December 25, 2005


The future of America -- in Iraq (Robert D. Kaplan, December 24, 2005, LA Times)

IF YOU WANT to meet the future political leaders of the United States, go to Iraq. I am not referring to the generals, or even the colonels. I mean the junior officers and enlistees in their 20s and 30s. In the decades ahead, they will represent something uncommon in U.S. military history: war veterans with practical experience in democratic governance, learned under the most challenging of conditions. [...]

Regardless of whether you support or oppose the U.S. engagement in Iraq, you should be aware that that country has had a startling effect on a new generation of soldiers often from troubled backgrounds, whose infantry training has provided no framework for building democracy from scratch.

At a Thanksgiving evangelical service, one NCO told the young crowd to cheers: "The Pilgrims during the first winter in the New World suffered a 54% casualty rate from disease and cold. That's a casualty rate that would render any of our units combat ineffective. But did the Pilgrims sail back to England? Did they give up? No. This country isn't a quitter. It doesn't withdraw."

Not withdrawing means bringing stability and liberal values to a society in which people have been trained to be subjects, not citizens. Young commanders in Iraq are experiencing in the bluntest terms the intractable cultural and political realities of a world that the U.S. seeks to remake in its own image, even as their own life struggles — as well as their religious faith, which is generally deeper than that of secular elites — make them not only refuse to give up but to feel betrayed by those who would.

To label them conservative is to miss the point. Having ground-truthed the difficulty of implanting democracy in a place with no experience of it, Iraq has stripped them of any ideology they might have had. At the same time, they have become emotionally involved with building Iraqi democracy. They have developed a distrust of an American media that have not, in their eyes, recorded advances they feel they have made in reducing the level of combat or getting a nascent electoral system started. In a vast country of 23 million people, they rarely see the car bombings that kill a few dozen every day and are reported on the news at home. But they daily see the progress in front of their eyes.

Thus do the Realists lose an entire generation.

Freedom had a good year (Joshua Muravchik, December 24, 2005, LA Times)

This week, Freedom House released its survey for 2005. [...]

Eight countries plus the Palestinian Authority, not yet officially a country, moved up — either from "not free" to "partly free" or from "partly free" to "free." Four countries moved down. In all, this made it a good year for freedom.

But here's the really interesting part. Of the nine countries that improved their ratings, no fewer than six are Muslim countries. Indonesia moved from "partly free" to "free," while Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Mauritania and the Palestinian Authority moved from "not free" to "partly free." Of the four countries that became less free in 2005, none was a Muslim country.

To anyone who has followed the Freedom House data year to year, these changes are remarkable. Since the fall of Portugal's military dictatorship in 1974, a tide of freedom and democracy has washed over the globe. Every region has recorded strong gains, including even such a poor and troubled area as sub-Saharan Africa and the socially mutilated lands of the former Soviet empire. But until this year, the Muslim world had remained a stubborn exception.

In 2001, Freedom House first highlighted this remarkable disparity. Of the 47 countries that had Muslim majorities, only one was "free," 18 were "partly free" and 28 were "not free." Among the non-Muslim countries, the proportions were nearly the opposite: 85 were "free," 40 "partly free" and only 20 "not free." Worse, the Muslim world was growing more repressive, not more free.

Thanks, Osama.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 25, 2005 4:27 PM

--whose infantry training has provided no framework for building democracy from scratch.--

Of course not, what a stupid statement.

Our history provides the framework.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 25, 2005 6:43 PM

No draft, no draft dodgers, no "anti-war" movement, no Dolchstoss. And behold, all things are made new.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 25, 2005 8:14 PM

Where's Rick P to tell us that they're all going to run for Congress as anti-war Democrats, take back the House and impeach the President?

Posted by: David Cohen at December 25, 2005 9:55 PM

He was shipped to Guantanamo--we're a fascist country don'ty'a know.....

Posted by: oj at December 26, 2005 8:58 AM

Thanks Osama? It's Jimmy Carter who deserves another "Peace Prize."

Posted by: Genecis at December 26, 2005 2:28 PM