Kurtz gets it right, but where has he been?
We know from ample experience, even if George and Condi and Karen and Laura and Harriet don’t know it, that democratic elections in Muslim countries will tend to elect jihadists—who are, after all, the Muslim true believers. But here’s another angle on the Muslim democratization problem that has been brought out by Stanley Kurtz today at The Corner. Kurtz has some credibility on the issue, having warned in spring 2003 that the successful reconstruction of Iraq as a self-governing society would require that America take over the country for at least a generation, not just hold a couple of elections. If, Kurtz now writes, democratic elections are held in countries where the government does not already exercise a monopoly on the use of force, then the parties for whom the voters are voting will tend to be armed entities outside the government. Elections in such cases are elections for national disintegration. Kurtz continues:
The notion that elections bring democracy by teaching people to be responsible for their own bad choices simply cannot work in a totally illiberal environment. Our military commitment has been far too small to support our political ambitions. We haven’t disarmed the militias and we haven’t held the territory we’ve cleared. Because we haven’t established security or handed a central power a monopoly of legitimate force, elections have backfired. We’ve been hoping that elections themselves would do the work that only a government monopoly of force and long-term cultural change can do.Though Kurtz seemed to understand this problem very well before the invasion of Iraq, he has not, to my knowledge, been saying it in the three and a half years since the invasion and its disastrous aftermath, the very period when we desperately needed rational criticism from mainstream respected writers of our mindless and dishonest Iraq policy, which Kurtz could have provided. (Similarly, Kurtz, a vocal opponent of racial preferences, suddenly went totally silent on the issue for months following the disastrous Grutter decision, so depressed was he by the outcome, as he later explained. Kurtz is a smart guy, but, in all fairness, not someone you can count on when the going gets rough.)
I, of course, have been pointing to the democratization problem ad nauseam. Thus I wrote at FrontPage Magazine on April 20, 2004, in words almost identical to what Kurtz is writing now:
What has gone wrong? As I’ve been saying since last summer, the erection of a new government in Iraq presupposes the first law of all governments, that it have a monopoly on the use of force. Yet instead of focusing on the need for such a government and on the practical requirements for creating such a government, we’ve been pouring most of our energy and hopes into creating the mechanisms of democratic elections—imagining, in excited reverie, that the cart of universal rights and democratic proceduralism could pull the horse of sovereign national existence.
Randall Parker writes:
“Kurtz is a smart guy, but, in all fairness, not someone you can count on when the going gets rough.”
In the original posting of this entry, the sentence which now reads, “Kurtz is a smart guy, but, in all fairness, not someone you can count on when the going gets rough,” had read, “Kurtz is a smart guy, but, in all fairness, not someone you’d want to share a foxhole with.” Mark J. had written to me and, after warmly complimenting VFR, said:
… But why is it necessary to include such a gratuitous insult in your commentary on Kurtz? Not everyone is perfect and tuned in exactly where you are. Some people are in a process of evolution towards the traditionalist conservative position. Sometimes they might not speak up when they could have, sometimes they don’t draw the conclusions they should.LA replied:
I appreciate your thoughts and comments.LA, still thinking, continued:
Kurtz did an incredible thing in 2003. He went AWOL on a topic to which he was devoted, at the moment when it was most important for him to be standing his ground against Grutter and awakening people to what had happened. Then months later he comes out with an article telling us that he had been so bummed out about Grutter that he didn’t have the heart to write about it. Frankly, if he felt that way, he shouldn’t have said it. It was like announcing to the world, “I’m a weakling, don’t depend on me.”After sending that e-mail, I came to think that the “foxhole” comment was, as Mark J. had said, gratuitously strong, and I changed it to something softer. At the same time, I felt that my explanations of why I have such passion on this issue and had initially used such language, and why I finally changed it, would be worth posting, and so I’ve done so.