifestation, one cause, and therefore one solution. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Actually, America is is the leader in state-sponsored terrorism around the world. We just keep our hands clean by using people in other countries to do the dirty work for us (usually), and if we are caught, we simply deny, deny, deny. Look at Central America in the 1980’s, South America in the 1960’s (and beyond), Indonesia and Cambodia in the 1970’s, etc. Chomsky, whatever anyone says about his political agenda, nonetheless delivers substantial cited and footnoted evidence from major American media outlets as support for these claims of American state-sponsored attacks against civilians, infrastructures, and governments, with the intent to alter their political attitudes and governing structures. Mind you, many of these countries were punished by us simply because they VOTED for leaders that we didn’t like (Hamas is democratically elected, lest we forget). But of course, its not terrorism if we do it. Its “counter-terrorism.”

  4. “There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.
    It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it is worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction, what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be a less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation ofair, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.”
    That’s our-read:Americans-bit; whenever one of these stuffed suit neocons starts blathering about how we need to surrender one our “inalienable rights” to protect ourselves from terrorism, we need to carry Madison’s ardent warning against the inhibition of liberty in favor of “safety” in our mind.
    But Madison goes on, and here’s the bit that’s pertinent to the formation of democracies in the Middle East:
    “The second expedient is as impracticable as the first is unwise. As long as the reason of man continues to be fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to the conformity of interests. The protection of these faculties in the first object of Government……the latent causees of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of acitvity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning Government…, as well as speculation of its practice; an attachment to different leaders, ambitiously conteding for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions, whose fortunes have been interested to the human passions, have inturn divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other, than to coopoerate for the common good.”
    Madison got it, folks. People are going to fight. There is going to be faction and terror, and, get this, Madison argues that this to be a natural consequence of democracy. Democracy is not meant accomplish homogeneity of thought, but to foster diversity of thought. After a lengthy discouse on property rights, witness Madison’s conclusion:
    “It is vain to say, that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all sunservient to the public good. Emlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm; Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all, without taking into view indirect and remote condierations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another, or the good of the whole.
    The inference to which we are brought, is, that the causes of faction cannot be removed; and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects.”
    If you want to read how Madison proposed these controls, go here: Even, so, it’s a worthwhile read. We are not going to get rid of terrorism with democracy, in fact, the institution of democracy in the middle east has seen the rise of terrorism. The point has been made on this site more than once: we may not always like the leaders that get democratically elected. People in Pakistan and Palestine probably don’t care much for some of the people we elect, either. But the fact remains, we cannot engineer the elections for the world, hell, we can’t even get our own right! If we expect the rest of the world to respect the result of our own democracy, then we must repect theirs, as well. What the Bush administration is afraid to say, that everyone else has already guessed is that they(the Bushists) don’t want democracy, they cannot accept its consequences; rather, they want a psuedo-totalitarian sham of a democracy, a universe of homogenized thought that revolves around flannelboard religiousity and half-baked, playground-style diplomacy. If you doubt this, consider USAPATRIOT, the reaction to the popular elections of Hamas and Hezbollah, and the stubborn refusal to truly hand over the reins of government to the Iraqi people in the light of the words of James Madison; and the next time someone tells you this is what the Founding Fathers stood for, just smile and walk away.

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