Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Optimistic Pessimism? Or vice versa?

FPRI commentator and Iraqi scholar Kanan Makiya [via] says
Despite the high levels of violence and the fact that we cannot yet say that the back of the insurgency has been broken, I believe that ultimately history will look kindly upon the U.S. democratization project in the region. That it was done badly and without the requisite planning goes without saying. However, too many people draw from this “bungled” effort large and sweeping lessons about how history will judge this shift in U.S. foreign policy. I am not prepared to make that kind of leap. That the project was mismanaged in numerous ways has implications for the here and now, but it does not yet speak to the long term. We are on the edge of a chasm from which we can still step back. It is a dangerous moment, but not yet hopeless.
He's flogging the old "there were no good alternatives to invasion" fallacy, but even from that perspective the invasion was about the only thing the US/Coalition did right. There's some interesting -- if not entirely convincing -- social psychology towards the end
the threat to Iraqi life and well-being does not come from the Arab nationalism of the Baath, but from ... the profoundly irrational and self-destructive politics of shrinking oneself down to the mere fact of one’s own victimhood as a reaction to the previous totalizing transnational ideologies that have so poisoned one’s world.

The terrible lesson of Palestinian politics is that a leadership that elevates victimhood into the be-all and end-all of politics brings untold misery upon its own people. Given political power, this kind of a leadership will in turn victimize.
The fact that Iraqis are still competing with each other over who has suffered the most, and who did or did not collaborate with Saddam, is not a good sign; it is a sign that what he represented still lives on inside Iraqi hearts.
My position on the war has always been that regime change was a worthwhile goal, but it's a means to an end and should have been handled very differently (from about 1990 on) to actually achieve desirable outcomes with something like a veneer of competency. Instead, we've catapulted ourselves to the edge of catastrophic chasms.

There is an interesting echo of American politics there, though I haven't quite figured out what it means entirely. It seems to me, though, that the party most energetically arguing victimhood is no longer the "majority of minorities" Democratic party (which is articulating positive visions based on fundamental values), but the Republicans: seemingly afraid of everything, and rallying its "bases" with visions of secular socialist brown-skinned Grinchos stealing their white capitalist Christmases....

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