Tuesday, November 28, 2006
one, two, three, give it to me easily, my feeble mind needs time:
Matt points me to Shadi Hamid's assessment of Nouri al-Maliki. Couple months ago, Shadi and I had an online debate at TAP about the relative merits of exporting democracy (his view) vs. privileging human rights (mine). (Praktike thought we were both wrong.) While I'm perfectly willing to concede that my argument has its share of flaws, the reason I've moved away from the democracy-promotion camp in recent years is because of the sheer unsustainability of privileging elections above things like respect for human rights, the rule of law, and the other things that give liberalism its substance. To hit the crackpipe of electoral democracy in the Middle East is to wind up with the Muslim Brotherhood or Nouri al-Maliki -- and such outcomes serve neither the interests of the United States or of liberalism.

Shadi appears to be grasping this now, in despair over Iraq:
If there's been one time where I've felt that toppling a democratically-elected leader would be the moral thing to do, it is now. Of course, this is not to say we should, because we have no guarantee that the next guy would be any better (and ousting elected leaders would set a very, very bad precedent).
Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest? Let's say that waiting in the wings is Nelson al-Mandela, currently hiding out in the Baghdad Sporting Club. He would surely satisfy Shadi's "next guy would be ... better" criterion. Should we then cap Maliki, Ngo Dinh Diem-style? Is that the moral thing to do?

This, in a nutshell, is the trouble with U.S. democracy exportation: it shades into imperialism way too easily. In Shadi's scenario, we will have spent years -- and nearly 3,000 American lives -- allegedly nurturing an Iraqi electoral democracy, only to pull the plug when the outcome doesn't go our way. This isn't merely unsustainable, it's absurd, and would mean the end of any support for the war. I suspect this is why the Bush administration isn't (yet) biting on the Iyad Allawi putsch: Whatever residual American support for the war remains is there because the ideal of democracy is lovely, whereas the idea of dying for another strongman is unsellable. So we're left with a catspaw of Moqtada Sadr, terminally weakened, and unable due to events far beyond his control to run Iraq -- just as we'll be saying about Maliki's successors. Shadi, I urge you to ask:Why is this? And how can we avoid putting ourselves in this position in the future?

[UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: The headline of this post does not refer to Shadi. It refers to me. When I read that section of Shadi's post, I ran it over in my mind again and again, trying to make sure I understood what he said. Then I started singing the coda to "Entertain" by Sleater-Kinney, which is where the headline originated. When I looked back at it, I saw that it could easily appear to call Shadi feeble-minded, which I don't mean to do.]
--Spencer Ackerman
If there's been one time where I've felt that toppling a democratically-elected leader would be the moral thing to do, it is now.

Yeah, I know, I also always think that when I consider Bush. But you know, democracy requires that--

Oh. He didn't mean Bush? Maliki? Geez, if he's for toppling Maliki, I'm scared to ask what he thinks is appropriate for Bush.

Oh. Right. American presidents can do anything (except get a blow job) with impunity. It's just other heads of state who have to worry about The Big Cop coming in and "toppling" them. Even heads of state "democratically" installed by Bush.

There's no such thing as forced democracy, Shadi. You know that. And we Americans must believe it, or we would have begged for someone to come in and topple our current "leaders".
Blogger betsyross | 1:48 PM

You now have me thinking of George W. Bush singing "The End of You" as he goes down with the ship that was Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Blogger Adrian J. Seath | 5:44 PM

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Blogger Fibercement | 3:11 AM