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Monday, December 8, 2003
Why Democratize the Middle East?

By Steven Taylor @ 11:09 am

In his column yesterday, Thomas Friedman asks:

Where did Mr. Bush’s passion for making the Arab world safe for democracy come from?

And it is a legitimate questions given that, as Friedmand notes,

this sort of nation-building is precisely what Mr. Bush spurned throughout his campaign

However, I am somewhat surprised that Friedman doesn’t see the obvious answer: 911.

Raher, Friedman proffers a thesis based on the need for war time presidents to justify their actions. However, it seems to me quite clear that after 911 the idea that the Middle East, and Islamic terror specifically, was a security risk to the United States became a guiding force in the Bush foreign policy. So while part of the rhetoric sounds Idealistic/Wilsonian, I think that there is a bit of Realism in the argument: that the transformation of the Middle East to democracy, via nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan is not a goal in and of itself because democracy is good, but because a democratic Middle East will better serve the national interests of the United States, both in terms of oil and in terms of safety against terrorism. That is to say, the foudnation of the policy if the enhancement and protection of the national interest of the United States.

If one reads Bush at War by Woodward, or goes back to the early rhetoric on Iraq (which was far more about “regime change” than WMDs), it isn’t hard to make this argument.

Now, it may well be a fool’s errand to attempt nation building at this scale, but ultimately I think that that is the goal, and the reason why the President, who utterly eschewed national buidling in 2000, has become on the of the biggest proponents of the policy (even if the White House doesn’t like to call it that) since Truman.

Filed under: Middle East

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  1. I think it’s much more instructive to go to the source, which was written prior to 9/11 (originally published at the PNAC web site). And this document pretty much shreds the 9/11 argument to pieces - nicely, with their own words.

    ‘The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.’
    I wish you guys would rid yourselves of this idea that 9/11 transformed Bush’s thinking. It was there way, way before it. 9/11, as has been shown repeatedly, was just an excuse to do what they’ve always wanted.

    It’s a good argument as to whether it is a good idea or not. But to mask the issue with the use of the highly emotional 9/11 event is pretty darn sleazy. As sleazy as Kucinich using the dead for his campaign, I would say.

    Comment by Hal — Monday, December 8, 2003 @ 1:57 pm

  2. I think that 9/11 certainly encouraged Bush to move right in response to terror. But I think the primary difference between Bush the campaigner who campaigned against nation-building and Bush the nation-building president is his advisors.

    Bush is known for hiring advisors, then expecting them to give multiple choice suggestions to him on policy. After 9/11, the hawks were put in the driver’s seat. An attack on a nation does that, for right or wrong. After Afghanistan, which worked very well, Bush continued to listen to those advisors and went after Iraq.

    A campaign manager doesn’t worry about who to attack next.

    btw (o/t) - stephen I find it interesting that you lambasted Kunich for implying the war was about making the rich richer and then commenting this way:

    but because a democratic Middle East will better serve the national interests of the United States, both in terms of oil and in terms of safety against terrorism.

    that does reiterate the point that oil interests are a really big reason we’re in Iraq & not North Korea or some of the African countries. And the interesting contracts with Halburton. And Bush’s ties with the oil industry also. It would be interesting for one of the pro-Repub blogs to take on this issue with some objectivity.

    btw - i don’t think the ad was very tasteful either.

    Comment by Eric — Monday, December 8, 2003 @ 2:26 pm

  3. Eric,

    It is quite different to state that a policy is pursued for the generic interest of the national economy, and quite another to suggest that a President would go to war to specifically help out his buddies in the oil inudstry/whatever industry.

    Comment by Steven — Monday, December 8, 2003 @ 2:53 pm

  4. Agreed, and decisions of this magnitude aren’t made on the basis of a single reason. Multiple, often conflicting reasons are at the heart of the decision.

    But what bothers a lot of us, that just doesn’t get discussed in blogs/news orgs/political circles that lean or fall right, is how much influence our oil industry influenced the decision (or not) and is profiting from that decision. And that’s pretty frustrating. Then given the heavy industry in oil of both the Prez & VP, not having information on why Haliburton was awarded such a far reaching scoped contract without bidding. Not having info on why Iraq, why now when WMD’s aren’t found, lack of real terrorist connections between Hussein & known terrorist groups, and having Saddam tied up tight as could be already with sanctions, inspectors, etc. Then put a North Korea out there that says they are actively developing nukes & selling to terrorists. It just is incredibly frustrating to justify why this war was waged. Looking at the oil interests is perfectly reasonable.

    And then to have the right wing blogs not discuss leaves a lot of room for speculation with an administration answering those questions.

    It’s tough to swallow.

    Feel free to prove me wrong with several links showing real discussion on the oil angle from the right-leaners.

    Comment by Eric — Monday, December 8, 2003 @ 3:17 pm

  5. I will attempt to deal with some of those types of objections soon. Right now I am hip deep in grading. Still, I thought I would post something just so you know I am not ignoring you.

    I honestly think that those issues can be legitimately addressed.

    Comment by Steven — Monday, December 8, 2003 @ 3:19 pm

  6. Do I get an A? :)

    Comment by Eric — Monday, December 8, 2003 @ 3:25 pm

  7. Hal,

    To be fair, I have a hard time taking seriously any story which beings “A SECRET blueprint for US global domination… “.

    I reject this thesis utterly. First off, if all Bush wanted was a cynical reason to go into the Gulf, and he has no morals and simply wanted to dominate the globe, why not simply blame Iraq for 911 frm Day 1 and go there and not Afghanistan? Woodward’s book notes that Rumsfeld wanted look at attacking Iraq at that time and the President said no.

    I think you are stretching the PNAC document a bit far.

    Comment by Steven — Monday, December 8, 2003 @ 8:21 pm

  8. The document itself is irrelevant, Bush pulled needed forces from Afganistan to go into Iraq.
    This is a fact known mostly by all. The sheer lack of military rational behind this particular move causes me personally to question his motives. Espically being military myself.
    (I appreciate all open forums. thanks)

    Comment by Devin — Monday, December 22, 2003 @ 8:25 pm

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