The Hyper-Bushians

Neither by land nor by sea see will you find the way to the Hyperboreans.
—Pindar, quoted by Nietzsche in The Antichrist

Mark Steyn subscribes 100 percent to the Bush Doctrine which says that Muslim countries must be democratized and can be democratized. At page 169 of his book, America Alone, he approvingly quotes President Bush’s hyper-Wilsonian 2005 inaugural address:

The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.

On page 173 Steyn writes:

… Americans are deeply suspicious of the notion that you can swan around the world “giving” freedom to people. They have to want it, like the first Americans did—as we say in New Hampshire, live free or die. If the Iraqis want a free society badly enough, they’ll stick with it; if they don’t and they take the easy option of falling for some puffed-up strongman, that’s their problem, not America’s.

While this might be philosophically admirable, the practical drawback is that power abhors a vacuum. If the US won’t export its values—self-reliance, decentralization—others will export theirs.

Steyn then goes on to say that America cannot afford to let things in the world just happen. We must, he says, have the confidence in our own values to make other people accept them. Thus, even if Muslim people show that they have no interest in governing themselves according to American style self-reliance and the rest, even if they show that they prefer rule by a strong man or by sharia, we must not accept their preference, because, as Bush says, our very freedom depends on Muslims’ believing in freedom too.

Steyn’s book was published in fall 2006, long after the disaster of Bush’s democratization strategy in Iraq had revealed itself. So Steyn, and the mainstream conservatives who uniformly sang praises for his book, have learned nothing. Or, rather, they have learned the wrong lesson. They think the Bush policy of democratizing Iraq in order to democratize the Muslim world has failed because Bush has not pursued it strongly enough. Which means that they are still living inside Norman Podhoretz’s mad imperial dream of the pre-Iraq invasion period. Writing in the September 2002 Commentary, the neocon pope endorsed President Bush’s idea that democratic government must be instituted for every people and culture in the world, and that this is possible because all people are the same. As I commented at the time:

True, all people in the world have the same abstract rights, as well as the same basic human needs and hopes and fears. But … none of that proves that any particular people has the specific attributes and aspirations that are needed to maintain a constitutional representative democracy. Podhoretz himself acknowledges as much…. [H]e ruefully notes that in the Muslim Mideast, mothers and fathers, who according to Bush have the same feelings and aspirations as mothers and fathers everywhere, “were celebrating Palestinian children (including their own) who blew themselves up as a way of killing as many Israeli Jews as possible.”

Given these formidable obstacles on the road to global democracy, Podhoretz recognizes that the transformation of the Mideast is not going to be generated from within. Therefore, going way beyond anything the President has suggested, he urges that the United States overthrow the regimes of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority, and that the U.S. then “impose a new political culture on the defeated parties. This is what we did directly and unapologetically in Germany and Japan after winning World War II…. ” While Podhoretz admits, in a partial bow to reality, that these countries, even under America’s benevolent guidance, could not be expected to become democratic overnight, he nevertheless insists that there is no essential reason why Islam couldn’t become modern and democratic, just as Judaism and Christianity did before it.

Five years after Podhoretz issued his call for the U.S. conquest and reconstruction of seven or eight Muslim countries, this is evidently where Steyn is coming from as well. Thus if Bush is a hyper-Wilsonian, Podhoretz and Steyn are hyper-Bushians. Bush says that all countries must have democracy, but then, to the great disappointment of his neocon supporters, he recoils at doing the things that would actually be necessary to impose democracy on them. Podhoretz and Steyn have no such compunctions. They are “hard” democratists. They believe that America must force Muslim countries to adopt our ways, meaning (1) we must force them to choose their governments by democratic elections, and (2) we must require that these elections have outcomes of which we approve. This is the Hyper-Bushian Doctrine.

* * *

To clarify, I do not mean to suggest that Steyn is seriously pushing for the extreme spread-democracy position that he has implied in his book, any more than Steyn is truly serious about anything he ever says. Also, I’m not aware offhand of any neocons who have literally agreed with Norman Podhoretz that the U.S. should conquer, occupy, and reconstruct as democracies all the major countries of the Muslim Mideast.At the same time, what I’ve described as the Hyper-Bushian position—democratization, plus real action backing it up—remains the neoconservatives’ fundamental ideological and rhetorical stance, even though different neocons may vary in the details, and even though they recognize that sufficient political support for such a policy does not now exist. Given their basic suppositions about the world, the neocons have no choice but to be Hyper-Bushians. As Steyn writes in his book, there are only three possible Western responses to Islam: to submit to it, to destroy it, or to reform it; and since the first two are out of the question, that leaves only the third, reform; and since our very survival depends on Islam being reformed, we cannot leave the reform up to the Muslims, but must take steps ourselves to assure that it takes place.

Of course, Steyn and other neocons never even mention a fourth possible Western response to Islam: to isolate, weaken, and contain it, as the West successfully did from the 17th to the 20th centuries, and as I urge today under the rubric of Separationism. The neocons cannot list Separationism even as a logical alternative to reform, because that would mean admitting that the vision of a single humanity living under a single democratic order is not the only possible path for mankind. It would be like a Muslim conceding that Christianity or Arabian idol worship may just be the true religion after all.

- end of initial entry -

Maureen C. writes:

Re: Podhoretz’s claim that there is no essential reason why Islam couldn’t become modern and democratic, just as Judaism and Christianity did before it.

What happens to our hands and heads while we’re waiting 1,000 years for Islam to evolve and “catch up”?

Carl Simpson writes:

They [Podhoretz and Steyn] are “hard” democratists. They believe that America must force Muslim countries to adopt our ways, meaning (1) we must force them to choose their governments by democratic elections, and (2) we must require that these elections have outcomes of which we approve. This is the Hyper-Bushian Doctrine.

A curious parallel here between these two and Eurocrats like Chirac and Merkel. If an election results in an outcome they don’t approve of (Sharia, for example), they insist that elections must be held again and again until the correct result is achieved. Yet more proof (as if we needed any) that neoconservatives are actually a species of leftist.

They’re not truly democratists, but utopians.

Swedish conservative writes:

The “hard” democrats, the hyper-Bushians, say “we must force them to choose their governments by democratic elections”.

This has a long history in America. Niall Ferguson quoted Woodrow Wilson’s man in London, Walter Page, saying about the Mexico situation in 1913: “Yes. The United States will be here for two hundred years and it can continue to shoot men for that little space till they learn to vote and to rule themselves.”

America never had any better plan than this for warfare. As Niall Ferguson pointed out, if it have had been the Brits (of the British empire) they would simply have invaded Mexico and taken over the rule of the country. The most forceful plan America can conceive, however, is to enter a country and shoot down men until they learn to “elect good men”. What’s happening in Iraq is nothing new.

A traditional(ist) war goal is to invade and take over the land (or attack and then stay out for tactical reasons). This is how things used to be like up until the hegemony of the British empire. But now we live under American hegemony, and America decided to “change the rules”. America, being a former colony with an underdog self- identity, can never stomach the idea of taking over another country. America came into existence by an egalitarian revolution; this is its founding myth and identify. Now it’s America that is the empire of the West, so at this point the whole West is stuck in the mindset of egalitarian revolutionaries.

Fjordman wrote about America today.

Charles T. writes:

“The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. ” President Bush.

Absolute nonsense. “IF” this is an absolute truth, then liberty will fail in our land. Why? Look at history. Human history is one long story of wars, cruel governments, slavery, oppression, etc. The United States has been one of the most stable—if not the most stable—republics in the history of the world. Relatively speaking, our republic has been an unusual oasis of long-standing peace, prosperity, and incredible freedoms for it’s people when compared to all of history, and indeed even with most modern day nation-states.

We have found out in Iraq that not everyone wants Democracy. There are major cultural differences in play here…………..and no one wants to admit this because it may sound “superior” or “racist”, etc. ad nauseam.

Our liberty depends on our will. If we want to preserve liberty in the U.S., then we can do so if we decide that our culture and freedoms are worth saving.

C. writes:

Well, what was your position about what would happen after the fall of Saddam? I think I agree with John Agresto whose interview you published a couple of months ago that the problem after the invasion was having no plan, expecting that the universal desire of freedom would mean that the Iraqis would become self-governing practically overnight and all on their own, doing nothing about the looting because that’s what happens under freedom, etc. If we had managed the aftermath of the invasion more authoritatively, things might have turned out better. You don’t believe that, never believed that?

LA replies:

You need to distinguish two issues. On one hand, things could have been vastly better if we had done the things you mention. On the other hand, that would not have changed the underlying impossibility of democratizing Muslim societies.

Let’s say we went in with 500,000 troops and really imposed our will on the place, as we needed to do. Fine. The insurgency would not have developed in the manner in which it has developed. Perhaps a more stable government would have been created. Perhaps we then could have begun pulling out. But at that moment in the scenario the same dilemma appears that we face in actual reality: as we pull out, the pro-jihad, anti-U.S., anti-democratic forces would arise and the elected government would not be able to sustain itself. If we stayed there a generation with 500,000 men on the ground, it still wouldn’t change the basic situation: that we have a wolf by the ears, can’t hold onto it forever, can’t let go of it. As we pulled out, as we let go of the wolf, the underlying nature of the Iraqi society would re-assert itself.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 03, 2007 10:47 AM | Send

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