Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Kesler on the Bush Doctrine

There’s a very subtle and challenging article by Charles in the new CLAREMONT REVIEW. It’s not linkable yet and really can’t be summarized quickly. But let me just quote two of his conclusions for discussion:

"If Republicans mean to win in 2008, they will have to separate themselves, gently but unmistakably, from the Bush Doctrine."

"The writ to use force against him [Saddam] and his regime was cogent and persuasive. But the decision to turn that deterrent, punitive, and preventive action into the occasion for elaborate democratic reconstruction was, alas, ill-conceived. Iraq was not that important to us. It could seem that important...only by imagining that an utterly transformed Iraq would be an outpost of liberal democracy in the Middle East...and that Iraq in turn would utterly transform the whole Middle East into a land of milk and honey, not to mention democracy and peace."

Discussions - 20 Comments

The first conclusion is hardly necessary to articulate - candidates were instinctively reaching it already last year. The second proceeds from the premise that we all thought it was necessary to remove Saddam Hussein from power. We didn't.

Well, that was the idea--to transform the Middle East, that is--and very few of us were openly skeptical enough. Of course, it was beyond our ken to anticipate the utter naivete of war planners regarding post-war Iraq. That, in combination with the lack of executive energy in the follow through. I await the text of the article.

Just to be argumentative... Isn't it possible that an utterly transformed Iraq could be an outpost of liberal democracy in the middle east?

There is no need to be sceptical of the notion...but rather of its potential for implementation...and also of the source from which such a movement must spring... We can't implement it...and we can't impose it. Or maybe we can but it would be too expensive...what I mean is that I am not sure turning Iraq into the land of milk and honey would turn it towards democracy and peace...on the other hand turning it towards democracy and peace is not sufficient to guarantee milk and honey.

On the other hand a totally transformed Iraq (one that is both milk and honey and democracy and peace) would cause positive tidal waves thoughout the region. The thing of the matter is that none of this stuff can really be promised or must be worked towards even when the short term obscures the long term...

In other words everyone must understand that you can't live in the future now...but that what you do now will impact that future.

The person who has distanced himself the most from the Bush doctrine is Bush himself. Fred Kagan wrote a piece several days in The Weekly Standard that noted as much.

The Mideast needs transformation.

Islan likewise needs transformation.

Jihad needs to be severed from islam.

The problem wasn't identifying that desperate need for transformation.

The problem flowed from the feeble measures taken to make real such a transformation.

Bush hasn't forced the saudis to stop spreading wahabism. He hasn't even STIGMATIZED wahabism. That's just a single example of Bush's failure to push for real transformation.

Here's another. After WWII, we tried and hanged the leader of the Hitler Youth. We tried him for a crime against humanity. The specific crime was "poisoning the mind of youth." Throughout the Mideast, a similar poisoning is going on. But which minister, which muslim cleric, has this administration demanded be delivered over to it, for prosecution and execution, for a crime against humanity.

Ultimately, this administration lacked the conviction, the vision, the moral certitude to make that transformation possible.

They've stumbled in the clutch.

The Other Dan,

Don't the Muslims you are complaining about think that:

Christianity needs transformation.

America and the West need transformation.


And guess what, you perceive that as hostile, and you are correct.

So don't you think they perceive the bellicose rantings of doughboy keyboard warrior Kagan as hostile?

How 'bout the US government concern itself with transforming America back into a constitutional republic, and quit fretting about the rest of the world.

Who gives two damns what they think?

We're talking OBJECTIVE, CLINICAL pathologies. Misogyny, female circumcisions, honour killings, loyalties to clans, tribes, shariaa, jihad, theological dictatorships, totalitarianism, veils, burqas, slavery. Yes, even slavery. Even slavery. And those are just the cursory observations to be made about the entirety of islam. There isn't a single "moderate" muslim regime on the face of the earth. Not one, not Indonesia, not Egypt, not Jordan, not Turkey. Not a single one. We're talking about dragging a sick, sick culture out of the seventh century, and introducing them to the eighteenth, if not the twenty-first. I'm not about to indulge in any relativism between Christianity and islam, between the West and islam. The West is DEMONSTRABLY superior to every other civilization known to man, and far and away superior to islam.

Al-Qaeda, Inc. wants to kill us no matter what we do, Dan II. Read Sayyid Qutib or any of OBL's declarations of war against America (seriously, especially the part about first expelling the USSR, then America, and once the West is out of the picture, reestablishing a caliphate from Moroco to the Philipines and then finally looking West again - that's their strategy, right out there in the open). They started it, and it won't end until they win or we finish it.

John Lewis makes some good points. I think the real question we need to answer now, though, is how to bring stability to Iraq. We can worry about standards of living and universal suffrage later.

John Lewis makes some VERY good points, to which I would add that we really have no choice but to do what we can to bring stability to Iraq. If Iraq was not important to us before (and it wasn't) it surely is important to us now. We can't leave a mess there or the whole area becomes a mess.

I would be happy to see us transform ourselves back to a constitutional republic. Your problem there is getting the American electorate to go along with, even endure, the change.

No, the Muslims that are waging war against us do not think the West or Christianity needs to be transformed. They think that the West and Christianity needs to be stamped out.

Simple enough.

Their words and actions state exactly that. To not see the obvious, in this instance, is truly sealing your own death.

For some everything is relative and subjective and there is no evil.

For some everything is relative and subjective and there is no evil.

That is silly. No one endorses such poorly stereotyped "school-boy" relativism. Please, find me one serious thinker, political or philosophical, who endorses the type of relativism you just tried to pin on "some". Truth being relative does not mean that there is no evil. It also does not mean that there are no ethical boundaries in political systems (especially in democracies). Either you are willfully ignoring some of the best "relativist" writers out there (who would never make a claim like the one you posited for them) or you really have never been introduced to any good literature outside the absolutist, "objective", analytic circles of philosophy and/or politics (in which case, I hope you'd be willing to explore a few different avenues of thought before making such a drastic claim as the one you made earlier . . .). In any case, I'm disappointed that someone would really believe that's what serious relativism is.

Dale, Andrew, TO Dan,

So anti-war paleoconservative are moral relativists? We don't believe Christianity superior to Islam? We don't believe the West superior? You could not possibly believe that. If you do, you have no idea what you are talking about.

The point is that what goes on in the Middle East is the Middle East's problem. Not ours. You can not possibly think that it is the responsibility of America to right every global wrong. Where do you start? Where do you stop? That America must change other societies is the height of hubris, and entirely anti-conservative. Conservatism recognizes the limits of government to change and perfect man. It can't even perfect its own citizens. How is it going to perfect the citizens of other countries? At the point of a sword? Give me a break. Some of the bellicose war mongers have not desire to change anyone. They just want to snuff them out. Yeah, that’s real Christian.

Besides TO Dan, your little diatribe was mighty progressive. Reciting all the illiberal sins of the Muslims. Actually, much of what is destroying America is the liberalism you are shilling for. America would be well served to drag itself back a century or two in many respects (not all) instead of finger wagging at others who aren't as progressive as you would like. What, prey tell, is wrong with loyalty to clan and tribe. Is universalism and globalism superior? Is bowing the knee to the modern nation state?

"...and once the West is out of the picture, reestablishing a caliphate from Moroco to the Philipines and then finally looking West again - that's their strategy, right out there in the open..."

All this fretting about Muslim as a treat to the West, borders on the delusional. Why the need to fear? Why the obsessive need for an enemy? Your vision of the world is cartoonish. Like the Saturday morning cartoons when the evil bad guy was always cackling and rubbing his hands together and proclaiming his intent to take over the world. News Flash. Islam couldn't take over the world if it wanted to. The West is so vastly militarily superior it is just an absurdity. They have little Navy and little Air Force. No ICBMs. That is why they resort to terrorism. Are they going to take over the world with terrorism? That is just a joke. We can't subdue Iraq with a huge military force. Islam is going to subdue the West with terrorism?

War and fear are the life blood of the modern state, and y'all are stoking it. We have much more to fear from the bloated modern state than we do Islamic terrorists.

Serious relativism versus non-serious relativism (which is something that Matt accuses me of)

Do you realize how ridiculous that appears and how ... well ... un-serious it is?

To Dan Phillip ...

We have been in the Middle East or darn close to it since almost the beginning of our nation.

To assert we have no business being there is ridiculous.

One other thing ...

Not long ago, 2004, there was an Islamic conference held in the Dallas-Fort Worth area celebrating the teachings of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

The conference was touted as buidling Muslim unity (of course it was over the radical and dangerous teaching of Khomeini)

Rod Dreher, who is now affiliated with the Dallas Morning News, negatively commented on the conference. Of course, the local Muslims leaders who attended the conference had to have a meeting with Dreher. During the meeting, a Muslim leader, I can't recall the name, stated the reason Islam has forced sharia upon the United States is because right now there are not enough Muslims in the U.S. to make that demand. The other Muslim leaders did not make any voices in opposition.

You know, there is ample evidence that a significant portion of Muslims want Islam to not just be a dominate religion in the world, but to be the dominant form of government in the world. Their words are clear and are in ample supply with easy access to view and are backed up by their actions around the world.

But, hey, when you have folks trying to draw us back from the world, then it is understandable, relativistaclly speaking, that the words of those that want to kill or subjugate us are ignored. Heh.

Sorry, I meant ...

... stated the reason Islam hasn't forced sharia ...

Dale, they don't have the means to force sharia on America and the West. Give me a plausible scenario whereby they force sharia on America. The whole idea is just ridiculous.

The demographic issues brought on by Muslim immigration and differential birthrates are a real issue, especially in Europe. But that is not a military issue. It is an immigration issue, which could be easily solved if we/they could get over our slavish devotion to liberalism which stands in the way of sensible immigration policies.

We may not be in agreement regarding Iraq, but regarding immigration, it appears, we are in total agreement.

Peter: I read this article this morning while my kids were at swimming lessons. What did you think? I thought it was wonderfully clarifying. I don't think there is any disputing his central point about there not being any real distinction between the first generation and the current generation of neo-cons and that the problem with their foreign policy stems from an imperfectly conceived understanding of the American regime. Further, I thought the distinction that Charles draws between the neo-cons and the Bushies was very clear and probably right on. The money quote was this: "Paradoxically, their biggest mistake is not thinking too highly of democracy but not thinking highly enough of it. By underestimating it and what it requires of its citizens, they conclude that democracy is more easily exportable and transferable than it really is. . . . Bush embraced democratization as a kind of historical and divine imperative. The neoconservatives came to democratization from a farm more modest view of democracy's virtues and benefits. But they ended up in roughly the same place."

Dan Phillips, did you not read my comment, or did you stop reading once you saw I disagreed with you? The Middle East IS our problem because they want to drive us out of the entire region (Morocco to the Philippines) and establish one giant caliphate. Once they're accomplished that, after many years of Muslim vs. Muslim violence, they'll look West again. I sincerely wish you would read Qutb. You'll see that it's not our involvement in international affairs that makes them loathe us, it's our way of life. Period. Here's a link to Luke Loboda's thesis on him. They hate the West because we're more powerful and prosperous than they are but they consider us to be an inferior culture. That irrational and irreconcilable worldview they hold is why the Middle East is something we must worry about. So far, they only option we've seen that seems viable short of leveling most of the major cities in the Middle East is the Bush Doctrine.

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