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Tilting at Windmills

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February 17, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

CAREFUL ENGAGEMENT ON THE MARCH....Shibley Telhami writes in the Washington Post today that in a democratic Middle East, extreme Islamist parties are going to win power whether we like it or not:

Given this, skepticism about the real aims of these groups should be balanced by openness to the possibility that their aims once they are in power could differ from their aims as opposition groups. This requires partial engagement, patience, and a willingness to allow such new governments space and time to put their goals to the test of reality. Hamas, in fact, could provide a place for testing whether careful engagement leads to moderation.

If we are not willing to engage, there is only one alternative: to rethink the policy of accelerated electoral democracy and focus on a more incremental approach of institutional and economic reform of existing governments. There is no realistic third party that's likely to emerge anytime soon.

That's probably good advice, especially given Telhami's subsequent acknowledgement that nobody in the Middle East actually believes we're serious about democracy anyway. And after all, why should they? Hamas wins an election and we immediately start talking with Israel about how to undermine them. Saudi Arabia's theocracy is treated with kid gloves because they have lots of oil, and Pakistan's military dictatorship is left alone because they (sort of) help us out against al-Qaeda. Egypt holds a pretend election and gets nothing more than a mild verbal rebuke. The Kurds in Iraq would like nothing more than a chance at self-determination, but that's a little too much democracy for our taste.

All of this is excusable. The Middle East is not a place that lends itself to simplistic solutions. But "democracy is on the march" is not the only way to promote democracy, especially in a region where U.S. support is almost a sure fire way to lose an election. Telhami's "careful engagement" may not be a very punchy slogan, but in the long run, it's more likely to work.

Kevin Drum 12:59 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (121)

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Comments

Ah, c'mon, we've barely given "creative chaos" a chance.

Posted by: es on February 17, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

freedom is messy. our freedom, their mess.

Posted by: cleek on February 17, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Freedom was on the march, but it's decided to sit down, take a little rest, and soak its feet. It may start marching again tomorrow, though, if it's not too tired and if the weather doesn't get too gusty.

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you are showing your love of al Queda again.

Just chant "freedom" and "democracy" over and over, and all is well!

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on February 17, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

What is is with this administration? I mean, no one could have anticipated the election of extremists?

I can't believe we're just fugring out now how to deal with this development. Um, you put real democracy in a country full of people who are pissed as hell at America, you're going to get a leadership that's pissed as hell at America. Duh.

IDIOTS.

Posted by: theorajones on February 17, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

That's a hoot, Stefan!

Posted by: Ace Franze on February 17, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

There currently is no democracy in the ME (yes, that includes Israel), and in all likelihood there won't be in our grandchildrens' time. And, once the oil begins running out in about 30 years time, most of the region will become an even bigger backwater than it is now.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 17, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

The face of the Middle East looks male, about 15 to 25 years of age, poorly educated, and unemployed. Quite a breeding ground for democracy. Would someone please propose how the global economy is going to create the millions of jobs needed to make democracy work in this area of the world? If globalization continues to work mainly for elite minorities or upper classes, democratization resulting in the empowerment of the underclass majorities will only undermine it and make the area less inviting for investment. Quite a paradox.

Posted by: lou on February 17, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

All of this is excusable. Excuse me? What's not excusable is the incredibly thickheaded neocon idea that all we had to do was get rid of Saddam Hussein and democracy would magically blossom. Reap the whirlwind.

Posted by: ExBrit on February 17, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Democracy means giving Arab citizens the right to choose terrorism instead of having their dreams of bombing Israel and the US quashed by moderate and authoritarian governments.

Since they hate us for our freedoms, I applaud Bush's farsighted goal of gradually doing away with ours to mollify al-Queda.

Posted by: Myron on February 17, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Give them a chance, its not like we can't wipe them off the face of the planet with a barrage of tomohawks if need been. This is an opportunity for Hamas to prove to the world they are legit, if not, then the world will extinguish them. Cowboy tactics certainly, or behind the scenes stratigy of removing Hamas, will be seen as puppet regine tactics. Besides, you want your enermy out in the open anyway where you can see them.

Posted by: the fake Fake Al on February 17, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

I think "Careful Engagement is on the march" is a catchy slogan. Plus, it has the benefit of completely confusing people who think in three-word slogans, which is a huge bonus.

Stefan:
spooky coincidence number two - the day you started calling rdw Cliff Clavin, I went to an event here in liberal, out of touch Hollywood, with a bunch of minor celebs, and who should be one of them, but John Ratzenberger, Mr. Cliff Clavin himself!

ooooeeeeoooo...

Posted by: craigie on February 17, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

The election gains by Islamists just makes it easier for the remote control airplanes to find targets. How many of them are lawyers?

Posted by: Matt on February 17, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

If Bush understood algebra, we wouldn't be having all these problems in the Middle East.

Posted by: craigie on February 17, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

The face of the Middle East looks male, about 15 to 25 years of age, poorly educated, and unemployed. Quite a breeding ground for democracy. Would someone please propose how the global economy is going to create the millions of jobs needed to make democracy work in this area of the world?

Well, crushing poverty means salary demands will be low. Maybe, with the magic of "free trade", we can just offshore all the needed jobs from America, and make democracy thrive in the Middle East.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 17, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK
What is is with this administration? I mean, no one could have anticipated the election of extremists?

Maybe they were expecting the Rapture to save them from having to deal with consequences.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 17, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

You want diplomacy advised by informed study so that objectives can be identified and means developed : from an executive who appreciates the value of this.
Today's assessment is of capable agencies being ignored, disbanded and redirected. The catalogue of incompetence starts with the people who put this travesty in place. It's much easier to break things than to fix them. There's an old saw about "whistling in the wind" ; some miracles are in shorter supply than others.

Posted by: opit on February 17, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

spooky coincidence number two - the day you started calling rdw Cliff Clavin, I went to an event here in liberal, out of touch Hollywood, with a bunch of minor celebs, and who should be one of them, but John Ratzenberger, Mr. Cliff Clavin himself!

That's great, craigie. Ratzenberger's quite an interesting man. Spent much of his youth in England, got his start doing theatre in England (where he co-founded a comedy troupe) and is a very active environmentalist. A cultured, intelligent, well-rounded man, as far different from Cliff Clavin (both the show's and our version) as it's possible to get.

Another interesting fact: he got the part of Cliff when he failed in the audition for Norm and asked the producers if they had a barroom know-it-all character in the cast. He made up a ten minute monologue of nonsense and they wrote the part for him.

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

I give Kevin Drum the Moonbat Cynic of the Year award, for the folowing quote:

"... nobody in the Middle East actually believes we're serious about democracy anyway."


Great job insulting the millions of Iraqis who voted for the Iraqi consitution and the new Iraqi parliament. Nice job insulting the coalition troops who lay their lives on the line. And how about the cute way you dash the hopes of millions of Iraqis who actually want to chose their own government.

Posted by: BigRiver on February 17, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

And how about the cute way you dash the hopes of millions of Iraqis who actually want to chose their own government.

Oh no, those poor Iraqis! Kevin Drum isn't clapping hard enough, and now their hopes are dashed -- dashed, I tell you! Sure, they wanted to choose their own government, but now that mean Kevin Drum won't let them!

*sigh* Do you want to tell them the bad news, or should I?

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

spooky coincidence number two - the day you started calling rdw Cliff Clavin

I did feel a little bad for Cliff Clavin, though, when I made that comparison. Maybe I should have said "Cliff Clavin without the social skills."

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

We should teach them that Democracy that we are talking about actually means that the President is king and can do no wrong.

They will all walk lock step and barrel with us then.

Posted by: lib on February 17, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

the extremist win over here, so I don't see why this should be any surprise. The ones who are hyper-motivated to do whatever their mission is, will always be the ones who are driven to win, at any and all cost. Whether that be through a true democratic process, or the sham called the Electoral College. They will stop at nothing, leave nothing to chance, and will go down swinging. It is simply a matter of historical reference, to see the when and how of it all. A Bush clone will inhabit the office in '08, mark my words, whether that be Jeb or whomever. It doesn't matter, a face is a face. The complex, I believe Eisenhower called it the Military Industrial Complex, will fix it so that some rube will 'win' the election. They have a vested interest in robbing the treasury, throwing kickbacks to their cronies in the Corporate World, and destroying the environment; all in the interest of 'Better Business'. America is just a word to them, they only know and care about the people who have gained membership to that club. The faces are from all races and nationalities, they have no inherent prejudice of skin color or religion. They only know class warfare, as they despise the poor, but will take the poors tax dollars and spend like a Pig in Sh!t. They play on everyone else's fears and hatreds; they rally the mouthbreathers in Red America with cries of patriotism and the orgiastic screams of 9-11, but really only care about that Country Club group. This is America, once aptly described as "just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable." Yep, that about sums it up, how far down the toilet bowl we've truly sunk.

Posted by: chris on February 17, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Before 2003, Saddam was a hero in the Arab world; well, except in Iraq. Now, al Queda's numbers are dropping as well, thanks to Zarqawi's tendency to kill innocent Arabs rather than harder targets.

My point is that we have to accept the islamists because they have been the only organized opposition to the authortarian governments. Indeed , it can be argued that political islam is an outgrowth of authortarianism in that part of the world. Osama and Saddam are two sides of the same coin, just as the Shah and Khomeni were.

A political process, even one that may be truncated by Islam is far preferrable to none at all. Hamas and Fatah may be so busy duking it out they might forget to send suicide bombers into Isreal. Maybe Letterman will get a REAL communique from OBL signing of with, "by the way, Dave, death to America."

Posted by: Chuck on February 17, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

"Great job insulting the millions of Iraqis who voted for the Iraqi consitution and the new Iraqi parliament. Nice job insulting the coalition troops who lay their lives on the line. And how about the cute way you dash the hopes of millions of Iraqis who actually want to chose their own government."

Had the war resolution been based on this proposition, we would not be in Iraq today. The administration was the first to realize and admit this (P. Wolfowitz).

It also certainly appeared from the election results that the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds were each voting for themselves and their own interests. As soon as we are out of there, the Kurds will be breaking away and the Shiites and Sunnis will continue their eternal struggle against each other. The biggest factor uniting the Iraqis is our own occupation.

Posted by: lou on February 17, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe it doesn't help that the religious nuts are in power over here too?

Posted by: URK on February 17, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Very revealing comments. The Arabs are too (fill in the blank) for democracy.

The most pro-American people in the middle east are ?

The Iranian population !

Why ?

Because they got a 25 year taste of radical Islam.

The pessimism is unbecoming the party that freed Europe. And that made a democracy of Japan. And defended South Korea which is now a democracy.

Do any of you remember how poor southeast Asia was ?

Bush has taken a huge gamble on the Iraqis. Agreed.

You hope he loses it. I hope, for all our sakes, that he wins it.

That's the difference and that's why the Democrats can't win national elections.

Posted by: Mike K on February 17, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

This sounds suspiciously like the old tired liberal idea of bring back experienced State Department bureaucrats to guide our foreign policy. It isn't going to work. These guys have been home growing beer bellies and beards and will probably pass out after the first four hours of sitting upright. Besides their work relies on a facade of intellectual engagement. Maybe the administration can pull it off to the extent that middle east Star Trek fans will jump on board for a half hour or so, but the suspension of belief it requires is far greater than the average Iraqi or Iranian citizen can muster.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 17, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Since they hate us for our freedoms, I applaud Bush's farsighted goal of gradually doing away with ours to mollify al-Queda.

Perfect, Myron

Posted by: Ace Franze on February 17, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Very revealing comments. The Arabs are too (fill in the blank) for democracy.

strawman

Posted by: cleek on February 17, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Do any of you remember how poor southeast Asia was ? Posted by: Mike K

Darn tootin' I do young un. Do you remember what SE Asia was like until they kicked whitey out? If you think that European colonialism and U.S. meddling made SE Asia the mixed bag it is today, you're probably too stupid to be walking the streets without a minder.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 17, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

The neocons were for spreading democracy in the Middle East before they were against it...or, it's the American Empire, stupid...

Posted by: dloberk on February 17, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Democracy requires an educated populace willing to fight for the change. We should know better than to think that the Middle East is going to choose to have a form of government that looks like ours because they don't have a society that looks like ours. Help them build a stable country and the government will follow. After all, we had to fight for our democracy and they are going to have to fight for theirs.

Posted by: Clair on February 17, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

"The most pro-American people in the middle east are ?

The Iranian population !"

So, don't you think we would have been wiser to build on this base of support to plant the seed of democracy in the Middle East instead of forcing it in an adjoining state where the odds were most heavily against us? Condi wants to put $75,000,000 in Iran NOW after Bush calls the Iranian people our friends in his SOTU. Next thing they might actually try talking with them. How European. How Kerryesque. Why now? Because earlier, Bush had fixed the intelligence into firing into the second covey of quail. The biggest problem you guys got is that Bush, the obdurate bullhead, is president.

Posted by: lou on February 17, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats dont hope we fail overseas, thats just stupid non-thinking. Independently minded people however feel free to point out the stupidity of our policies, even as the Bush Cult Monarchists try to shut them up. Now about democracy in the Middle East, lets face it, this policy is about our security, nothing else. Now, if we push democracy, but then isolate and fail to engage any democratically elected government that is radical Islamist, what have we accomplished that helps our security? And whoever made the comment about our patience rebuilding Germany and Japan, you forgot the most important part of the thought: the Germans did not democratically re-elect a Nazi government and Japan did not re-elect an Imperialist expansionist monarchy. This is not just about a big gamble on Iraq, its about a big gamble all over the middle east. What will you say about that gamble when radical Islamists are in power in Eqypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria etc. etc. etc.? Again, the only reason to change the old cold war Kissingerian real politik is to enhance our security, not because we feel altruistic about spreading democracy. If the net effect is to put radical Islamists in power in country after country over there, what have we accomplished that aids our security?

Posted by: Jammer on February 17, 2006 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

"If we are not willing to engage, there is only one alternative: to rethink the policy of accelerated electoral democracy and focus on a more incremental approach of institutional and economic reform of existing governments"

This "ALTERNATIVE" looks like "SUPPORT REPRESSION of economic and democratic asperations at every turn." Unfortunately, this has been our policy for the last 60 years. Look where it got us!

If we were going to do "incremental," we would have been better off starting with the most educated and relatively secular political society in the Arab world and pushed for incremental change with overwhelming pressure. Instead, we toppled that state and turned it over to islamic parties.

Why dont I feel more secure? This is more chatter coming from policy makers who just took a big crap in the living room and when someone wants to ask why they did it, they want to talk about fixing the smelly septic tank in the house next door instead of do some self examination of their twisted thinking and motives.

Posted by: ChetBob on February 17, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Bush has taken a huge gamble on the Iraqis. Agreed.

You hope he loses it. I hope, for all our sakes, that he wins it.

"He?" What are you a slipper licking monarchist?

Bush may be president, but we ALL took this gamble and we ALL have a vested interest in cutting our losses. I would like to "win," whatever that means at this point, but we aren't going to do that by propping up a cult of personality around a leader that a good many of our fellow countrymen think is taking us down the wrong path.

Being critical of Bush is not the same thing as wishing for failure.

If you could see yourself as more than a comfortable serf to the Big Business/Big Government hybrid that has systematically disempowered U.S. citizens for the last half century, you might be able to understand that.

Alas, the brainwashing appears too complete.

Posted by: Unpleasant Peasant on February 17, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

That was excellent tbrosz.

This sounds suspiciously like the old tired liberal idea of bring back experienced State Department bureaucrats to guide our foreign policy. It isn't going ..

Now I can retire in peace knowing that someone infinitely better than me has taken over the reins.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 17, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Guess I am just cynical but I don't believe the "spreading democracy" meme now any more than I believed it prior to Bush. I thought it was nice in theory but lots of hard, sweaty, dangerous work. Sure I want/wanted democracy for those countries that didn't have it but never felt it was up to the U.S. to give it to them. Help, yes, give no. Giving makes it sounds like it our alone to dole out to those countries we condescended to give it to.

I also wasn't sure we were willing to live with a government that was democratically elected if we didn't happen to like the results. So far I haven't seen anything to change my mind on that. Rumors of trying to destabalize Hamas is just one example. Heck this government doesn't seem to have a problem dealing with countries that don't have an elected government (Pakistan) or one whose government is nominally democratic but actively working against democratic principles/elections (Egypt) as long as the government gives us what we want.

Posted by: ET on February 17, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Guess I am just cynical but I don't believe the "spreading democracy" meme now any more than I believed it prior to Bush.

No, it's just not as easy as spreading violence, dammit.

Or peanut butter. Peanut butter is on the march. We're spreading peanut butter abroad to make us safer at home. No two peanut butter countries have ever gone to war with each other.

If only Jimmy Carter were still president, he'd know what to do...

Posted by: craigie on February 17, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Ratzenberger's quite an interesting man. ...etc

Blimey! Is there anything you don't know inside out?

Posted by: craigie on February 17, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

"This sounds suspiciously like the old tired liberal idea of bring back experienced State Department bureaucrats to guide our foreign policy."~fake tbrosz

The real tbrosz and I prefer crazy-ass neocons to guide our foreign policy. By the way, has the Iraqi parliament cut taxes yet?

Posted by: Ace Franze on February 17, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K: Do any of you remember how poor southeast Asia was ?

Yes! Good thing we stayed the course there; had we pulled our troops out, the whole subcontinent would have gone Communist...

Posted by: S Ra on February 17, 2006 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

'Nice job insulting the coalition troops who lay their lives on the line.'
--BigRiver

What coalition? Actually, it's George (AWOL) Bush who has irrevocably insulted the 2,200+ families who no longer have a son, daughter, wife, husband, father, uncle, etc. because we invaded a country that was no threat at all to the United States. None. Nada. Zippo.

Of course, being a lifelong sociopath, Bush has no capacity for remorse or empathy. He should also apologize to the tens of thousands of veterans who will come back missing limbs, eyes and other appendages or exposed to depleted uranium, which is going to cause cancers and lymphomas down the road. He might also consider apologizing for the thousands more who will have
lifelong mental illnesses and PTSD and cause untold grief to their families, friends and acquaintenances. Because of this sick, dysfunctional man, thousands of lives have been insulted and worse.

You sir, are the one who has a seriously flawed ability to identify who has insulted who......

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on February 17, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

"Bush may be president, but we ALL took this gamble and we ALL have a vested interest in cutting our losses."

Or winning.

" I would like to "win," whatever that means at this point, but we aren't going to do that by propping up a cult of personality around a leader that a good many of our fellow countrymen think is taking us down the wrong path."

So you'd prefer to lose to prove that he's a- see above.

That's how I started ! Thanks for your support to my premise !

"Being critical of Bush is not the same thing as wishing for failure."

Agreed and I've been critical but you're about to illustrate the difference between us.

"If you could see yourself as more than a comfortable serf to the Big Business/Big Government hybrid that has systematically disempowered U.S. citizens for the last half century, you might be able to understand that."

Yup. There it is.

"Alas, the brainwashing appears too complete."

You might read this.

Unless the brainwashing is too complete.

Posted by: Mike K on February 17, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK


MIKE K: Bush has taken a huge gamble on the Iraqis. Agreed. You hope he loses it. I hope, for all our sakes, that he wins it.

The gamble Bush has taken is that he can exploit Iraq to his own benefit, not to the benefit of its people or the people of the world. Democracy? Whether secular or Islamic, he has not the slightest interest in it, except as a deluding slogan. Whether in Iraq, this country, or anywhere in the world, he prefers dictatorships. As he has said, it makes his job easier. He uses every means at his disposal to make his job easier.

Apart from his cronies, his masters, and countless others driven by greed, all the people of the world lose every time Bush wins. Thus, they would be stupid not to hope he loses any of his undertakings. But, "agreed," there is no shortage of stupid people in the world.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 17, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Or winning.

define "winning". spell out exactly what the minimum requirements for Victory are. and for honesty's sake, try not to limit yourself to what you assume W's capable of doing.

Posted by: cleek on February 17, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K, clap LOUDER! you are not clapping LOUD enough for the Dear Leader!

Why, if you don't clap LOUD ENOUGH for the Dear Leader, gosh, things might not go as well as the Dear and Glorious Leader would like them too!

So we need you fierce warrior Mike K, to clap very loud for the Dear and Glorious Leaders every day!

Maybe if we all clap loudly, we won't hear those bad awful men who say bad awful things about the wonderful, intelligent, well spoken Dear and Glorious Leader!

The Dear Leader has a plan for victory and success, and it's high time we all got onboard and sang loudly!

Posted by: WM Troll Brigade and Choir on February 17, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

craigie: Blimey! Is there anything you don't know inside out?

Hey, now I'm blushing....

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

"Saudi Arabia's theocracy is treated with kid gloves"

And they get a thorough brown-nosing from al-Gore, but you forgot to mention that.

"Egypt holds a pretend election and gets nothing more than a mild verbal rebuke"

Wrong. Suspension of negotiations on a free trade agreement is more than a "mild verbal rebuke".

Posted by: am on February 17, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Wrong. Suspension of negotiations on a free trade agreement is more than a "mild verbal rebuke".

My God! The bastards! Do you mean to tell me that Bush would actually go so far as to suspend (not cancel, of course, merely put off till later) negotiations on a free trade agreement? I mean, I thought it was bad when he invaded one Mideast country based on lies and turned it into a charnel house/torture chamber, but to think he'd stoop so low as to actually suspend negotiations on a free trade agreement! Why, if he's prepared to do this he's prepared to do anything.

You know what we should do next? Offer to start free trade negotiations with Iran and North Korea and then, the minute they step out of line, immediately suspend (but not cancel, mind) those negotiations! They'll be helpless -- they'll have no choice but to do what we tell them to do! Ahahahahaha! The fools -- they'll never know what hit them!

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Right on, right on.

"Who's the fool here?", is what I want to know. We tout elections and democracy and the cure for all ills and the first step in all marches toward nirvana, and the moment folks we don't like are elected the administration starts talking about taking them down or freezing them out. Isn't this the most basic logic problem? I mean, couldn't anyone looking at the situation realize the administration doesn't actually care about elections or democracy?

Christ, didn't we go through this crap in Vietnam? Is the country really that stupid? Is our raging stupidity the reason this keeps happening? The reason why we have no integrity as a state?

I don't get it. How do they get away with it?

Oops, Brit Hume's on. Gotta go!

Posted by: The Tim on February 17, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

craigie: Blimey! Is there anything you don't know inside out?

Women. I'll be damned if I can figure them out....

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

The Hamas issue is very revealing. Despite what the conservative strawmen might tell you, nobody in the USA really wants to see them in power, especially if they continue to refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist.

However, if you can't accept the fact that they were democratically elected, you're not fit to fight the war on terror. Much like I was telling friends after the court decision in Bush v. Gore, "hey, this sucks, but we have to accept the decision and make noise against their BS agenda." The only way we can win the war on terror is if we apply the same logic to Hamas, as well as whatever Iran-friendly religious party the Iraqis elect in a few years.

Posted by: mmy on February 17, 2006 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps we're getting what we paid for in the Middle East? When will we stop paying for incompetence, hate, and chaos?

Posted by: parrot on February 17, 2006 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Man, it sucks being a Democrat:

"Hackett had demonstrated his ability to shake money from donors during a January fundraising roadshow in California and New York. But he soon discovered that top Democrats were attempting to cut off his money. The hosts of a Beverly Hills fundraiser for Hackett received an e-mail from the political action committee of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) that concluded, I hope you will re-consider your efforts on behalf of Hackett and give your support to Sherrod. Waxmans chief of staff, Phil Schiliro, said the e-mail was only sent to a handful of people and that it probably came from a suggestion from the Sherrod Brown campaign.

Michael Fleming, who manages Internet millionaire David Bohnetts political and charitable giving, was one of the recipients of the Waxman email. Bohnett has given to hundreds of progressive candidates, but Fleming says, This was the first time I had ever gotten an email or communication like that. I find it discouraging and disheartening. Its unfortunate that the powers that be didnt let the people of Ohio figure this out. We should be in the business of encouraging people like Paul Hackett and viable progressive candidates like him to run. The message instead is dont bother, its not worth your time.

Sen. Schumer was also reported to be trying to turn off Hacketts cash spigots. No one would confirm this to me on the record. But veteran political activist David Mixner, who described himself as a fanatically strong supporter of Hackett and who helped sponsor a New York fundraiser, confirmed that he received calls from a couple people in Congress urging Paul Hackett to withdraw or not to contribute money to his campaign. The reasons ranged from he cant win, to hes too controversial, Brown has more money, is more centrist, and more appealing. It was that inner beltway circle crap, said Mixner. They are people who have no idea whats going on in the country but believe they know everything.

http://motherjones.com/news/update/2006/02/hackett_drops_out.html

Posted by: ick on February 17, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

So I clicked through to Mike K's link, fool that I am, and it seemed to be mainly about an American writer complaining that he was maligned by a Norwegian innkeeper....well, if that didn't convince me I suppose nothing will.

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

craigie: Blimey! Is there anything you don't know inside out?

Stefan: Women. I'll be damned if I can figure them out....

That would explain the affinity for Cliff Clavin ...

Posted by: VAMark on February 17, 2006 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan: I skimmed through it, too, and I can't figure out what the hell Mike K's point is supposed to be in citing the article. It's just an opinion piece about how well informed the author thinks Americans are about themselves and the world versus how well-informed non-Americans are about the same things. Even assuming the accuracy of his description of American domestic media, how does that prove that conservative sheep like Mike K necessarily avail themselves of it to become more informed? It's like saying that because Baskin Robbins has 31 flavors, all Americans are ice cream connoisseurs.

But this is a habit I've noticed among the conservatives I run into (online and in real life) - they have a list of boilerplate links and/or cites and/or "things Rush said" that they think "prove" or "disprove" various points, and they just throw them out without understanding them whenever these points come up in a discussion. They just have a checklist - and they think that the existance of this list makes them "right" about everything, because these are all "settled" issues. And these are the yahoos who usually have "I think, therefore I'm conservative" bumper stickers on their cars. Oy. Where do you even start?

Posted by: DH Walker on February 17, 2006 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Telhami's "careful engagement" may not be a very punchy slogan ...

So? Wouldn't it be nice to have leaders who didn't have to learn the lessons of the last five-hundred years over again?

Sheesh.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on February 17, 2006 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

The Hackett story is interesting. Apparently some pictures of him in uniform and looking like he was actually ready to fight got out.

Can't have a Democrat who fights for his country.

Stefan, you should have read the whole thing. It is long and I know your attention span but the author has a new book coming out about the trouble Europe is in. He moved to Europe in 1998. As a NY Times travel writer, he wrote a piece about a Norwegian inn and the innkeeper didn't like his comments about the service so he called the Norwegian media and attacked the travel writer because he was an American. The fact that he wasn't a Bush voter notwithstanding, he got attacked with lies. The innkeeper said he demanded a Big Mac and that was why he didn't like the service. That was enough for Norway.

He's lived there now for 7 years and thinks the Europeans are in deep trouble with aggressive Islam.

If we lose the gamble with Iraq, and that includes "cutting our losses", Europe is toast.

As for southeast Asia, the one place that hasn't prospered is Vietnam. Does that tell you anything ?

Posted by: Mike K on February 17, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

GMT: Well, Bush even said in an interview once that it didn't matter that he never went to Viet Nam, because he "learned the essential lessons" of Viet Nam anyway. He actually cited "not committing US troops without a clear exit strategy" as one of the things he sagely learned while not needing to be actually involved with the war.

The mind reels.

Posted by: DH Walker on February 17, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Is Drudge dead?

Posted by: cld on February 17, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

craigie: Blimey! Is there anything you don't know inside out?

Stefan: Women. I'll be damned if I can figure them out....

VA Mark: That would explain the affinity for Cliff Clavin ...

Which leads us to one of Clavin's classic lines:
"Women! If their not turnin' down your proposal of marriage, they're, they're accusin' you of suspicious behavior in the lingerie changin' room."

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, it's getting too damn weird when the fake tbrosz's start having discussions with each other.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 17, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

The Hackett story is interesting. Apparently some pictures of him in uniform and looking like he was actually ready to fight got out. Can't have a Democrat who fights for his country.

You sad, stupid old man. You might remember, might you not, that the last two Democratic Presidential candidates were Vietnam combat veterans, and that there were quite a few pictures of them in uniform? That they volunteered to go fight in a war they didn't even believe in because they wanted to serve their country, while Bush and Cheney, who did believe in the war, spent those years honing their drunk driving skills?

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K: As for southeast Asia, the one place that hasn't prospered is Vietnam. Does that tell you anything?

Other than that 50+ years of colonialism followed by 20+ years of constant warfare isn't the best thing for a country?

Or are you trying to say that we should have _stayed_ in Viet Nam, then everything would be fine by now? Or are you trying to say that radical Islamists were responsible for Ho Chi Minh's military successes? Honestly, I can't tell what your point is supposed to be.

Posted by: DH Walker on February 17, 2006 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, it's getting too damn weird when the fake tbrosz's start having discussions with each other.

I couldn't agree with you more.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 17, 2006 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, it's getting too damn weird when the fake tbrosz's start having discussions with each other.

Confirming the email address of the poster would eliminate that. Anonymous annoying posts are supposed to be illegal...

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on February 17, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K: As for southeast Asia, the one place that hasn't prospered is Vietnam. Does that tell you anything?

Well, actually, the other two places that haven't prospered are Laos and Cambodia. Coincidentally they, along with Vietnam, were the countries that suffered the most from the American military adventure. So I suppose what that tells me is that if you want to prosper, suffering an American military occupation and getting bogged down in a thirty years war that kills millions of your people isn't a good way to go about it.

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

That was no 'discussion'. Just an appreciation for heckuva job. This one has retired.

Helical Rocket has taken off.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 17, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

And these are the yahoos who usually have "I think, therefore I'm conservative" bumper stickers on their cars. Oy. Where do you even start?

Start with the face, and then work your way down. Try to ignore the screaming as best you can.

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Safety and security and everyday stability are powerful themes in elections. The fact that the theocrats in Iraq and Palestine offered a return of stability to everyday life, thereby garnering a victory,apparently astonished our SecState as much as terrorists using airplanes as missiles.
But let's follow her and her masters to our next glorious victory over the nuke seeking-theocrats in Iran. Surely she has read that situation as well as she can and that should be good enough.

Posted by: TJM on February 17, 2006 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

I am so very amused how Drum and the commentators here lap up agitprop.

The Kurds in Iraq would like nothing more than a chance at self-determination, but that's a little too much democracy for our taste.

Best read, the leading clans of Iraqi Kurdistan would like to have their own pseudo-democratic fiefdoms and have found pimping this as "self-determination" sells well with gullible, idealistic Westerners. Nevermind the history of the Kurdish leadership until they put on the nicey nice masques was of clan wars, and ugly ethnic conflict.

Not being enthusiastic about Kurdish seperatism has fuck all to do with the sins of the Bush Administration w respect to democracy promotion, and everything to do with an informed realism that Kurdish seperatism is more about clan power struggles, would set off bloody ethnic cleansing across the area, and is highly unlikely to result in real improvements for the average Mohammed Kurd (although is likely be be profitable for the clan leaders).

But all one has to do to sell something to the ignorant Westerners is dress one's cause up in faux liberal language, claim some kind of oppression and go to town. The gullible fools will lap up the dreamy idealism masquing one's cynical power play.

Posted by: collounsbury on February 17, 2006 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Democracy?

Every State Department janitor with a fat government pension and a fatter wife who lines up behind the drugstore counter for his monthly bulk order of Viagra she doesn't know about has opinions about Democracy he believes his idol Bill Clinton actually shares.

Clinton, of course, believed in no such thing. No Viagra. A wife with bulky calves to be sure (notice how only Laura exposed hers during the CSK funeral?), but otherwise reasonably proportioned. No need for any furtive trips to the drugstore to make masturbation a daylong furtive activity only interrupted by screechy calls from the kitchen to change the odd lightbulb or two.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 17, 2006 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Women. I'll be damned if I can figure them out....

We like it that way. But with the shampoo bottle information, you're still ahead of the game.

Posted by: shortstop on February 17, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

It is hard to say, in retrospect, how any of this is surprising. The problem is not that Bush, and much of the Republican leadership, are extremely intelligent people masquerading as Limbaugh-Listening anti-intellectual doofuses (hereinafter "LLAIDs") in order to get elected, the problem is that Bush is, at the core, an LLAID.

Not only that, he actually successfully attained the Presidency of the United States based on his LLAID beliefs. Its one thing to hold government in contempt when sitting on a barstool in the reddest part of some red state, that's known as "exercising your rights as a citizen." Its quite another thing to hold government in contempt while you are the President of the world's number one government -- that's called being an idiot.

Its really not that different than electing SecularAnimist as president of General Motors. For some reason I don't believe sales would rise under SA as CEO.

Posted by: hank on February 17, 2006 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

collounsbury:

Despite your insufferable style, I agree with you about Kurdish ambitions and somehow managed to take that line from the buildup to the war until now.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 17, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Women. I'll be damned if I can figure them out....

See, here's the thing. Relationships are hard, and based on mutual respect.

For example, when a husband and wife are arguing about something, eventually they compromise, and do what she wants.

In this way, everyone is satisfied.

Posted by: craigie on February 17, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop: We like it that way. But with the shampoo bottle information, you're still ahead of the game.

It has made going to the drug store a somewhat more, uh, erotic experience than it used to be....

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I am not all warm and fuzzy. I do know the region.

It serves no one well to lap up the agitprop of the Kurdish clan chieftans to set policy.

Self deterinmination sounds great. Help the Kurds. Except it sets of a Yugoslavesque ethnic cleansing, sets off conflict with all the neighbours, for what real gains? An abstraction whose real material benefit accrues to those who get to run the affaire.

Nor does looking at the history of 'self determination' nationalism in Eastern Europe, for example prove more enlightening as to the actual returns for the ordinary citizen. Great stuff for the leaderships that get captive little ethnic enclaves to exploit, however.

Posted by: collounsbury on February 17, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Is MikeK saying Osama Bin Laden is hiding out as a Norwegian innkeeper?

Posted by: es on February 17, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Every State Department janitor with a fat government pension and a fatter wife who lines up behind the drugstore counter for his monthly bulk order of Viagra she doesn't know about has opinions about Democracy he believes his idol Bill Clinton actually shares.


LOL

Posted by: lib on February 17, 2006 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

In what sort of bizzarro world is it when the notion that democracy (or at least voting) in the Middle East is inimical to our interests? Where have these people been? Didn't they notice little things like the Islamic Revolution in Iran in the 70's, the negated elections in Algeria in the 80's, growing support for Islamic militancy in Egypt and attacks on western tourists during the 80's -90's, the growing instability of the House of Saud?

Even before we invaded Iraq, our support for Israel made the US very unpopular on the "Arabic Street" and any free elections have been bound to bring anti-American factions to power.

Posted by: Chesire11 on February 17, 2006 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Freedom was on the march, but it's decided to sit down, take a little rest, and soak its feet.

Apparently rank incompetence rebuffed freedom's example and decided to keep marching on:

The Bush administration on Thursday conceded that key sectors of the Iraqi economy had fallen below pre-war levels because of the insurgency, but insisted it was making enough progress on the political and security fronts to press ahead with reductions in US forces.

Ms Rice initially asserted that many more Iraqis were now getting potable water and sewerage services. However, under intense questioning from Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, she conceded that although capacity had increased, fewer Iraqis were actually receiving those services.

Senator Conrad, citing the special inspector general, said almost all economic indices showed Iraq was better off before the US had invaded. Republicans, too, are sceptical of administration claims of progress. Senator Chuck Hagel told Ms Rice on Wednesday he believed the situation was getting worse.

Since the invasion the economy is worse, oil production is lower, energy and fuel supplies are sporadic at best, unemployment is depressingly high, and people can't even get clean drinking water.

If you're looking to get blown up or shot, though, Iraq is the place to be.

Republicans: just as bad at managing other countries as they are at managing this one.

Posted by: Windhorse on February 17, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

craigie, craigie, craigie. Had anyone ever told me you'd tell a joke reminiscent of the Lockhorns or Beetle Bailey, I'd have called that person a dang liar. Now, I have to reevaluate everything. EVERYTHING!

Okay, I'm over it. So did you get to talk to John Ratzenberger?

Posted by: shortstop on February 17, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan: It has made going to the drug store a somewhat more, uh, erotic experience than it used to be....

Just wait until she takes you to Aisle 8A.

Posted by: shortstop on February 17, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Ms Rice initially asserted that many more Iraqis were now getting potable water and sewerage services. However, under intense questioning from Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, she conceded that although capacity had increased, fewer Iraqis were actually receiving those services.

If by "conceded" you mean "admitted she'd been lying."

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Just wait until she takes you to Aisle 8A.

Hey, King of the Hill!

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

[Rumsfeld] lamented that vast media attention about U.S. abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq outweighed that given to the discovery of "Saddam Hussein's mass graves."

Once again we see the moral lameness of the Right.

For Rumsfeld, its all about "we're not as bad as Saddam," even though we order and condone torture.

For Rumsfeld, it's all about getting the right propaganda out, regardless of the truth.

For Rumsfeld, it is irrelevant that his own actions and that of his boss, not to mention conservative administrations in general, are what feeds Muslim hatred against the West, much of it justified, not a failure to effectively publish the Right lies.

For Rumsfeld, it is irrelevant that he and his ilk supported brutal dictators in the Middle East that denied democracy to their peoples, tortured and murdered their enemies with conservatives acquiesence and assistance, and wasted valuable national resources to line not only their own pockets, but the pockets of the GOP.

For Rumsfeld and Bush, all that matters is using their power to foist lies and impose their will on the citizens of the world 24-7.

For Rumsfeld and Bush, Hitler is a role model.

Posted by: Advocate for God on February 17, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

Windhorse:

"Come to Beautiful, Historic Baghdad."

"Have a BLAST!"

--Iraq Ministry of Tourism

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 17, 2006 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Senator: Could you please state for record the title of the State Department Document that was given to you in February 03 before the Iraq invasion?

Ms. Rice: hemm haw hemm haw hemm haw ....

Senator: Please! Just a simple answer would suffice.

Ms. Rice: 'Iraq economy to be destroyed after Regime Change'. But senator that was a hitorical document containing no actionable information. bla bla bla bla

Posted by: lib on February 17, 2006 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Just because we aim to undermine Hamas doesn't mean that we have any less respect for the process of democracy. We're not plotting a coup or anything. Yes, the adminsitration wants the government formed by Hamas to fail -- but why should we want a government composed of people who are commited to the destruction of the state of Israel to succeed? The Palestinian people decided to give power to the political wing of a terrorist organization, for goodness sake. If Poland elected a terrorist party commited to the destruction of the state of Germany, would we be obligated to support that government as well, just because it was democratically chosen?

Democracy, in the long term, is always a good thing. In the short term (see recent election/reelection of GW Bush), people sometimes make unfortuanate choices.

Posted by: mjk on February 17, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

From the 10/31/05 SIGIR report:

"A lack of accurate knowledge of Iraq's pre-war conditions....planning assumptions proved invalid"

"...CPA had no formal program for manpower planning"

"...the team may have filled some staff positions in CPA with ideologically motivated but inexperienced young people who lacked experience in their ...areas."

I haen't heard Bremer address these issues in flogging his book which he hopes can rescue his tattered reputation.

Posted by: TJM on February 17, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

"Well, actually, the other two places that haven't prospered are Laos and Cambodia. Coincidentally they, along with Vietnam, were the countries that suffered the most from the American military adventure."

So Japan didn't "suffer" from American military adventure ?

Here I thought you might be getting serious.

Silly me.

"So I suppose what that tells me is that if you want to prosper, suffering an American military occupation and getting bogged down in a thirty years war that kills millions of your people isn't a good way to go about it."

That describes Japan pretty well. They didn't prosper ? I guess they don't fit your model of America is always wrong so we'll ignore them. You guys are a trip.

Posted by: Stefan

Who I thought was growing up. Oh well.

Posted by: Mike K on February 17, 2006 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

mjk: The Palestinian people decided to give power to the political wing of a terrorist organization, for goodness sake.

The American people decided to give power to the political wing of a terrorist organization, the American Radical Right.

So, basically, everybody else in the world is justified in trying to undermine the current American regime by any means.

And, there is a difference between "supporting" democracy and actively working against democratically-elected regimes; there is a difference between opposing the policies of a democratically-elected regime (see conservative policy towards the French, albeit a dishonest and wrongheaded one) and trying to undermine that regime.

Finally, American conservatives have a long, long, long history of opposing non-terrorist democratic regimes simply because those regimes support economic and social policies, not terrorism, that conservatives find objectionable.

They've also conveniently identified various groups as "terrorists" regardless of whether the term is justified in a particular case or not (although few would deny it applies to Hamas).

Therefore, they have no credibility when they claim they are opposing democracy only because they believe Hamas to be a terrorist organization intent on bad acts.

I spit on their claims that they are honestly opposed to Hamas because they are terrorists.

Indeed, I think they wanted Hamas to come into power.

Rice did everything possible to ensure that would happen; or, she's the most incompetent Secretary of State ever.

Come to think of it . . . the latter could well be true.

In any event, the Bush administration wants to keep the "GWOT" hot forever so they can justify their extraordinary grab for totalitarian power in the US, not to mention around the world.

I wouldn't be surprised if the GOP were funding Hamas, al Queda, and the insurgents - after all, they funded the Taliban, Saddam himself, Noriega, Pinochet, Bautista, Rios Montt, the Shah, and dozens of other tyrants who were brutally murdering, torturing, raping, and depriving their peoples.

Posted by: Advocate for God on February 17, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K: Who I thought was growing up.

Children like you don't get to evaluate whether others are "grown up" or not.

Mike K: Silly me.

I'm glad you are starting to recognize your own faults.

It's the first step to recovery - recognize the illness.

Posted by: Advocate for God on February 17, 2006 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

How does cutting off funding to Hamas constitute undermining democracy? One of the tenets of democracy is to have voters feel the consequences of their choices. If the voters choose a government which results in a cutoff of funding from other sources, then the voters can determine whether Hamas was an opitimal political entity to run their government, and if Hamas can be made to allow further free elections (that's the tricky part), it can be replaced by a governing entity which provides better outcomes for everybody. Will it work? Got me, but continuing down the path of subsidizing despotism is almost sure to lead to disaster.

Press hard for free elections in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere, and then do a good job of dilineating the differences in having peaceful trading relations with the people of the United States, as opposed to being in a state of war with the people of the United States. I don't think an overwhelming majority of the people of living in Saudi Arabia and Egypt are entirely immune to learning a fairly stark lesson in alternatives, although we would have to overcome some of the know-nothings in this country as well, who would see, say, allowing Egyptian good to enter this country unimpeded as a bad thing.

The people of Saudi Arabia, if they were truly to gain access to their oil reserves, would be faced with a pretty simple decision: would they wish to sell their reserves to the highest bidder in an orderly fashion, or live in perpetual conflict with much more powerful entities. Any who think those much more powerful entities would consist only of the U.S. is sadly mistaken.

Posted by: Will Allen on February 17, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK
How does cutting off funding to Hamas constitute undermining democracy?

Cutting of funding to the Palestinian Authority not based on substantive acts of that government but based on the refusal of the political party with the most power after the last election to change elements of its platform is not undermining democracy in the abstract, however, it serves to undermine it in practice by failing to encourage it.

Were the US, Israel, etc., to starkly warn the PA against the kind of substantive acts that it fears based the Hamas charter, and at the same time accepted the results and promoted continuing to deal with the PA on the same basis it has based on substantive actions, it would have advanced the cause of democracy.

The first requirement for the US to support democracy is for the US to respect the continuity of democratic regimes across electoral changes of power.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 17, 2006 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

If I understand you correctly, cmdicely, in order to support democracy, the U.S. must not alter it's policies in response to the spoken goals and avowed beliefs of those who win elections in other countries. We'll have to agree to disagree on that. The first requirement of the U.S. to support democracy is to respect voters' sufficiently to treat them as adults who can be expected to bear the consequences of the choices they make. Now, if you wish to make the case that the U.S. is inconsistent and often inept in clearly communicating what certain consequences will be, I would agree in many cases, although I doubt it would have made much difference here.

Posted by: Will Allen on February 17, 2006 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

Me: So I suppose what that tells me is that if you want to prosper, suffering an American military occupation and getting bogged down in a thirty years war that kills millions of your people isn't a good way to go about it.

That describes Japan pretty well. They didn't prosper ? I guess they don't fit your model of America is always wrong so we'll ignore them. You guys are a trip.

No, it doesn not describe Japan pretty well, you fucking moron. For god's sakes, try to read some history sometime, you incredible ignoramus, because it gets more and more tiresome to have to educate you each time you drag yourself. Do you even bother to think about this, or do you just sort of bang your head down on the keyboard and hope that the resulting spatter of symbols on the screen makes up some sort of coherent sentence?

Herewith, the Complete Idiot's Guide to the Difference between WWII and the Vietnam War:

1. Japan: modern industrial capitalist society with strong economic base and history as a parliamentary democracy, beaten by America in relatively short war (less than four years). Occupied by America in completely peaceful occupation (zero American casualties) and then built up by the US as a counterweight to China and the Soviet Union.

2. Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam. Colonial, largely agragrian societies with no history of parliamentary democracy and very little industry or modern infrastructure, leeched off by France for years for their cheap labor and raw materials. Suffer from near constant warfare and military occupation from time Japanese invasion in 1941 to anti-French resistance in 1950s to war with the US until the mid 70s, plus vast genocide engineered by Khmer Rouge, a period of over thirty years. No history of peaceful occupation by the US, because when the US was there in was engaged in an all out war. No outside power trying to build them up, quite the opposite, in fact.

See the difference, you complete fuckwit? No? Then have a couple more shots and crawl back into your hole.

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan -- I don't see why you have to be so abusive.

Posted by: mjk on February 17, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan -- I don't see why you have to be so abusive.

Oh, sorry, because he responds so well to logic and reason...Mike K is the sort of well-off old idiot who's made it through life on the backs of others, whom he looks down on from his country club perch, and convinces that the pablum he hears regurgitated on talk radio is somehow his own idea, hard-won from life's bitter experience. In short, he's a fool, who comes here every day to repeat lies and to try to bamboozle and deceive, and so abuse is all he deserves.

Posted by: Stefan on February 17, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK
If I understand you correctly, cmdicely, in order to support democracy, the U.S. must not alter it's policies in response to the spoken goals and avowed beliefs of those who win elections in other countries.

You understand me incorrectly. Of course the US can adopt policy stances informed by the rhetoric, avowed or perceived beliefs, or other characteristics of leaders and factions in other countries.

However, expressly conditioning major aspects of relations with a state not on the substantive actions or failings of the government, but instead on the political documents of a faction (or similar political rhetoric), delegitimizes the democratic process by failing to treat the government as the appropriate institution whose actions it should be concerned with, rather than internal -- even dominant -- factions. The people choose the government, and are responsible for how that government, as a government, behaves.

The first requirement of the U.S. to support democracy is to respect voters' sufficiently to treat them as adults who can be expected to bear the consequences of the choices they make.

The first requirement to support democracy is to treat democratic governments as atomic institutions with continuity which express the will of their people through their actions as governments. While it is appropriate for the US to express concern for action and rhetoric of individuals and factions that are not actions of the government, and to take those into account when weighing policy, the policy of the US should not treat any faction -- even the most powerful -- in its factional activities and rhetoric -- as the agent of the people generally and treating the people, or their government, principally on the basis of factional actions that are not substantive policy actions of the government.

In regimes not based on substantive democracy, it makes sense to not distinguish between the leading faction, the leading individual, and the state; OTOH, to support and foster democratic institutions, it is necessary to make distinctions between factions and the state, and treat the state based on its actions or omissions as a state, not those of factions.

Now, there may be times when failure to control the substantive actions of a faction is a legitimate basis for action against a state -- that is a substantive failure of the state. But the rhetoric or platform of a faction, even the leading faction, where it does not translate into untoward action by the state is not a cause to punish the state, and punishing the state for it undermines the cause of democracy by delegitimizing the state as a continuous institution responsible to the people that is distinct from the particular factions and individuals in power at any given time.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 17, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

Despite the furious artillery fire from the left and right trolls on here, this is a very complicated set of issues worthy of discussion.

I don't support George Bush and did not support the war (very mild phrasing here), but the situation in Iraq and in Palestine are quite similar, leaving George Bush's behavior and how we got here out in both cases. They both look pretty grim right now, but they are both - not better situations right now, but situations that offer the opportunity of evolving into better situations than previously. To clarify:

Old Iraq, old Palestine:
Situation sucked and showed minimal prospects for improvement.

New Iraq, new Palestine:
Situation still sucks, for them, for us, in general. However, there is a clearer path to the situation not sucking then previously.

We were never going to win the War on Terror through military force alone: even Donald Rumsfield is quick to say that. Eventually there is going to have to be accomodation, negotiation and agreement. This has nothing to do with morals, principles, or jingoist outrage, just reality: we can't destroy radical Islam (with physical force alone), radical Islam can't destroy us, therefore the situation of war will only end with some explicit or implicit agreement, or mutual changes in behavior - which is the same thing.

Now, we can't negotiate with Al-Quieda. I know that as well as anyone. Who did we have to negotiate with before? Yasser Arafat and Saddamn Hussein - they were in a position to crush any radical islamists interested in negotiating - but negotiating with them was worthless, because they were not the people at war with us. They were to varying degress complicit, passive, not helping, creating the conditions that led to radical Islam, etc, but they were not directly those we were/are at war with.

Now they are gone - and in place are, or will be, radical islamists that we will not be politically unable to negotiate with.

The old arab regimes are a roadblock in the way of direct contact with the people who are running the show against us. Now, through a combination of carrots and sticks, we can act on them directly - now that they are in the open on the world stage, now that they are tied to and responsible civilian populations.

Do we like them? no. do they like us? no. It doesn't matter - what matters is arriving at the end of explicit violence, as a first step.

A good parallel is the Israel's invasion of Lebanon. The good thing about it was that it ended - accidentally, because Israel would have loved to prop it up - the corrupt, authoritarian status quo. After a decade or two of carnage, the stagnant system was smashed, Israel's troops were out, the radicals were in charge - and now the border with Lebanon is quiet. Lebanon has become like Syria and Jordan: out of the game.
The next step is syria and iran.
but not for invasion - note that Hezbollah would have gone on blowing up Israelis until the last person in Lebanon was dead, until Israelis pulled the troops out.

The next step is for natural democratic change in these countries, without a U.S. invasion.

In the meantime, we should get the hell out of Iraq. There will be no political stability or economic recovery until we leave, because the sunnis will not end the insurgency until we leave. They won't end it _immediately_ after we leave, either. But once we leave, they will fight it out with the Shiites, and the shiites will force them to come to terms... or destroy them.
We don't have the shiites' freedom of action on this matter.

Posted by: glasnost on February 17, 2006 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely is right, will, but there's a much simpler way of making the case.

In politics, which war is a continuation of, you won't get everything you want. You get change one piece at a time, so you have to know exactly what your priorities are. You can really only base your sticks, your disincentives, on one focus at a time. You can try to use sticks in a bunch of different directions at once: it just doesn't work very well.

Now, what's our priority with Hamas?

Enforcing that they never again make nasty threats to the Israeli state?
Or, enforcing that they do not blow up Israeli citizens?

If you try and get everything at once, the regime will consider the internal costs of change higher than the external costs of anything you can do to them.

We've seen about a million example of this in foreign policy. Pre-2003 Iraq comes to mind. It wasn't enough to teach them never to invade another state again, after the Gulf War (itself the exact opposite of our message re Iran, in the 80's): no, we had to demand to ransack their country for a decade to eliminate WMD held by several other countries in the region already. But even that wasn't enough: we had to stack our explicit goals for that full of implicit goals of getting someone into Saddam's palace and bringing his head back in a Ziploc bag.

I'm not even making the case that the inspections were the wrong choice: I'm simply saying that never was our policy crafted to create any realistic likelihood of Saddamn's cooperation. I'm not saying we should have gone back to the 80's when Reagan kissed his ass no matter how many people he tortured. I'm saying we should have had a middle ground in promoting appropriate behavior through measured carrots and sticks - focusing on a few specific goals re behavior- and stuck to them relentlessly.
About 1000 miles away from what we actually did.

Posted by: glasnost on February 17, 2006 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

For the same social reasons right-wing zealots win in the Deep South in America, Islamic extremists win elections in the Middle East.

It's called ignorance by the masses.

Posted by: Mimi Schaeffer on February 17, 2006 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

I'm fine with that; I did not support launching the Iraq adventure and I believe we need to make a phased withdrawal over the course of this year.

Even so, I'm all for promoting democratic elections in the Middle East, even IF they result in anti-American governments. The current dictatorships have no legitimacy or popular support. I would rather deal with governments that reflect the views of the people.

I know the argument against supporting democratic elections in Middle Eastern countries; but the alternative plan of action - trying to prop up decrepid regimes and develop the countries economically and politically - is micromanagement that is simply unfeasible. If the US could micromanage outcomes like that in the real world there wouldn't be any global conflicts.

Moreover, simply recognizing and acknowledging anti-American governments - provided security guarantees against aggression - will take out a key factor in anti-Americanism.

As for the argument that democracy isn't going to work in an undeveloped country - India has worked out fine.

That all said, I agree that rapid elections and nothing else are not conducive to building democracies; after all, plenty of countries had elections then fell into dictatorship (including most of the Arab countries which all had regular elections for decades in an unstable political environment). And I certainly don't think imposing it through war is a good idea. I do think we need to promote economic growth ALONGSIDE political reform and tie aid very strongly to adhering to democratic ideals.

But, for example, if the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power in Egypt, fine. We should engage them as the elected leaders of Egypt.

Posted by: Andrew on February 17, 2006 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

Adding my voice to,

openness to the possibility that their aims once they are in power could differ from their aims as opposition groups.

Stifling Hamas without giving them a chance is no different than stifling democracy without giving it a chance.

Getting hung up on the words in their charter is prejudicial, unrealistic and imperious.

Not only that, but it pays to know the difference between words and actions.

Posted by: obscure on February 17, 2006 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry to contradict you but we arent supporting the current Pakistani government because of any alleged help in the war on terror. It's simple: if the government falls, the islamists take over a country has a ready made nukes. Unless we can take the nukes quickly with special forces we have no other option but to support Musharraf and pray. Scary.

Posted by: clyde on February 17, 2006 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

glasnost, cmdicely, there is merit in what you write, if one belives there is a chance of most of the membership of Hamas modifying it's tactics, and refraining from engaging in the deliberate murder of civilians with great consistency. I see no reason to believe this, therefore I see no reason in delaying the education process of the population of Palestine as to how extremely costly, even considerably more costly that what theyv'e been through already, it is to elect Hamas to run their government. The idea is to create enough pain that alternatives to Hamas will arise, just as Hamas gained much wider support as disenchanment with Fatah grew. I wish to avoid having to wait 40 years for Hamas to become discredited, as was the case with Fatah. Cutting off subsidies immediately is a reasonable way to begin this process, although the same reasonable person must admit that situations of this difficulty lend no clear paths to success. Anybody who says they have any confidence as to how to work through this morass is a fool.

The danger, of course, is that Hamas will violently supress any potential competitors, thus preventing the economic pain suffered by the population from giving rise to an alternative. See Castro, Fidel, who is able to paint himself as heroically standing up to the U.S. largely due to the fact that he can have people imprisoned for saying, "Hey, y'know, we could all live better if we held elections and thus gained the ability to trade with the economic giant 90 miles to the north." This danger, however, is hardly any larger by the U.S. no longer providing subsidies. If the people of Palestine are able to choose their government in the future, whether the U.S. provided subsidies will not be the critical factor.

Posted by: Will Allen on February 17, 2006 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

Ms. Rice: 'Iraq economy to be destroyed after Regime Change'. But senator that was a hitorical document containing no actionable information. bla bla bla bla
Posted by: lib on February 17, 2006 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Hey lib ~ you got a link on/for that? This is not a challenge or confrontation. I am truly interested in reading the background doc(s). If you do and you can either provide a link or something I can copy and paste in the URL address bar, I'd appreciate it!

Posted by: jcricket on February 17, 2006 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

It occurs to me that the people in power now here in the U.S. should be very pleased. Their fundamentalist, radical, and reactionary vision won! Every day, they seem to make more converts. Every day the world moves closer to their mind-set.

Seriously, what's the difference? One group of extremists claims to worship Christ. The other claims to worship Allah. They both want to move the world back and they both seem to be succeeding. Yeah, freedom!

Posted by: LAS on February 17, 2006 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

a joke reminiscent of the Lockhorns or Beetle Bailey,

The Lockhorns! Comic gold!

Posted by: craigie on February 17, 2006 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

Hamas is in for a very tough time. They are returning $50 million to the US that was meant to support their government . Israel will stop sending the money collected from customs and other payments. Unlike Cuba, Hamas will have to get monetary help from Syria and Iran. Getting into the territories will be tough as Israel seals it's borders with Gaza and the West Bank. It's is alledged some of the lower functionaries of the PA left Gaza after the election with over $70 million in PA funds. I think you are trading one set of thieves for another.
While Fatah shined the west on about peace and negotiations, that will be almost impossible now. Hamas and it's leaders have made very public commitments to their own constitution that calls for the destruction of Isreal.
We are all ready seeing Isreal respond to rocket attacks with artillery barrages. How much longer before the barrages start lasting for extended periods of time? How long will the Palestinians put up with being locked out of jobs in Israel due to Hamas coming to power?
I think you will see a civil war in Gaza. The winner will then want to restart negotiations again. But they will have to submit to some stringent rules set down by Israel. By now, they are getting fed up with the duplicity of the past PA admins. and years of frustration.
It's either that scenario or an all out war by the IDF against the PA and the Palestinians are the ones who get pushed into the sea.

Posted by: Meatss on February 18, 2006 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

In my country extremist Christianist parties win power all the time, I do not like it, but have to live with it. No amount of electoral, economic, or institutional reform seems to affect the electorate motivated by belief and no realistic third party is likely to emerge anytime soon to save us from these millennial ideologues.

Posted by: Hostile on February 18, 2006 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Europe will engage Islam. America will engage Islam.

Israel will absorb Islam.

The US backed the wrong horse - with our leaders bought off and force fed faulty intel by an internal enemy.

Michael Ledeen should be in prison for the Iraqi intel scam -- but that same internal enemy has an ethnocentric bond unlike anything practiced by average Americans or average Chinese for that matter.

Our internal enemy poisons the well of information using considerable influence and resources to hide its influence, and passes laws in Europe that make discovery very difficult.

Imagine an enemy within, so powerful, and invisible that no one dare speak its name - for fear of professional ruin, or in some cases imprisonment.

Michael Ledeen once said - You want to know who is in charge in any given country? -- find out who you cannot speak of..... THAT's who is in charge.

Of course he has a trained eye for such things, he has been part of the cabal to harness the American military machine to wars on Islam. He is part of the cabal who micromanages red state racism - and directs it toward very specific demographics.

Our movies, TV, and newspapers tell us Iran is a greater enemy than Iraq. Our movies, TVs and newspapers tell us terrorists are Muslim and Aryan... mostly Germans [sometimes French]

Our TVs and Movies and newspapers tell us that rural whites are ignorant, marriage is for suckers, and that Christmas should be outlawed in malls and government buildings.

Priests are pedophiles - but rabbis are endowed with saintly goodness....and Imams are devils.

We are free to denigrate and quantify group behavior in Muslims, Chinese, French, and Germans - any aryan really.... but to suggest that Jews might share characteristics or ethnocentric bias is enough to send you to jail in 5 countries...

We may not quantify group behavior by Jews -- but group behavior by, say, Germans is very very well known.... force fed to our children for 70 years...

Germans ? evil... Muslims? ... more evil.

French? ... evil Red State whites? ... evil.

-- but birds alight on the outstretched arms of saintly Jews... woodland creatures nuzzle their toes.... and they bring peace and goodness to the world.... at least that's what they tell me....

Posted by: Ashley on February 18, 2006 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

How does who is likely to win elections in the ME affect the calculus of how worthwhile it was (considering the cost) of "promoting democracy in the Middle East"? I suppose it could end up in negative territory...

Posted by: Neil' on February 18, 2006 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Ashley:

Bitch, you are one sickass anti-semitic fuck.

And I speak as a philo-semite (semite in the broadest sense) who is second to none in his zeal at whacking Islamophobes and criticizing Likudniks and the Israeli settler movement.

Don't post here. Trolls are supposed to be amusing, not disgusting. Take your updated Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Miami Beach and get outta dodge, you contemptible "Aryan" vermin, you.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 18, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Let's raise the level of discourse. Craigie especially, try vintage comic goodness www.progressiveboink.com

Posted by: opit on February 18, 2006 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK
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