January 16, 2004

USA: No Smothering

Michael Ledeen, God bless him, has been a tireless advocate for liberty in the Middle East. Unfortunately, he's come down with a bad case of smothering daddy syndrome. Everybody who is a parent is familiar with it, the impulse to leave the training wheels on, to keep your little darling from making mistakes that you can see will cause a skinned knee or a few points off a homework assignment. We want to shelter, and we end up doing more harm than good.

Iraq, and Afghanistan, and anybody else who is in desperate need of a Liberty Tree of their own will have a relationship with the US. For our own security, we want them to be free. And with our two centuries experience, we know we can do it much better than they can. We should resist the temptation, not because we would fail, but because we would succeed.

One of the biggest problems of people used to tyranny is their infantilization. They are used to big brother doing it all for them. There is no civil society, few of Burke's little platoons are operational. In the most pathologic cases, there is only the state, period. These people need to grow up, and any wise elder knows that it is an art form to know when to step out of the way. Afghanistan, Iraq, and all the rest should not become a more volatile version of the resentful children of the EU who kick the ankles of their defense guarantor. It's not healthy in Europe. It would likely be worse in a very touchy islamic culture that is bred for superiority but finds itself in centuries of objective inferiority. They have elaborate rules for humiliating their inferiors in their code of dhimma. They are utterly incapable of living with the fact that they are not in the first rank of science, of commerce, of arts, of literature anymore.

The best we can do is to help unleash their creative spirit and say, "this is the best road we know to catching up to us." "Perhaps you will surpass us, perhaps not, but we will enjoy the race as brothers."

Michael Ledeen wants more. He wants us to impose our values, our social system on Iraq. The problem is that this is likely to cause great discomfort. Good luck trying to get rid of veiling and first cousin marriages, much less polygamy. Much better to listen to fellow NR writers Stanley Kurtz and Mark Krikorian who presciently addressed this issue long before Michael Ledeen took up the subject of the Bush administration's failure to impose our ideology. Iraq, Afghanistan, and all the rest will come to wisdom eventually. It may even end up looking remarkably like our own. The only way to ensure disaster is to try to force it before customs evolve to handle the coming changes.

No thanks.
Slower Please.

Posted by TMLutas at January 16, 2004 04:09 PM