As tough talk and blunt military force fail to bring about peace, justice or effective democratic reform to our global neighbors in the Middle East, it is long overdue that these failed policies be replaced with a more realistic appraisal of the effectiveness of preemptive military force as an instrument of social change. Through developing a rational, non-unilateral approach to negotiation and conflict resolution, it may prove possible to attain similar goals with far less catastrophic results.
The legacy of the Bush Administration and other allied powers in infant stages of the 21st century manifested itself through policies of idealism, ignorance and force, all of which proved only to spawn further instability and violence abroad and dragged a divided, neglected nation that was desperate for honest leadership further into a warring spiral of chaos and false hope. These policies have failed us, and they have failed the parts of world they were designed to "protect." More so, it is not only time to depose the leaders who derive and enforce such policies, but the time has come for a sea change in attitude among average citizens who are observers and participants in the these global disputes and feel that greed and imposition are a more effective means of attaining peace than are negotiation and concession.
The war in Iraq lies as the centerpiece for a model of foreign policy to which, hopefully, will never be imitated again. Of the myriad of false pretensions on which this war was based, the current and most legitimate of the bunch, democratizing Iraq, thus far has served as another history lesson to all democratized imperial powers that the job of transforming an entire region to imitate Western style governance has proven to be much more difficult than the carefully crafted rhetoric that promoted such fantasies had originally promised.
The plan presented by the Bush Administration seemed simple: overthrow Hussein by invading Iraq, be welcomed as liberators and provide security to the Iraqis as a coalition government is formed that represented the "will of the Iraqi people." Our politicians were salivating at such a tale of triumph and humanitarianism; it was an American Dream given as a gift to those less fortunate who had suffered years of violence and repression. And as this dream sequence was so patriotically soaked up by supporters of this invasion, it became a mass vehicle for intolerance and in its vacuum admonished crucial qualities, namely modesty and self-criticism, which usually protect us from carrying out storybook military operations designed to protect our way of life.
But ironically, we didn't understand that the removal of a brutal dictator in Hussein would unleash the chaos that ensued in Iraq, and as Americans, we are finding out just how far removed we were from the inner workings and the sectarian makeup that comprise these complex countries of the Middle East.
This mission is far from accomplished. We are now faced with a country engulfed in a bloody civil war, and inhabitants of the region show few signs that they are prepared for the democratization we forced them into. As Americans it is important that we first admit to our mistakes and consequently learn from them. History proves to be the most effective teacher.
For example, recently the world awoke to the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah (which ultimately ties in with the Palestinians as well) when in response to two captured Israeli soldiers, the IDF invaded and devastated the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon, in a siege that proved "Shock and Awe" miniscule in comparison. For decades Israel has been at war with the region, and in every case possesses far superior firepower than its enemies, though fighting continues to persist. And scores of civilian casualties later, Hezbollah, the supposed target of the attacks, is more emboldened and in a stronger negotiating position than before the bloodbath. In addition, what was a young Lebanese democracy is now on the verge of collapsing. Rather than addressing the core issues that divide them, Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas continue to follow the unforgiving path of retaliatory violence to solving the problems that plague them. As it has previously been stated, until a reasonable and realistic peace plan full of compromise and concession is agreed to, then regardless of the size and extent of any military operation composed by the Israelis, peace will never be attained.
The lessons of this vicious cycle should not be ignored. The great divide that exists today between the Arab world and Western style democracies can hardly be paved through the barrel of a gun. It is an understanding of the complex makeup of our counterparts more than anything that will help bridge the gap between our now warring cultures. We must have the courage to see the true results of our tactics and understand that the simplistic representation of world events that has been fed to us by our leaders will be the undertow that sweeps the men and women of our armed forces on missions of ostensible glory.
So how should America and its allies change the way we perceive our actions? In comparing the aftermath of two drastically different forms of governance, editor of Beirut's Daily Star, Rami Khouri, suggested an alternate way to evaluate the effectiveness of such differing policies, and in doing so may guide us to the self-evaluative appraisal that our foreign policy so desperately needs. He stated that the "Bush Administration's policies, in recent years, would have us judge the American proclamation of liberty in contrast with the Baathist legacy of despotism and torture. There is no possible debate if the issue is framed in this way. Liberty will always be the preferred choice. But is this the correct frame? Or is it more useful to ask if the consequences of Arab autocracy have been more or less terrible than the consequences of Western militarism?"