Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt: These Things Have Nothing to Do With Each Other

 

The neo-conservative cabal that diabolically pulled the strings in the Bush administration made many claims about their illegal invasion of Iraq.

(That was a fun sentence to write, by the way.  Really takes you back, doesn’t it?)

One of the claims was: a free and democratic Iraq might inspire other democratic movements in the region.  The only other free country in the neighborhood is Israel, went the thinking, so maybe Arab and Muslim countries need a democracy to call their own.

Sowing democracy in an anti-democratic region struck some as naive, and maybe even stupid.  It would be destabilizing.  Autocratic regimes that were reliably sane might fall, and be replaced by crazier Iran-revolutionary kind of loonies.

It boiled down to this basic argument:  Destabilizing the region is too risky — the upside is murky and the downside is disastrous.  Democracy is a good thing, but it’ll have to come gradually, through slow and steady diplomacy with corrupt, autocratic regimes.  And the counter-argument:  Destabilizing the region is necessary — corrupt, autocratic regimes in the region have created the culture of paranoia and they’ve exported their nutjobs to the United States, to take flying lessons on student visas.  It’s time for bold action.

The neo-con dreamers won that argument.  Iraq is now a shaky, sometimes violent democracy.  (But then, so is Baltimore.)

As the great Jennifer Rubin wrote in WaPo:

Even President Obama and his secretary of state recognized the remarkable achievement [of Iraq’s democratic government]. Each released statements praising the Iraqis’ accomplishment. 

It’s hard to miss the irony: The candidate who wanted to accelerate U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, which likely would have doomed the country to chaos and genocide, is now sounding indistinguishable from his predecessor. 

Two more data points.  1.  The corrupt, autocratic regime in Tunisia has held one-party power since 1956.  Until a couple of weeks ago.  And 2. The corrupt, autocratic regime in Egypt has been in power since 1981.  But that’s looking shaky, as of this morning.

If events in Tunisia have inspired events in Egypt, what inspired the events in Tunisia?

Hard to say, of course.  But perhaps a small nod and a tip of the hat is due to the diabolical neo-cons, and the naive president they conned into trying this absurd gamble on democracy.

There are 11 comments.

  1. Profile Photo Member

    Love your optimism, Rob.

    But it does seem to me that the jury is still very much out with regard to Iraq. Meanwhile, Turkey is headed in the opposite direction.

    As for Egypt,let’s remember how Mubarak came to power in the first place. The same radical forces that assassinated Sadat have been working assiduously to position themselves for the day this regime falls.

    • #1
    • January 26, 2011, at 10:13 AM PST
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  2. Kervinlee Member
    Kervinlee Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    … and what inspired Tunisia? The Green revolution in Iran? And what inspired Iran? The Cedar revolution in Lebanon? And what inspired Lebanon? The Purple revolution in Iraq?

    This is of course a great oversimplification. But didn’t Reagan say once that maybe there are simple answers. Not easy, but simple. Maybe people simply want to be free.

    Just askin’.

    • #2
    • January 26, 2011, at 10:15 AM PST
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  3. Profile Photo Member
    Kervinlee: … . Maybe people simply want to be free.

    Just askin’. · Jan 26 at 9:15am

    Maybe they do. But I’ll believe that when they do away with their blasphemy laws.

    • #3
    • January 26, 2011, at 10:19 AM PST
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  4. Rob Long Founder
    Rob Long

    I agree, Kenneth, that it’s unfinished business — there’s a long way to go, and blasphemy laws are just the start. And the jury is still out on how all of it turns out — Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt. But the confluence of events does seem interesting and not coincidental. And these public demonstrations — not led by army leaders or political cadres — do seem different, to me anyway, than what’s come before.

    Could all be nothing. But right now it looks different, and significant.

    • #4
    • January 26, 2011, at 10:41 AM PST
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  5. G.A. Dean Inactive

    As much as I believe that all people do indeed yearn to be free, I suspect that the primary motivator in the current unrest is an even older and more powerful human urge, the desire to be fed. People want employment, food in the stores…the basics.

    These regimes are not only oppressive and autocratic, they are massively incompetent and are bringing their nations to ruin.

    • #5
    • January 26, 2011, at 11:00 AM PST
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  6. Paul A. Rahe Contributor

    Actually, the Egyptian regime goes back to the early 1950s when Nasser and his fellow colonels overthrow the kingship. There has not been a genuinely free election since.

    • #6
    • January 26, 2011, at 11:10 AM PST
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  7. Lo Fon Inactive
    Rob Long: I agree, Kenneth, that it’s unfinished business — there’s a long way to go, and blasphemy laws are just the start.

    Don’t assume that because their definition of freedom doesn’t match yours that they don’t yearn for freedom.

    I sometimes think what we call freedom in the West is simply license. They err to the extreme on one side, we err on the other side. Nevertheless, we both yearn for freedom.

    • #7
    • January 26, 2011, at 11:59 AM PST
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  8. Profile Photo Member
    Lo Fon
    Rob Long: I agree, Kenneth, that it’s unfinished business — there’s a long way to go, and blasphemy laws are just the start.
    Don’t assume that because their definition of freedom doesn’t match yours that they don’t yearn for freedom.

    I sometimes think what we call freedom in the West is simply license. They err to the extreme on one side, we err on the other side. Nevertheless, we both yearn for freedom. · Jan 26 at 10:59am

    Perhaps the difference is that we understand we cannot personally be free and simultaneously deny freedom to our neighbor.

    • #8
    • January 27, 2011, at 1:00 AM PST
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  9. Nickolas Inactive

    Minor quibble. The possibility that establishing some kind of a democracy in Iraq might do some good beyond Iraq was not a primary reason for removing Saddam. Nor was it a necessary requirement. That is, we wouldn’t have called it off if we knew beforehand it would have no affect beyond Iraq. It was more like a hoped for bonus.

    As for how well it’s going, one must put these things in perspective, both historically and relative to contemporary norms in the region.

    So how well is it going? Certainly not as well as desired or expected. But, considering where Iraq was twenty or ten or even only a few years ago, I’d say not bad so far. Relative to the region norm, pretty good. And considering how corrupt the governments in many major US cities and states are, it may even achieve parity with Cook County in a decade.

    Things could be better, of course, but I see this as a glass half full or half empty issue.

    If democracies now start sprouting up all over the region, historians a century from now may see some causal connection.

    • #9
    • January 27, 2011, at 1:03 AM PST
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  10. BlueAnt Member
    BlueAnt Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Kenneth Perhaps the difference is that we understand we cannot personally be free and simultaneously deny freedom to our neighbor.

    Spoken like a good libertarian. But you recognize, of course, the vast majority of Americans strenuously disagree with this concept, yet participate in the national model of freedom that we’re debating.

    Unless we want to make sweeping statements like “Obama/Democrats/welfare state advocates/etc HATE FREEDOM”. Fun to wear on t-shirts, but it defines down the concept a bit too far.

    • #10
    • January 27, 2011, at 8:30 AM PST
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  11. BigDumbJerk Member
    BigDumbJerk Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think doing away with their their blasphemy laws would only be a start…how about freedom of speech, religion, etc? Much as I’d like to be, I’m not at all hopeful that 1400 years of history in the region will magically dissolve because, as G. A. Dean said, people want to be fed.

    The region has been ruled by power & brute force for centuries…and the major religion there (only religion in so many places) doesn’t temper those mores, it enhances them to the Nth degree. No, that doesn’t simply go away overnight, or even over a decade.

    • #11
    • January 27, 2011, at 8:37 AM PST
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