Status QuoOver at the BlogsCanada E-Group, Canadian rocker and pomo political analyst Mathew Good, has been writing about Iraqi politics. In the comments he wrote,
"That’s not to say that such logic is absolutely inaccurate, but like the example of imperialist complication of social behaviour, the acceptance of a global status quo based on the understanding that a moderate evil is the best possible option is to doom the possibility of the development of new social and political models based on conditions unknown to us."
Blogs Canada E-group
There need not be an acceptance of a global status quo - but be careful what you wish for.
The neo-con argument for the intervention in Iraq was the remaking of not only Iraqi society but the entire, sick, set of societies in the Middle East. Now you and I disagree as to the legitimacy of such an intervention; but you will agree that it certainly represents a significant departure from the status quo, business as usual approach which characterized the West's relationship with the Middle East.
There is a substantial conservative criticism of the war which argues that distrubing the status quo was a) none of the West's business, b) likely to release greater devils than Saddam, c) not in the West's interests. This criticism was based on the premise of "inherency", namely that the Middle East and Muslim society in general was incapable of becoming any less barbaric, any more democratic.
At this moment the barbarism of the insurgents in Iraq is going some way to proving the conservative's arguement. The quaint, medieval, directed by God, beheadings suggest that the Iraqis are not ready to become more democratic or even able to value human life.
The religious fanaticism of al-Sadr and his milita also provide compelling evidence that the Shi'ite majority is too obsessed with religious purity to allow the formation of a civil society.
John Kerry, with his assertions that the interim Iraqi government and the Coalition have lost control over large sections of Iraq, is providing yet more confirmation that the Iraqi people are simply incapable of democracy or respect for human rights. Today, Kerry basically called the interim Prime Minister of Iraq a liar for suggesting the violence is confined to three relatively small pockets of the country.
Kerry's remarks, while coming from the left, are further confirmation of a large body of opinion in the United States and the West in general which cannot accept the idea Iraqis may be able to build a new, civil, and less evil society on the ruins of one of the nastiest regimes the world has recently seen.
Against this there is the neo-con vision of a democratic, civil, secular, Iraq. Naive? Perhaps. And certainly blotched in many respects.
But, of the two visions, the neo-con idealism with its inherent faith in the capacity of the Iraqi people seems rather more attractive than the paleo-con/left belief that Iraq is essentially a lost cause. The paleo-con/left position extrapolated to the rest of the Middle East would leave millions of people stuck in the grip of autocracies which treat their people as cattle while furiously lining their own pockets. It would leave the Islamic world stuck in a terror breeding delusion that fifty years on the utter failure of that world to modernize is somehow the fault of the Jews, long gone colonial powers and America.
For years Middle Eastern societies were allowed to sumper in the stew of their own dysfunction. Foreign policy realists were dispairing about any change fearing it would be for the worse. So long as the various Middle Eastern countries kept the oil flowing, it really didn't matter what they did to each other or to their own people. That realism lead to the acceptence of assorted evils as the cost of doing business. It lead to the process of willfully ignoring the rise of jihadism. It lead to a blind eye being turned towards the Gulf States funding terror and the madrassas which taught Islam as a justification for that terror.
The status quo was seen by realists as the best which could be achieved with the crooked timber of the Middle East. Stability, even horribly oppressive stability, even stability purchased with the lives of Kurds, Marsh Arabs and Shi'ites, had the great virtue of keeping the oil flowing. Evil was accepted, even embraced, for the sake of oil.
The neo-con departure from the status quo was inherently destabilizing. It lead directly to the current bloody confrontation with the forces of barbarism. It is not a safe strategy. Rather it takes a tremendous risk for the possibility of an even more tremendous benefit: a remade Middle East.
The invasion of Iraq is a precise affirmation of the belief that we can "affect positive change past a predetermined point". Introducing democracy and the rule of law in a Middle Eastern nation opens "the possibility of the development of new social and political models based on conditions unknown to us".
Which of course leads me to wonder why Mathew isn't rooting for the success of the Coalition.
Update: Victor Davis Hansen writes in the Wall Street Journal,
For a half century, liberals rightly deplored the old realpolitik in the Middle East, as America and Europe supported autocratic right-wing governments on the cynical premises that they at least promised to keep pumping oil and kept out communists. Now President Bush not only renounces such past opportunism, but also confesses that "for too long, many nations, including my own, tolerated, even excused, oppression in the Middle East in the name of stability." He promises not complacency that ensures continual oppression, but radical changes that lead to freedom.
wall street journal (reg. req.)