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Sir Winston Churchill

11.27.2006

A Bone to Pick with Our Neocon Brethren

Christopher Orlet's right:

Nonetheless, conservatives reluctantly went along with the neocons' grandiose and high and moral mission to remake the world, and in particular to bring democracy to the Middle East. It was 9/11 that provided the impetus. For a moment, in the swell of patriotic fervor, and the rush to avenge the 9/11 victims, conservatives supported regime change and nation-building and just about anything else the neocons proposed. We would liberate the Iraqis and Afghans from their totalitarian yoke and they would be eternally thankful.

Some thanks.

Grand ideas have a tendency to get slapped down by the cold, calloused hand of reality. And flush with what seemed like easy victories, it was easy to forget that, in Jeffrey Hart's words, "Historically, holiness, power, glory, conquest and empire have had greater appeal than freedom and democracy." It turned out that Saddam's heavy jackbooted heel was the only thing keeping the various Islamic sects and tribes from slitting each others' throats.

On paper the neoconservatives were right. The Wilsonian notion of spreading democracy could bring great benefits. At least two, anyway: a more secure world, and free and prosperous peoples. But societies -- even primitive ones -- are a little more complex off paper. There is tribalism, sectarianism, and there is Islam to consider, a word that means pretty much the opposite of freedom, i.e., "surrender." It was forgotten that the West, in order to get where it is today, went through the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the Modern period, and that the Muslim lands, by way of contrast, have seen only anti-Modernist movements achieve success, witness the Iranian Revolution, the Talibans rise to power, the spread of Wahhabist doctrine by Saudi Arabia, and the election of pro-terrorist regimes in Palestine and Egypt. As certain as the neocons were that democracy was the "recipe for universal happiness," fundamentalist Muslims were even more certain and more willing to die for their belief that happiness isn't important, but that Islam and Islamic Law are.


Is there any question that Sadr's militiamen have a lot more will to win than your typical Iraqi policeman?

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