March 30, 2003
to my previous comments.
I opposed it because I did not hear any serious planning as to how we could create
a democracy from several groups that having been killing each other for a long
time, and because I fear it could be all too easy for us to fall into the trap
of empire, spending more and more blood and money to maintain an empire which
we regret having started, but cannot abandon."
wonder if he realizes that there has been planning that he may not have heard
about. We read last August
15 (sorry, this link requires subscription) about the attempt by the administration
to place contracts with NGOs for the postwar reconstruction of Iraq. The NGOs
refused to cooperate, claiming that involvement with reconstruction plans would
somehow be an endorsement of an American invasion. It is not surprising that the
reconstruction contracts are now
being arranged with companies rather than NGOs.
course, planning reconstruction is not exactly the same thing as planning
a democratic transformation of a society. But it is a necessary step toward that
David means that he is not aware of any detailed plan to create democracy
in Iraq. Certainly there has been plenty of talk about questions of how to structure
Iraq (some kind of federation...or
not). There has also been much discussion by many parties of questions about the
role of exiled Iraqi opposition
figures in the future government of Iraq.
discussion is not a plan.
the situation is so fluid and we cannot predict the shape of conditions in postwar
Iraq, the creation of democracy in Iraq will require improvisation. A detailed
plan for Iraqi democratization would reveal a blindness and hubris the would be
a great impediment to progress toward a civil society in Iraq.
opposition to the Iraq invasion, based on "I did not hear any serious planning"
seems to make unrealistic assumptions about human ability to control events.
second point of opposition is "I fear it could be all too easy for us to
fall into the trap of empire". As I do not know David, I am not qualified
to comment on his fear. However, he does not demonstrate how a non-invasion would
avoid that trap. Certainly, the factors that make that trap so "easy"
to fall into would not have been diminished by a decision to not invade Iraq.
mentioning the messy history of the area he says,
you'll want to triumphantly seize this evidence that they really are irrational
- but then we must be prepared for them to react as irrationally to our occupation
as to anything else. Only now we're responsible for it."
have not suggested that the Iraqis are irrational...quite the contrary, My discussion
of altering the incentives of the terrorists assumes the opposite...that they
behave rationally. I do not understand why he would expect me to reverse my position
argument that we would be more "responsible for it" if we act than we
would be if we didn't act is empty. Our responsibility for things is a consequence
of our ability to choose different courses. Choosing inaction has consequences
just as choosing action does. Passivity does not relieve us of responsibility
for the results of our decisions.
then challenges me:
discussion seems to have branched out, but the original starting point was 'Why
They Hate Us'. You suggested that they had told us the answer simply and clearly
- they believe Islam demands Jihad, and this is what they believe Jihad means.
If you are right, we are in big trouble. How do you propose to solve it?"
always, the solution to a problem begins with correctly identifying the problem.
In this case, it is extremely unfortunate that "they hate us", but that
may be a fact that we all have to live with as long as America is more wealthy,
free and powerful than
Muslim other states. The obsession with the "why
do they hate us" question seems to be a little...ummm...fetishistic. It focusses
on sentiment and, in particular, feelings about us. That narcissism distracts
us from the problems we face and shifts our attention to a delicious contemplation
of our own sins.
are "in big trouble".
are in trouble because people are attacking us and our civilization. And those
attacks are not merely annoyances...they actually do threaten to destroy the liberal
order we have struggled to build. When we examine the tactics of this new
style of warfare, it is immediately apparent that we offer so many targets
that it is impossible to adequately defend them all against attack. The solution
must therefore revolve around finding a way to make them stop attacking
us. The attacks are the problem that can be addressed. The hatred is not.
we understand these attacks as actions of rational people, then we can address
them by examining the incentives on which they base their decisions.
jihadists believe that "martyrdom" is a path to eternal pleasure. Some
more moderate Muslims say that this is a blasphemous idea. We should do what we
can to propagate the "blasphemy" meme. At the moment, we have limited
(being the Great Satan) scope in our range of direct action. But, since much Muslim
ideology is often in service of various states, we can apply pressure to the states
to moderate their preaching and education. This will be a long and slow process
and it has begun.
can be more effective in our reshaping of earthly incentives. Removing Saddam
has certainly upset Hamas. Saddam's financing of Palestinian terrorism has increased
the violence in Israel. Eliminate that financing and the intifada becomes less
rewarding for its participants. We can expand our program of disincentives to
include undermining the sponsorship of al Qaeda and Hezbollah as well as the myriad
other jihad groups around the world.
process of building disincentives will continue to entail pressuring state and
private sponsors of jihad. Some of this pressure will necessitate war and threat
of war but this pressure can take many forms.
expect victory, and as Den
Beste suggests, inflicting shattering defeats on them will rearrange the incentives
behind their actions. In the short term, our decision to pursue terrorists forces
them to devote time and resources to avoiding capture...and to me, that is better
than allowing them to prioritize planning mischief.
far, I have been examining disincentives. But there are also many areas where
we can encourage constructive behavior.
we view terrorists as rational people, we must conclude that they choose jihad
because, to them, it is the best option they see. In their societies, they have
little political (as we understand politics) voice. David and I (and President
Bush) seem to agree that increasing democracy in the Muslim world will ameliorate
the urge to jihad. Our government can (and does) apply pressure for democratic
reform to Muslim states. This is a delicate issue and may take decades to make
it isn't just a matter of democratic forms of government. The civil society that
democracy depends upon also enables economic freedom. The oil wealth in the Middle
East has been a curse on the population. It has allowed the ruling class to enjoy
riches and power without the responsibility of creating a real economy. This means
that there is little business beyond import of goods and export of mineral resources.
People graduate from university and find no prospects for gainful employment.
If there is little earthly opportunity after graduation, they might as well study
religion in school. After all, if education can't prepare one for life, it can
still prepare one for the afterlife.
Arab economies are characterized by corruption and oppression. Until that changes,
there will continue to be few constructive outlets for the aspirations of young
people entering adulthood. We must encourage and assist the reform of Arab economies.
Without that reform, there is little to be gained from modernizing education.
there is substantial resistance to economic reform. The Saudi program appears
to be perfunctory and is foundering on the unwillingness to work for a living
that permeates Saudi society. Other Muslim countries like Malaysia do somewhat
better...but not much. In addition, there are Islamic obstacles to modern business
like the forbidding of loaning money at interest. This seriously reduces entrepreneurship
as it militates against capitalizing new business projects...and furthermore makes
an aspiring businessman dependent on the sponsorship of the wealthy and powerful.
This corruption prevents real economic development.
we would be wise to worry less about democracy in the Arab world and give more
thought to the benefits of promoting secular society. Increasing economic opportunity
might have a more immediate effect on the prospects (and incentives) of young
Muslims than a greater political voice would. One must walk before one can run.