ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Questions about What We're Doing in Iraq???

If you're unclear as to what we're doing in Iraq and the Middle East at large, you MUST read Natan Sharansky's book, The Case for Freedom. As was mentioned when it was first released, President Bush was reading this book and was very enthusiastic about it. I wanted to read it earlier, but I had my nose stuck into other books that were much less interesting for the past couple of years. As I read this book over the weekend, I saw a cogent argument for our mission in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sharansky goes into detail how the US' reliance on realpolitik of Kissinger and the State Department (of Bush & past presidents) has long-term and damaging consequences on US security. While the paleocons and realists may achieve short-term negotiating goals, their actions empower dictators who inevitably incite hatred of freedom and the West in their people, resulting in the long-term in violence against the US and our interests. He breaks down governments and countries into two camps:

  1. Free Societies
  2. Fear Societies
(And no, the US isn't in the second camp for all you "progressives").

As a former prisoner in the Soviet gulag, he and his comrades came up with a 4 point test as to whether a society is Free- or Fear-based:
  1. Can anyone go to the town square and speak their mind without fear of punishment?
  2. Are people free to practice their religion?
  3. Are people allowed to learn about their cultural past?
  4. Is the press independent?

I would recommend this book to anyone... even the Leftists who have forgotten their roots in promoting human rights.

The key provision that he points out is that when negotiating with a fear society (such as the USSR or the Palestinian Authority), one must tie your concessions to real reforms regarding the human rights of its citizens. Thus, in the late '70s, the Helsinki Accords made this connection and allowed dissidents in the USSR to demonstrate the their country was not living up to its side of the bargain. This external pressure for internal reform which was stepped up during the Reagan administration strengthens the position of dissidents and truly weakens governments based on fear. In the case of the USSR, they were not able to get the foreign aid (in terms of technology, food, etc) that they needed as long as they refused to let Soviet Jews travel to Israel and kept their general population inside the prison that was the Soviet Union.

Our goal in Iraq at a minimum should be that the new Iraqi government meet those criteria outlined by Sharansky above. The recent statement that the Iraqi constitution will recognize that the Koran is a source of law is not anathema to freedom of religion for others - but if it does preclude Christians from openly practicing their faith, we can point to that as a sign that we are losing the war to transform the Middle East. My point here is that while we are unlikely to have a Jeffersonian democracy in Iraq in the short-term, ensuring that Iraq is not a Fear Society and allows dissent and freedom to practice any religion will set the stage for further steps towards democratic reform.

As was demonstrated in Central & Eastern Europe, once a people have a small taste for freedom (in that case, the ability to travel freely out of Hungary), the fear-based society is compromised and will collapse.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler