December 3, 2012
Some men kiss their chains
There is little else clearer in today’s politics than the fact that what we have encouraged, supported, and even fought and died for in the Middle East are not liberal democracies. Women, secularists, and Christians are increasingly harassed, and even within the predominant regional culture itself we see smaller Islamic, tribal, and ethnic minorities persecuted every day. Our notion that the overthrow of autocracy and the coming of democracy meant also the coming of freedom was simply wrong. Yes, we neoconservatives could point to the liberation of Eastern Europe from Soviet hegemony, or liberal democracy-building in Germany and Japan after World War II, or even the wonderful success of the civil rights movement here in America to prove that all peoples wish to live in freedom. Yet those examples seem not to carry us to the facts that we see around us today.
But why? “Don’t all people yearn for freedom?” we have asked. And we assume the answer is yes. But the answer is no. Some people, perhaps most people, prefer other goods. Indeed, some people would rather be holy than free, or safe than free, or be instructed in how they should lead their lives rather than be free. Many prefer the comfort of strong answers already given rather than the openness and hazards of freedom. There are those who would never dream of substituting their will for the imam’s or pushing their desires over the customs and traditions of their families. Some men kiss their chains.
This is taken from a strong mea culpa written by John Agresto in the latest issue of Commentary magazine (I will quote liberally from the article in this post as it is only available to subscribers). Mr. Agresto can speak from serious experience as he served as senior adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in the year following the liberation of Iraq and has subsequently been a founding member of the board of trustees, provost, acting chancellor, and dean of the faculty at the American University of Iraq, in Kurdish Iraq. According to Commentary, his book Mugged by Reality: The Liberation of Iraq and the Failure of Good Intentions (Encounter) contains the beginnings of this analysis that appears in the article.
The question for us today, especially for those of us like me who generally supported our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq to promote democracy (or to build consenual government, as Victor Davis Hanson likes to say*), is whether or not this was a fool's errand and the U.S. should have simply punished those responisble for 9/11, removed the threat to our security, and then installed some sort of local strongman with a warning to everyone that we'd do it again only worse if something like 9/11 happened again. More rubble, less trouble.