Monday, March 27, 2006

So Close and Yet So Far

Andrew C. McCarthy takes away a good lesson from the Abdul Rahman scandal, but then he runs in the wrong direciton with it.

He points out the very real fact that democracy is, in and of itself, not a guarantee of liberal (in the classical sense of the word) policy or of the protection of individual freedoms. In a country where the vast majority of the population favors an illiberal belief system, the only way to insure human rights is to suppress the popular will.

He points out quite eloquently that we should have expected something like this:

You reap what you sow. What is happening in Afghanistan (and in Iraq) is precisely what we bought on to when we actively participated in the drafting of constitutions which — in a manner antithetical to the development of true democracy — ignored the imperative to insulate the civil authority from the religious authority, installed Islam as the state religion, made sharia a dominant force in law, and expressly required that judges be trained in Islamic jurisprudence. To have done all those things makes outrage at today’s natural consequences ring hollow.

If the outrage is based on a sense of betrayal of liberal values, then sure, it rings hollow. My own outrage was at the fact that the Afghanis tried to impose a death sentence right under our noses while we were keeping them in power. And my outrage was at the complicity that we would have shown in allowing it to happen under our noses. Fortunately, it appears that Rahman's life will be spared.

We can pull our heads up from the sand now and say, “No, no, no! We’re nice people. We didn’t mean it that way. That’s too uncivilized to contemplate.” But the inescapable truth is: the United States made a calculated decision that it wasn’t worth our while to fight over Islamic law (indeed, we encouraged it as part of the political solution).

In other words, the only way to achieve religious freedom is to supprss the will of the Afghani people and to force them to have a constitution that does not enshrine Islamic Law. Again, so far, so good. Nothing he says is untrue.

As Lawrence Auster puts it:

Assuring an Afghan constitution that protected liberal individual rights would have required that we take over Afganistan and rule it against the will of its people; it would have required that we suppress democracy in the name of individual rights.

Here, though, is where he starts to go in the wrong direction.

People who objected (like moi) were told that we just didn’t grasp the cultural dynamic at work. I beg to differ — we understood it only too well.

Here is where McCarthy begins to go in the wrong direction. Not only is he pointing out the apparent contradcition in our goals, he is now suggesting how the contradiction be solved, and he chooses, i my opinion, the wrong way.

Against from the same Auster post I mentioned previously, there are three ways to deal with Afghanistan:

(1) Allow the Afghanis to have their way while pretending we are building a liberal, human rights-respecing society (the hypocritical option).

(2) Be unhypocritical by allowing the Afghanis to have their way, but not pretending that we are building a liberal country. This is the option that both Auster and I favor.

(3) Be unhypocritical by actually insisting on a liberal government. This is what McCarthy wants, and where his error lies.

The fact of the matter is, our goal in Afghanistan was to rout the Taliban because they were the direct allies of Al Qaeda. Our only goal in Afghnistan ought to be to make certain that the Taliban not regain power, which can be accomplished now, methinks, simply by establishing an air base in the country and bombing the Taliban whenever we hear that they have gathered or if they start to regain political power. Beyond that, we have no interest in protecting the current government, and in fact, for warlords or politicians whom we do not particularly like, we have no reason to protect them from the Taliban; let them fight them, and if the Taliban remnants kill a warlord and threaten to gain control over his lands, then take the Taliban out. Trying to make certain that whatever replaces the Taliban is

The point is, imposing liberal government in Afghanistan should not be a high priority. Andrew McCarthy apparently has been bitten by the imperialist bug and has become, if not a messianic democratist, in the sense of democracy uber alles, at least a messianic liberalist, in the sense that it is the job of the U.S. to bring liberal democracy throughout the world. Or at least that a major part of the war on terror is forcing liberality down the throats of the Muslim world.

As for not understanding the political dynamic - methinks he doesn't. Those who insisted that we could get a democracy and Islamic Law without Sharia may have been wrong, but those who think that we could have imposed a liberal republic on the Afghanis without facing a mounting religious insurgency like the one that drove the Soviets out are also delusional. True, this time the Afghans would not have a superpower sponsor like they did (namely, us) when fighting the U.S.S.R., but they could have done serious damage unless we just decided to wipe out large portions of the population.

Allowing them their Islamic law was how we maintained some semblance of order. As Auster says:

The alternative pushed by McCarthy was not to be hypocritical about [liberal] democracy but to insist on it. But that would have required us pushing the Afghans against their wishes, and our whole reconstructive effort might have broken down.

Being able to predict the consequences of current policy and to show up those who have unrealistic expectations of it does not make you a realist. If you retain the same essential expectations, but just provide a different way of getting there, you are just as deluded as they. Sometimes the policy was right, it's the expectations that should have been revised.

That is all.

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