Exporting freedom in the face of hysteria

Bush has pledged to spread freedom and it’s easy to be cynical about that: blogging institution Tim Ireland’s attempting a Google bomb on ‘empty rhetoric’, but a search on that term reveals he’s been beaten to it. I find all that rather tiresome and predictable. Sadly predictable, as it comes against a background of British troops torturing Iraqi looters and today’s release of four more Britons from Guantanamo Bay, held for years without trial and most likely tortured by freedom loving US troops.

But like David Aaronovitch in the Observer, I’m inclined to give Bush a qualified thumbs up. I supported the war, but have never been idealistic about it and I’ve not been impressed by the level of insight coming from those, of whatever persuasion, who provide blow-by-blow commentary. The bigger picture is that we invaded Iraq a fairly short time ago and it’s far too early to know how things will turn out. But Afghan elections have proved that something approaching democracy can be achieved in a country half governed by warlords and with no democratic traditions.

Unfortunately, the relatively godless leaders of the free world fail to recognise that the secular vision needs to be sold. They fail to demonstrate how great their vision of freedom is by abiding by what they rhetorically claim to be higher principles when removing despots. It’s as if they’ve fallen for the hysterical notion, that this is a war on an Islamic people so different from us we have to fight dirty. But I don’t believe that. It’s not the myth of cultural superiority, but the myth of moral superiority that leads to these mistakes.

And I’m optimistic. I’m prepared to believe Bush has the will to install democracy in Iraq and elsewhere, but I fear he’s failed to grasp how important Gordon Brown’s plan for the developing world is (no rich democracy has ever declared war on another rich democracy). Meanwhile, the courts – primary democratic institutions – are finally forcing leaders to live by the principles they seek to impose on others; the European Human Rights Convention applies to Iraqis under British occupation; not even foreigners can be detained without a trial; and stateside the Supreme Court ruled that the war on terror did not give the White House a blank cheque to detain people without legal rights. Yet none of these judgments are perfect.

As little Willy Hague says; ‘Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it at first seems’.
Not a war for idealists……US not godly enough for Iraqis……Myth of moral superiority……Exporting human rights to Iraq… even in war

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