Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Credibility and Power 

Tigerhawk posts expansively on the reformulation of American Foreign Policy in the Bush II Administration and its related influence on the expansion of democracy in the middle east and elsewhere. The question being debated in many quarters is the impact of our military triumph in Iraq on the peaceful expansion of democracy. The problem with empirically proven results dumped in the lap of nonbelievers is that it makes the nonbeliever either acknowledge being wrong -- never easy -- or casts them into a state of perpetual denial. Many continued to believe the earth was flat long after it had been proven round, but after decades, maybe a century, most people came around to it. Heretics they called them. Some were burned for embracing the obvious before the reactionaries figured it out. Fortunately, we live in a more benign world today.

I'll be less nuanced and perhaps a little more strident than Tigerhawk. History books will ultimately write that the expansion of peaceful democratic movements on the heels of the war in Iraq came about as a direct consequence of the most credible projection of American power since WWII. Kennan's strategy of containment of the USSR, while understandable in light of the duration and brutality of WWII, did ultimately condemn hundreds of millions of people to the fate of autocrats around the world, whether it was Stalin, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, or Mao. Furthermore, we explicitly supported non-communist tyrants like Pinochet or the Shah as containment bulwarks. And we failed to provide support to democracy movements in Hungary (1956), Czechoslavakia (1968) and China (1991). Many thousands died because American policy did not rescue them from the iron hand of tyrants. Even in 1991, when we committed billions and American lives to the First Persian Gulf War, we left the tyrant in place to again kills thousands of his people -- this after he had already gassed the Kurds and sufficiently threatened Israel with nuclear devastation that the Israelis felt compelled to flatten Osirak, Saddam's nuclear project. So advocates of liberty inside of tyrannically run countries did not have an active friend or protector in America - until 2003 in Iraq. Until then, we hadn't dumped containment in favor of something less cynical, although the Soviet Union was long gone. We even referred actively to our strategy for dealing with Saddam as containment, even though the notion of treating Saddam like the USSR is really quite silly.

In 2003 in Iraq, we upended a fellow who had miscalculated his fate, but not as stupidly as some might think, because we had no record of sacrificing blood and treasure to extend liberty. Osama thinks he won the Cold War, not us, because the Wahhabis spilled more blood against the Soviets in Afghanistan than we ever did. We spilled none. And when we pulled our guys out of Somalia, and didn't properly respond to our embassy bombings and walked away from Iran, we left ourselves with no credibility. Power becomes meaningless if not used effectively, and with political will and purpose.

There is a reason these democracy movements are happening now and not being crushed by the local tyrant. None of Assad, or Qaddafi or some other petty thug want to be pulled from a spiderhole, photographed in their briefs or getting their teeth cleaned. Nobody envies Uday and Qusay (anymore). Osama and Zarqawi may be legendary heroes to some freaks, but to most thoughtful people they are cockroaches and aspiring tyrants crawling around from cave to cave, running for their lives, having midnight surgery in a dirty room to remove shrapnel from some sensitive body part. We are CREDIBLE. Really CREDIBLE. Nobody of any import really longs to tangle with America at the moment. Even Chirac and Schroeder may be having some regrets. It doesn't seem that Blair and Howard are.

Today, advocates of freedom in these cesspools of tyranny feel protected in a way they never have before. And they are testing the tyrants resolve to roll out the troops. They would never have done that before the Iraq War. Just look at the empirical evidence...they never did.


By Blogger geoffrobinson, at Thu Jun 02, 03:02:00 PM:

Very good post. It's not just credibility. It also is weakness/strength. We are weak, terrorists are strong...plays into the psyche of the region.  

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