The Fukuyama-Garfinkle Muddle on Terrorism and Fostering Democracy

December 31, 2008

[First published Aapril 6, 2006] Francis Fukuyama And Adam Garfinkle wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal titled “A Better Idea”. They argue, “Promote democracy and prevent terrorism–but don’t conflate the two.”

Professor Fukuyama currently Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International_Political_Economy and Director of the International Development Program at the Johns_Hopkins_University”Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He is best known for his, The End of History and the Last Man. Professor Garfinkle is editor of the American Interest, and has taught U.S. foreign policy and Middle East politics at the University of Pennsylvania, Haverford College, and Tel Aviv University.

Any op-ed by such high-powered academics is worth reading, thinking about, and responding to, which I will do seriatim. They wrote:

The Wall Street Journal recently asked: “Anyone out there have a better idea” than the Bush administration’s policy of high-profile democracy promotion in the Arab and Muslim worlds as a means to fight terrorism? Well, yes, there is one. That better idea consists of separating the struggle against radical Islamism from promoting democracy in the Middle East, focusing on the first struggle, and dramatically changing our tone and tactics on the democracy promotion front, at least for now.

RJR: Promoting democracy and fighting terrorism are one in the same. Democracies do not as a matter of policy promote or sponsor terrorism, understood as murdering unarmed and innocent men, women, and children to promote a political or religious cause.

The essential problem with the administration’s approach is that it conflates two issues that are separate. The first has to do with violent, antimodern radical Islamism (on display both in the reaction to the Danish cartoons and in the mosque bombing in Samarra); the second concerns the dysfunctionality of political and social institutions in much of the Arab world.

RJR: The answer to both is still democracy, as many Arab liberals, to their personal endangerment, have been trying to point out. On this, see Barry Rubin’s, The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East.

It is, of course, the administration’s thesis that the latter condition causes the former. It is also its contention that U.S. Cold War policies of support for Arab “friendly tyrants” are mainly to blame for Arab authoritarianism. Thus did the president say in November 2003–since repeated several times by Condoleezza Rice–that we sacrificed freedom for stability in the Middle East for 60 years, and got neither.

RJR: I agree with Bush and Rice on this.

It follows from this view that if the United States stops supporting authoritarian regimes and instead does all it prudently can to bring about democratic ones, our terrorist problem will be dramatically reduced if not altogether solved.

RJR: Yes, I think terrorism would be sharply reduced, but not necessarily solved, although that is possible also.

Authoritarian political cultures do function as enablers of radical Islamism, but the essential cause of the latter–today as before, in dozens of historical cases concerning violent millenarian movements–is the difficulty that some societies and individuals have in coming to terms with social change. That is why rapid modernization is likely to produce more short-term radicalism, not less.

Muslims in democratic Europe are as much a part of this problem as those in the Middle East. This is not a trivial point; it is a central one that directly challenges a key tenet of the administration’s view.

What the administration sees as one problem ought to be seen as two. Radical Islamism needs to be dealt with separately from democracy promotion. This involves doing everything we can to ensure the political success of the governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also involves killing, capturing or otherwise neutralizing hard-core terrorists in many parts of the world, and keeping dangerous materials out of their hands, in what will look less like a war than like police and intelligence operations.

RJR: Modernization and democracy are not the same thing, but democracy is the best system for handling the stresses and strains of modernization. As to the point about Europe, the terrorism by emigrant or Muslim citizens is directed at their democratic governments, while terrorism is not supported nor knowingly encouraged by these governments. Create such democracies in Arab lands, and in time, terrorism against such governments will wither away for lack of foreign and domestic support.

Stretch one’s mind on this. Imagine that Iran, and all Arab states, are democratic. From whence, then, would the radical Islamist and terrorists come? From dissatisfied domestic Muslims? But democracies have always had dissatisfied radical non-Muslim terrorist groups of some kind, even terrorists, as for example, the radical leftists during the Cold War and bomb throwing anarchists before WWI. But, democracy has been robust enough to handle them until they disappear for want of governmental and popular support.

But the threat above all lies on the level of ideas. Just as it proved possible to stigmatize and eventually eliminate slavery from mainstream global norms without having first to wait for the mass advent of liberal democracy, it should be possible to effectively stigmatize jihadi terrorism without having first to midwife democracies from Morocco to Bangladesh. The United States and its Western allies should be helping genuine, traditional and pious Muslims to reassert their dominance over a beautiful and capacious religious civilization in the face of a well-financed assault by extremist thugs.

RJR: Beautiful and capacious religious civilization? This is multiculturalism rearing its blind and wooly head. Nothing beautiful about a civilization that largely supports the outright murder of people en masse because they are non-Muslims, or secular Muslims. This is an aspect of Islam, as currently practiced in Arab nations. Anyway, this seems to ignore that the authoritarian Arab dictatorships use the Islamists to fight foreign pressure for liberalization, and to continue to repress their people.

….To put it mildly, the Iraq war has not increased the prestige of the U.S. and American ideas like liberal democracy in the Middle East.

RJR: Of course, the thug regimes, and those that through corruption and rich appointments hugely benefit from them, do not like the war, nor do the Islamists and terrorists. Nonetheless, the process of democratization of the Iraqi people has generated considerable questioning of the status quo by the people, and a movement toward democracy that had not existed before.

….The Bush administration has indeed opened up new space for debate and political participation in the Arab and Muslim worlds. But recent elections in Iran, Egypt, Palestine, and Iraq have either brought to power or increased the prestige of profoundly illiberal groups like Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood; even our putative friends in the Shiite alliance that did well in last December’s Iraqi elections have been busy institutionalizing an intolerant Islamist order in the parts of Iraq they control.

Administration principals speak of creating public space for dissent and debate lest it all be driven into the mosque, with the risk that this “might” bring illiberal groups into power. The tide of public opinion today is not running in favor of pro-Western secular liberals, however, but rather the Islamists. In many Arab countries this means that premature democratic elections will most definitely and predictably bring the mosque into the public square while driving out all other forms of expression. The tolerant are making democratic way for the intolerant, who in turn are very likely to block the possibility of any reverse flow of authority. How such dynamics promote liberal democracy in the longer run is hard to see. More likely, U.S. policies that foster pro-Islamist outcomes will delay political liberalization, help the wrong parties in the great debates ongoing in Muslim societies and, quite possibly therefore, make our terrorist problem worse.

RJR: I’m surprised that Fukuyama buys into this. Where before in the Middle East there were bloody thug regimes, mass murder, the persecution of liberals, and no freedom of speech, there have now been elections in a number of Arab countries, the establishment of parliaments, and some democratization. This is a long process that may involve two-steps forward a one-step back, as it did in the growth of democracy in the United State, Britain, and France.

We need to change tactics in the way we go about supporting Middle Eastern democracy. The administration’s highly visible embrace of democracy promotion as a component of its national security strategy (as outlined in last week’s official document on the subject), and its telegraphing ahead of time of intentions to bring about regime change in places like Iran, only hurt the cause of real democrats in the region. The effort to push countries toward early national elections, given the rising Islamist tide today, will invariably force us into the appearance of further hypocrisy when they produce results we don’t like.

RJR: There is nothing in democratic theory that says we should like the outcome of democratic elections. If the results are another Hamas win, so be it. The people have spoken, and that is what democracy elections are about.

Islamist parties in Egypt and Palestine have gained popularity in large measure not because of their foreign policy views, but because of their stress on domestic social welfare issues like education, health, and jobs, and their stand against corruption. Fine, let them deliver; and if they don’t or turn out to be corrupt themselves, they will face vulnerabilities of their own not far down the road.

RJR: This is my argument as well, but what Fukuyama and Garfinkle seem not to see is the inconsistency of this with much of what they write previously.

Democracy promotion should remain an integral part of American foreign policy, but it should not be seen as a principal means of fighting terrorism. We should stigmatize and fight radical Islamism as if the social and political dysfunction of the Arab world did not exist, and we should shrewdly, quietly, patiently and with as many allies as possible promote the amelioration of that dysfunction as if the terrorist problem did not exist. It is when we mix these two issues together that we muddle our understanding of both, with the result that we neither defeat terrorism nor promote democracy but rather the reverse.

RJR: Rather, I must say that Fukuyama and Garfinkle are the ones muddled in their thinking on this. This is especially true because they fail to understand:

The role and power of the Arab and Iranian thug regimes in terrorism
The terrorists utter long run dependence on the support of these thug regimes.
The power of democratic freedom to end war, internal violence, and democide.
The effect of the ongoing democratization of Iraq and Bush’s Forward Strategy of Freedom on thug regimes in the Middle East, and particularly in helping liberal Arabs fight for freedom.

Still More Evidence For No Wars Between Democracies

December 31, 2008

Still, No Wars Between Democracies

[First published April 7, 2006] This morning I came across two blogs (here, and here) that relied on Matthew White’s page to dismiss the democratic peace. Since White continues to have influence on the democratic peace debate, I have a few words to say on his statistics.

Thanks to Dean Esmay for referring me to Matthew White’s page that raises questions about the democratic peace. I know of White’s useful Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century , and have used his statistics in my own research. He is careful, thoughtful, and systematic in what he presents, so when he questions the democratic peace, he has to be answered.

First, he presents the pros and cons about the various possible exceptions to the democratic peace. Keep in mind that the democratic peace, among other propositions, says that democracies don’t make war on each other. So, a true negative example thunders against this. Many have been proposed such exceptions, such as the War of 1812, the Boar War, WWI and Germany, democratic Finland being allied with Hitler in WWII, and the American Civil War. The sheer number of these exceptions and the weight of all the pros that White provides gives the impression that there has to be something to at least one or more of them. I have not studied them all, but those I have spent some time on in my own research, such as Germany in WWI, the case of Finland, the Boar War, and the Civil War simply cannot be treated as true exceptions. Others who have investigated these possible exceptions, in addition to the rest of them on White’s list, agree. In particular, I point you to Bruce Russett’s Grasping the Democratic Peace, James Lee Ray’s Democracy and International Conflict, and Spencer R. Weart’s, Never At War. Russett and Ray are political scientists, Weart is an historian. See also my democratic peace bibliography and my Q & A, which answers questions about some of these supposed exceptions (use the search command to find them).

After going through the exceptions, White concludes that the democratic peace depends on the definition of democracy and war. Researchers know this, of course, and have done different things about it. One is to collect their own data according to very clear, replicable criteria, while others have used data on democracy and war that have a wide reputation for their validity. Two sources especially have been important. One is the statistics on war collected by Melvin Small and J. David Singer, such as their data on wars from 1816 to 1992. I have used this in my research (see the table in the upper right here) as have hundreds of others. I should say that Small and Singer do not accept the democratic peace, which makes their classification of wars and democracies since 1816 particularly important. For democracy, in addition to the Small and Singer classification, which I am one of the few to use, there is the very popular and respected Polity data, which provides a scale for measuring the degree to which a country is democratic or autocratic. For an additional data set used in replicating the democratic peace, go here.

What is noteworthy about all these different data on democracy and war whose definitions or criteria slightly differ, is that those using them have come out with the same conclusions: there is a democratic peace. Replications have well established this to the point that students of international relations say it is the best-tested proposition in the field and almost has the status of a law.

Now, Mathew White lists 39 wars 1945-1999, and says that six “might have been between democracies,” which means they might not have been, but still he makes much of it in calculating the probability of this happening by chance. Rather than deal with his “might have been,” I’m going to actually collect data from two sources on democracy and international violence between countries. The source I will use for violence is compiled by Monty G. Marshall on “Major Episodes of Political Violence 1946-2004;” for democracy, I will use Freedom’s House’s “All Country Ratings from 1972-2003” (Sorry, I can’t find it on their stupidly remodeled website). Freedom House is not a proponent of the democratic peace (I don’t recall them ever mentioning it), so we can treat their data as independent of this proposition. Similarly with Marshall, who along with Ted Gurr, is the author of the Peace and Conflict Survey 2005 that I referred to in a former blog for ignoring the democratic peace.

From Marshall’s data, I’ll include as violence any that is indicated in his data as “international.” This is a hard test, since it includes violence short of war. From Freedom House, I will use their Free (F) rating of a country for a year as defining a liberal democracy in terms of civil liberties and political rights.

First, how many liberal democracies are there versus the total number of countries. For five years spans after 1972 and ending with 2003 (year, number of liberal democracies, total number of countries):

1972, 43, 148
1975, 39, 158
1980, 50, 162
1985, 55, 166
1990, 64, 165
1995, 75, 191
2000, 85, 192
2003, 87, 192

Now, for the classification of violence between types of regimes (F = free, PF = partly free, NF = not free, where F-F = between free countries, etc.)

F-F = 0
F-PF = 6
F-NF = 11
PF-PF = 5
PF-NF= 4
NF-NF= 20

So, between which countries is there the least violence? Between liberal democracies. Which countries are the most violent towards each other? Nondemocracies. All as precisely predicted by the democratic peace.

A note on statistical tests. Think of this subjectively. Here you have all these liberal democracies for each of thirty-one years, and none of them have violence between them. This is not a matter of just five or ten democracies, but by the end of the 1990s, there are over eighty. This number is not my reckoning, but that of Freedom House. And by Marshall’s data, in spite of so many democracies, none had violence between them vs. 20 cases of violence between the nonfree ones during these years.

Now, some people don’t like subjective statistics, so lets calculate the probability. There are 46 cases of international violence, and six alternative ways that could occur (e.g., F-F, or PF-PF). Let the number 1 stand for the F-F alternative, and the other five numbers for each of the others. Throw a six-numbered die 46 times, and what is the probability that it will never come up with a 1? The probability that it will not come up a 1 in one throw is 5/6. So, the probability of no 1 in 46 throws is 5/6 to the 46th power (assuming each case of violence is independent), which is a probability of happening by chance of 8.02E-36, or about the probability of one being hit by a meteor.

Obviously, there has to be something more than chance here. And what is that something? Surprise. It is two countries having democratic governments. That is, the democratic peace.

Link of Note

“DOES DEMOCRACY CAUSE PEACE?” By James Lee Ray. In Annual. Review of Political Science 1998. 1:27-46.

The idea that democratic states have not fought and are not likely to fight interstate wars against each other runs counter to the realist and neorealist theoretical traditions that have dominated the field of international politics. Since the mid-1970s, the generation of new data and the development of superior analytical techniques have enabled evaluators of the idea to generate impressive empirical evidence in favor of the democratic peace proposition, which is reinforced by substantial theoretical elaboration. Some critics argue that common interests during the Cold War have been primarily responsible for peace among democracies, but both statistical evidence and intuitive arguments cast doubt on that contention. It has also been argued that transitions to democracy can make states war-prone, but that criticism too has been responded to persuasively. The diverse empirical evidence and developing theoretical bases that support the democratic peace proposition warrant confidence in its validity.

RJR: It is Ray who should be referenced on the democratic peace, and not Matthew White. But, that is too much to expect out of the isolationist libertarian crowd that frequently quotes him.

Democratic Peace

Middle East Authoritarianism IS Getting Better—Look At The Data

December 30, 2008

[first published April 10, 2006] I have been pointing out that the invasion of Iraq, the struggle for democracy there, and the democratic election of a national government was having a pro-democratic impact on other Middle Eastern Muslim countries. Since my view was at sharp variance from what some realists and other foreign policy experts have been saying, I decided to test this.

I used Freedom House ratings, 1973-2005 (see below the map on the page), and tracked the year-by-year change in ratings for Muslim Middle Eastern (ME) countries. These ratings are on civil liberties (CL) and political rights (PR), and vary from 1 for the best (labeled FREE), to 7 for the worst (Not Free). I averaged these two ratings for each ME country for each year 1972-2005, and included the latest for 2006 (see above link). I then averaged all the averages for a year, which gave me a measure of the progress of freedom in the ME. The lower the annual average the more democratic freedom in the region.

The chart below shows the results (if the chart doesn’t show on your browser, see it here):

The list of nations whose ratings were averaged is shown on the left. Each dot in the chart is one annual average of all these countries CL and PR ratings. The higher the average the worse off is democratic freedom in the region. As can be seen, there was a growing improvement until 1978, when the growing traditional and jihadist Islamists groups battled authoritarian governments for control over society, and as a result the ME dictatorships hardened their control of politics and human rights. This control reached its height in 1994, when the democratic wave in Eastern Europe with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 began to be reflected in the ME. Authoritarianism eased off then. This movement toward greater freedom accelerated with the fear of American action engendered by 9/11, and the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, and headed steeply down with the invasion of Iraq in March of the next year, the subsequent effort to democratize the country, and Bush’s announced Forward Strategy of Freedom with pressure on these countries to liberalize.

The straight line angling upwards in the chart is a bivariate regression line. It says that the overall tendency in the ME, 1973-2006 was toward greater repression and elimination of civil liberties and political rights. But, then, there is obviously coherent movement around this trend. To determine this, I calculated a 4th degree polynomial regression fit to the points, which clearly shows that there is now a sharp decline in authoritarianism. This has far to go before the region becomes democratic, which would mean an average of slightly more that 2, but it is moving away from an average of 6 or 7, which is totalitarianism at its worst.

What countries account for the improvement from 2001 to 2006? In political rights, it is Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, and Yemen; in civil liberties, it is Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Yemen. In the United Arab Emirates, political liberties got worse, the only ME country on either scale to get worse.

Since it is not Muslim, Israel was not included. However, for comparison, since 1973, Freedom House has rated it between 1 and 2 on political rights, and 2 and 3 on civil liberties, and for every year it has classified Israel as free—that is, a liberal democracy.

What does the chart say about Bush’s impact on democracy in the region? That authoritarianism is retreating could be due to other causes, but what they would be is a question. The Islamic terrorist attack on authoritarian regimes has increased, not lessened, and the only significant countervailing variable seems to be Bush’s post 9/11 democratically oriented foreign policy, which has meant pressure on these regimes to begin democratization. And by hypothesis, it is supposed to have an impact. Therefore, given the above chart, I think we can say it does.

Links of Note

“Saddam’s terrorist ties documented”:

…. The May-June 2006 Foreign Affairs cites a May 25, 1999, text titled “Fedayeen Saddam Instructions” in which Uday Hussein, the tyrant’s older son, orders “special operations, assassinations and bombings, for the centers and traitor symbols in London, Iran and the self-ruled areas” (Kurdistan). As the authors observe, “Preparations for ‘Blessed July,’ a regime-directed wave of ‘martyrdom’ operations against targets in the West, were well under way at the time of the coalition invasion.”…

“The Wrong Time to Lose Our Nerve: A response to Messrs. Buckley, Will and Fukuyama By Peter Wehner:

….In Iraq, we are witnessing advancements and some heartening achievements. We are also experiencing the hardships and setbacks that accompany epic transitions. There will be others. But there is no other way to fundamentally change the Arab Middle East. Democracy and the accompanying rise of political and civic institutions are the only route to a better world–and because the work is difficult doesn’t mean it can be ignored. The cycle has to be broken. The process of democratic reform has begun, and now would be precisely the wrong time to lose our nerve and turn our back on the freedom agenda. It would be a geopolitical disaster and a moral calamity–and President Bush, like President Reagan before him, will persist in his efforts to shape a more hopeful world.

“Iranian Reformist Website: The Regime is Trying to Silence Internal Dissent Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Program”:

The reformist Internet daily Rooz recently reported that several reformist papers and news agencies had been threatened by government officials for publishing criticism of Iran’s nuclear policies.

“Remembering Saddam’s slow war” By Austin Bay

The latest quip accusation that the United States “rushed to war” with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq conveniently ignores 12 years of combat, terror and crime. 
    Perhaps The Slow War — Saddam’s war against the U.N.-mandated sanctions and inspections regimen that halted Operation Desert Storm — has slipped from public historical memory. It shouldn’t, for The Slow War is the long, violent bridge connecting Desert Storm to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“”The Head of the Snake”” Michael J. Totten’s Middle East Journal:

The Iraqi Kurds I met who have been to Iran wanted me to know – and they want you to know, as well – that the distance between the Iranian people and their hideous regime is galactic. I heard the same refrain over and over again: “Persians are just like us.” In other words, they are liberal, secular, pro-Western, and fed up with tyrants. “Iranians love America,” the Kurds told me. “They have nothing to do with Ahmadinejad.”

The Washington Post Exhibits Its Leftism to China

December 30, 2008

[First published March 15, 2005] Recently, Philip Bennett, Managing Editor of The Washington Post, was interviewed by Yong Tang, People’s Daily Washington-based correspondent ( interview here). The biased leftism disclosed by Bennett is chilling and dangerous when one considers that we are at war, that he is speaking to the Chinese ruling thugs and people, and that China supports the terrorists and the other anti-democratic thugs of the world. So far, the media comments on the interview, including by conservatives, have not really caught much of what I find damning. So, I am quoting below the most revealing parts of the interview. I am not including the questions by Yong, unless necessary for understanding Bennett’s answer. I have tried to keep quotations in context so that they will not be misleading.

Bennett: The world image of US is so clearly linked to its foreign policy and particularly its policy toward Iraq and Middle East, say its support of HYPERLINK “”Israel and its occupation of Iraq. . . . Another source of the resentment is the perception that Bush administration wants to act unilaterally in the world, outside of alliance that traditionally governed the ways Bush made foreign policy decisions.

RJR: A perception for which Bennett’s management of the news is partly responsible.

Bennett: The Bush administration believes that there isn’t a contradiction between defending its self-interest and promoting friendly and democratic regimes. Because they believe that promoting those kinds of governments would make the world more friendly to the US and therefore it is in the interest of America to do that.

RJR: He just does not understand the Bush foreign policy. True, democracies will be friendlier to the U.S., but the basic drive of the policy is that it will promote peace and an end to terrorism.

Yong Tang: Since the standard is not applied equally in the world, it is damaging Bush’s effort to promote the so-called democracy, isn’t it?

Bennett: If you look around the world in strategically important places, is the US actively engaged there promoting democracy or not? I don’t think there is much evidence that promoting democracy is what the US is doing. It is what it says it is doing.

RJR: My God, how can he not see what Bush has done in, or regarding, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Lebanon, Egypt, and Indonesia?

Bennett: No, I don’t think US should be the leader of the world. . . . I also think it is unhealthy to have one country as the leader of the world. That is also a sort of colonial question. The world has gone through colonialism and imperialism. We have seen the danger and shortcomings of those systems. If we are heading into another period of imperialism where the US thinks itself as the leader of the area and its interest should prevail over all other interests of its neighbors and others, then I think the world will be in an unhappy period.

RJR: He simply does not understand that if the U.S. does not lead, some other country or countries will, such as France and Germany, or even China as her power grows. He also shares the view of many on the left about U.S, imperialism.

Yong Tang: So the world order should be democratic?

Bennett: Democracy means many things. How do you define democracy? As a Chinese journalist, you may have your own definition of democracy which corresponds to your history and your way of seeing the world. I may have another definition. Someone else may have their own definitions. Democracy means a lot of different things. . . . So democracy is not a cure that could turn everything bad into good. It has its own advantages and its disadvantages.

RJR: There you have it. Hardly an encouragement to democratic forces in China

Bennett: We have a little bit different roles in newspapers compared with our counterparts in Europe and other countries. We don’t have any political point of view that we are trying to advance. We don’t represent any political parties. We are not tied to any political movement. On the news side of the paper we try not to give opinions.

RJR: Typical we-just-report-the-news view of the liberals and leftists who run the major American media.

Bennett: One of the jobs of our correspondents in Baghdad is to tell our readers what the Bush administration is trying to hide. Bush says democracy is advancing in Iraq, but our correspondents say the situation there is much more complex than that. Our job is to put that in the public domain and challenge the government and hold them accountable.

The government of the US is becoming much more secretive, much more hostile to the press in terms of giving us access to the information. So a lot of what we do here is to fight for access to the information that we think the public should have. . . .It is true that in the areas of national security many more things are becoming secrets since after 9/11. So it is a big thing for The Washington Post to be the first major newspaper in America to publish the pictures about the Iraqi Abu Ghraib prisoners abuse scandal. . . . So our reporters are trained, encouraged and supported in going out and finding things that the government is trying to hide from the public. That is a lot of what we do.

RJR: So, he wants to, in effect and blindly, act as the intelligence service for the enemy.

Bennett: Where the news gathering part of the Post failed was to be sufficiently skeptical about the administration’s claims that there are weapons of mass destructions in Iraq. . . . For me, this episode is a good example of how difficult it is to independently verify the government’s claims when the government is lying to you. . . .

RJR: This is one of the most prevalent and enduring mantras among the left. I’ve heard and read virtually all of Bush’s speeches on foreign policy, and he did not lie. He said what he believed, based on intelligence reports to him from not only the CIA, but the intelligence services of other democracies. Moreover, we are now finding out that indeed there was WMD in Iraq that Hussein had removed just before our invasion.

Bennett: Neither The Washington Post, nor The New York Times, nor any other big newspapers, refer to China today as a dictatorship regime. We don’t use these words on the paper any more. Now we say China is a communist country only because it is a fact. China is ruled by the Communist party. . . . On the contrary, we are trying to understand the complexity of China. . . . There are many things happening now in China. Sometimes it is extraordinarily contradictory because it is a big country and it is a country which includes many things happening at the same time.

RJR: Freedom house rates China among the worst in political rights and just below worst in civil liberties for 2004. Its thugs judicially execute more of its subjects than any other regime (from which still warm bodies they harvest the organs for top officials or for sale); return to Kim Jong Il’s hands thousands of poor North Koreans who have escaped from his border to border prison, many to be executed; beat, torture, and kill those who just want to exercise their religion; and allow no freedom of political speech. Moreover, they rule by conquest Tibet, Sinkiang (sovereign and independent as The Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkistan until invaded by communist forces in 1950), and all of Manchuria, never fully part of China until taken over by the communists.

Bennett: When I went to China, I felt I was seeing into the future. I think it is a deeply fascinating country. Every time when I go there, I see and learn things that I never expect to see and learn. It is a country with such beauty and potential. I also think how China resolve the challenges it face today will be a major force to decide the future of the planet . . .

I was very impressed by the degree of preparation, engagement, knowledge and vision that they [ruling thugs] have of China and China’s role in the world. There is no more complex job in the world in trying to run and administer a country so big with so many different issues, with people living in good wealth and poverty as well. The job is much more difficult than being an American President though they are different jobs in some ways.

RJR: Yes, you know, not much difference between a communist thug whose rule depends on his henchmen’s guns, and a democratically elected president, whose leadership depends on the support of the people. They are just “different jobs in different ways.” Deep sigh.

Link of Note

”China Puts Threat to Taiwan Into Law” (3/14/05) By Philip P. Pan, The Washington Post

BEIJING, March 14 — China enacted a law Monday authorizing the use of force against Taiwan if it moves toward formal independence, codifying its long-standing threat to attack the island. The measure could provoke a popular backlash in Taiwan and quickly unravel recent progress in cross-strait relations.

The National People’s Congress, the ruling Communist Party’s rubber-stamp parliament, approved the anti-secession law by a vote of 2,896 to 0, with two abstentions, defying U.S. appeals for restraint and strong protests by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian as well as some of his political rivals.

It is interesting to follow up the Post’s Managing Editor’s interview above with the papers’ treatment of the latest move by China’s ruling Hu Jintao. Pan does mention that the “law” was passed by the China’s rubber-stamp parliament (which some media do not mention), but the rest of the article’s tone gives more meaning to the “law” than it deserves. This is not a law in a democratic sense. It is not something passed by an elected legislature that governs the people and government. It is, pure and simple, a tool for misleading its own subjects and the world, and to lay down a marker to the United States and Taiwan. No law as we understand it governs China. In place of law are only communist party dictates that its thugs can violate or change as they will.

Yes, Power Kills

December 29, 2008

[First published January 12, 2006] This poem by Wing is nonspecific as to location. Just consider it an illustration of the historical principle that power kills. None of it is exaggerated.


By Wing Tek Lum

A dozen villagers are tied wrist to wrist in a small circle, and a grenade is tossed in the middle.

A fetus is gouged out of a pregnant woman to satisfy a bet by soldiers as to whether it is a boy or girl.

Refugees seeking shelter are locked in a house which is ringed with firewood and set on fire. Kerosene is poured onto a trio of peasants; the invaders take potshots to see who can ignite them.

A toddler is dropped into a well on a whim.

Marauding troops force an old man to shelter and cook for them; the next morning they throw him into a large kettle and boil him to death.

Out of the blue, a man’s throat is slit while he sits in a privy.

Surrendering prisoners of war clutch leaflets promising leniency, but are executed on the spot. Others who surrender are roped together in columns, and led away to die. Another prisoner is pulled out of a crowd and ordered to go down on all fours; a sergeant then sits down on top of his back to have his hair cut.

Another captor receives a watch as a bribe; suddenly full of pity, he lets two prisoners go, but somehow not the watch donor.

Two sub‑lieutenants start a contest to see who can behead one hundred men first. Heads that have been chopped off line a wall, ear to ear; another head has a cigarette butt popped into its mouth. By the side of a road, four bodies sit with their heads placed on their laps.

Soldiers ready to execute a student unexpectedly hear a woman’s voice nearby and give chase; the student is left on his knees, his pants leg soaked with urine.

Without warning, women are grabbed off the street, or their houses broken into, or a group of schoolgirls kidnapped to serve in a barracks. A clearing or park is turned into a makeshift brothel.

Nuns in a temple are raped, so are three generations in their own home, and out of curiosity, babies too. A company marches back to their bivouac: interspersed within a sea of uniforms the pale white flesh of their captives stands out.

Vaginas are stuffed with all manner of objects, even grenades; breasts are cut off. Flesh from a woman’s thigh is used as filling for dumplings. A live heart is cut out as an appetizer to be served with wine.

A guard is insulted seeing a young woman smoking in public; he forces her to strip naked, her hands bound behind with her belt. Returning home, she commits suicide.

An old woman with bound feet is forced to stand on a tree stump for hours; each time she falls off she is propped back up.

Published in TriQuarterly, Issue 122, Northwestern University. Wing Tek Lum is the 1970 Discovery Award winner.

Link of Note

“Mao Lives” By Arthur Wilson

AHYPERLINK “”rthur Waldron is the Lauder professor of international relations at the University of Pennsylvania and vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington, D.C. In collaboration with Stuart Schram, he is currently editing the wartime writings of Mao Zedong
This is an excellent review of Chang and Halliday’s Mao. He provides a good context for understanding Mao, and is sympathetic to the book, without being uncritical. I cannot resist including one quote that expresses my own experience with American academics in this area and a reason for many negative reviews from them:

Even aligned with the USSR, however, Mao in power continued to be viewed favorably by most Western scholars and commentators. To be sure, confiscating and redistributing land from the rich to the poor involved bloodshed, as did the cleaning-up of such notoriously lawless cities as Shanghai. . . . These blemishes were duly noted, though never the scale of death and destruction they entailed. Always, Mao was seen as searching for new ways to build socialism, and on these grounds much if not everything could be forgiven him. . . . In the academic world, Mao’s achievements were extolled while the alternatives offered by the rival Nationalists, or by parties calling for parliamentary democracy, or by refugee critics were dismissed as hopeless dead ends. Scholars who dissented often paid with their careers. Certainly, it was concluded, Mao had shed blood as he “reformed” the system, and he had often shown a hard, authoritarian hand. But given the results, who could cavil? As the influential Harvard professor John K. Fairbank observed in 1972 on returning from a visit, “The Maoist revolution is on the whole the best thing that has happened to the Chinese people in centuries.”

Democratization—The Implicit If-Then of the Iraq War

December 29, 2008

[First published April 17, 2006] It is very important to understand why we went to war in Iraq. The DECLARED purpose was to end the threat of Saddam Hussein’s WMD and his support for terrorism. In no STATED way was it to democratize the country or make a regime change in favor of freedom. But, what confuses this is the implicit if-then in this: if we won the war and occupied the country, then we would democratize it.

The confusion is shown in Dean Esmay’s “quibble” over my claim about the explicit purpose. He says:

A quibble: it was the stated policy of the United States government, as expressed by both houses of Congress and the President, that Saddam’s fascist regime in Iraq needed to be replaced by a democratic one. It was so since the late 1990s, when President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338). It was the operating policy of the United States ever since.

I would also note that the Congress re-iterated all of this when it issued the war declaration, also known as the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq. The President himself mentioned, in more than one speech before the liberation operation began, that establishing democracy there was a goal. He did so most famously at his Cincinnati address in October 7 2002, shortly before the Congress issued its war declaration against Saddam. He said, just before Congress passed that war declaration, that, “Iraq is a land rich in culture, resources, and talent. Freed from the weight of oppression, Iraq’s people will be able to share in the progress and prosperity of our time. If military action is necessary, the United States and our allies will help the Iraqi people rebuild their economy, and create the institutions of liberty in a unified Iraq at peace with its neighbors.”

The White House also publicly met many times with pro-democracy and pro-human rights advocates (including women’s rights advocates) from Iraq before the decision to take out Saddam’s fascist regime became official, and made a point of making sure the press knew they were doing that.

The historic record is clear: the American People were given over a dozen reasons for toppling Saddam’s monstrous fascist regime, and not just one. Historical revisionists have tried to obscure the record and say we only invaded due to “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” but this has always has been a lie. It is fair to say that the administration never said “let’s go establish a democracy in the Middle East to help reform that entire part of the world,” but an awful lot of learned public commentators (including a number of writers in the blogosphere such as myself, Glenn Reynolds, Steven Den Beste, and a number of other well known “neocon” commentators like Charles Krauthammer) all noted the fact that the Arab-Muslim world was mired in horrific oppression and that the only smart way to fight terrorism in the long run was to find ways to reform those regimes, either through diplomacy, economic pressures, or outright war, and that Saddam’s Iraq was a big fat juicy target in that regard.

It’s strange for some of us who were there and part of those debates to hear that those arguments were never part of the equation and were never put before the American people. Yes they were. They were not the ONLY reasons given, but they were always there.

For a lot of us, the liberation of Iraq from Saddam was the biggest and most dangerous gamble in the Global War On Terror, rather akin to the engagement of Japanese forces in the Philippines in the early 1940s. We have believed all along, and continue to believe, that fascist and theocratic thug-regimes such as those found in the old Iraq, the old Afghanistan, and today’s Syria, Libya, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, are the ultimate source for international terrorism. Because thugs who hold power, regardless of their stated ideology, always believe first and foremost in maintaining their own power, and doing whatever it takes to keep that power. Including, frequently, harboring, arming, and training international terrorists.

This was always a part of the package we were sold before we went into Iraq. And it still is, because as the administration has made clear many times since Saddam was toppled, if we were to abandon Iraq and its infant democracy now, those who would murder this young democracy in its crib would undoubtedly rise up to become the enemies of the free world again.

Let’s not forget history: liberating Iraq from fascist oppression and attempting to install a true democracy there was always the stated goal of the United States and most of its allies.

There is much in this with which I agree, including the temper of the “quibble.” But, we’ve got to get this straight. True, there were many calling for democracy in Iraq before the war, including Dean and I. True, Congress also called for democracy in Iraq, but in what Congress voted for and what Bush declared to be the purpose WAS NOT war on Saddam to free his people. It was to eliminate HIM. With his aid to terrorism, use of poison gas on his own people, reported stores of WMD, and possible ongoing development of nukes, he was perceived as the dangerous enemy.

Dean is a keen observer as are those he mentions in support of his claim. So, what is going on here? It is the usual confusing Washington if-then clause. For example, read the “Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq “ to see that after all the “whereas'” (none of which mention democracy, freedom, or regime change) Congress states:

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled: This joint resolution may be cited as the “Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq”.


The Congress of the United States supports the efforts by the President to —
(a) strictly enforce through the United Nations Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions applicable to Iraq and encourages him in those efforts; and
(b) obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions.


(a) AUTHORIZATION. The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to

(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.

Congress does not mention democracy, freedom, or regime change in any “whereas,” nor did the Security Council include such operative words in any of the relevant Security Council Resolutions. So, the resolution provides no justification for democratization or indication that this is even a background reason for war.

As to President Bush’s famous speech on the Iraqi threat that Dean mentions, it lays out the threat to the peace of the Iraqi regime (a synonym for Saddam) in, “Its history of aggression, and its drive toward an arsenal of terror.” Bush goes on to say that, “Members of the Congress of both political parties, and members of the United Nations Security Council, agree that Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace and must disarm…. our urgent concern [is] about Saddam Hussein’s links to international terrorist groups.” Bush then details the WMD and terrorist threat, and makes his military threat explicit: “Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof — the smoking gun — that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud…. The time for denying, deceiving, and delaying has come to an end. Saddam Hussein must disarm himself — or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.”

But, then note what Iraq must do to avoid war: “In addition to declaring and destroying all of its weapons of mass destruction, Iraq must end its support for terrorism. It must cease the persecution of its civilian population. It must stop all illicit trade outside the Oil For Food program. It must release or account for all Gulf War personnel, including an American pilot, whose fate is still unknown. By taking these steps, and by only taking these steps, the Iraqi regime has an opportunity to avoid conflict.”

Among these “must do’s,” there is no mention of regime change.

So much for the operational aspect of the speech. Now for the confusing part. After all the above, Bush says, “The lives of Iraqi citizens would improve dramatically if Saddam Hussein were no longer in power….Freed from the weight of oppression, Iraq’s people will be able to share in the progress and prosperity of our time. If military action is necessary, the United States and our allies will help the Iraqi people rebuild their economy, and create the institutions of liberty in a unified Iraq at peace with its neighbors…. I have asked Congress to authorize the use of America’s military, if it proves necessary, to enforce U.N. Security Council demands.” (Bold added)

Nowhere in the speech is democracy or regime change mentioned, nor is the idea of a democratic peace.

So, there you have it. Bush’s declaratory purpose for war and Congresses approval was to get rid of Saddam pursuant to UN Security Council resolutions. And as I mentioned, these resolutions say nothing about regime change.

Further evidence for this declaratory purpose is the last minute option Saddam was given by Bush to avoid war, which was to leave Iraq and accept the asylum offered by Bahrain or Russia. The regime offered oil and inspection deals to avoid the invasion, but these were rejected by Bush. In addition to Saddam leaving the country, Bush demanded the surrender of Iraqi troops and all WMD.
Even during this frantic period when the Iraq regime was making huge offers to avoid war, Bush still did not demand regime change or democratization. During this instant before war, as far as anyone knew, if a military coup had eliminated Saddam, his sons, and the rest of his gang, and offered unlimited UN and American inspection for WMD, while maintaining a military dictatorship, there would have been no war.

As for Germany, Italy, and Japan in World War II, democratization was an if-then proposition, often discussed, but not part of the official war demands. If we won the war and occupied these countries, then we would try democratize them. That was clear. But this was not the stated purpose of the war. Unconditional surrender was. Similarly, with Saddam Hussein, the declared purpose of the war was to end the threat of his WMD and his support for terrorism, and if we occupied the country, then as with our enemies of WWII, we would democratize it.

Is Islam The Enemy? #2—No!

December 28, 2008

[First published in April 19, 2006] Building on the article that I just posted, “Is Islam The Enemy?,” in which I quoted from the Boroumand sisters, I would like to address a critical question, “In the context of our War on Terror, is Islam the enemy?”
First, I should reveal my own biases. I am not a Christian, a Buddhist, a Muslim or an adherent of any standard religion. I am not a Republican, a Democrat, a Libertarian, a liberal or a conservative. Fundamentally, I am a secular freedomist. My approach is like that of a hypothetical anthropologist from Mars who is trying to evaluate earthly matters without favoritism, a man from Mars who believes, based on empirical evidence, that the solution to many of humanity’s problems is democratic freedom.
By “enemy,” then, I mean anyone who is in violent opposition to such democratic freedom. So the question becomes, “Is Islam the enemy of democratic freedom?”

Now, when we read about the third class citizenship of Muslim women and their victimization in “honor” murders; Muslims dancing in the street, joyful over 9/11 attacks on America; the repeated sing-song of “Allah Akbar” (“Allah is the Greatest”) while Muslims murder “infidels;” the absolute anti-Semitism and barbarism in the speeches of public Muslim figures, coupled with genocide against Jews; Muslim judgments under Shari’a law that homosexuality and conversion to Christianity are capital offenses; Muslim intolerance of all that is non-Muslim; death threats against those who criticize Islam, or who simply express their opinions; the anti-American, anti-Israeli screeds of many Muslim leaders; and the seeming lack of moral outrage among the vast majority of Muslims over terrorists murdering human beings by the hundreds, destroying mosques with their bombs, even murdering fellow Muslims…..Enough. Doubtless, much more could be added to this litany of grievances, and to cast Islam as the enemy might seem to be only common sense. But this would be to mistake cultural epiphenomena for the real terrorist enemy.

I need to be perfectly clear here: Culture consists of the patterns of behavior, beliefs, religion, norms, and mores of a people, and what we are seeing in the Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa is attachment (or even reversion) to the Islamic culture of the middle ages. There is nothing strange about this, except that it is happening today, in what Westerners consider a more modern, rational and secular age. After all, if one studies the history of Christianity during the centuries before the Renaissance, Reformation and Age of Enlightenment, one sees largely similar cultural epiphenomena: mistreatment of women as third class citizens; mass murder in God’s name, especially of Jews; rigid and absolute belief in religious precepts; negative attitudes toward science and secularism; self-righteous intolerance of differences; and the murder by religious authorities of anyone who expressed independent thought or criticism of the Catholic Church. 

I will call those Muslims whose culture is rooted in the Islamic middle ages traditionalists. These comprise a large number of today’s Muslims, many of whom are active and visible. Islam and its precepts reside at the center of their lives, thus their culture clashes with modernism, secularism, and today’s moderate Christianity
Those Muslims who are aligned with violent and terrorist Islamic groups I will call Islamofascists. They are fighting for political, not religious, power. And in this battle, they have hijacked Islam, since it provides justification, both for their terrorism and for their political goals. They have been heavily influenced by fascism and by Marxism-Leninism, and their goal is a totalitarian world in which they rule and control all—society, economics, Islamic culture, and the minutest family matters. The rule of these Islamofascists would closely resemble the rule of the former Taliban in Afghanistan. 

Islamofascists are the enemies of all Middle Eastern governments except one—Iran. And that is because the government of Iran is controlled by a gang of Ayatollahs who are themselves Islamofascists and who support and supply Islamofascists throughout the Middle East. The methods of these Islamofascists are the same methods the world witnessed in fascist and communist controlled countries during the last century—Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot conducted terrorist campaigns against their own peoples, with mass murders in the millions.

By invoking Islam’s most holy sayings, by exploiting the traditionalists’ fear of Western cultural hegemony and by fanning the flames of anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment, Islamofascists have misled many traditionalists into supporting and joining them, even to the extent of becoming suicide martyrs for the cause. And they have misled Westerners into believing that the Islamofascists represent Islam.

Then there are the corrupt, sometimes tyrannical, dictators who rule the various Muslim regimes—Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and so on. Decades ago these regimes were moving towards modernization and democratic reform, but after Khomeini’s 1979 revolution in Iran, they were besieged by Islamofascists whose goal is totalitarian, Leninist revolution. The dictators of the Middle East fought back with a counter-ideology of nationalism, coupled with a savage terrorism of their own, that preserved their political power and the benefits of their associated elites. Through absolute control over the economy, society, and culture, particularly education and the mosques, these dictators made common cause with the traditionalist Muslims against the Islamofascists. This was a war of a different kind, a war that pre-9-11 Western realists participated in by deciding not to weaken such regimes through demands for reform, and by deciding to support them with economic and military aid.
Finally we must consider a most important group of Muslims, the moderate, liberal, nonradical Muslims whom I will call modernists. These are the critics of the traditionalists, the Islamofascists and the dictators. They favor modernization and acceptance of the best of Western culture.
Few modernists have been willing to speak out in Muslim countries, because they risk arrest or execution. Often their statements will, of necessity, appear to support the traditionalists or the dictators, despite the fact that these two groups are their enemies. How many of these brave Muslim modernists reside in the Middle East? No one knows.
Most of the modernists we hear from live in Western countries, such as France, Britain and the United States. These modernists expressly believe in human rights and democracy, and some claim the support of silent, frightened majorities in their countries of origin.
Among Muslims, there are then four groups relevant to the War on Terror–the traditionalists, the Islamofascists, the dictators and the modernists. These groups are engaged in four overlapping struggles: that of the traditionalists to maintain their cultural-religious values and beliefs against modernizing forces from within and Western cultural hegemony from without; that of the Islamofascists who wish to conquer all and achieve absolute world power; that of the dictators and their associated elites, who struggle to hold onto power and benefits; and that of the modernists, who struggle to survive in a hostile environment and whose desire it is to bring Muslim countries, and Islam itself, into the modern age.
In conclusion, the traditionalists are not our enemies, as they mainly want to be left alone to worship and live as they choose. The ruling dictators are not our enemies, since the West provides critical support against the Islamofascists who would overthrow them. And, it is not the modernists who are our enemies, as they generally support Western democratic ideals. The true enemies of democratic freedom are the Islamofascists, whose ideological homeland is Iran.

The policies that flow from this analysis are clear:
1./ We must contain, and ignore when possible, the traditionalists and traditional Islam. Although traditional Islamic culture may outrage liberal democratic sensibilities, Islam by itself is no danger to the national interests of the Western democracies. Provided we can buy sufficient time, the reformation and transformation of traditional Islam by modern science, global technology, communications, business, and a growing educated Muslim middle class, is inevitable.
2./ Since democracy will tend to speed reformation of the most regressive aspects of traditional Islamic culture, we must do everything possible to encourage democracy in the Middle East. Islam does not stand in the way of democracy, as is evident from surveys taken of Muslim opinion. (Please see my blog, HYPERLINK “” “Muslim Arabs Favor Democracy”.) Some Muslim liberal democracies already exist—Mali, Senegal, Ghana, Benin, and Indonesia—and with the advent of democracy in the Middle East dictators will no longer hold sway.
3./ We must do everything possible to empower the modernists, who are our allies in the War on Terror. We must avoid condemning everything Islamic, which might deliver them into the hands of their domestic enemies, the traditionalists and the dictators. The modernists can offer evolving Islamic societies a better future than any other group.
4./ Only the Islamofascists are the true enemies of democratic freedom. And, as the Boroumand sisters so eloquently demonstrated, Islamofascism is not so much an Islamic excrescence as it is an inheritor of the worst of the 20th Century—fascist and Marxist-Leninist ideologies that spawned totalitarian regimes responsible for the murder of millions of their own people. Islamofascism must be exposed as the evil that it is, and we must be committed to fighting and destroying it, just as we disposed of the evil ideologies of the past century.
In the context of our War on Terror, our enemy is Islamofascism, not Islam.