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March 24, 2005
By Auntie Pinko

Dear Auntie Pinko,

With Egypt announcing plans for democracy and new upraising in Lebanon, the United States is giving itself tremendous amounts of credit for creating a "domino democracy effect." However, these new developments may be very separate from the Iraqi invasion. How much of this is due to the war in Iraq, and when, if ever, do we start giving Bush credit for this?

Amanda,
Clarkston, MI


Dear Amanda,

A fair question, I think. Auntie will try to resist cynical comparisons to stopped clocks and how often they are right in the course of my response. Oops. Guess I blew that one, didn't I?

The effort of citizens in the Middle East to achieve political self-determination is an unequivocally positive trend, although it may have negative consequences for American interests. The obvious one is that they really don't seem to like us very much (many decades of America propping up, in the interests of oil profits, the dictatorial regimes they are trying to replace might account for that, don't you think?)

So if they do achieve such self-determination, the resulting governments might end up in the same category as the Venezuelan government on the State Department ledger.

However, as the world has come to realize, "elections" do not always equate to political self-determination. And in countries with many deeply divided factions (like Iraq) political self-determination will not necessarily result in a functional and effective government.

I do not know exactly what factors differentiate a successful reorganization, like the division of the former Czechoslovakia into Slovakia and the Czech Republic, from a bloodbath like the breakup of Yugoslavia. The artificial political boundaries and national distinctions forced upon the peoples of the Middle Eastern region in the wake of World War I make it inevitable that if the "domino democracy effect" continues and succeeds, there will be many such reorganizations.

The levels of chaos, violence, and bloodshed accompanying such reorganizations may cause many to re-think their opinion of the desirability of political self-determination in the region.

However, I do believe that in the long run, there is no place to go but up - especially if we can limit the self-interested (and even the well-intentioned) meddling of outside parties. Such meddling would be least harmful under the aegis of a multi-national body like the UN, which includes some level of participation from all of the outside parties with all of their competing interests, and achieves some level of balance amongst them.

To what extent has Mr. Bush's meddling in the region already been a controlling or catalytic factor in this process? That will be for history to decide. We do not have enough perspective to judge where that particular factor stands in the overall picture. I think it is undeniable that it is a factor. To that extent, we should certainly acknowledge that Mr. Bush's actions in the Middle East have had both positive and negative effects.

Mr. Bush's staunch advocacy of "liberty," "freedom," "democracy," etc., has probably had a positive effect on the pace and scope of movements toward political self-determination, not just in the Middle East, but around the world. Whether, in the long view of history, this positive effect is a critical one or a lasting one is impossible to say now. I would like to think that it could be. Auntie Pinko would not like America remembered as an entirely negative or negligible influence in world affairs during the first decade of the 21st Century.

Whether the impact of Mr. Bush's advocacy outweighs the damage done, both domestically, and worldwide, by so many other actions of his Administration is another question. Again, history will judge. The law of unintended consequences works in all directions; who can say where this chain of events will lead?


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