Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bush Derangement Syndrome, Iraq & Liberal Democracy:

I wasn't entirely convinced Bush Derangement Syndrome existed until I made my farewell post at Dispatches From the Culture War and am getting nailed in the comments to it. And, I mean this as no insult to Ed; he has a great blog and I'm grateful that he invited me to guest blog. Let me further say I didn't vote for Bush either times (I voted Libertarian). And I do not support the Iraq War -- I think it was a mistake -- and never promoted it.

First of all on why Bush took us to war:

My post originally gave a "shout out" to my blogfather Timothy Sandefur who was a supporter of Bush's War in Iraq. He argued after Christopher Hitchens, that the War was for secular values against theocratic totalitarianism.

I do believe that the war was fought chiefly for liberal democratic values (small l, small d). And that Bush believes liberal democratic ideas are God-given human rights as he has told us, as the Declaration of Independence says. Whether liberal democratic values are "secular" is debatable, but I think you can make that case. For instance, Bush's Straussian advisors who pushed him into this war (who tend to be atheists) understand that the Declaration of Independence's ideas of "unalienable rights" to liberty and equality are NOT authentically Christian, but essentially modern ideas. So it's not too much of a stretch to say a war against Islamic fanaticism fought on behalf of universal human rights of liberty and equality is an essentially secular project. Or it's at the very least a "modern" project.

The problem is it didn't work; we could force those values on Germany and Japan (as we did), but could not on the Islamic world.

I also believe that Bush & his Straussians advisors were involved in a concerted effort to "reform" Islam to be a more moderate and enlightened religion (i.e., the idea that Islam is a "religion of peace" and that Muslims worship the same God Jews and Christians do). But whether that can work as well is not for certain; I see that as a work in progress and a noble one at that.

Some of Bush's critics -- mostly the paleoconservatives at the Lew Rockwell Crowd -- who have termed neoconservatives "neo-Jacobins" have a kernel of truth in their argument. While I can't speak for Cheney or other parts of Bush's administration, everything I've seen, read and heard from Bush supports my contention that he fought the war in Iraq chiefly to put an American footprint in the Middle East of liberty, equality, and modern democracy. The ends were noble (that is liberal democracy is the best form of government and we should wish to see all nations adopt it); the means were not. You can't "nation build" and establish liberal democracy by force in most of the illiberal un-democratic lands. According to internal theory of liberal democracy, the "people" in those lands have to "consent" to the liberal democratic (or "constitutionally republican") form of government.

And by the way, though I don't agree with the Straussians on many issues, I've learned much about political philosophy and the American Founding from them. While I'm not certain if the term "neo-Jacobin" is proper, the idea of fighting wars for liberal democratic values can be gleaned from the American Founding record. Though I wouldn't call them "Jacobins," America's Founders certainly were Francophiles. One of the many revisionist myths of the "Christian Nation" proponents is that the American Founders did not support the French Revolution. The opposite is true. The French were vital allies in defeating the British and a consensus among both the Founders and the population at large was the French Revolution was a continuation of the American Revolution, that eventually such a revolutionary republican spirit would sweep the globe and make this the *final* form of government.

And it wasn't just the deists, unitarians and rationalists who supported the French Revolution, but orthodox Trinitarian Christians, like Ezra Stiles, as well. Indeed ministers, whether heterodox unitarians like Joseph Priestley and Richard Price, or orthodox Trinitarians like Ezra Stiles synthesized such revolutionary republican ideas with the Bible and thought the French Revolution would triumphantly usher in a "millennial republic" of liberty, equality and fraternity.

Men like John Adams and Edmund Burke -- Whigs who supported the American cause, but opposed the French Revolution from the start -- were in the minority at the very beginning. And then, as with Iraq II and Vietnam, what began as a popular movement eventually began to lose support as things started to go wrong. And when it was all over, of course, we realized just how different the American and French Revolutions were, why the former succeeded and the later failed. And men like Burke and Adams got to say "I told you so" just like and Counterpunch are now saying "I told you so."

And again, I write all of this just to try and get some perspective on the last 8 years of Bush's Presidency. I don't support him or his failed war. And I think the Founding Fathers, though they CERTAINLY believed (as Bush does) that liberal democracy (i.e., what's written in the Declaration of Independence) was *the* form of government that all nations *ought* to adopt, and consequently would "cheer on" and support nations that revolted on behalf of "the rights of man," they were also wisely prudent about engaging in "foreign entanglements" on behalf of causes that we might like.

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