Glenn Reynolds, October 22, 2005:
Saddam's on trial, Iraqis are counting ballots, and as noted above we seem to have shaken things up -- though I'd argue not enough yet -- throughout the mideast.Incredibly, Reynolds is arguing that the US might need to be busier "toppling governments and invading countries" in the Middle East. Given the recent UN revelations about apparent Syrian backing of the Hariri assassination in Lebanon, Reynolds is very strongly implying that the US should be making war on Syria -- without a public or congressional debate. And probably other states.
If Bush's effort here fails, it won't be because the antiwar critique of bloodthirstiness and warmongering is correct. It will be because Bush hasn't been vigorous enough in toppling governments and invading countries in the region. What happens with Syria in the next little while may answer that question.
I literally don't know where to start.
Perhaps by noting that democracy is great. I'm a fan. Point conceded. I'm all for making it work better. For example, note that a presidential ("wag the dog"?) war against Syria might be an impeachable act, according even to Republicans.
So let's debate the means, not the ends.
Before beginning, however, I would like to mention the fact that the Iraq war was not about democratizing that state. This was a post hoc rationale for war when no WMD were found. Maybe the administration's position (and Reynolds') would seem more sincere if long-term military bases were renounced.
Setting aside that problem, is war the best method to democratize? Indeed, is there any evidence that war is a workable means by which to democratize a state? The most cost effective? The least counter-productive?
The US has spent $200 billion fighting in Iraq. If democratization of rogue and failed states is a priority foreign policy goal, couldn't the US have spent that cash in plenty of other places that might be potential sources of terror? How about giving more attention to Liberia, for example?
War itself is a threat to democracy. Since the "war on terror" began, the US has passed the Patriot Act, arrested and detained unknown hundreds (perhaps thousands) of innocent Muslems, and committed horrible war crimes at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo.
Oh, and let's not forget that the Iraq war was launched by a President who received fewer votes than his opponent in the preceding election. The Congress never declared war. The war itself fairly clearly abrogated the UN Charter (and perhaps other international treaties), and the US constitution says that such Treaties are the "supreme Law of the Land."
I point out these latter facts because Reynolds is a law professor.
And because it seems hypocritical to push democracy on the rest of the world if the US isn't doing a particularly good job of it. How can other states be illegally forced to embrace the rule of law?
I won't go further with this critique of American democracy. The US political system is obviously dominated by monied interests, resulting in the election of those who support crony capitalism. No-bid contracts to Dick Cheney's Halliburton reflect reality fairly well.
On the subject of hypocrisy, how can the US credibly push democracy on Iraq when it so obviously embraces a close working relationship with quite worrisome autocrats in Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia? During the cold war, the US refused to have all kinds of basic economic relations with the Soviet Union. But the US and its allies are highly dependent on oil from the corrupt middle eastern monarchies.
Would Reynolds make war on Iran? After all, many conservatives see it as the "big enchilada." But Iran is a bigger, far more potent state than 2002 Iraq. It hasn't been weakened by 12 years of UN sanction and wasn't already bombed by the US.
In other words, making war in Iran would make Iraq look like a picnic.
Face it, the Bush Doctrine was never really about democracy...and it's dead.
Really, really dead.