Wednesday, May 12, 2004

willing the ends
From Normblog, an interview with Adam Michnik.

Bush has a utopian ideology . . . maybe not Bush, but maybe his circle. Perhaps I'm being naïve, but I don't think it is utopian to want to install democratic rule in Iraq. If it won't be an ideal democracy, let it be a crippled democracy, but let it not be a totalitarian dictatorship. I don't like many things in today's Russia, but we have to say that there is a difference between Putin and Stalin. In my opinion, the religious visions of Bush's circle are anachronistic. I can't believe that John Ashcroft has personal conversations with God every day, who tells him what to do. But if God told him that he should destroy Saddam, then this was the right advice, because a world without Saddam Hussein is better than a world with Saddam Hussein.

I don’t agree with the conclusion, but the analysis seems to be exactly right when you look at what has been achieved by humanitarian militarism over the past decade. Bosnia slumbers on under the rule of King Paddy the Benign. In Kosovo, Serbian ethnic cleansers have been replaced by Albanian ethnic cleansers. For the most part, Afghanistan has reverted to its pre-Taliban political configuration. Hamid Karzai happens to be the warlord with international support who controls Kabul and its environs. Having said that, Kabul does seem to be a free city. Sierra Leone won’t be setting the world on fire any time soon, but the violence has largely ceased.

So with the possible exceptions of Kosovo and Iraq itself, the military humanists have left the sites of their interventions in a slightly better state than they found them. That is if we take a loose interpretation of the word ‘left’. All the happy beneficiaries apparently need ongoing political control of their country by the political delegates of the military humanists. Given the level of actual support for military intervention that exists internationally, it’s probably the best that can be achieved.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. In order to create “crippled democracies” in Afghanistan and Iraq, dictatorships in the surrounding countries have had to be supported, notably Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The hardline mullahs in Iran look more secure than they did a year back, and Ghaddafi has been given life tenure as Libyan dictator.

Additionally, the timing and conduct of the Iraq occupation has allowed militant jihadists to regroup, won them more supporters and made the people of the countries involved in the occupation at greater risk of attack. Of course, we were all targets before. But that in itself is no reason to paint a big red target sign on everybody’s head.

Add these factors to the equation. Now let’s make an honest pitch for liberation based on the “crippled democracy” approach.

Ladies and gentlemen. People of this great nation. We aim to topple a totalitarian dictatorship and replace it with a crippled democracy. Our plan is to create a corrupt, brutal and dictatorial regime, but not as corrupt, brutal and dictatorial as the one that went before it. We would like to do better, and who knows, we might pull it off. However, we cannot guarantee that we will succeed even in this.

Yet the attempt will involve us in an open ended military, political and economic commitment, using money that would otherwise have been spent elsewhere. An unknown number of our troops will die. So will an unknown number of the civilians in the country we intend to liberate. It’s not that we want to kill them, but public opinion demands that we put our own military’s security ahead of civilian lives in crippleddemocracystan, even though we care so deeply about these civilians that we intend to liberate them.

Those of you who know which way up a map goes will be aware that the country we intend to liberate abuts totalitarian dictators. We need secure bases of operations so we intend to provide these dictators with economic and political support. In this way we can pursue our policy of opposition to dictatorship more effectively.

Our liberation of crippleddemocracystan will indirectly further the aims of the more general war on terror by replacing a corrupt, brutal and dictatorial regime with a less corrupt, brutal and dictatorial regime. It is not however, a direct attack on the terrorists themselves, who may well increase their attacks on us in response now that the direct pressure is off them. Our response to this will be to curtail exactly the same kind of freedoms that we wish to see established in crippleddemocracystan, not that there will be too many of those. Never mind. You lot have had plenty of liberties for a long time, so now it’s time to share.

I don’t think a pitch made on these grounds would go over well with the public. But if you think that it needs to go ahead regardless, you are under pressure to come up with better reasons, even if they have no factual basis, or ignore the public altogether.

And the problem with that is that it tends to cripple democracy in your own country.