Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Everybody Just Slooooow Down...

It would be nice if democracy spread throughout the Middle East. It'd be great if we had something to do with it. But it bothers me when Republicans, right-wingers, and some left-wingers (like Bill Maher for instance) insist, "Hey, Bush was right! Our invasion of Iraq is changing things in the Middle East!"

University of Michigan history professor and frequent NPR contributor Juan Cole does a great job of throwing a little cold water on the Bush administration's democracy boner. His basic premise is "Let's not get ahead of ourselves and think everything is changing politically, and let's be careful what we attribute to the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent elections." Some highlights:

The argument for change through inspiration has little evidence to underpin it. The changes in the region cited as dividends of the Bush Iraq policy are either chimeras or unconnected to Iraq. And the Bush administration has shown no signs that it will push for democracy in countries where freedom of choice would lead to outcomes unfavorable to U.S. interests.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak recently announced that he would allow other candidates to run against him in the next presidential election. Yet only candidates from officially recognized parties will be allowed. Parties are recognized by Parliament, which is dominated by Mubarak's National Democratic Party. This change moves Egypt closer to the system of presidential elections used in Iran, where only candidates vetted by the government can run.

I think we should all remember that Iraq had "elections" under Saddam, they were just only allowed to vote for Saddam. Elections don't necessarily equal democracy. I mean, look at Florida...

Has Bush's direct pressure produced results, outside Iraq -- where it has produced something close to a failed state? His partisans point to the Libyan renunciation of its nuclear weapons program and of terrorism. Yet Libya, hurt by economic sanctions, had been pursuing a rapprochement for years. Nor has Gadhafi moved Libya toward democracy.

As with the so-called municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, the change in presidential elections is little more than window-dressing. It was provoked not by developments in Iraq but rather by protests by Egyptian oppositionists who resented Mubarak's jailing of a political rival in January.

The dramatic developments in Lebanon since mid-February were set off by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Do we all hope things turn out in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Israel? Of course. If they do, will it be because of, or in spite of, the actions of this administration? I guess we'll have to wait and see. As far as Bush (and his administration) being right, he wasn't. He was wrong about almost everything, in fact. He was wrong about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, he was wrong about Iraq being a threat to the US and to neighboring Middle Eastern countries, he was wrong about Iraq having ties to Al-Qaeda, he was wrong when he said the US would be welcomed as liberators, he was wrong when he said we'd be out in six months to a year, he was wrong when he said "Mission Accomplished," he was wrong when he said the cost to American tax-payers would be nil because Iraqi oil would fund the country's liberation and reconstruction... do I really need to go on?

1 comment:

Jane Hamsher said...

I don't know if Bush is responsible or not for the announced (real or imagined) elections in Egypt, but considering that there have been very brave Egyptians like Nawal El Saadawi working toward this end for ages, forced to live and work in exile, away from their families, it it pretty friggin' arrogant to run in and take all the credit away from them. She calls it a new kind of imperialism -- where BushCo. can't take their oil, so they appopriate their struggle for freedom.

I like your blog a lot and link to it on mine, just stopped by to say hi, you write really well.