December 20, 2004


Democratic Nation-Building, Brick by Brick: Iraq is the wrong way to do it. Here's what works. (Timothy Garton Ash, December 19, 2004, LA Times)

How does one promote democracy?

We know the wrong way: Iraq. But what's the right way? What means are effective and justified? There's a whole library on the criteria for military intervention; almost nothing on those for promoting democracy.

The question is prompted by controversy about the role of Western money in Ukraine's "Orange Revolution," but it goes far beyond that. The Bush administration has put "the democratization of the wider Middle East" at the top of its foreign policy agenda for the next four years. Do we disagree with the end or simply Washington's proposed means?

To kick-start this important debate, here's a very preliminary attempt to lay out a few first principles:

1. War is not justified simply to promote democracy. So the Iraq war was wrong. It would have been justified, in my view, if Saddam Hussein had been committing a genocide against his people at the time we went to war, or if he really was on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons — but he wasn't, so it wasn't. Using the promotion of democracy as the main justification for that war risks giving democracy a bad name.

Applying Mr. Garton Ash's standard, America has never fought a justifiable war and I can't think offhand of any other nation that ever has.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 20, 2004 7:52 AM

It's very tempting to change the last part of the fellow's surname. But let's not sink to his level.

Posted by: Peter at December 20, 2004 8:08 AM

We are all aware (even if this fellow isn't), that he wouldn't fight if Saddam (or today's monster of the day) was committing genocide and/or was about to test a bomb.

So the Bushes of the world do the governing, and he does the complaining. Fair enough.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 20, 2004 8:20 AM

Interestingly enough, Mr. Ash -- who said "we are all blue Americans now" after the election in an apparent attempt to unite Europeans and liberal Americans -- is a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution.

Go figure THAT one out.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 20, 2004 8:25 AM

However, by this standard the USA would be justified in invading Iran.

Posted by: Daran at December 20, 2004 8:33 AM

re: Daran's comment

OK , Mr. Ash, let's invade North Korea (genocide (well, forced starvation) and imminent WMD)

Posted by: JonofAtlanta at December 20, 2004 9:00 AM