Liberty & Power: Group Blog
The new Iraqi interim government scheduled to take control on July 1 will have only"limited sovereignty" over the country and no authority over U.S. and coalition military forces already there, senior State and Defense officials told Congress this week.
And Iraqi women will experience only limited pregnancy.
What planet is that woman living on? That's what political campaigns routinely do. She ran Michael Dukakis’s presidential campaign in 1988, so she did it herself!
I am not at all surprised, but I am profoundly saddened, that circumstances force me to revisit a topic that I would have greatly preferred not to have to discuss again. That subject is a military draft. To begin with, we have this news story:
A senior Republican lawmaker said that deteriorating security in Iraq (news - web sites) may force the United States to reintroduce the military draft.But I thought that Hagel said that"[t]here's not an American...that doesn't understand what we are engaged in today." So why do we need to reinstitute the draft to force"our citizens to understand the intensity and depth of challenges we face"? But blatant contradictions such as this one do not disturb those who propose the most profound violation of individual rights possible. The story goes on:
"There's not an American ... that doesn't understand what we are engaged in today and what the prospects are for the future," Senator Chuck Hagel told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on post-occupation Iraq.
"Why shouldn't we ask all of our citizens to bear some responsibility and pay some price?" Hagel said, arguing that restoring compulsory military service would force"our citizens to understand the intensity and depth of challenges we face."
The Nebraska Republican added that a draft, which was ended in the early 1970s, would spread the burden of military service in Iraq more equitably among various social strata.Note that those who advocate a return to the draft aren't speaking of spreading"benefits" in the manner that pandering politicians like to, especially when they are disposing of the money belonging to other American citizens. No, this time they speak of spreading"the burden" -- even if that"burden" might include the deaths of countless Americans -- and of making us understand issues which they consider us too stupid to grasp without a gun pointed at our heads.
"Those who are serving today and dying today are the middle class and lower middle class," he observed.
And in looking around the blogosphere, we find a stunningly casual acceptance of the legitimacy of a draft. For example, Daily Kos indicates that he completely agrees with Hagel. Isn't it nice that completely negating a man's right to his own life can unite Republicans and Democrats? Kos explained the basis of his agreement here:
Unlike most people around these parts, I actually support a military draft (with the option of alternate service for conscientious objectors). I think the burdens of our Democracy should be shared by all. And as a side benefit, the more people serve, the more stake everyone will have in potential military conflicts. It's a lot easier to advocate for war if you don't know anyone who might suffer consequences. It's a lot harder to remain aloof if war may impact your friends, children, or grandchildren.So Kos maintains that"each life" is"precious" -- while he simultaneously claims that the government has the"right" to dispose of however many of its citizens' lives it deems appropriate. As I said, people who endorse barbarism are seldom choosy about the arguments they employ. In addition, Kos has the practical issue precisely backwards, as we shall see in a moment.
Instead, we have a professional army isolated, culturally and literally, from the vast majority of the American public. We have war supporters who argue that 100 dead this month is no big deal because more people died during WWII. They callously claim that 700 US dead for this war is a"small price", as though each life wasn't precious. They argue that we can't give Iraqis their country back because (and where have we heard this before?) that would invalidate the sacrifice of the hundreds who have already perished.
Atrios is casually breezy and noncommittal:
I have mixed feelings about the draft. Though, the farther away I get from prime draft age the less I actually like the idea."Mixed feelings" -- about whether a person has a right to his own life or not. Well, that's a point of view, although not one deserving of any admiration, even in a microscopic degree.
Matthew Yglesias has also weighed in on this subject:
Now you'll note that this plan [this one] involves conscription. Personally, I favor conscription. Nevertheless, this falls under the category of S[***] That Ain't Gonna Happen. But the plan doesn't really require conscription, it just requires a great deal more manpower than current recruitment policies are going to generate. Many people are just ideologically opposed to conscription -- let the market work! -- I have the reverse view.That statement is admirable, if only for its clarity, although it is contemptible in every other way.
From the opposite political pole, The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler's comments (from quite a while ago, but I couldn't find any more recent ones) might seem marginally better at first glance, but in fact they are not:
The draft is something that you only ever institute as a last resort if you're caught up in a long war that you have to win and you've run out of volunteers, and even THEN it's a bad idea. But in that case it's at least better than the alternative.A few questions instantly crop up: How exactly did the country get into this"long war"? Is it a war worth fighting, or winning? Could it be fought in some other way? And if"you've run out of volunteers," that might suggest that the average citizen does not feel it's a war worth fighting, at least not in the way it's being fought. But this endorsement of a draft"as a last resort" means only that a man has a right to his own life -- except when the government decides, on the basis of reasons with which you may well disagree, that you don't. In other words, your right to your own life is provisional -- which means that you don't have that right. We'll see answers to the other questions, and additional ones, in a moment.
As you are probably all too well aware, there are innumerable other voices, both in the blogosphere and in our culture more generally, that share all these views.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, I heard a few politicians float trial balloons about the return of the draft. Mercifully, that talk seems to have died down for the moment. I would not be at all surprised, however, if that notion is revived, and perhaps in the not too distant future. If it is, I urge every one of you to oppose a draft in the strongest terms possible, and in every way you can. If you genuinely value freedom and individual rights, a draft is an abomination, and deserves to be condemned by all people everywhere.In earlier posts about a draft, I quoted from an Ayn Rand essay,"The Wreckage of the Consensus," from 1967. I will repeat a few of those passages here, since Rand discusses every important aspect of this issue, and far more eloquently than I could (I've added the highlights):
Of all the statist violations of individual rights in a mixed economy, the military draft is the worst. It is an abrogation of rights. It negates man's fundamental right--the right to life--and establishes the fundamental principle of statism: that a man's life belongs to the state, and the state may claim it by compelling him to sacrifice it in battle. Once that principle is accepted, the rest is only a matter of time.In another earlier post, I also quoted this passage from the same essay:
If the state may force a man to risk death or hideous maiming and crippling, in a war declared at the state's discretion, for a cause he may neither approve of nor even understand, if his consent is not required to send him into unspeakable martyrdom--then, in principle, all rights are negated in that state, and its government is not man's protector any longer. What else is there left to protect?
The most immoral contradiction--in the chaos of today's anti-ideological groups--is that of the so-called" conservatives," who posture as defenders of individual rights, particularly property rights, but uphold and advocate the draft. By what infernal evasion can they hope to justify the proposition that creatures who have no right to life, have the right to a bank account? A slightly higher--though not much higher--rung of hell should be reserved for those"liberals" who claim that man has the"right" to economic security, public housing, medical care, education, recreation, but no right to life, or: that man has the right to livelihood, but not to life. [Note that passage well, those bloggers referenced above.]
One of the notions used by all sides to justify the draft, is that"rights impose obligations." Obligations, to whom?--and imposed, by whom? Ideologically, that notion is worse than the evil it attempts to justify: it implies that rights are a gift from the state, and that a man has to buy them by offering something (his life) in return. Logically, that notion is a contradiction: since the only proper function of a government is to protect man's rights, it cannot claim title to his life in exchange for that protection.
The only"obligation" involved in individual rights is an obligation imposed, not by the state, but by the nature of reality (i.e., by the law of identity): consistency, which, in this case, means the obligation to respect the rights of others, if one wishes one's own rights to be recognized and protected.
Politically, the draft is clearly unconstitutional. No amount of rationalization, neither by the Supreme Court nor by private individuals, can alter the fact that it represents"involuntary servitude."
A volunteer army is the only proper, moral--and practical--way to defend a free country. Should a man volunteer to fight, if his country is attacked? Yes--if he values his own rights and freedom. A free (or even semi-free) country has never lacked volunteers in the face of foreign aggression. Many military authorities have testified that a volunteer army--an army of men who know what they are fighting for and why--is the best, most effective army, and that a drafted one is the least effective.
It is often asked:"But what if a country cannot find a sufficient number of volunteers?" Even so, this would not give the rest of the population a right to the lives of the country's young men. But, in fact, the lack of volunteers occurs for one of two reasons: (1) If a country is demoralized by a corrupt, authoritarian government, its citizens will not volunteer to defend it. But neither will they fight for long, if drafted. For example, observe the literal disintegration of the Czarist Russian army in World War I. (2) If a country's government undertakes to fight a war for some reason other than self-defense, for a purpose which the citizens neither share nor understand, it will not find many volunteers. Thus a volunteer army is one of the best protectors of peace, not only against foreign aggression, but also against any warlike ideologies or projects on the part of a country's own government.As I said, Kos had the practical point exactly backwards, and now you know why.
Not many men would volunteer for such wars as Korea or Vietnam. Without the power to draft, the makers of our foreign policy would not be able to embark on adventures of that kind. This is one of the best practical reasons for the abolition of the draft.
People also ought to remember the consequences to which a draft must necessarily, and logically, lead (also from the essay):
The practical question of the country's military protection is not the issue at stake; it is not the chief concern of the draft's supporters. Some of them may be motivated by routine, traditional notions and fears; but, on a national scale, there is a deeper motive involved.So much for the Republicans' dedication to individual rights, a despicable tradition which Hagel continues today.
When a vicious principle is accepted implicitly, it does not take long to become explicit: pressure groups are quick to find practical advantages in its logical implications. For instance, in World War II, the military draft was used as a justification for proposals to establish labor conscription--i.e., compulsory labor service for the entire population, with the government empowered to assign anyone to any job of its choice."If men can be drafted to die for their country," it was argued,"why can't they be drafted to work for their country?" Two bills embodying such proposals were introduced in Congress, but, fortunately, were defeated. The second of those bills had an interesting quirk: drafted labor, it proposed, would be paid a union scale of wages--in order not to undercut union scales--but, in"fairness" to the military draftees, the labor draftees would be given only the equivalent of army pay, and the rest of their wages would go to the government. (!)
What political group, do you suppose, came up with a notion of this kind? Both bills were introduced by Republicans--and were defeated by organized labor, which was the only large economic group standing between us and a totalitarian state.
Finally, I want to include a passage from Rand's essay that I had only alluded to before. This passage makes real the psychological and personal consequences and costs of a draft -- and I would urge everyone who thinks that a draft is a"good" idea or that it might be"necessary" under certain circumstances to consider the following very, very carefully (and with regard to monetary figures, remember this is from 1967):
No exact estimates of the cost of a volunteer army have been offered, but the approximate estimates place it at about four billion dollars a year.Rand then points out what the actual motive is with regard to those who advocate a draft -- and I would apply this analysis to anyone who seriously considers the resurrection of a draft for more than a millisecond:
Hold this figure in mind. Hold it while you read about our national budget in the daily papers--and while you hold also, clearly and specifically, the image of what this figure would buy.
The years from about fifteen to twenty-five are the crucial formative years of a man's life. This is the time when he confirms his impressions of the world, of other men, of the society in which he is to live, when he acquires conscious convictions, defines his moral values, chooses his goals, and plans his future, developing or renouncing ambition. These are the years that mark him for life. And it is these years that an allegedly humanitarian society forces him to spend in terror--the terror of knowing that he can plan nothing and count on nothing, that any road he takes can be blocked at any moment by an unpredictable power, that, barring his vision of the future, there stands the gray shape of the barracks, and, perhaps, beyond it, death for some unknown reason in some alien jungle [or desert, I might add, today].
A pressure of that kind is devastating to a young man's psychology, if he grasps the issue consciously--and still worse, if he doesn't.
The first thing he is likely to give up, in either case, is his intellect: an intellect does not function on the premise of its own impotence. If he acquires the conviction that existence is hopeless, that his life is in the hands of some enormous, incomprehensible evil, if he develops a helpless, searing contempt for the hypocrisy of his elders, and a profound hatred for all mankind--if he seeks to escape from that inhuman psychological pressure by turning to the beatnik cult of the immediate moment, by screaming:"Now, now, now!" (he has nothing else but that"now"), or by dulling his terror and killing the last of his mind with LSD--don't blame him. Brothers, you asked for it!
This is what four billion dollars would buy--this is what it would spare him and every other young man in the country and every person who loves them. Remember down what drains our money is being poured today: according to the Federal budget for fiscal year 1968, we will spend 4.5 billion on foreign aid and allied projects, 5.3 billion on space programs, 11.3 billion on just one of the many, many departments dealing with public welfare--yet we claim that we cannot afford four billion dollars to save our youth from the agony of a mangling, brutalizing psychological torture.
But, of course, the real motive behind that social crime is not financial: the issue of costs is merely a rationalization. The real motive may be detected in the following statement made by Lieutenant General Lewis B. Hershey, Director of the Selective Service System, on June 24, 1966:"I am not concerned with the uncertainty involved in keeping our citizenry believing that they owe something to their country. There are too many, too many people that think individualism has to be completely recognized, even if the group rights go to the devil."That, I submit, is one of the clearest statements of the essence of evil that you are likely to hear. And hear this: a man's right to his own life has to be completely recognized, or it is not recognized at all. If you claim the right to dispose of one day, or one week, or one month, or two or three years of a man's life -- and if you also claim the right to send that man to what may be his death -- it means that he has no right to his own life. None at all. And it means that you are a slavemaster.
Those who now advocate the return to a draft should at least have the decency to name what they are. And I repeat: they are slavemasters. By what"right" do they claim that they may send another human being to his death? It is not a right -- it is a power. And it is the power of every bloody dictatorship that the world has ever seen.
There can be no more important issue than the question of a draft -- for the simple reason that there is no more fundamental issue than a man's right to his life. Either he has that right, or he does not. If you support a draft, you deny that right -- and it is obscene for you to talk of any other rights at all. If you can kill a man against his will, it does not matter whether he has a"right" to an education, or to health care, or to an"economic livelihood," or to any other"right" that you care to dream up.
I will offer these final thoughts. The one supreme, irreplaceable value in this world is that represented and embodied by a single, individual human life. No other human being has any"right" to demand that another person give up his life, even for a single second. With regard to most of those who seriously advocate a return to the draft, and do so over any substantial period of time, I am close to certain that none of them has the slightest understanding of the meaning -- and the sacred nature -- of that irreplaceable value. And they probably never will.
If He did exist, only God could forgive them for such a crime against humanity, and against every person on this earth who does understand the sacred meaning of an individual life, and against even those who do not understand it fully themselves but still recognize that another person's life is not theirs to dispose of.
Anyone who advocates a draft deserves a special place in Hell -- and if a draft were to be implemented again, we would have a Hell on earth soon enough. If you doubt it, consult history. And then think about the issue. Think long and hard.
It's not too late yet, but the hour is much later than you might have thought. And given the common, widespread acceptance of the legitimacy of a draft, together with the fact that we are told the war on terror will go on for decades, Hell may be closer than any of us would choose to believe.
(Cross-posted at The Light of Reason.)
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
I got up this morning and, while having a little breakfast, I decided to watch a bit of the morning news shows. First up was the Today show. Matt Lauer was busy interviewing Sen. Joseph Biden and Sen. Chuck Hagel about the buzz concerning the military draft. The gents were also kind enough to let us know that the administration is sitting on a $50 to 75 billion request for additional funds to maintain troops in Iraq. Biden was quick to point out that this is not money for Iraq reconstruction; it is strictly for the maintenance of troops, except that the Bush administration is a little hesitant, it seems, to bring this up in an election year.
Next, I checked out Good Morning America, which had a story on the controversial decision by the Seattle Times to run a photo of flag-draped coffins coming home from the Iraq war. Mike Fancher, Executive Editor of the Times, defended the decision of his paper; he felt the photo conveyed the respect and reverence shown to the dead. But Rep. Mike Castle (R) of Delaware said that this policy of restricting the publication of such photos has been on the books since 1991 out of respect to the families. Could it be that the Pentagon is just trying to sanitize the war for American consumption? Of course not.
Alas, we wouldn't want a repetition of the Vietnam syndrome, where daily images of death and destruction came flowing through the media, almost unfiltered, so as to turn even Walter Cronkite against the war. It prompted LBJ to say,"if we've lost Walter Cronkite, we've lost the country"
Once I'd gotten my dosage of the news shows, I opened up the paper. I read another installment of the NY Daily Newsinvestigation about the increasing number of US troops exposed to uranium dust in Iraq. The paper reports:"An independent test conducted at The News' request found that four of the men tested positive for depleted uranium, which because of its heaviness is used to make shells and coat armored vehicles. A study by the Army in 1990 linked depleted uranium to 'chemical toxicity causing kidney damage.'"
The possibility of a coming military draft. Troops in need of additional monies. Restricted access to coffin photos. And depleted uranium toxicity among military fodder. As the media gets un-embedded from the administration's ass, perhaps we'll learn more about how miserable war is—for those who are fighting it. Especially a war like this one that is causing far more"blowback" than was first anticipated.
After reading this it occurred to me that the entire case against pulling our troops out of Iraq tomorrow is based on a delusion. It is the idea that somehow we are in control of things there and if we leave, the country will descend into chaos. But, how can we believe that we are in control when an American, even a heavily armed American, cannot walk the streets with even a bare minimum of safety? Who are we kidding?
And, I believe that if our soldiers come home and the Iraqi people begin to kill one another then that is on their heads. It is their responsibility to find away to live in peace with one another, not ours. It is our responsibility to stop killing people ourselves.
That's not quite right. It will help put a lot more scientism into political scientism.
David T. Beito
David T. Beito
"We don't want to put troops into a situation that is increasingly a public-relations problem for the president," said Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth, a group of conservative political donors."No one wants body bags coming home in September and October."
Or November 1 or 2.
You can be certain that a disaster must be in the making, when reality manages to seep through even into the editorial ranks at National Review. Via Matthew Barganier (and as David Beito already mentioned here), I note that those self-same editors who have been endlessly advocating for remaking the entire Middle East -- for which project the invasion of Iraq was only the very first domino, you will undoubtedly recall -- are now announcing that we must be"realistic," and they even dare to criticize the Bush Administration for believing its own propaganda!
I mean, really. How much lower can you get:
Since the conclusion of the war, the Bush administration has shown a dismaying capacity to believe its own public relations. The post-war looting was explained away as the natural and understandable exuberance of a newly-liberated people. (Now some Coalition officials suggest that a crackdown would have sped the reconstruction.) Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld denied the obvious reality of a guerrilla resistance and compared it to urban street crime in the United States. Every piece of good news has been hailed as turning the corner, even as the insurgency has remained stubbornly strong.Of course, being anxious to maintain their credibility and avoid a quick trip to the Institute for the Criminally Ignorant, also known as the Asylum for Deluded Nation-Builders, the NR editors are quick to assure us that the invasion of Iraq was not a"neoconservative war," and that it was urged"primarily" only as a war"to serve U.S. interests."
It is easy now to pick at what seem to have been errors in the occupation. There probably weren't enough troops. The administration probably wasn't determined enough to get international help, even on its own terms — although this would have had to happen in an environment poisoned by U.N. fecklessness and French bad faith in the run-up to the war. The administration clearly wasn't ready for the magnitude of the task that rebuilding and occupying Iraq would present.
Even if the administration had avoided these mistakes and made all moves correctly, it is still possible Iraq would be very messy. But this concession points to an intellectual mistake made prior to the occupation: an underestimation in general of the difficulty of implanting democracy in alien soil, and an overestimation in particular of the sophistication of what is fundamentally still a tribal society and one devastated by decades of tyranny. This was largely, if not entirely, a Wilsonian mistake. The Wilsonian tendency has grown stronger in conservative foreign-policy thought in recent years, with both benefits (idealism should occupy an important place in American foreign policy, and almost always has) and drawbacks (as we have seen in Iraq, the world isn't as malleable as some Wilsonians would have it).
But this is only true if you construe"U.S. interests" to require regime change for every third- or fourth-rate dictatorship in the world -- and if you believe that the existence of any government not to our liking gravely imperils our own safety. Simple common sense ought to inform you that this is clearly and obviously not the case (and a tiny smattering of history wouldn't hurt either) -- but common sense and the kind of lowered"expectations" that NR urges now, now that Iraq shows every sign of exploding into even more of a hell on earth than it was before, are qualities that have been notably absent from the pages of National Review for more than a year. And after pushing the notion of turning Iraq into a model of democracy for the Middle East, they actually have the nerve to say that"it is time for reality to drive our Iraq policy, unhindered by illusions or wishful thinking." (The title of the editorial is, and I do not make this up:"An End to Illusion." We've gone through the looking glass, Alice.)
If the NR editors truly expect us to believe that they never endorsed the kind of neoconservative nation-building project that requires projecting American force into every corner of the globe, then the only possible response is the one Al Franken employs when confronted by similar instances of mendacity. This is not to suggest that I agree with Franken's liberal politics; obviously, I do not. But his response is the only appropriate one that comes to mind:
There, I feel better now. Try it. Say it as loudly and in as drawn-out a manner as you can. You'll feel better, too. I guarantee it.
(Cross-posted at The Light of Reason.)
UPDATE: If you want to consider a remarkably blatant example of the kind of foreign policy"thinking" that goes on at National Review, consider my discussion of a Jonah Goldberg article from a number of months ago. Goldberg's policy prescriptions are typical of NR; the only difference is that, in this instance, he was unusually clear about his motives and goals.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Kirkpatrick points out what many of us here at L&P already know:
A growing faction of conservatives is voicing doubts about a prolonged United States military involvement in Iraq, putting hawkish neoconservatives on the defensive and posing questions for President Bush about the degree of support he can expect from his political base. The continuing violence and mounting casualties in Iraq have given new strength to the traditional conservative doubts about using American military power to remake other countries and about the potential for Western-style democracy without a Western cultural foundation.
Yeah, this is the same"traditional conservative doubt" that candidate Bush himself expressed during the 2000 campaign, when he explicitly renounced"nation-building" as a goal of US foreign policy. My, how times have changed.
Back to Kirkpatrick: The neocons" championed the invasion of Iraq as a way to turn that country into a bastion of democracy in the Middle East. ... 'In late May of last year, we neoconservatives were hailed as great visionaries,' said Kenneth R. Weinstein, chief operating officer of the Hudson Institute, a center of neoconservative thinking. 'Now we are embattled, both within the conservative movement and in the battle over postwar planning. Those of us who favored a more muscular approach to American foreign policy and a more Wilsonian view of our efforts in Iraq find ourselves pitted against more traditional conservatives, who have more isolationist instincts to begin with, and they are more willing to say,"Bring the boys home,"' Mr. Weinstein said."
The war has been responsible for"upending some of the familiar dynamics of left and right." Indeed, people like William Kristol of The Weekly Standard have stated explicitly that they'd"take Bush over Kerry, but Kerry over Buchanan or any of the lesser Buchananites on the right." Kristol claims that he is even ready to"make common cause with the more hawkish liberals and fight the conservatives." He might as well, because this administration, with its welfare-warfare nation-building budget-busting deficits, Medicare reform, and constitutional amendment proposals, has spelled the total end of conservatism as it was once known. It is therefore no surprise to see his willingness to support Kerry. Kerry and Bush are almost indistinguishable in their views on the war in Iraq! As David Beito pointed out, Kerry is not an"antiwar" candidate. On his own site, Kerry publishes his recent Washington Post essay, where he writes:"Our country is committed to help the Iraqis build a stable, peaceful and pluralistic society. No matter who is elected president in November, we will persevere in that mission."
This is why I've maintained:"What does it matter who gets elected? What's the sense of it? Sure, you can register your protests by voting defensively, against this or that candidate. But until or unless this system is fundamentally transformed, it's almost immaterial who becomes President." This is why I've maintained that once a war is institutionalized, Presidents of either party almost never reverse course.
Big Deal: National Review reflects on the neocon"Wilsonian" error. Even they are now considering the long-term costs to"limited government and lower taxes" brought on by the prospect of"extended occupation." But their boys got into the White House, and, as Kirkpatrick observes,"President Bush appears to be sticking to [their] Wilsonian goals."
Of course, the problem is precisely as Colin Powell described it. In his 60 minutes interview, Bob Woodward tells us that, upon hearing of the planned Iraq incursion, Powell warned Bush of the unintended consequences (what the CIA likes to call"blowback"):"You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. You will own all their hopes, aspirations and problems. You’ll own it all."
More pointedly, he said:"If you break it, you own it." Yeah, Iraq was broken to begin with, under Saddam Hussein's brutal dictatorship. But it wasn't a US welfare state and it wasn't an imminent threat to US interests. As Woodward said, the administration is now faced with the awful reality that they may have achieved"victory without success." How many more Americans will have to die in the name of this"victory"?
David T. Beito
The effort of conservatives to portray Kerry as an antiwar or even pro-UN candidate does not hold water. At least on Iraq policy, he has given us an echo rather than a choice.
George Will has an intriguing and unusually thoughtful column in Newsweek:
The president correctly says,"It's not a civil war." But that is bad news. Were it a civil war, many Iraqis would be eagerly fighting the insurgents, and we could help them. Perhaps Iraqis are, as the president says,"a proud and independent people." But they have no living memory of moderate politics of which they can be proud. Hence America's necessarily hurried attempts to build political and civil structures that will generate and legitimize an Iraqi leader who can be more durable than Kerensky was.And I agree with the second part of Will's last point:"Pessimists are right more often than not, and when they are wrong they are pleased to be so."
These attempts are Wilsonian, expressing President Woodrow Wilson's belief that America's mission—a practical mission—is to pacify the world by multiplying free governments. Wilson, a former professor of political science, was not the last or wisest Wilson in that profession.
Three and a half decades ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an adviser to Richard Nixon, urged the president to listen to"the smartest man in America." James Q. Wilson still is that. He had been Moynihan's colleague on the Harvard faculty, and is the pre-eminent political scientist of our time. ...
[Bush] might profit from pondering the foreign policy pertinence of this James Q. Wilson thought about why the combination of economic affluence and personal freedom is an achievement relatively rare in human experience:
"So common have despotic regimes been that some scholars have argued that they are, unhappily, the natural state of human rule. This tendency raises a profound question: Does human nature lend itself to freedom? It is not difficult to make arguments for personal freedom, but the history of mankind suggests that human autonomy usually will be subordinated to political control. If that is true, then our effort to increase individual freedom is an evolutionary oddity, a weak and probably vain effort to equip people with an opportunity some do not want and many will readily sacrifice."
Nothing would have pleased me more than to have been completely wrong about my predictions of the disastrous effects of our current foreign policy, both internationally and domestically. But after an enormous amount of reading and thinking, I was convinced that I was right -- as events tragically continue to confirm every day.
P.S. I discussed how rare the achievement of genuine freedom has been historically in much more detail in this post.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra