“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Viktor Silo's Guest Post - The White Mans Burden

The White Man's Burden
1899 Editorial Cartoon

So we had 9/11. It demanded a response. Somebody's nose had to be bloodied. Saddam looked like a good target. We went for regime change. We accomplished it. We walked away. Having achieved victory, we were confident that what we did to Iraq will serve as an deterrent to anyone who may be contemplating attacking the U.S.

What's wrong with this story? Of course, we didn't walk away, did we? And there are some who would further argue that we, in fact, didn't even accomplish the mission.

Did we accomplish the mission? Remember the sign that said "Mission Accomplished" on the USS Abraham Lincoln as President George W. Bush addressed the nation on May 1, 2003. It is important to note that the sign was put up by the crew of the ship with the tacit approval of the officers. The strong implication, for me, was that the military sure thought the mission was accomplished and, by extension, that the war was over. Bush even said at the time that this marked the end of major combat operations in Iraq. The nation was relieved and applauded. Too bad we didn't ask The Wolf, from Pulp Fiction, for his opinion. He might have said, "Let's not suck each other's dick quite yet." Soon, to the chagrin of conservatives, we were to find out that the U.S. was about to embark upon The Great Neo-Con Wilsonian Adventure.

Woodrow Wilson was a Democrat. He thought of himself as a progressive and a reformer. Wilsonian foreign policy's objective was to foster "world peace." Can you imagine such naivete? Such are the thoughts of liberals and other schoolboys. Anyhow, part of Wilson's 14 point plan to achieve world peace was that the U.S. should actively participate in the spread of democracy around the world, by military intervention if necessary.

In the 1960s, a group of leading liberal intellectuals left the liberal establishment and decided to call themselves "conservatives." This was the birth of the neo-cons. The neo-cons might have distanced themselves from the leftward movement by the Democrats but they remained Wilsonian on foreign policy. Who are these neo-cons? Go to the Weekly Standard or, I regret to say, the National Review and you will find out soon enough.

Fast forward to 2003. Influential people convinced Bush that the democratization of Iraq was a desirable and doable objective. From what I can ascertain, this new mission came as a surprise to the military. They had not planned for it. They might have secured Iraq in a different fashion had they known.

What is it about George Bush that allowed himself to be persuaded to embark upon the democratization of Iraq? I would begin the answer by echoing the words of WFB when he was asked to describe Bush's politics. He said (I'm paraphrasing), "George Bush may be conservative but he is not a conservative."

Bush certainly has conservative views but he holds them without the benefit of thoughtful consideration. That is to say: Bush is a conservative by temperament rather than conviction. He really is a "compassionate" conservative. And what is a "compassionate" conservative? To be a compassionate conservative in politics means one governs or legislates by emotion rather than thought. In other words: Bush is a conservative "do-gooder." Let us remind ourselves here of what that term means: an earnest, naive, often impractical humanitarian or reformer. Evidence: the democratization of Iraq (misguided reform) and immigration (misguided humanitarianism).

The war to install democracy in Iraq may very well succeed - in the short run. In the long run, who knows? The people of Iraq might be better off. But will America? Does Bush really think democracy in Iraq will be contagious to the rest of the Middle East? And what will Iraq do with its democracy? Democracy is only a means to an end. If the ends are against our best interests, who cares about the means? Will Iraqis and others in the middle east give up their ways just because they have democratically elected leaders?

Bush, and all too many others I'm sorry to say, don't realise that self determination is a privilege that comes with moral maturity. These societies may be ancient but they have been in a state of arrested development for centuries. They have not become morally fit for democracy. Homes and schools are not democracies precisely because we can't trust the morally immature mind to do the right thing. The people in the middle east don't enjoy an enlightened morality. Their societies, for whatever reason, have not evolved.

Now, here we are, over four years later, trying to win an occupation, the futility of which has been pointed out by commenter Teresita over at The Elephant Bar. And then there's the money. By any standard, 100B a year is stupefying figure. Even the U.S. economy can't absorb this for very long. Sooner or later, America's enemies will realise that they should be encouraging the U.S. in its Iraq democratization project. It, along with another misguided Bush project, will eventually bring America to its knees.

Oh yes, that other misguided Bush project: Mexican immigration. On immigration, Bush gets positively mushy. Here is another example of Wisonianism. In Wilsonianism, benevolence trumps self-interest. In fact, Wilsonians go further and say, without irony, that ignoring our self-interest temporarily, is really in our own best interest. In the long term, of course. So, for Bush, massive immigration, legal or illegal, while temporarily bad for the U.S. will be, in the long run, good for America. Furthermore, it is the right thing to do.

Like all other liberals, Bush wants to look in the mirror and say to himself, "I am a good man." Because he sees himself as a "good man" without ulterior motives, it does not occur to Bush that his feelings about illegal immigration are just narcissistic indulgences and that this same narcissism makers him oblivious to how destructive to America his policy on this matter really is.

George Bush is more than just sympatico to Mexicans. In his heart, he feels he is Mexican. Surely, by now, everyone has noticed how Bush, speaks forcefully and with confidence and, dare I say it, with joy in his heart, when speaking his version of Mexican-Spanish. Bush is a "bleeding heart." But for whom does he bleed? Does he bleed for Americans? Does he bleed for Mexican illegals? Or does he bleed for his own thwarted desire to be a humanitarian? No wonder he hates those who oppose his amnesty bill. God help you if you thwart a liberal while he is lusting for virtue.

Bush thinks that protecting Americans is protecting them from physical harm. While I do not deny the importance of that, Bush fails to appreciate that protecting America is really about protecting its values and culture. His mind is structurally blind to the damage that this massive illegal immigration causes. The importation of Mexican culture on such a large scale cannot help but dilute American culture. Bush, in his own way, is undermining American culture as much as Blair has undermined British culture. Blair rejects British culture as unenlightened and wants to bring it under the wider "progressive" European Union. Bush is similarly minded at least to the degree that he favours a North American Union.

Twelve million illegal immigrants are in America and they are continuing to come across the border by the thousands every day. They all want Social Security and access to schools, hospitals, and welfare. And then there's the cost of building new infrastructure to accommodate them.

In the next election, I will watch out for any candidate who shows the slightest inclination toward neo-con Wilsonian adventurism and or is soft on illegal immigration. The staggering costs of military adventures and illegal immigration are a potent one-two punch that could cripple the U.S. economy. The cultural consequences of large scale immigration, legal or not, could be lethal to the American dream of freedom and prosperity.

You can read more from Viktor Silo at


  1. Another Myth That Can't Be Killed
    Mark Krikorian
    The idea that Mexico's falling fertility means that emigration to the United States will taper off any time now.
    The latest contribution is here, and my debunking of a similar piece a couple years ago is here .
    Forgery suspect seen exploiting 'amnesty' - -

    The head of a Mexican forgery ring was convinced he could make phony documents that illegal aliens could use to indicate fraudulently that they were eligible for a new amnesty, says a government affidavit recounting wiretapped phone calls the man made.

    Julio Leija-Sanchez, who ran a $3 million-a-year forgery operation before he was arrested in April, was expecting Congress to pass a legalization program, which he called "amnesty," and said he could forge documents to fool the U.S. government into thinking illegal aliens were in the country in time to qualify for amnesty, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent said in the affidavit.

    Its backers say it cracks down on fraud by requiring new legal workers to have a tamper-proof ID, but opponents say it would invite a new wave of illegal aliens with fraudulent documents trying to prove they are eligible for legal status.

    They point to the 1986 amnesty in which about a quarter of approved applications were later deemed fraudulent.
    Articles and editorials relating to the Mexican matricula consular "illegal alien" ID card

    Selected articles and editorials relating to the Mexican matricula consular "illegal alien" ID card

  2. THE Bush administration justified the invasion of Iraq on three pretexts. The first was the war on terror declared after 11 September 2001; against all the evidence, Saddam Hussein was presented in the United States as an accomplice, if not a sponsor, of Osama bin Laden. The second argument was the threat of weapons of mass destruction. We now know that the information the US and the United Kingdom provided about this subject was untruthful. As the first two faded, a third grew in import ance: Washington promised to make Iraq so attractive a democratic model that it would set an example to the entire Middle East.

    This argument, advanced with the other two since the campaign against Baghdad began, has been spread most zealously by the Bush administration’s neo-conservative friends, active in Pentagon circles (1). On 26 February 2003, on the eve of the Iraq invasion, Bush set out his ambition to spread democratic values in the Middle East before the American Enterprise Institute thinktank, a hangout of neo-cons and unconditional supporters of Israel. He boasted that he had borrowed 20 of the institute’s minds for his administration (2). Then on 9 May 2003, to show the kind of values that needed spreading, he proposed "the establishment of a US-Middle East free trade area within a decade" (3).

    This argument garnered support from some Clinton-era proponents of humanitarian war, who continued to back a strong-arm approach under Bush. The Canadian Michael Ignatieff, a Harvard professor and human rights specialist, deployed sophisticated arguments when supporting an administration that reasoned more crudely. In an essay in January 2003 in the New York Times Magazine, he adopted a disaffected tone, the better to convince his readers when vaunting the merits of the US empire, which he essentially described as an "empire of good". The US, he claimed, was "an empire lite, a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known" (4). As his lengthy defence built to a finale, he declared: "The case for empire is that it has become, in a place like Iraq, the last hope for democracy and stability alike." Hindsight has shown that to be wrong (5).

    In contrast to this idealistic praise from liberals (liberal in the US sense of progressive), the Bush administration’s hubristic aim of bringing democracy to the Muslim world, and to Iraq in particular, has aroused fierce criticism from conservative realists. In autumn 2002 Adam Garfinkle, editor of The National Interest, their leading journal, warned that such an approach was naive. His first objection concerned the "democracy paradox" defined by another Harvard professor, Samuel Huntington: in some regions of the world, democracy can foster forces hostile to its paragon, the West. The Muslim world, where hostility to the US is greatest, best illustrates the rule. Garfinkle’s second objection was that a campaign for democracy in the Arab world "does presuppose either a major shift in US attitudes toward the undemo cratic ruling classes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and others that we have long called our friends; or a permanent condition of blatant diplomatic hypocrisy" (6).

    Gilbert Achcar
    Le Monde diplomatique
    April, 2004

    The Wilsonian enterprise was not an afterthought. It was part and parcel of the selling of the war in Iraq - an Iraq to be liberated from the forces of tyranny and cruel oppression and delivered into a state of emancipation and enlightenment. Saddam Hussein was a threat precisely, it was emphasized, because he was a dictator and dictatorship had been ascertained as the chief cause of "fear, hatred, and terror" in the GME. Fear, hatred, and terror demanded a long-term solution, and regime change in Baghdad would help provide that solution in the form of a "forward strategy of freedom."

    While the WMD premise, most significantly in the form of Powell's UN presentation, brought around a lot of fence sitters (including Buckley himself) no group bit harder on the Wilsonian angle than the Right, leaving the Left to be derided by same as "anti-progressives" and "phony humanitarians" generally.

    As for this: "So we had 9/11. It demanded a response. Somebody's nose had to be bloodied. Saddam looked like a good target." It is not different in kind from the same impulsive, "emotion-driven" behavior that led an administration, and a nation, to take up the "feel good" cause of remaking an Arab nation in our image. In the end, both were mere vanity projects.

  3. Michael Yon describes the Madness that may well not have had to happen this way had Viceroy Bremmer and the Gang not escorted Iraq down this path.

    Hat Tip Wretchard

  4. There are mant paths to a representitive democracy, some succeed, most do not.

    Most have been characterized as one man, one vote, one time.

    Successful representitive democracy develops most successfully from liberal dictactors, like Pinochet, who di not seem all that liberal, at the time.

    But Pinochet, Marcos and Franco all laid a foundation of freedoms, in spite of themselves or their image.

    It is the "Liberator" in Cuba and Africa, men like Castro and Mugumbe that are popular when first elected, then stay on for the duration, of their lives.

    In Iraq we needed a strongman to lead the Iraqi to a more liberal democratic future, instead we had fair and free elections followed by anarchy.

    It's to bad, I guess, that Paul Bremmer did not fill the bill and did not like those that did.

  5. Today's featured article

    Islam is a monotheistic religion originating with the teachings of Muhammad, a 7th-century Arab religious and political figure. The word Islam means "submission," or the total surrender of one's self to God. Islam's adherents are known as Muslims, meaning "one who submits (to God)". There are between 0.9 and 1.3 billion Muslims, making Islam the second-largest religion in the world, after Christianity.

    AKA, "ROP" according to GWB

  6. God as Aeronautical Engineer:
    "The Qur'an describes angels as "messengers with wings—two, or three, or four (pairs):
    He [God] adds to Creation as He pleases…"[

  7. Trish

    "The Wilsonian enterprise was not an afterthought. It was part and parcel of the selling of the war in Iraq - an Iraq to be liberated from the forces of tyranny and cruel oppression and delivered into a state of emancipation and enlightenment."

    The Wisonian democratisation enterprise may very well have been the original motive for the war although I remain unconvinced that this was Bush's intent. However, if they did, they did not communicate that to the Generals, especially Gen. Franks, who made no plans to occupy Iraq long term. Franks has been criticised for not planning for an insurgency but you do not plan for an insurgency if you not plan on hanging around; ditto for securing the ammo dumps.

    So, we agree that the second stage of the war was a vanity project. As to the first part of the war: I can't agree that it was a vanity project until you can provide more evidence that democratisation was the plan all along. That aside, if you want to claim that the original exercise was misguided, I would not disagree.

  8. "Hat Tip Wretchard"

    No one that I know of outside of the administration pushed the "WE are the Progressives now" goods, in an area that was not a legitimate part of the WOT to begin with, harder than Wretchard.

    His battle is not with takfiri jihadis, anyway. It is and as far as I can tell always has been with the Left, which he links to failures he himself has failed to acknowledge or grasp, but which they didn't.

  9. You do not plan for an insurgency, victor, if you do not remotely expect one. The original planning for a stay went five years out.

  10. "As to the first part of the war: I can't agree that it was a vanity project until you can provide more evidence that democratisation was the plan all along."

    It needn't have been in order for it to have been a vanity project. All that was needed was the "feeling" that to strike out at this particular regime, to give it "a bloody nose," was an appropriate and satisfactory response to 9-11.

    I would argue, in fact, that - one compared to the other - the democratization idea at least had some long term, if tragically mistaken, strategy behind it, whereas "just cuz" had none whatsoever.

  11. Whit

    I should have thanked you earlier for, once again, allowing me to guest post on your site. It is a priviledge I do not take lightly.


  12. I had hopes for the Democracy Project, but it was never hardly begun.

    We tried to impose a top down Socialist model upon Iraq, perhaps because the Baathists were national socialists it was the least transformitive type democracy available.

    But look at the books that we sent, to fill the hundreds of schools we opened.
    Science and engineering texts filled the boxes, but not the Federalist Papers, not sociology and civics.

    That would not have been culturally appropriate. The Project was doomed from the get-go by a lack of depth and implementation. A top down process, instead of a bottom up one. Even today the lower echelon, local elections are not being held.

    It would upset the Sheiks, the Tribal Leaders, who, while not to be part of the "New" Iraq, were not disposed of, either.

    Just ignored. Foolish tactic, at best.

  13. Remember, also, that Iraq was supposed to be the low hanging fruit, amongst the Axis of Evil.

    Easy pickings.

    Most likely was, still is.

  14. From my reading of the situation, the Administration doesn't really care for the neocon political idea, or Kurdistan today would have been a fully recognized member of the UN. It's not. Instead, the US Administration tries its damnedest to graft a poisonous Jihadi arab entity onto Kurdistan, just as it been trying to graft a deadly poisonous Jihadi arab entity onto Israel.

    This, it seems to pretty clear to me, is more in line with Saudi driven political interests, than any neocon driven US political astuteness. The neocons have been conned. And that's the short and long of it.

  15. "Most likely was, still is."

    I remember. And it was. It was also pre-demonized, which helps. That effort, much of it foreign, went back to before the Gulf War, in the pages of Foreign Affairs. A good PR firm is indispensable.

  16. Oh, they've been conned alright. By both sides.

  17. Trish
    "You do not plan for an insurgency, victor, if you do not remotely expect one. The original planning for a stay went five years out."

    Perhaps you can help me, Trish. I cannot find corroboration for your assertion.

    I did find reference to a five year plan from Gen. Wes Clark in his book Winning Modern Wars.

    Here’s what he writes on page 130:

    "As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan."

    Then there were documents presented at a Pentagon briefing in August 2002 - less than a year before the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

    The commanders predicted that after the fighting was over there would be a two- to three-month "stabilisation" phase, followed by an 18- to 24-month "recovery" stage.

    They projected that the US forces would be almost completely "re-deployed" out of Iraq at the end of the "transition" phase - within 45 months of invasion. They also assumed that a provisional government would be in place by 'D-Day.'

    It was also assumed that Iraqis would stay in their garrisons and be reliable partners, and finally that the post-hostilities phase would be a matter of mere months.

    I do not know if the earlier plans were to be part of the actual operational invasion plan envisaged by Gen. Franks. If the earlier plans were incorporated into the actual plans, then shame on Gen. Franks for not anticipating the insurgency and securing the ammo dumps.

    What I sense, though, is an ex post facto plan, incompetently implemented by L. Paul Bremer.

  18. Victor,

    The hope was to reduce to 30K rather quickly. And that nation-, nay, state-building, would continue with that number in place. But it was goal-driven, rather than time-driven. And five years is as far as we initially went.

    An insurgency was not anticipated. What might have been extracted from anyone else's ass, Bremer excluded, is anyone's guess.

  19. If you were in favor of "just cuz," though, you really have nothing of value to add to any rational discussion.

  20. For 2007, Italy has allocated €10 million (US$13.47 million) to rebuild the justice sector in Afghanistan, mainly for infrastructure and legal training, and it plans to give €13.5 million (US$18.18 million) more, according to the Foreign Ministry.

    The Rome conference gathers regional players such as Pakistan along with foreign ministers from European countries, NATO and EU representatives, and delegations from the United States, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

    Italy has 2,000 troops in Afghanistan, deployed between Kabul and Herat.

    Roman Conference

  21. Welcome Victor. Great post. I have felt for sometime that Bush was more Johnsonian than Wilsonian. He needs approval and love from strong men and in that way will appear to be strong. His drive is to be loved. I believe that, combined with political and diplomatic intuitive dwarfism have driven this demolition derby of a presidency.

  22. George W. Bush has invited a range of scholars to the White House to discuss how his presidency has gotten off course. (By Gerald Herbert -- Associated Press)

    "...At the nadir of his presidency, George W. Bush is looking for answers. One at a time or in small groups, he summons leading authors, historians, philosophers and theologians to the White House to join him in the search.

    Over sodas and sparkling water, he asks his questions: What is the nature of good and evil in the post-Sept. 11 world? What lessons does history have for a president facing the turmoil I'm facing? How will history judge what we've done? Why does the rest of the world seem to hate America? Or is it just me they hate?

    These are the questions of a president who has endured the most drastic political collapse in a generation. Not generally known for intellectual curiosity, Bush is seeking out those who are, engaging in a philosophical exploration of the currents of history that have swept up his administration. For all the setbacks, he remains unflinching, rarely expressing doubt in his direction, yet trying to understand how he got off course..." Washington Post

  23. Now if only he can find an expert to answer his question:
    "Why am I such a Ninny?"

  24. "Where did Newt go?" Callista asks at the Lincoln Memorial when it's time to trek to the next site.
    She shrugs and carries her tripod down the memorial's many steps, and eventually this reporter finds her missing Sherpa standing alone in front of the marble-etched Gettysburg Address, reading it aloud.

    When he finishes, he's clearly moved. He produces a handkerchief, removes his glasses and wipes his eyes.

    "Lincoln's cadences are a combination of Shakespeare and the King James Bible," Gingrich says.
    "He may well have been the best wordsmith ever to be president. I find it very humbling. I'm routinely reminded of the gap between him and the rest of us."

    Like the current president?
    Gingrich rolls his eyes.

    "It's breathtaking!
    You can imagine -- given my respect for the power of language -- what this is like.

    The key to leading a free people is to be able to communicate with them. And if you can't do that, you cannot lead. It's just that simple."

  25. And once you become completely FOS,
    you either talk shit like Bubba,
    or you ain't nothin.

  26. 2164th

    I agree with you entirely that Bush is more Johnsonian than Wilsonian and that Bush needs love and approval from strong men to prop up his own ego.

    The Wilsonian angle was about the men who had and, to a certain extent, still have influence over Bush.


  27. Viktor...interesting and well done post.

    One item I continue to see trotted out is the same interpretation of the "Mission Accomplished" banner. My take is different.

    The Abraham Lincoln was returning from its extended nine month cruise to the gulf area. It was extended from six months because of the initiation of combat operations. The ship had been scheduled quite a while in advance of any focus on Iraq. I happened to be involved in planning on how to support a few of the ships F/A-18's new tactical targeting pods being used for the first time on a deployment. Lots of flag officers were on board to observe the results. Then came the urgency to support the kickoff of OIF. This was a change in mission.

    As typical with military outfits upon completion of a successful deployment, the commander will often congratulate his troops with "mission accomplished". That's what I see as happening (granted in a more "pomp and circumstance" form) when the president visited. Reading more into it is really an attempt to use the sign as political cannon fodder.

  28. sammy small

    "As typical with military outfits upon completion of a successful deployment, the commander will often congratulate his troops with "mission accomplished". That's what I see as happening(granted in a more "pomp and circumstance" form) when the president visited. Reading more into it is really an attempt to use the sign as political cannon fodder."

    Thanks for your interesting comment. I do not dispute what you say about the term "mission accomplished" as a often used form of congratulation. However, with the president in attendance, I feel that the event was more than a standard event but with more "pomp and circumstance."

    This was a world class photo op for the president which was used to transmit a message around the world. The president's advance men would have had the sign removed, pronto, unless they believed that the president and his advisors would agree with the literal interpretation of that "mission accomplished" sign and that it was the message that they wanted the world to see.

    In my opinion, the sign was not a mere congratulation for the military personel aboard the carrier but a calculated political statement.

    Still, as they say, this is an area where men of goodwill can disagree.

    Because of your comment, I will think this matter through again.


  29. Today, at the National Review by John Derbyshire:

    "W is an intelligent man, but he’s a feeler more than a thinker, consulting his heart before his head, and sometimes forgetting to consult his head at all. This can be an endearing trait under some circumstances. The forming of national policy is not one of those circumstances."

    Hmmm. Do you think The Derb is a reader of The Elephant Bar?