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    Thursday, June 28, 2007

    Fouad Ajami: Iraq May Survive, but the Dream is Dead

    This blog is in a series of posts from my readings of THE RIGHT WAR? THE CONSERVATIVE DEBATE ON IRAQ. Please contribute your comments. The following is a discussion of Chapter 9, a republished article by Fouad Ajami, May 26, 2004, New York Times.

    Ajami is reacting to President Bush’s most recently televised speech on Iraq. He says the speech’s tone reflects the unspoken message “that no great American project is being hatched in Iraq. If some of the war’s planners had thought that Iraq would be an ideal base for American primacy in the Persian Gulf, a beacon from which to spread democracy and reason throughout the Arab world, that notion has clearly been set aside.”

    Ajami then talks about how this great project of spreading democracy to the Arab world might have been a mistaken notion, even when he had supported that notion before the war. “We were strangers in Iraq, and we didn’t know the place … we expected a fairly secular society in Iraq … Yet it turned out that the radical faith – among the Sunnis as well as Shiites – rose to fill the void left by the collapse of the old despotism.”

    Ajami points out that in the immediate post-war period, when we toppled Saddam, we let the victories speak for themselves and our enemies in the region were taking notice. But now (as of May 2004) “our enemies have taken our measure; they have taken stock of our national discord over the war. We shall not chase the Syrian dictator to a spider hole, nor will we sack the Iranian theocracy.”

    Ajami then says, “Back in the time of confidence, we had (rightly in my view) despaired of the United Nations and its machinery and its diplomatic-speak. But we now seek a way out, and an Algerian-born envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, is the instrument of our deliverance. So we are all multilateralists now, and the envoy of a world organization entangled in its own scandal in Iraq – the oil-for-food program it administered and is now investigating – will show us the way.”

    I'm not sure I agree completely here, but I do think that he is right, we are all mostly searching to get other allies involved in the process of bringing order to Iraq.

    Ajami continues, “We take our victories where we can … The subdued, somber tone with which the war is now described is the beginning of wisdom. In its modern history, Iraq has not been kind or gentle to its people. Perhaps it was folly to think that it was under any obligation to be kinder to its strangers.”

    I agree. Perhaps it was folly. But we, as freedom-loving people, bought in to this notion that all people could handle freedom and greet those that opened the door to freedom as liberators and friends. I think the reaction is more complicated than Ajami presents it, but certainly many people do not want us there.

    Tuesday, June 26, 2007

    George Will: Time for Bush to See the Realities of Iraq

    This blog is in a series of posts from my readings of THE RIGHT WAR? THE CONSERVATIVE DEBATE ON IRAQ. Please contribute your comments. The following is a discussion of Chapter 8, a republished article by George Will, May 4, 2004, Washington Post.

    After hearing his press conference in the White House, George Will blasts President Bush for suggesting that critics of the war that are making a cultural argument are in fact making a racist argument. In that press conference in May 2004, Bush had said, “There’s a lot of people in the world who don’t believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren’t necessarily – are a different color than white can self govern.”

    Well, this is an interesting argument. Three years later, in 2007... based on the experience of Iraq and many other books and articles I have read about cultural, institutional history, etc, I am beginning to believe that culture is important in building a free society or "democracy" as the pro-democracy crowd will say.

    Just a day or so after Bush made these statements, George Will attacked his notion on many levels. First, he pointed out that not all Americans are “white” – and we can self govern, so this "cultural" argument, if it is made in the way Bush is suggesting, isn’t a racist argument because America is made up of many different people who can live in a free society.

    Will then quotes the late Senator Patrick Moynihan who once said that “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” Will follows, Will says, “Here we have the real issue about Iraq …” In this, Will is suggesting the experiment in "spreading democracy" by force is a liberal project, not a conservative one.

    Finally, he cites Condoleeza Rice’s view, when she says that there is scholarly evidence that democratic institutions do not merely spring from a hospitable culture, but that they can help create such culture. He agrees that they can, but he says that “it would be reassuring to see more evidence that the administration is being empirical, believing this can happen in some places, as opposed to ideological, believing that it must happen everywhere it is tried.”

    Will is making a realist argument about the idealistic goals the Bush administration has for Iraq. He quotes Hamilton, who said “I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they out to be.” Will says, “This is the core of conservatism … This administration needs a dose of conservatism without the (neo) prefix.”

    Thursday, June 07, 2007

    My speech on behalf of Sam Brownback at the annual NH GOP dinner

    On Wednesday, June 6, I attended the annual New Hampshire GOP dinner. All the Republican candidates for President were invited, including Senator Sam Brownback, who I support. My good friend Teddy Sifert is running the Brownback campaign in New Hampshire and got me a ticket to the Presidential debate that aired live on CNN on Tuesday night. He also got me a spot at the dinner, sitting at Sam Brownback's table.

    However, on that night, Senator Brownback could not get out of Washington, D.C. because of his duties in the U.S. Senate: the Senate was still in the deliberating process on the immigration reform bill. So, they needed someone to speak on his behalf. Somehow, I happened to be at the right place at the right time (don't I always seem to be?) and they asked me to do it.

    So, I did. Not only did I give a 10-minute speech on his behalf, but I do so in a room of over 300 people and in front of other Presidential candidates: Mitt Romney, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, Tommy Thompson, and others. C-SPAN was also there to film it. It has already aired at least once and may air on national tv again and again. Below is a link to the C-SPAN online video from the dinner. My speech is 1 hour, 7 minutes into the dinner. Notice how Governor Romney spoke before me - I guess you can say he was my opening act.

    Here's the link:

    Note: This content may require the latest RealPlayer, which is not available on Windows 95, Mac OS9 or Linux systems.