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Thread: Dominos of Democracy

  1. #21
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    Aug 2007


    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    Gaddis made the point that the administration, without publicly stating so, believed that the toppling of Saddam Hussien and a resulting shift towards democracy in Iraq might serve as the first domino in the region. Other democratic shifts in Iran and Saudi Arabia were plausible, and that was where the administration was moving with the "grand strategy" it developed in NSS-2002.
    There's no doubt in my mind that the idea of Iraq as a "democratic domino" was a real element in US strategy for many--although certainly not all--in the Bush Administration at the time. There are a variety of reasons why political changes in Iraq didn't have the desired effect (PM me with an email address, and I'll send to some of my own work on the issue), but the question raised here is what effects the rhetoric of a "forward agenda of freedom" had on US interests in the region and around the world.

    Ironically, I think there were two seemingly contradictory effects. The first was the response, especially in the ME, that this was just a new form of imperialism. The second objection, however, was that the US was not serious--and was not going far enough. In short, Washington got simultaneously blamed for both meddling too much, and not meddling enough.

    Exacerbating these effects was the additional factor that the critics were, to a large degree, right. The US became quite serious about pushing reform for a brief period of time in 2002-05, even on its allies—however flawed, the semi-competitive Egyptian presidential elections of 2005 wouldn't have occurred without US pressure. Indeed at the time many in Cairo would likely have ranked US pressure for reform as among the primary national security threat to Egypt (or, more accurately, its dictatorial regime).

    The policy was dead by the end of the year, however, as evidenced by Washington's tepid response to massive fraud in the Egyptian parliamentary elections, as well as the unwelcome results of the January 2006 Palestinian (PLC) elections. Washington's problem with democratic politics is that voters in the region didn't like US foreign policy, and if given the choice would often vote for parties (usually Islamist) who had very different views of the world than those held in the White House.

    The net effect of all this was a policy that fell between two stools. It raised expectations through lofty rhetoric of supporting change, only to back off, and thereby confirm the view of so many in the region that it had all been subterfuge all along. This was far more damaging to US interests, IMHO, than would have been either accommodating dictators or pressing for real political change.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.

  2. #22
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    Jun 2007


    Jcustis - Gaddis did indeed understand before the invasion the 'democracy domino' theory at play. Not surprising as he is very astute (and always worth reading vice US strategy), plus this goal was, as I mentioned, out there in the public domain. But it was obscured as the Bush administration officially focused on three reasons: WMD, Hussein's links to terrorism, and the [humanitarian] liberation of the Iraqi people from an oppressive regime. Wolfowitz in an interesting interview with a Vanity Fair reporter (in late May or early June 2003) noted these three reasons, and said that for 'bureaucratic reasons' the admin focused on WMDs (he did not say what these bur reasons were but my guess is that it was the one which would convince the American public to support the invasion). Intriguingly, in the full transcript of the interview, he then starts to discuss a '4th' reason, in which he appears to start to say that the transformation of the Middle East was a goal; however, the interview is ended there and he never finished.

    As everyone knows, once it was evident there were no WMDs (or links to terrorists, Mr.Cheney's favourite reason), the Bush administration shifted to arguing that the US goal was to 'Democratize' the Mid East - which made this reason appear to be a post hoc rationalization rather than it being one of many reasons that had always been present in the administration's thinking.

    Also, in my typical absent minded way, one book I would highly recommend on that period but I forgot to note, is: Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay, America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy (Brookings Institution, 2003). Not about Iraq per se, but the authors capture well the shift in US foreign/security policy that serves as a framework for some of the thinking vis a vis invading Iraq.

    MikeF - Gaddis also understood point G. As Jcustis mentions, Gaddis also recognized the role that preemption played. I focused in G on the impact of the invasion on Iran and Syria but for the US to engage in a preventative attack against Iraq sent a clear signal to any state that the US had the will and conventional military means to deal with anyone it perceived as a potential threat (as long as they did not have nukes), and members of the Bush Admin understood this. As an aside, of sorts, in the aftermath of the invasion Kim Jong-il vanished from public view for a number of months, resulting in speculation that he had gone into hiding fearing that the US would be after him next (that the US would attack N Korea is extremely dubious, as it seems to me the US, no matter which Admin, would be deterred by N Korea's capability to inflict massive human and physical destruction on Seoul by conventional means - there are, IIRC, over 10,000 N Korean artillery tubes able to strike Seoul).

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