« Will You Answer What Congress Won't? The Top 20 Questions pt 12 | Main | Oh, Man... »

The Third Way

With the turmoil in Pakistan, we may be seeing a return of realpolitik, where we look at dictators with the "he may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch." President Musharraf says he is trying to take a firm stand against Islamists (and there certainly are plenty of them in Pakistan), and considering that Pakistan has nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them, that's a pretty damned important thing.

The situation in Pakistan, though, highlights something that not many people want to discuss: the tendency in Muslim nations to go for one of two styles of government. Either they are repressive theocracies, or repressive thugocracies. The number of nations that have a majority Muslim population that do NOT follow one of those paths is very slim -- Turkey and Indonesia come to mind, and they've got problems. of their own with rising Islamist sentiments.

It's easy -- seductively easy -- to simply say that "Islam is incompatible with democracy." the Palestinians provide a wonderful example of this -- their two major political factions are both terrorists, with Fatah being held by nominally-secular kleptomanic thugs and Hamas as the Islamist thugs. The notion of a major political faction among the Palestinians NOT devoted to terrorism is almost laughable. And history is no friend to those who would like to see a change.

It's often noted that the two examples of secular Islamic nations are not Arabic in nature. The logical question that is never asked is whether or not there is something about the Arab/Islamic blend that is incompatible with democracy.

It's tough to ask that question without sounding like a racist. But it's one that should be considered.

Challenging that assumption was one of the factors behind President Bush's plan for Iraq. The idea that we could help the Iraqi people move out from under a brutal dictator and avoid simply getting a new dictator or falling sway to the theocratic tyrants of the type that ruled Afghanistan, that rules Iran, that poses a threat to Egypt and Saudi Arabia and other nations, was a challenge that could probably rival a labor of Hercules.

But the essence of that aspiration was hope. Hope that ideas like freedom and democracy are fundamenally appealing to all human beings, and could succeed even in a place like Iraq.

Pragmatically speaking, it was probably the hardest choice. If we were simply interested in Iraqi oil or getting along, we could have cut a deal with Saddam. Instead, we cut him a noose. Similarly, we could have just tossed him out of power, then put "our" guy in charge -- swapping one tyrant who didn't like us for one who was beholden to us. That would have worked out pretty well, too, on a purely pragmatic basis.

But we didn't. Instead, we tried to help the Iraqis find their own way to a free, democratic state. And we're still trying.

Will it work? I don't know. I hope so. The people of Iraq deserve the opportunity.

And for all my other problems with George W. Bush, I have to respect him for going all-out trying.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (20)

"it's tough to ask that que... (Below threshold)

"it's tough to ask that question (is the arab/islamic combination incapable of democracy) without sounding like a racist".

why is it tough? any reasoned, dispassionate look at arabs & islam, and their history, cannot HELP but conclude that, yes, they ARE evidently incapable of it. a culture or "religion" that's proven itself over the last 1400 years to be hugely hostile to individual rights; individual freedom; the rights of others who don't share their beliefs; and intellectual accomplishment, (have read where south korea *by itself* generates more patents in **one year** than the entire middle east [except for israel, of course] generates in a decade) ......

why *wouldn't* we question a culture like that?

answer: because "teacher told us making value judgements was WRONG, unless it's white christian america/americans we're doing it against."

since - i gather - the whole point of this blog is to fight against the ongoing liberal/statist programming being dumped on us daily, i find the "wouldn't want to sound racist" disclaimer to be a enormously out of place. wtf? do you believe what you write, or don't you?

I respectfully disagree wit... (Below threshold)

I respectfully disagree with you, chiuninho. I think that it will be a challenge for them, and I get discouraged at times, but IN NO WAY do I believe that Muslim Arabs are predestined for violence and eternally incapable of behaving in a representative democracy... unless, of course, nobody ever has the guts to try to show them the way.

The first truly functional representative Arab democracy will be ahead of its time, and will be the start of true peace in the Middle East. We've come closer in the past few years than ever before, despite the setbacks. I believe it's worth it.

"Secular" and "religious" a... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

"Secular" and "religious" are antithetical. Democracy can only thrive in an Islamic nation where the Islamic religion is weakened by secularism. Islam is in fact inherently violent and intolerant. Arabs are more resistant to secularization because, like Israel, they feel they have unique religious claims as "sons of Abraham." Thus their religion is partially "race based." Superiority of Arab Muslims is a consistent theme among Islamists.

Quran says Ismail was preferred by God and selected for sacrifice. All of this twists and corruption charges have only one aim, to elevate the status of Ismail above that of Isaac and hence establish that Arabs are superior and chosen by God to lead the world.

It is hardly racist to make such an observation.

Looking at it a different w... (Below threshold)

Looking at it a different way, what I fault Bush for above all else is his choosing to waste American lives (and hundreds of billions of dollars) playing Johnny Democraseed in Iraq.

but IN NO WAY do I belie... (Below threshold)

but IN NO WAY do I believe that Muslim Arabs are predestined for violence and eternally incapable of behaving in a representative democracy

Read the Qur'an and check your premise. For extra credit you could take a sampling of the fatwas that stream from the Islamic clerics and scholars on a daily basis. But, we continue to misidentify the enemy at our peril. Saying that it isn't a war of religion (or culture, if you prefer) doesn't necessarily make it so. But, then, I don't want to sound like a racist.

Jeff, the Jews believe very... (Below threshold)

Jeff, the Jews believe very similar things but they've managed to roll with democracy pretty well.

The problem with the Middle East, in terms of governance, stems from a volatile mixture of Arab pride, post-colonial bitterness (which in turn contributed to widespread religious fanaticism), sectarian strife, outsider (Israel) envy, and a history of nasty authoritarians rich on oil wealth (which of course brings you back to a quasi-colonialism). If it weren't for oil wealth, Arabia would be much more like Africa, only more pissed off.

Economic growth and the rise of a middle class, aided by a healthy dose of nationalism, is the best route to democracy. The middle class in the ME barely exists, and nationalism is often trumped by Islamic beliefs (and accompanying sectarian strife), which seek to deny the authority of the state.

Is democracy in Muslim countries possible? Yes. In the Middle East? Yes, but not for a long time.

ok, RC, i'll bite. what exa... (Below threshold)

ok, RC, i'll bite. what exactly is there in islam's 1400-year uninterrupted streak of holy fascism & the weak throngs controlled by the strong sheiks/mullahs that gives you cause for optimism?

*) islamic africa, alone in the world, still practices slavery.
*) all that jive about 'the brotherhood of islam' is put to the lie by, most recently, darfur. brown moslems killing black ones. "ongoing racial genocide" is not usually considered a behavior of a society ready for democracy.
*) islamic history is FULL of stories about their antipathy towards intellectualism. "you're poor & stupid because it's god's will, and trying to change that is an act of disobedience to god and the mullah! now do as you're told!"
*) reading the papers and looking around tells us in no uncertain terms about the islamic view towards infidels. from the beslan school massacre - brave moslems bravely targeting (unarmed) schoolchildren - to the (entirely moslem) gang rape epidemic in scandinavia - google 'malmo, sweden', and 'rapes' sometime - it's *crystal* clear how they view "others". does that somehow not matter? is it somehow racist or rude of us to notice these things? is making judgements based on their actions rather than their mendacities somehow unfair? why?
*) historically, *every single time* islam feels strong, they attack their neighbors. right now, of all the world's ongoing wars/conflicts, 90% or so involve a moslem nation. since they're only 16% of the world's population, why are they in so many wars? is hyperaggression a good way for a culture to behave? or is that the behavior of fascist thugs?

based on facts & history, i submit your optimism is unfounded, RC. yes, iraq is currently semi-democratic, the only moslem nation in the world that can say that - except for turkey, which is heading back down the theocracy road. so, there's one: iraq. for now. while we're there to manage the place. do you honestly believe the **instant** we leave they won't tear apart into sunni/shiite/kurd thugocracies, dominated by family/tribal baksheesh connections, just like EVERY OTHER moslem state? (except turkey)?

lastly: why is turkey sorta democratic? easy: because back in the '20's & '30's. ataturk solved the 'islam' problem by ***hanging all the mullahs***. thus enabling turkey, alone of the moslem nations, to join the modern world.

i'm willing to stipulate an islamic nation can be made democratic with vigorous application of the ataturk method. but only then. also, why should our troops be asked to "have the guts to show them the way" but not to avail themselves of the ONLY proven method of success in doing so?

the world is what it is, friend. while hope for improvement can usually be justified, when a given problem exhibits a 1400-year M.O., it's foolish to pretend that pattern of behavior isn't real or doesn't exist **or will change without force being brought to bear**.

"Jeff, the Jews believe ver... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

"Jeff, the Jews believe very similar things but they've managed to roll with democracy pretty well."

True, but Jews are just happy to be Jewish. They have no directive to conquer the rest of the world for Judaism or to "kill the infidel" or to extort protection money from non-Jews. Nor do they submit to the distorted ravings of a later-day false prophet. They barely consider themselves to have an evangelistic mission, in the sense that Christians do. There may be some sense of Jewish superiority, but Jews are very tolerant and gracious people whose religion is perfectly compatible with democracy, as we have seen. They mostly just ask to be left alone.

The rest of your points are well-taken.

Nor do they submit to th... (Below threshold)

Nor do they submit to the distorted ravings of a later-day false prophet.

I spend about a week per quarter in Israel. I have found that the majority of Jewish Israelis are more Jewish by culture than religion. I very much agree with your observation that they "mostly just ask to be left alone."

My line of work requires about 50% of my time spent overseas, with SE Asia being where I spend most of my time. I will say without reservation that Israel is my favorite destination.

Jeff,I'm just sayi... (Below threshold)


I'm just saying that belief in being of a "chosen" race does not seem to make groups resistant to secularized government, at least not as a sole factor.

Plus, Iqbal Latif's analysis of the Sudan conflict is very simplistic, and as an Iranian I would be suspicious of his claims against Arabs. The conflict between Persians and Arabs is very old, and Latif's opinion of Arabs clearly colors his opinions on Sudan. I'm not saying there isn't a racism component in the conflict, but that's mostly a convenient excuse for a conflict that has much more to do with land and resources. Tribal groups splintering off among the Arabs, and some even allying with non-Arab groups and against the government, show that such simplistic thinking about race in Sudan is missing much of the point.

That said, Gaddafi's campaigns for Arab supremacy in North Africa over the past decades have exacerbated the race component of Sudanese conflict.

Mantis mentions the oil sit... (Below threshold)

Mantis mentions the oil situation and it's likely at least as important as History, culture or religion in keeping various forms of thugocracies in power. The rulers only have to get themselves in position to be rulers because the truism, that no authority rules except by the consent of the governed doesn't apply. Rulers aren't dependent on improving the economy or promoting the common good when the common good does not influence their cash-flow.

And now we have Venezuela don't we.

Chevez can support himself on oil revenue. It might sound good to take that away from those nasty private corporations and secure it "for the people" but as much as private corporations aren't accountable to the people, oil revenue takes away accountability of *government* and if corporations are bad, the scope of government makes it potentially far *far* worse.

If a person is watching there are many encouraging things happening in Iraq pertaining to representative rule and acceptance of a diverse government and nation. Lots of discouraging stuff too, but certainly a mix.

I don't think we need to *show* them the way... that's sort of condescending anyhow... but giving people TIME to find their way.

If it works, it's most certainly worth it. If it works, it's worth ALL of it.

With the turmoil in Paki... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

With the turmoil in Pakistan, we may be seeing a return of realpolitik, where we look at dictators with the "he may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch."

Unfortunately, Mush will first expel those like Jay who write such things rather than the extremists or terrorists from Pakistan, which we are generously paying his military to confront but instead seem to be getting stronger. If you think I am exaggerating read this report and the expletive for which the reporters got expelled for. See ..Maybe $upporting a touchy 'tinpot dictator' would be a better description of a third way which seems depressingly like the 'old' way we have normally dealt with the third world, which only seems to succeed in stirring up more 'anti-Americanism'.

Sorry, the second link for ... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Sorry, the second link for the offensive (to Musharraf) editorial was this.

"it's tough to ask that que... (Below threshold)

"it's tough to ask that question (is the arab/islamic combination incapable of democracy) without sounding like a racist".

Every time I've come face-to-face with a similar question, I've found the answer to be a hereditary culture.

Family is a very powerful thing. When you know that everyone in your city is at farthest a fifth cousin of yours, you see the world in tribal terms. When it's "us versus them" on cultural, genetic, religious, and tribal terms, it's very hard not to fight for "us" and say "screw them" every time.

Like the drunk who thinks t... (Below threshold)
nogo war:

Like the drunk who thinks this time will be different, we never learn.
Our biggest blunders have come from this philosophy..
Disposing the elected officials in Iran for the Shah

Disposing elected official in South Viet Nam

Providing chemical weapons and others stuff to Saddam when he was fighting Iran.

Providing support and arms to bin Laden when he was fighting the Russians in Afghanistan..

Irony remains the fulcrum of our international policy. We are supporting the disintegration of democracy in Afghanistan to support democracy in Iraq.
Any bets that which ever side gets rid of Mush will forget it was Bush,,,and us that supported him?

But hey we have become a nation that debates when/if torture is justified..

"If you plant ice, you're gonna harvest wind."

I agree with nogo. It's bes... (Below threshold)
Who's John Galt?:

I agree with nogo. It's best to be concerned with our own self-interest. Screw the rest of the world and the UN. They don't appreciate us anyhow.

Nogo, any reason you are ag... (Below threshold)

Nogo, any reason you are again repeating long discredited myths?

I'm not too thrilled about ... (Below threshold)

I'm not too thrilled about supporting tin-pot dictators, either, but is there any alternative? Jimmy Carter, when he was president, tried the "human rights" approach, i.e. we refused to support any regime that had a significantly poor human rights track record.

And we all know where that got us: Carter's foreign policy was an absolute, freakin' disaster. We emboldened our enemies and exasperated our allies, and decades later, we're still cleaning up some of the messes Carter created.

The world isn't a perfect place. Matter of fact, outside of the US, Europe, and Australia-NZ, it's mostly an ugly mess. The choices that have to be made are difficult and ambiguous. We will never get everything we want and nothing we don't want. The best we can hope for on the negative side is to reduce the damage to a minimum.

Because that's the moral thing to do.

What did Jimmy Carter do ab... (Below threshold)

What did Jimmy Carter do about "human rights" other than nothing?

Well, maybe nothing would be a better plan sometimes, but he's supporting oppressive dictators all over the planet these days, did he not do so before?

The thing, really, is that what we are trying to do today in Afghanistan (and their government doesn't have to look like what we think of as democracy) and Iraq (and there's no reason that a system of tribal loyalties can't work as a representative system, tribal leaders meet to hash stuff out while representing their constituents all the time) is very different from what we have done for decades while we chose one tyrant to support over another tyrant and have valued stability over justice.

I don't think we've quite tried this long enough to say it's not working and go back to what we were doing before. NOT that we should invade Pakistan and make them shape up, Afghanistan and Iraq really were in worse shape and working one solution in one place doesn't mean it must be employed aggressively everywhere. Far from it!

But for the first time we really are working on the so-called "root causes" of strife and extremism, because to the extent that these thugocracies, religious or secular, *do* feel the pressure of internal discord, they deliberately export it. Bait and switch or something, but the "West" becomes the scapegoat, which is fine and who cares in a world where a sheep herder on the Euphrates can do nothing more than rant at his sheep about those bad people who ought to be wiped from the Earth.

But we don't live in that world and the discord bred by tyrants, no matter how friendly to us, is something that *can* reach us directly, possibly even more effectively than a national government/tyrant or dictator who hated us could do.

Chavez is not a threat to us. We can watch him implode, and if we don't care about the real effects on real people, it might even be entertaining. The *country* of Venezuela is never going to be a threat.

The *country* of Pakistan, nukes or not, is never going to be a threat.

Or Indonesia.

Or Somalia.

But that sheep herder? With some funding he can get a passport and plane ticket and just enough technical training to be a significant threat.

We don't need the friendship of *any* tyrant. That tyrant can't do anything for us that we *need* because what we *need* is for the people in his or her country to be distracted by prosperity.

And then he or she wouldn't... (Below threshold)

And then he or she wouldn't be a tyrant any longer, but the single and benevolent ruler of a peaceful and prosperous nation.






Follow Wizbang

Follow Wizbang on FacebookFollow Wizbang on TwitterSubscribe to Wizbang feedWizbang Mobile


Send e-mail tips to us:

[email protected]

Fresh Links


Section Editor: Maggie Whitton

Editors: Jay Tea, Lorie Byrd, Kim Priestap, DJ Drummond, Michael Laprarie, Baron Von Ottomatic, Shawn Mallow, Rick, Dan Karipides, Michael Avitablile, Charlie Quidnunc, Steve Schippert

Emeritus: Paul, Mary Katherine Ham, Jim Addison, Alexander K. McClure, Cassy Fiano, Bill Jempty, John Stansbury, Rob Port

In Memorium: HughS

All original content copyright © 2003-2010 by Wizbang®, LLC. All rights reserved. Wizbang® is a registered service mark.

Powered by Movable Type Pro 4.361

Hosting by ServInt

Ratings on this site are powered by the Ajax Ratings Pro plugin for Movable Type.

Search on this site is powered by the FastSearch plugin for Movable Type.

Blogrolls on this site are powered by the MT-Blogroll.

Temporary site design is based on Cutline and Cutline for MT. Graphics by Apothegm Designs.

Author Login

Terms Of Service

DCMA Compliance Notice

Privacy Policy