Rethinking the Powell Doctrine

 

A lifetime ago, it seems, Sen. William Fulbright observed that, “Insofar as a nation is content to practice its doctrines within its own frontiers, that nation, however repugnant its ideology, is one with which we have no proper quarrel.”  I’ve been dwelling on that quote ever since my conversation with the ever-generous and perceptive Dave Sussman on his wonderful Whiskey Politics podcast a couple of weeks ago.

I had mentioned during the conversation that I thought the President’s missile strike was an appropriate response to Syrian angel-of-death Assad having gassed his own people on the grounds that, A) the use of chemical weapons crosses a threshold that simply cannot be permitted, and B) our adversaries would know that weakness, passivity, and timidity would no longer be the hallmarks American responses to lawlessness and aggression. I could hear Sen. Fulbright spinning at about 1,500 rpm in his grave.

The problem, which Fulbright undoubtedly tried to address, is that bad actors permeate the international arena and we cannot (and indeed should not) be the world’s policeman, let alone the world’s slip-and-fall lawyer, rushing in to address every grievance known to man and beast. Where to draw the line in an age when “repugnant” ideologies include those which target their own civilian populations with weapons of mass destruction against? Circling back, it seems to me at least that the use of chemical weapons might be a reasonable place to draw such a line.

That’s when Dave asked, “Do you think we attack them again? Do you think this just goes quiet and we just basically thump his chest and we go on to other measures, or is this a new policy? Are going to take a more interventionist policy back in the middle east?”

My first thought, of course, was how the hell do I know? Because while I applaud a certain agility of mind in President Trump, I can neither excuse nor encourage the jettisoning of fixed and tried ideological certitudes that would leave the President and the nation rudderless and adrift in stormy international seas. Instead, I punted and answered Susan’s question by wishing upon a star:

I know what my hopes are, having watched the nation-building exercise under George W. Bush. It strikes me that you can’t impose democracy, western style democracy, or republican representative government on civilizations that simply haven’t done that. If ever, it’s been centuries [and] they’re not equipped for it. They’re not able to do it. I’m not as enthusiastic about that kind of thing as George W. Bush was, and I’d hate to see American foreign policy reduced to the point where if you mess with us, you’re going to get a new electrical grid, infrastructure, new water systems, new schools and everything else. First, we’ll bomb it, then we will rebuild it better than it was before. That’s not exactly a deterrent.

Here, we leave Sen. Fulbright spinning to turn and run headlong into former Secretary of State Colin Powell who purportedly admonished President George W. Bush regarding Iraq that, “You break it, you own it.” To which the question arises; why? When the authorities “break it” by arresting and imprisoning a tax cheat, do they owe the immediate family of the tax cheat some sort of recompense? When violent offenders in a drug house engage the police in a shootout, are the authorities obligated to repair the bullet holes in the wall or replace the door they burst through? It seems to this observer that it is ultimately the transgressor who “owns” the consequences of his transgressions.

Now, in some cases it might be to our strategic advantage to help former foes regain their footing and self-sustainment, as we did in the aftermath of the Second World War. The Marshall Plan, however, was predicated on the utter defeat and unconditional surrender of our enemies in the European Theater. It was also no small matter that the nations we had defeated had demonstrated some capacity for peaceful self-government. None of those preconditions appear to have been met in the case of radical Islamic fanatics who are currently hell-bent on destroying everything and everyone around them in pursuit of suicidal lunacy.

There can simply be no strategic advantage gained from resuscitating and restoring an enemy who has yet to forgo his murderous intentions. From almost any perspective, including that of history, I find no moral imperative for a nation to finance and aid in its own torment and violence against its citizens.  Likewise, in the case of those nations and regions whose default cultural setting is one of mayhem, bloodlust, and utter disregard for human life itself, the case for “owning it,” appears thin indeed. The West is not the author of the jihadis’ savagery and it wasn’t Methodists who flew airplanes into those buildings.

It seems to me that the Powell Doctrine’s requirements of vital national security interests; clear and attainable objectives; fully analyzed risks and costs; employing all possible non-violent options first; ensuring a plausible exit strategy; consideration of consequences; and obtaining the support of both the American people and the international community, can all be accomplished without wasting American lives and resources in futile attempts to build democratic structures in societies whose history and predisposition are antithetical to democratic ideals.

Indeed, the fifth requirement of the Powell Doctrine calling for a plausible exit strategy seems easier to fulfill, in some cases at least, when the exit happens on the heels of a devastating response accompanied with the admonishment to survivors that should future house calls from the US Armed Forces become necessary, they will not come bearing meals on wheels, but rather an application of force that will be exponentially worse.

There are instances, of course, in which the establishment of no-fly zones, safe zones, or in which the attainment of tactical and strategic victory entails something more than leveling a piece of real estate.  But the idea that self defense carries with it the moral imperative to rebuild and restore an unrepentant and murderous foe is an idea that should never have gained intellectual or moral traction in the first place. There are those who speak no language other than that of brutality, and they should understand that an attack on America carries existential consequences.

There are 46 comments.

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  1. dukenaltum Coolidge
    dukenaltum
    @dukenaltum

    I agree and evidence has convinced me to not support either the supposed Powell Doctrine or Nation Building of any Islamic country. The rebuilding of Germany and Japan was a one off event, only necessary because we believed we were going to war with the Soviets and the Red Chinese in near future.  Iraq etc… never provided that rationale.

    War with any Islamic states needs to be an absolutely punitive exercise completed with speed and brutality for a very short duration with an absolutely clear determination who is the victor.  The post conflict landscape will be without garrisons or aid while a crippling indemnities is imposed on the defeated for their own recovery and payment for the cost of the war.

    Anything more is waste.

     

     

     

     

    • #1
  2. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    I’ve never liked the Squeamish loser, Colin Powell.  There is really nothing good to say about him.  I didn’t like him when he was an ambitious general.  I met his aide once at the officer’s club in DC before the gulf war (can’t remember the name of the bar, but you’d recognize it).  He unwittingly convinced me that Powell was an empty suit who only wanted to further his own career rather than work for the good of the country.  Everything he has said and done since, especially voting for Obama, has reinforced that he doesn’t think very much or deeply.

    We have refused to follow international law, not solely because of Powell, but he has contributed to the zeitgeist whereby we now believe that we are never allowed to hurt any “civilian” and wars need to be clean and bloodless.

    Nonsense.  International law has been clear for centuries that when a nation like Pakistan cannot control its own borders that we are not obliged to recognize them when our enemy seeks shelter there.

    And it’s long past time we stop with the ridiculous policy of not holding a civilian population accountable and responsible for the actions of the dictator they allow to rule them, or terrorist group that lives among them.  Our enemies need to be more afraid of what happens if they don’t stop their madmen than if they don’t.

    • #2
  3. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Two excellent statements, @davecarter and @dukenaltum. I believed, like GWB that all people wish to live as Americans. No more. With ROI( sorry, meant Rules of Engagement) that takes the lives of the people whom we are battling to be of greater consequence than our own soldiers, we will never win another conflict. Enough.

    • #3
  4. doulalady Member
    doulalady
    @doulalady

    I agree completely. We just end up looking like suckers to the “natives” and cultural imperialists to the armchair generals at home.

    Worse still the so called Powell Doctrine is a clear encouragement to emulate the Mouse That Roared.

    • #4
  5. dukenaltum Coolidge
    dukenaltum
    @dukenaltum

    Skyler (View Comment):
    I’ve never liked the Squeamish loser, Colin Powell

    True beyond any contention,  if any general beside Powell ran the Gulf War of 1991 there would have been a clear victor, no Saddam Hussein, no cease fire, no  9/11 and finally no 2003 repeat invasion of Iraq (which I never called the Second Iraq/Gulf War because the 1991 ended with a cease fire and we were at war with Iraq for all of Clinton’s presidency but we pretended otherwise).

    • #5
  6. KC Mulville Inactive
    KC Mulville
    @KCMulville

    Peter Sellers made a movie based on that Powell Doctrine. It was titled The Mouse That Roared.  (OK, that movie was released a couple decades before Powell’s time in office, but that doctrine was at the heart of the comedy.) The plot is that a small state on the brink of collapse decides to attack the United States, precisely so they can lose, and they know the Americans will rebuild their state for them. Of course, darn the luck, through a series of improbable events they attack the USA at just the right time, and they bring America to its knees. The whole farce is predicated on the notion that if America defeats you, the Americans will feel obligated to “Marshall Plan” you back to strength.

    That doctrine is not an exercise in defense, but in public relations. It’s nonsense.

    Dave asks the obvious followup: Why do we have to rebuild the country? The Powell answer tries to placate the rest of the “international community,” assuring them that we will restore order, all by ourselves. It’s diplomatic hubris to portray the current status quo as a condition we owe the world, so pardon us for any unpleasant interruption. That harmony in the current status quo is just a fiction designed to soothe the fears of diplomats.

    And we’re supposed to endanger our defense rather than disrupt the fiction that soothes diplomats? Let ’em be scared when we defend ourselves.

    • #6
  7. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    The problem always has been that democracy is not the seed from which grows our liberty. Rather, our liberty is the seed from which our democracy grows. Nation building has it backwards, although it is probably hard to convince those sorely oppressed by their thuggish regimes that such a thing as natural liberty exists in reality without first killing the crap out of the thugs.

    I was listening to Bryan Suits, an Iraq veteran and talk show host, who tells of helping Iraqi citizens exercise their first free votes. The men kept asking who they were supposed to vote for. When Lt. Suits would explain to them that they got to make their own decisions in the matter they couldn’t grasp the concept. Without an understanding of liberty preceding, democracy is as likely to turn out evil as anything else, which we see in our own nation even now.

    • #7
  8. JcTPatriot Inactive
    JcTPatriot
    @JcTPatriot

    Dave Carter: I had mentioned during the conversation that I thought the President’s missile strike was an appropriate response to Syrian angel-of-death Assad having gassed his own people on the grounds that, A) the use of chemical weapons crosses a threshold that simply cannot be permitted,

    Hi Dave, great Post. On your line above: It appears that Ricochet is fairly evenly split between “Assad would never do something as stupid as using gas on civilians right now and risk the whole world coming down on him, just as he seemed to be turning the tide against the Islamic State” and “of course Assad used gas on civilians, because he had a few boosts of confidence lately, including from the USA.” There is a third small group who feel Assad is just insane and has no moral judgement.

    Some people have come up with good reasons why Assad had to do it, and others have come up with good reasons why the Islamic State needed to do it.

    Your statement appears to reflect that you have no doubt about it being cause solely by Assad. Can you explain? It might help the argument here.

    • #8
  9. Del Mar Dave Member
    Del Mar Dave
    @DelMarDave

    Wouldn’t it be great to have a weekend-long Meetup of Ricos (and even some scholars – Victor Davis Hanson and Angelo Codevilla come to mind – to discuss these issues in depth and with direction.

    • #9
  10. Dave Sussman Contributor
    Dave Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    Great post, Dave. I have also thought about our discussion and while there are no simple answers, I think we would all agree the best result is one most effective, yet with the smallest footprint.

    Maybe it’s time to consider repealling the executive orders enacting the Church Commission’s recommendations?

    • #10
  11. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    After President George H. W. Bush left office, he gave a speech at West Point that laid out his principles regarding the use of force, including this statement:

    But in every case involving the use of force, it will be essential to have a clear and achievable mission, a realistic plan for accomplishing the mission, and criteria no less realistic for withdrawing U.S. forces once the mission is complete. Only if we keep these principles in mind will the potential sacrifice be one that can be explained and justified.

    The problem that both 41 and 43 faced with regard to the Middle East and Iraq particularly was the breakup of the Soviet Union and the loss of the USSR’s nuclear arms. According to Graham Allison:

    As is typical in the aftermath of the collapse of an empire, this was followed by a period of chaos, confusion, and corruption. As the saying went at the time, “everything is for sale.” At that same moment, as the Soviet state imploded, 35,000 nuclear weapons remained at thousands of sites across a vast Eurasian landmass that stretched across eleven time zones.

    I understand the objection to “nation building,” but it is a legitimate goal in some cases. And President Bush and the U.S. military did a good job with Iraq. Had Obama “stayed the course,” we would have succeeded eventually. And we needed to be a stabilizing friendly force in Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

    • #11
  12. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    There is too much going on here. Powell was referring to Iraq.  Not only did we topple Saddam, we destroyed the Republican Guard and left a vacuum that would only be filled by Iran.  So we had to fill the vacuum but were slow and inept and ill focused in doing so.   The other Powell doctrine is that if we engage militarily we should use overwhelming force.  In Viet Nam  Kennedy’s team, misreading the gradual escalation  in the Cuban missile crisis applied gradualism mindlessly and disastrously. (See Yale’s Kagan) The Syrian cruse missile was aimed at North Korea and China, to provide credibility that President Trump might in fact take out North Korea’s threat.   Trump had to demonstrate that he was not to be trifled with because so much of his campaign rhetoric was characterized as isolationist and non interventionist.  That characterization was a misreading and  he had to rise to the first challenge to clarify matters.  Syria was perfect, low risk.     The world needs US leadership, but leadership doesn’t mean the world’s  nation builder, righter of wrongs, spreader of democracy and light, crusher of evil doers.  It means keeping sea lanes open, dealing with existential threats, defending global finance and trade, promoting some rule of law, building alliances on  foundations of mutual interests and shared, perhaps temporary threats.  And of course being the nation to emulate.   Our leadership doctrine will be emergent like most of life’s things including us at our best.

    • #12
  13. Dave Carter Podcaster
    Dave Carter
    @DaveCarter

    JcTPatriot (View Comment):

    Dave Carter: I had mentioned during the conversation that I thought the President’s missile strike was an appropriate response to Syrian angel-of-death Assad having gassed his own people on the grounds that, A) the use of chemical weapons crosses a threshold that simply cannot be permitted,

    Hi Dave, great Post. On your line above: It appears that Ricochet is fairly evenly split between “Assad would never do something as stupid as using gas on civilians right now and risk the whole world coming down on him, just as he seemed to be turning the tide against the Islamic State” and “of course Assad used gas on civilians, because he had a few boosts of confidence lately, including from the USA.” There is a third small group who feel Assad is just insane and has no moral judgement.

    Some people have come up with good reasons why Assad had to do it, and others have come up with good reasons why the Islamic State needed to do it.

    Your statement appears to reflect that you have no doubt about it being cause solely by Assad. Can you explain? It might help the argument here.

    On the podcast at Whiskey Politics, Dave Sussman mentioned the differing opinions to me, and I confess I didn’t take that particular issue seriously enough to research in-depth.  Unless there is another President in Syria, it seems fairly axiomatic that the Syrian armed forces would take orders from the Syrian chain of command, where Assad sits at the top.  I understand that we tracked the aircraft that dropped chemical munitions and knew from which base they had flown, hence our singling out a specific airfield for our attack.  Otherwise, we have a dictator that doesn’t control his military and therefore perhaps didn’t control it during their previous attacks,…all of which seems a bit far fetched to me.

    • #13
  14. Dave Carter Podcaster
    Dave Carter
    @DaveCarter

    MarciN (View Comment):
    After President George H. W. Bush left office, he gave a speech at West Point that laid out his principles regarding the use of force, including this statement:

    But in every case involving the use of force, it will be essential to have a clear and achievable mission, a realistic plan for accomplishing the mission, and criteria no less realistic for withdrawing U.S. forces once the mission is complete. Only if we keep these principles in mind will the potential sacrifice be one that can be explained and justified.

    The problem that both 41 and 43 faced with regard to the Middle East and Iraq particularly was the breakup of the Soviet Union and the loss of the USSR’s nuclear arms. According to Graham Allison:

    As is typical in the aftermath of the collapse of an empire, this was followed by a period of chaos, confusion, and corruption. As the saying went at the time, “everything is for sale.” At that same moment, as the Soviet state imploded, 35,000 nuclear weapons remained at thousands of sites across a vast Eurasian landmass that stretched across eleven time zones.

    I understand the objection to “nation building,” but it is a legitimate goal in some cases. And President Bush and the U.S. military did a good job with Iraq. Had Obama “stayed the course,” we would have succeeded eventually. And we needed to be a stabilizing friendly force in Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

    In fairness, I mentioned your exact point during the interview, namely that Iraq was emerging as a successful nation until the Obama administration pulled the rug out from under them by announcing a date-certain for our withdrawal, etc.  In the end, however, as KC mentions in comment #6 above, “It’s diplomatic hubris to portray the current status quo as a condition we owe the world, so pardon us for any unpleasant interruption.”  Let the bad guys dread the possibility of our military action rather than invite it.

    • #14
  15. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    MarciN (View Comment):
    Had Obama “stayed the course,” we would have succeeded eventually. And we needed to be a stabilizing friendly force in Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

    Well that’s the whole problem, isn’t it?

    The critical weakness of democracy is that war requires support of the people. Bush had support and squandered it.  Had he instead stopped trying to rebuild Iraq and empower our enemy before we even defeated them, we could have been done during his first term, certainly by his last.

    The American people will support a war only until they think the leaders aren’t serious about winning. Serious means ruthless.  Once he ordered Mattis to pull out of Fallujah, everyone knew we weren’t serious.

    • #15
  16. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    We converted Japan, we can convert anyone. We converted South Korea, we can convert anyone. What it takes is an ongoing presence of troops for a generation or more (Note, troops are still in the nations we defeated in WWII). Any culture can be rebuilt, but you have to start with the next generation, and you have to be willing to enforce things at the point of a gun (like women’s rights in Japan).

    The America people do not have the will to do that for other nations. We only ended up doing it with the Axis because we were now working against our old ally the USSR, and we still remembered the demobilization mistake of WWI.

    • #16
  17. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    A thought on the The Mouse that Roared, Iraq, GWB’s nation building, etc…

    One reason why the statement, “You break it, you bought it.” had so much resonance was that America’s experience of rebuilding the nations that we defeated in war had worked out so well previously. From Germany and Japan the American foreign policy establishment knew from experience that rebuilding your defeated enemy made them into strong strategic allies and trading partners. It was a clear win. To the foreign policy establishment, Iraq was going to be Germany in the Fertile Crescent.

    In hindsight, they (we) should have seen that that model was not going to work in Iraq due to many reasons including: not subduing the will of Iraqis sufficiently, a country with no history of self-rule, and last but not least the influence of Islam which demands jihad against the infidels. This is unlike the chauvinism of both Germany and Japan, where although they looked down upon us as lesser people (barbarians in the case of Japan) at least their ideology did not demand war against us.

    • #17
  18. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    We converted Japan, we can convert anyone. We converted South Korea, we can convert anyone. What it takes is an ongoing presence of troops for a generation or more (Note, troops are still in the nations we defeated in WWII). Any culture can be rebuilt, but you have to start with the next generation, and you have to be willing to enforce things at the point of a gun (like women’s rights in Japan).

    The America people do not have the will to do that for other nations. We only ended up doing it with the Axis because we were now working against our old ally the USSR, and we still remembered the demobilization mistake of WWI.

    I disagree. Unless we are willing to force the Iraqi’s convert from Islam with the barrel of a gun, there is no hope of converting the Arab middle east.

    • #18
  19. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Skyler (View Comment):
    Bush had support and squandered it.

    I understand this point.

    But–and you’re not going to like this–he was one person, and there’s only so much talking one person can do. I believe he lost support because it suited other people’s nefarious political ends to drown out what he had to say.

    I am not in the military, but I followed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as closely as I could, and I understood what the U.S. objectives were and I supported them. If little me did, then others should have been able to understand too. They simply stopped listening.

    President Bush was dealing with a media that was out to get him. And his political foes took advantage of that.

    • #19
  20. JcTPatriot Inactive
    JcTPatriot
    @JcTPatriot

    Dave Carter (View Comment):

    JcTPatriot (View Comment):

    Dave Carter: I had mentioned during the conversation that I thought the President’s missile strike was an appropriate response to Syrian angel-of-death Assad having gassed his own people on the grounds that, A) the use of chemical weapons crosses a threshold that simply cannot be permitted,

    Your statement appears to reflect that you have no doubt about it being cause solely by Assad. Can you explain? It might help the argument here.

    On the podcast at Whiskey Politics, Dave Sussman mentioned the differing opinions to me, and I confess I didn’t take that particular issue seriously enough to research in-depth. Unless there is another President in Syria, it seems fairly axiomatic that the Syrian armed forces would take orders from the Syrian chain of command, where Assad sits at the top. I understand that we tracked the aircraft that dropped chemical munitions and knew from which base they had flown, hence our singling out a specific airfield for our attack. Otherwise, we have a dictator that doesn’t control his military and therefore perhaps didn’t control it during their previous attacks,…all of which seems a bit far fetched to me.

    The day after the Tomahawks flew, we had a nice long discussion here on Ricochet. I don’t know either way if Assad was responsible, but I trust our military that they had good intel. However, all they presented to the American people was the radar reverse-tracking that you mentioned, which is nothing more than a couple of blips traveling from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. For the fun of it, I came up with a situation that could account for that.

    The ‘rebels’ drag a large munition with Sarin gas (no I have no idea where they got it but I would guess Iran) to one of the cities that Assad frequently bombs. They wait a few days, or a few weeks, until the day Assad’s jets streak overhead and drop their payloads. The ‘rebels’ set off the gas and get out of Dodge. People die, Assad did it, the end.

    Based on everything we now know, Trump’s response was absolutely correct. I hope what ‘we now know’ never changes.

    • #20
  21. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    JcTPatriot (View Comment):
    The ‘rebels’ drag a large munition with Sarin gas (no I have no idea where they got it but I would guess Iran) to one of the cities that Assad frequently bombs. They wait a few days, or a few weeks, until the day Assad’s jets streak overhead and drop their payloads. The ‘rebels’ set off the gas and get out of Dodge. People die, Assad did it, the end.

    There is a strong possibility that this is what happened. In fact, it was my first thought. “Let’s do this and ‘frame’ Assad for it.”

    It is a typical modus operandi of the Muslim terrorists. They do this a lot–make it look like the good guys did something wrong. It is a terrific way to demoralize your enemy.

    I assume, however, that the Israelis provided intelligence that Assad was behind it. But from what I could see, the evidence was pretty slim.

    I think Trump made the right call, but it will be one that is debated for years to come.

    • #21
  22. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Z in MT (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    We converted Japan, we can convert anyone. We converted South Korea, we can convert anyone. What it takes is an ongoing presence of troops for a generation or more (Note, troops are still in the nations we defeated in WWII). Any culture can be rebuilt, but you have to start with the next generation, and you have to be willing to enforce things at the point of a gun (like women’s rights in Japan).

    The America people do not have the will to do that for other nations. We only ended up doing it with the Axis because we were now working against our old ally the USSR, and we still remembered the demobilization mistake of WWI.

    I disagree. Unless we are willing to force the Iraqi’s convert from Islam with the barrel of a gun, there is no hope of converting the Arab middle east.

    OH, you don’t have to convert them from Islam, you just have to convert Islam into a Westernized version of itself.

    We turned one of the most warlike cultures in the history of the world into a peaceful commercial nation. If we can convert Japan, anyone can be converted.

    • #22
  23. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    MarciN (View Comment):
    But–and you’re not going to like this–he was one person, and there’s only so much talking one person can do.

    You’re right, I don’t agree.   He failed to inspire and lead.  There are no excuses for failure.

    • #23
  24. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    JcTPatriot (View Comment):
    The ‘rebels’ drag a large munition with Sarin gas (no I have no idea where they got it but I would guess Iran)

    Ultimately it most likely came from the USSR and is quite old.  It doesn’t really go bad.  If Assad didn’t get it directly from the USSR decades ago or even from Russia recently, they probably got Soviet era munitions from Iraq.  We captured a lot in Iraq and it was pretty obvious that most was shipped out to Syria.

    • #24
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Great post, Dave. I was skeptical about bringing democracy to Iraq before we even went in. There’s a fascinating model called spiral dynamics that explains that EVERY culture has to go through levels of development, and no culture can skip a stage. It makes sense to me. Generally a civilization will start showing signs of the next stage, and at some point, there is a kind of tipping point that takes place that allows them to move to more sophisticated views of life. Many of the Islamic cultures are clearly in the tribal stage, which means they gang together against other tribal groups inside and outside their cultures. They may pick up attributes of the next stage, but don’t necessarily internalize them.

    Iraq was nowhere near ready. There are questions whether Saudi Arabia is moving in that direction. But most of the Arab countries are stuck in self-survival.

    • #25
  26. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Z in MT (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I disagree. Unless we are willing to force the Iraqi’s convert from Islam with the barrel of a gun, there is no hope of converting the Arab middle east.

    OH, you don’t have to convert them from Islam, you just have to convert Islam into a Westernized version of itself.

    We turned one of the most warlike cultures in the history of the world into a peaceful commercial nation. If we can convert Japan, anyone can be converted.

    We didn’t convert Japan.  They are very much like  pre war Japan just more settled and with a different consensus and hence focus.      They  modernized at a blistering and disruptive speed and didn’t really understand the west.     The  Zaibatsu are not that different from  Keiretsu and  Min finance and Miti exercise their power much like the min defense did.  We didn’t change them they developed a new more appropriate  consensus given that we destroyed the ministry of defense, their navy and army.   Thats what Japanese do.  They do what works until it doesn’t and if they smash their heads against a brick wall often enough and hard enough they form a new consensus.

     

    • #26
  27. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    The nation-building fallacy it seems to me stems from a dire lack of historical understanding of different parts of the world. GWB seemed to argue that every human being has an innate desire to live in a western-styled liberal democracy. Wrong!

    Just finished a book on the bloody partition of the British Raj into India and Pakistan (title: The Longest August). I learned a little of the staggering complexities — religious, tribal, ethnic, caste, etc. — of the populations in the millions in that part of the subcontinent. Even there, where the British had ruled for 300 years, there seemed to be little sentiment to emulate the west. Rather, there was a hatred of the foreigner, and a desire to be free of or to take revenge upon every member of whatever other groups to which the actor did not belong.

    I believe only in the so-called Anglo-sphere and some former colonies thereof are there possible places for assistance of the kind GWB and similarly minded people thought we were giving Iraq, but even then the chance for age-old realities, rivalries and hostility to overcome innovative reform is high. Those powers behind proxy strife in such places exploit these all too human tendencies for their own geopolitical ends.

    • #27
  28. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Democracy is not easy to implement anywhere. But it’s like capitalism–it beats any other alternative.

    If there is a ruler like Castro, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Mao, Stalin, Lenin, . . . who is torturing, imprisoning, and killing his or her own citizens and who therefore has to be removed forcibly, the government that the occupiers put in place needs to be democratically elected. Otherwise, the country will not support it.

    We tried the other way. We installed Saddam Hussein and the Shah of Iran because we thought they would be comfortable dictators in countries used to having dictators. Wrong.

    So GW tried a different approach, and it would have succeeded if the Obama administration hadn’t played politics with it.

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    MarciN (View Comment):
    So GW tried a different approach, and it would have succeeded if the Obama administration hadn’t played politics with it.

    As I said in my comment#25, I don’t think so, Marci. I don’t know how we move tribal cultures forward, but it would have been difficult even if we’d stayed there. Reverting to a dictatorship would have been easier than building democracy. I wish it were not so.

    • #29
  30. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    I was talking to my barber. Hes an Iraqi.  Just came back from a family trip to the old hometown.

     

    High light of the conversation. “They killed Saddam 15 years ago, and we still cant get electricity in Kirkuk.  There are roving gangs of kidnappers coming from foreign countries.  Killing and grabbing people for ransom. There is no government, no safety, no laws.”

     

    That’s what Powell meant when he said you break it, you own it.

     

    You made a country where people long for the day where the Stalinist monster ruled.

    • #30

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