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Triumphs of Democracy

(Reprinted from SOBRANS, August 2006, page 1)
Text dropped from the print edition
or modified solely for reasons of space appears in green.
As I write, yet another war has erupted in the Middle East, and Condoleezza Rice, an enthusiast of the continuing war in Iraq, has been dispatched to try to negotiate peace. Setting aside any sense of irony and hypocrisy in that venture, anyone can see that she has her work cut out for her. The failure of her mission, needless to say, is a certainty.

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Triumphs of DemocracyBoth sides, the Israelis and Iran-backed Hezbollah, want war and won’t accept peace on any terms the United States can propose. Both can give so many reasons and provocations for fighting that it is hard to imagine any incentives for them to stop at this point. The most we can hope for is that the United States won’t be drawn further into another conflict it has done so much to promote.

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Triumphs of DemocracyAs all the observers have already observed ad nauseam, the United States has long since destroyed, through its partiality to the state of Israel, any possibility of acting as a mediator with the Muslims. Both the Bush administration and Congress have lost no time in supporting the Israelis’ devastating assault on Lebanon, which the rest of the world has almost unanimously condemned as “disproportionate.” And the United States, while piously deploring the violence, immediately rushed a new supply of rockets to Israel.

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Triumphs of DemocracyHow the Israelis should have responded to Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on their cities is a good question, and my own first reaction was to make allowances for them, until I read that they had launched their own assault before those attacks. Now I can only marvel at this administration’s ability to make any situation, however grim, even worse.

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Triumphs of DemocracyCondemning “isolationism,” the Bush team has achieved one thing: the isolation of America with Israel. Even Tony Blair must be having second thoughts about making himself such a reliable ally to this rogue superpower, which makes even the unmourned Soviet Union seem a model of prudence and forbearance. Meanwhile, Abe Foxman, Charles Krauthammer, and the rest of the Amen Corner have been explaining why the Israelis are right again.

This is the lead article to the August 2006 issue, Triumphs of Democracy -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.indentThe reason men like Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton urged Americans to resist “entangling alliances” was not that they were xenophobic, but that they understood that there are often strong motives, moral and otherwise, for intervention abroad. But even the highest of motives might be contrary to American interests.

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Triumphs of DemocracyIn those days the chief danger they saw was U.S. embroilment in European wars, especially those of France and England. They would have been utterly incredulous at the idea of American intervention in the Middle East. Even Tocqueville’s prediction of conflict between America and Russia would have seemed far- fetched.

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Triumphs of DemocracyBut the United States has long since abandoned the once-revered principle of neutrality. George W. Bush, surpassing even Woodrow Wilson in moralistic fatuity, has all but declared war on Evil, proclaiming “global democratic revolution.” That is, only democracy can be truly legitimate; with the proviso, of course, that only the United States can decide what counts as truly democratic.

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Triumphs of DemocracyAs I’ve noted elsewhere, this comfortably simple notion, no less than Marxism-Leninism, would serve as a pretext for eternal war and revolution. And in fact it has already proved impossible to apply consistently. Recent democratic elections in the Muslim world — in Algeria, Iran, Gaza, and Lebanon, for example — have produced results unacceptable to the United States and Israel. Even conquered Iraq has proved hard to democratize to American specifications.

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Triumphs of DemocracyIn America, we used to be taught, moments of crisis elicit great leaders. We last heard it shortly after September 11, 2001. One minor consolation of the latest conflagrations in the Middle East is that this old saw will finally be retired for good.

Joseph Sobran

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