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August 2, 2006

engagement in the Middle East, without government

We can expect a big debate between 2006 and 2008 about whether America should disengage from the Middle East or continue to intervene there. Disengagement would require cutting our use of foreign oil, reducing our military aid to Middle Eastern states, and avoiding both military and diplomatic entanglements. Continued intervention would mean some more thoughtful and effective combination of diplomacy and occasional military force.

If you'll excuse the clich, there is a Third Way. We could engage in the Middle East, but not through the federal government. We have deep experience now with informal diplomacy, with cultural exchanges through universities and other independent institutions, and with transnational social movements that can promote democracy without working through the state.

I think the fiasco of the current intervention in Iraq cannot be fully blamed on the Bush administration. It is a more systemic failure, and blame must be shared (in some proportion that I do not know) by the uniformed military, the press, the political opposition, and even American citizens in their relationship to politics. There are some general lessons here about the susceptibility of large bureaucratic institutions to massive failure, especially when they have vast resources and power and monopolize information. The argument for non-governmental politics seems stronger than ever.

[August 3: Coincidentally, the same topic is now under discussion at Crooked Timber.]

August 2, 2006 4:41 PM | category: Iraq and democratic theory | Comments

Comments

I agree, America's involvement in Iraq is a systematic failure. However, being the head of the system at the moment, Bush&Co. deserve most of the blame. To address your other point about the Company getting assistance from its constituants, people deserve the administration they pick and in being deserving contribute to its zeitgiest.

America, after 9/11, was itching for a fight and Afghanistan was not a target enough. The public and the media, and perhaps the military, wanted and needed a larger, more visable cathartic experience than Afghanistan. It was not enough, Iraq was. It was like sheep following each other over a cliff.

I agree with your non-governmental argument, that non-governmental politics seem stronger than ever. Globalization has facilitating this process and made it easier and more acceptable. Maybe this shift is the end of the State as we know it. It sounds like a good altermative, one of a higher level of mutual coperation and detente.

In my heart of hearts I feel that 9/11 happened because Bush&Co was at the helm, through a combination of incompetence, not caring and an enemy who sensed, smelled or felt an opportunity. It was as though it was dropped at their feet. Bush&Co and its zeitgeist made the furtile ground for 9/11.

August 2, 2006 9:05 PM | Comments (1) | posted by airth10

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