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The Liberal Cause in the Middle East
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Michael Totten has a good column on "The Liberal Case for Bush". (And here is the companion piece to this one "The Hawkish Case for Kerry").

Liberation and nation-building have been crucial parts of the Democratic tradition from the reconstruction of post-war Germany and Japan to the rescue and rehabilitation of Bosnia and Kosovo.


The intervention against Slobo's regime in Serbia wasn't slammed as a "unilateral war." It was the Peace Corps with muscles.

But when George W. Bush implemented the Clinton Administration's policy of regime-change in Iraq, democratic nation-building morphed into "imperialism." Overthrowing a totalitarian regime was deemed "reckless." What mattered most was "stability." Just as September 11 taught George W. Bush that liberals had a point all along, liberals started to sound like...conservatives.

I think part of this is the natural tendency to oppose and criticize whatever the other guys are doing, but that doesn't make it right. But those who supported our involvement in Bosnia (and it should have been undertaken even sooner than it was), should have supported the ousting of Hussein. Totten's right that the non-interventionist position is typically associated with conservativism (and also libertarianism).

In his most important speech, the set-piece of his campaign, he didn't mention freedom or democracy for Iraqis. Not even once.

Conventional wisdom says Kerry has taken every possible position on the Iraq war. But it's not true. He hasn't. There is one he has ignored all along, the very position he should have championed from the beginning: the liberal case for war, the one that gave Operation Iraqi Freedom its name.

Maybe it never occurred to him to take the liberal position. Perhaps he considered it and shrugged or thought it was stupid. In any case, he won't touch it. And that's a serious problem. It stands as a de-facto repudiation of his great party's tradition.

As I mentioned in a comment in the post before this one, what exactly is Kerry's motivation in staying in Iraq? He calls in the wrong war and doesn't seem to think it's vital to democratize it. He criticizes spending money there, strongly implying that the money would be better spent on domestic problems. If that's the case, again...why not pull out right now?

I've heard liberals openly mocking the fantasy of democratizing and liberalizing the Middle East, the stupidity of the domino effect, the absurdity of bringing democracy to people at gunpoint, and the aggressive interventionism of the Plan for the New American Century. If so, why in the hell would they support staying in Iraq to "finish the job"? They think the job is a folly, right?

I really wish someone would answer this for me.

But back to the article...

On proxy wars and propping up strongmen:

Sometimes we have to cut deals with nasty rulers when we're in a tough spot. But the Cold War strategy of habitually propping up right-wing military regimes so long as they were anti-Communist went way beyond what was necessary or even defensible. As Christopher Hitchens recently put it:

"I have never seen anyone argue that the mass murder in East Timor, for example, helped to bring down the Berlin Wall.

I don't have to explain any of this to liberal activists. They were the ones who taught it to me. But most haven't even noticed that George W. Bush has turned Henry Kissinger's noxious "realist" game on its head. He couldn't have made it more clear when he gave the commencement address at the Air Force Academy in June 2004:

"For decades, free nations tolerated oppression in the Middle East for the sake of stability. In practice, this approach brought little stability and much oppression, so I have changed this policy."

There you have it. This is exactly what liberals have demanded for decades. And now that Bush veers to the left he is jeered by the left for being "reckless," "extremist," "imperialist," and even "fascist." That's precisely the reason some of the left's most stout-hearted members, most famously Christopher Hitchens himself, ditched their old comrades to forge an alliance with the neoconservative right.

This is exactly right.

And this is probably the most insightful part of the essay:

I don't want to get carried away. Bush's record is riddled with holes. He is way too chummy with Vladimir Putin as Russia slouches toward fascism. If he has any objections to Islam Karimov's brutal police state in Uzbekistan he keeps them to himself -- or at least off the record. And his warm relationship with the wretched House of Saud is the worst of all.

The problem is that John Kerry is no better. He has plenty to say about our dependence on Saudi oil. But he says nothing about the Bush Administration's coziness with what can only be described as an enemy state during war time. This failing on the part of the Bush Administration is so enormous, so damning, Kerry would have a real shot at the presidency if he were to bang away on this point alone. But he doesn't. I can only assume he plans to continue propping up this potemkin alliance on outdated "realpolitik" grounds.

Yes. Kerry should be pointing out this baldfaced hypocrisy. I actually think that part of the Bush rationale for invading Iraq was oil, and was to relieve ourselves of the dependency on Saudi oil and influence, though they will never come out and say it. But Kerry's silence on this issue is fairly baffling.

There should be tougher criticism not only of the utterly reprehensible government of Saudi Arabia, but as Totten points out, the recent steps backwards from democracy taken by Putin. And also in places like Pakistan, which Totten doesn't mention, where Musharref has been promising democratic reforms for years, while basically remaining a military strongman. We're deeply engaged with the Pakistanis right now...we have to be to get their help in fighting terrorism and helping to try to catch bin Laden. But we should be leveraging that closer relationship to push for reform in that country.

I really would admire Kerry if he pointed this out to a national audience, but so far he has remained mute (as far as I know).

Totten goes on to point out that our actions have destabilized the Middle East, but that that's probably a good thing. Middle Eastern reformers are becoming more emboldened and regimes are feeling more pressure to change. And such reforms are long overdue.

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