If we had to remove Saddam from power, Tony and I would have an obligation to help the Iraqi people replace Saddam’s tyranny with a democracy. The transformation would have an impact beyond Iraq’s borders. The Middle East was the center of a global ideological struggle. On one side were decent people who wanted to live in dignity and peace. On the other were extremists who sought to impose their radical views through violence and intimidation. They exploited conditions of hopelessness and repression to recruit and spread their ideology. The best way to protect our countries in the long run was to counter their dark vision with a more compelling alternative. That alternative was freedom. People who could choose their leaders at the ballot box would be less likely to turn to violence. Young people growing up with hope in the future would not search for meaning in the ideology of terror. Once liberty took root in one society, it could spread to others.
– George W. Bush, “Decision Points,” Page 232
It is both fascinating and frightening to be given insight into the thought processes that go into major foreign policy decisions such as the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Consider the basic flaws that are revealed in this single paragraph, beginning with the very first sentence. When in history, one wonders, has the removal of a tyrannical leader ever obligated those responsible for the removal to remake a nation’s entire system of government? And even if we accept this obligation, what is the basis for claiming that the revamped system of government must be a democratic one, especially if one considers that the elaborate structure which was imposed upon the Iraqi people is not only not a democracy, but was expressly designed to limit the free expression of their will on the basis of ethnic and religious identities?
Compounding the error of this nonexistent obligation is the idea that freedom represents the same thing to Muslim Arabs that it does to Christian Americans of English descent. As elections across the Middle East have amply demonstrated, when given the ability to choose their favored form of government, people in Palestine, Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey have reliably preferred Islamic theocracy to Western-style secularism. And considering the ongoing economic and demographic collapse of the West, it is not even possible to honestly claim that their preference is an entirely unreasonable one. It is worth noting that there is now more democracy in Egypt and Iraq than in the European Union satrapies of Greece and Italy.
Moreover, it is the height of both historical ignorance and hypocrisy to claim that “people who could choose their leaders at the ballot box would be less likely to turn to violence.” The German people not only chose the German National Socialist Worker’s Party at the ballot box, but enthusiastically supported plebiscites to approve the Austrian Anschluss and confirm Adolf Hitler in his consolidation of the separate offices of Reich president and Reich chancellor. And no nation on Earth has committed more violence or invaded more countries since the end of the Cold War than the United States of America. The use of the ballot box to choose George Bush and Barack Obama as their leaders has clearly not prevented Americans from utilizing violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and possibly Uganda as well, so there it clearly made no sense to assume that the magic purple fingers of democracy would prevent Iraqis, Egyptians, Pakistanis or anyone else from making use of violence.
The idea that the magic of Western culture would prevent young men from turning to terrorism has been belied by the home-grown terrorists of Britain and the Somali suicide bombers who grew up in Minneapolis alike. If Westernization does not suffice to prevent the production of jihadists in the West, there is absolutely no reason to believe it is capable of doing so in the watered-down form presently being offered in the Middle East. And finally, the former president reveals an all-too-common failure to understand that democracy, particularly in its very limited representative form, is neither synonymous with nor conducive to liberty.
So, it should come as no surprise that the military occupations have failed, that after a decade of forcing democracy on the people of Afghanistan, they are making use of their new-found freedom to murder U.S. military officers and storming NATO military bases. But the consequences of the fallacies exposed by President Bush go far beyond foreign policy, as they reveal why Western immigration policies at home are showing signs of similarly disastrous failure in the years to come.
Freedom isn’t for everyone because what freedom signifies is different to everyone. And in societies where the definitions and desires of freedom are too broad and too contradictory to permit a general consensus to take shape, the end result is that no one is going to be permitted any significant degree of freedom at all.