The war in Iraq was about establishing a foothold for democracy in the Middle East, many conservative posters here maintain. Forget WMD, that was just the "sell" - what makes the war make sense in the long term is its geostrategical rationale. And that rationale makes sense even from a purely pragmatical perspective, since only rooting democracy in the ME will safeguard us in the long term against rogue states and terrorists from that region.
Fair enough - spreading democracy in the most authoritarian region of the world would surely be a good long-term development, and ultimately benefitial for our safety, too.
So if the Bush administration is so hell-bent on establishing democracy in the ME - hell-bent enough to invade a country over it, at the cost of 10,000 civilian dead, a newly created zone of semi-anarchic freedom for terrorists as well as civilians, newly exacerbated enmity in the region - in short, if the administration was willing to accept all those costs just to pioneer a democratic experiment in the region - why is it so utterly unconcerned with democracy in any of Iraq's neighbouring states?
If "democracy" was a cause worthy enough for a full-scale war and long-term military presence when it comes to the Iraqis'
freedom from torture and dictatorship, then why doesn't the administration invest any bark, whatsoever, in what already are purely diplomatic interventions when it comes to people elsewhere in the Middle East / Central Asia?
Example: Saudi Arabia.
It's difficult to argue with the Bush administration's avowed aim of a "global democratic revolution," but it is depressingly easy to question its sincerity. The latest reminder of the mismatch between word and deed came last week in Saudi Arabia. On the eve of an official visit to Riyadh by Colin Powell, Saudi authorities rounded up and imprisoned several democracy activists who had formed a human rights group. One detainee, according to journalist Elizabeth Rubin, is Mohammad Sayeed Al Tayeeb, whose subversive behavior includes regularly holding discussions with intellectuals in his home. The arrests, however, did not make much of an impression on Powell, who at a press conference praised America's relationship with the Saudi autocracy as "quite strong" while, beside him, Prince Saud Al Faisal dismissed the arrests as "an internal issue." As one Saudi confessed to The New York Times, "The authorities want to teach the liberals a lesson that they do not care what America thinks and that they can put them in jail at any time." Lesson accomplished.
link (TNR, gotta scroll)
Example: Uzbekistan, where Karimov's dictatorial regime has functioned as a pressure cooker for civilian dissent to turn into Muslim militancy
During his visit to Uzbekistan yesterday, Rumsfeld said U.S.-Uzbek military relations are "growing stronger every month." He praised the Uzbek leadership for supporting the U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan. "We have benefited greatly in our efforts in the global war on terror and in Afghanistan from the wonderful cooperation we've received from the government of Uzbekistan," he said.
[..] Asked about Uzbekistan's poor human rights record, Rumsfeld said the issue had been discussed but that human rights are one side of a multifaceted relationship the United States has with the republic. He said relations between sovereign nations tend not to be based on what he called a "single pillar." He said such relations involve economic, political, security, and human rights issues.
link (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
Were those "other pillars" the same Rumsfeld had in mind when he went to shake Saddam's hand, back in the eighties? Don't we ever learn?