Agreeing with Alison

I don’t often agree with Alison Broinowski, and indeed much of her article in today’s Australian is just her standard kneejerk anti-western cringe that we sensitive New Age Right Wing Death Beasts have come to know and detest. (Update – I couldn’t be bothered dealing with most of Broinowski’s poisonous piffle, but fortunately Steve Edwards has despatched her arguments with the extreme prejudice they deserve). However, this passage is one whose sentiments I largely endorse:

… If Iraq was the wrong enemy, who is the right one?

The Bush administration keeps insisting the Muslims are not the enemy and that Islam is a religion of peace, and Howard echoes this view. No Iraqis attacked the US in 2001 but 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. It is predominantly Saudi money that has for long funded Islamist groups in several countries, including al-Qa’ida and Jemaah Islamiah. But until recently, because the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia has been quarantined from scrutiny and criticism, few will admit that Riyadh, not Baghdad, is the source of enmity and activism.

Popular Saudi preachers and their supporters in Pakistan call openly for a jihad against the West. Many Saudis, defending their faith, assert that violence is a righteous reaction to a catalogue of perceived injustices to Muslims in the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan and Iraq. But the US continues to treat Saudi Arabians as friends.

Yet the sheep stranded at sea were refused by Saudi Arabia not because they were diseased but in retaliation for Australia’s role in Iraq. The Government has not admitted it, but a former ambassador to Riyadh does. …

Does this mean we should nuke the Saudis? Probably not. However, one of the major reasons I supported the US/UK/Australian military action in Iraq was precisely because it held out the promise of the West reducing its dependence on Saudi Arabian oil, and hence being in a position to take a more robust, aggressive stance against Saudi support of terrorism. In that sense, I agree with the standard left dogma that the Iraq conflict was “about oil” (but not “all about oil”).

There are signs of such a toughened stance by the Americans, and also some signs that the Saudi regime is responding constructively to the increased pressure, but it isn’t yet clear whether we’re seeing a decisive shift. Of course, not even the faintest suggestion that US policy might contain a marginally positive, strategically intelligent aspect can be allowed any place in Broinowski’s world (or that of Phillip Adams etc).

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Niall
2021 years ago

Oh come on, Ken. You’re really in cloud-cuckoo land if you believe the US occupation of Iraq will lessen the wests reliance on Saudi oil. Ever heard of a premise known as the “Oil Wars”? Iraq was merely the first round, and the US has it all. You reckon they’ll let the rest of the co-alition in on the bonus?

Steve Edwards
Steve Edwards
2021 years ago

Cloud cuckoo land? That’s familiar. Who was using that term against Alison Broinowski at around, oh, 11 o’clock this morning?

Gummo Trotsky
2021 years ago

Aristophanes maybe?

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2021 years ago

While we’re on the subject of terrorists, I see the French Government – the much reviled French Government – did us a big favour by alerting us to the presence of an Al Quida operative in our midsts.

I don’t know what this character was doing here for 5 months on his tourist visa, but I suspect he wasn’t taking in the wonders of Kakadu and the Barrier Reef.

I believe it’s time for those on the Right who did nothing but spit poison at the French before and during the war to offer a big, fat, humble apology.

But I won’t be holding my breath waiting for it to happen.

meika
2021 years ago

I look out the window and I see a landscape built by and for oil. The human landscape is petroleum product.
We are oil. But we are not one.

The vegetarians are the most oily of course.

see this for why

Murph
2021 years ago

Dave

Nobody in their right mind would suggest that the Chocolate Soldiers have not done enough to combat actual terrorists. In fact, those countries have been involved in some of the most audacious and decisive blows against Al-Qaeda terrorist cells and networks. The problem arises in that the French govt and co. cannot seem to understand the long term strategic necessity of politically transforming the Middle East so that it is democratic. Democracy is the key to peace, stability and wealth. If you don’t beleive it then name me one major conflict which has arisen between two *real* democracies?

Murph
2021 years ago

Dave

Nobody in their right mind would suggest that the Chocolate Soldiers have not done enough to combat actual terrorists. In fact, those countries have been involved in some of the most audacious and decisive blows against Al-Qaeda terrorist cells and networks. The problem arises in that the French govt and co. cannot seem to understand the long term strategic necessity of politically transforming the Middle East so that it is democratic. Democracy is the key to peace, stability and wealth. If you don’t beleive it then name me one major conflict which has arisen between two *real* democracies?

Murph
2021 years ago

Sorry ’bout the echo…

Murph
2021 years ago

Sorry ’bout the echo…

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2021 years ago

Murph,

Ho hum, not the old canard about “no two democracies have ever fought a war against each other”, again.

First, as a matter of historical record, it’s arguably not true. Britain and the US fought a war against other in 1812 (or thereabouts) and while Britain was not a democracy by today’s standards, it certainly had a more representative government than was standard at the time.

Second, to the extent it’s true, it’s because democracy has, until very recently, been a rare thing. The absence of wars between democracies has been because there just haven’t been many of them. This argument, BTW, comes from one of very own, neo-conservatives, Owen Harries, who was hawking neo-conservative ideas long before anyone had heard of Paul Wolfowitz and his pals.

Now, on the French —

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

I thought it was no two countries with a McDonalds, but that was disproved when they bombed Belgrade. I think Murph is overstating the case, but I agree that somehow fostering liberal democratic reform in the Middle East is a key to positive change there. Whether the Iraq conflict was the best way of achieving that is another question, the answer to which is presently looking fairly negative, although it’s still relatively early days. If you looked at East Timor 12 months after the September 1999 referendum and UNAMET arrival, you would have seen almost no visible progress. Of course, Iraq presents lots of problems on a much larger scale, but equally it has greater resources, infrastructure and a core of trained, well educated bureaucrats, professionals and trades people. Of course, the left of the blogosphere will continue screeching doom and destruction every time there’s a terrorist incident. Those developments are certainly worrying, but they don’t connote that rebuilding or democratic reform are doomed.

wen
wen
2021 years ago

I think the no two democracies thesis is RJ Rummel’s (professor of peace studies at U of Hawaii) – his website is here:

He thoughtfully includes critiques of his work on the site.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2021 years ago

Ken,

apart from Japan post WW2, can you name one case where the winner of a war has successfully imposed democracy on the loser, where it had never existed previously?

wen
wen
2021 years ago

Yes – it’s the first invisible website!

Try again:
http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/welcome.html

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Dave,

Well, Germany was also only a very fragile and short-lived (Weimar) democracy. In a very real sense democracy was built there from scratch by the victors of WWII.

Moreover, I think it’s quite doubtful whether most of the Iraqi population (the Shiite and Kurdish large majority) actually see themselves as the “losers” of a war. Most of them DO see themselves as having been (contingently) liberated, although no doubt they’re distinctly ambivalent about the Americans.

The ongoing terrorism incidents, worrying as they are, almost certainly emanate from Saddam supporters and/or jihad exponents from other parts of the Middle East, and not from the Shiite and Kurdish majority. It may yet happen that the combined effect of Saddam/jihadist terrorism and a sullen substantial Sunni minority that has lost its privileged position might be enough to destabilise and terminally undermine any realistic prospect of rebuilding or democratic reform, but it’s far too early to evaluate that yet. It will take another year until we even begin to get a clear picture (unless Bush is unable to swing Congressional support for ongoing rebuilding funding at a reasonably adequate level, in which case we may be writing the obituaries rather more quickly).

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2021 years ago

One persons imposition of democracy is another persons removing an impediment to democracy.

Imposing democracy, my my, it takes a pretty middle class whitey world view to say there was 25 million happy vegemites joyfully enjoying their cultural independence until the evil west came along and that now Saddam is gone they are chaffing at the bit to get another one.

Still different interpretations or world view is what democracy and quality blogging is all about, though sometimes it does feel a bit like an imposition.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2021 years ago

“apart from Japan post WW2, can you name one case where the winner of a war has successfully imposed democracy on the loser, where it had never existed previously?”

The ending of the Cold War was – interestingly – accompanied by a fairly significant receding of the totalitarian tide…..

I think you’d also have to frame Germany in there somewhere given that the Weimar Republic had completely failed to deal with Prussian militarism, long before Hitler seized power. There’s not a lot of heelclicking and waxed moustaches going on since 45.

You won’t agree Dave but if we accept the “democracy imposition” case for the Iraq War – for a moment – isn’t it also predicated more on removing the Saddamite/Ba’athist clique in order that freedom might flourish, rather than “imposing democracy” on the population at large? Semantics maybe, but I see a difference between the two approaches.

If however you were to be suggesting that the Iraqis might reasonably be assumed to prefer traditional clan-based power arrangements rather than abstract notions of the common good, you might well be on to something :)

Jozef
2021 years ago

Sheep, black gold…Remember the Great Contracts?

Strange Bedfellows
Ii is ironic that one of the partners in a big Iraqi firm being used by US contractors in Iraq is also a founding partner in an organization that’s been identified as helping fund Al Qaeda. So far, however, neither the government nor the contractors have shown much concern…
· Czechpoint Sadoon Al-Bunnia: Contract with Amerika [The Nation]

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2021 years ago

Ken, James, Geoff

Germany after WW2 —

Murph
2021 years ago

Dave

Serbia looks more like a democracy than it ever did prior to the removal of Slobba. South Korea, although struggling with internal forces determined to give one man, one vote, once to Kim Il Sung and son, has eventually made progress toward democracy. The defeat of the Communist Bloc in The Cold War has spelled the emergence of democracy in much of Eastern Europe (and Latin America and South East Asia).

Your argument that a lack of conflict between democracies is due to a lack of conflict overall is absurd. The democratisation of Europe under the auspices of the US government and military has resulted in the greatest period of peace on that continent since Charlemagne. Meanwhile, there have been hundreds if not thousands of conflicts involving at least one antagonist which is a two bit dictatorship. Furthermore, I don’t (and many others wouldn’t) consider that Britain was a democracy in 1812. Even if Britain was a democracy, that incident would clearly be the exception rather than the rule.

Jozef
2021 years ago

The Czechs, Poles, Hungarians etc all built their democratic institutions from the ground up.

Indeed, Dave Czech Demoracy has long historical foundations and even future appears to be bright if current reports are to be trusted…

According to the latest world rankings published by the international media monitoring organisation, Reporters Without Borders Australia plummeted from 12th place in the 2002 index of press freedom, to 50th this year, behind Czechs and Slovaks, who moved to 12th place this year, New Zealand in 17th, Britain (27th), the United States (31st) and South Korea (49th).

Murph
2021 years ago

Dave

Serbia looks more like a democracy than it ever did prior to the removal of Slobba. South Korea, although struggling with internal forces determined to give one man, one vote, once to Kim Il Sung and son, has eventually made progress toward democracy. The defeat of the Communist Bloc in The Cold War has spelled the emergence of democracy in much of Eastern Europe (and Latin America and South East Asia).

Your argument that a lack of conflict between democracies is due to a lack of conflict overall is absurd. The democratisation of Europe under the auspices of the US government and military has resulted in the greatest period of peace on that continent since Charlemagne. Meanwhile, there have been hundreds if not thousands of conflicts involving at least one antagonist which is a two bit dictatorship. Furthermore, I don’t (and many others wouldn’t) consider that Britain was a democracy in 1812. Even if Britain was a democracy, that incident would clearly be the exception rather than the rule.

Murph
2021 years ago

there’s some wierd shite going on here. everything i post is doubling up. sorry about that.

Murph
2021 years ago

there’s some wierd shite going on here. everything i post is doubling up. sorry about that.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2021 years ago

Murph

“Your argument that a lack of conflict between democracies is due to a lack of conflict overall is absurd. ”

If that was my argument, it would be absurd.

But it wasn’t.

My argument was was that a lack of conflict between democracies was due to a lack of democracies.

And that isn’t absurd.

As for the Serbs: they removed Slobba themselves.

Graham
2021 years ago

What about India? Whilst they’re got their problems with a different type of “clash of fundamentalisms” with the ruling party which is somewhat beholden to the fundamentalist Hindu vote, they seem to have managed to maintain a working democracy post-Partition.

Velvet revolutions from within seem to forment the best prospects for democracy, since there’s not so much disruption to order.

Unfortunately Iraq doesn’t seem likely to go that way; if left to their own devices at this point, for all we know civil war might break out or yet another obscurantist theocracy will take hold – neither outcomes are desirable for the West. But of course someone’s desire for those outcomes seems like part of the impetus of those who are presently trying to bomb the crap out of any foreign organisation in the country, military, corporate, NGO, or otherwise. It’s going to take a while, and it’s hard to tell who is going to give up on their goals first – the US, or the local nihilist brigades who fancy themselves as the true “liberators”. It’s not as if Iraq was liberated from invading forces from a different empire/nation, it was liberated from a native despot, who held on to power post-1991 as the economy crumbled because of sanctions by nurturing local familial power structures based on tradition. If any store is set by the idea of national identity and integrity, that’s something that has to be dealt with.

Of course things were diabolical beforehand, but it’s pretty naive for anyone to assume that a democracy will magically spring into place out of nowhere, given that the benefits of such are pretty abstract for anyone who doesn’t actually live in a democracy and would rather that the status quo wasn’t disturbed, so you get things like the Mahathirist conceit.

Aa for the French, scoff if you will, but they probably know a thing or two about hopeless situations and loyalist guerillas that the Yanks don’t. Look at Algeria.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2021 years ago

Good point about India, Graham. It’s interesting that India has managed to develop a strong democratic culture, while it’s fraternal twin, Pakistan, has not.

Norman
Norman
2021 years ago

I was going to offer a counterpoint, Ken, then I saw that Naill criticised you, and the shock of that caused me to completely forget what I intended to write, so I zipped directly to the end to say you must have been more correct than I’d thought. Cheers.