Update Re: Postwar Occupation – I’m Less Worried Lately

In this post, I expressed my fear that General Powell and the apparatchiks in the State Department were going to push for a too-limited effort to emplace a more liberal and democratic government in post-War Iraq. Various straws in the wind make me less worried, and the consensus seems to be that the reestablishment of some “stable” authoritarian apparatus is not in the cards.

Michael Barone, in this column assesses the likely next steps following the conquest of Iraq, and opines

The course of military action is never completely predictable, and horrors may lie ahead. But few in Washington doubt that we can occupy Iraq within a few weeks’ time. Then comes the difficult task of moving Iraq toward a government that is democratic, peaceful, and respectful of the rule of law. Fortunately, smart officials in both the Defense and State departments have been doing serious work planning for that eventuality for over a year now.

Examples of this planning are discussed in this article entitled “Full U.S. Control Planned for Iraq”:

The Bush administration plans to take complete, unilateral control of a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, with an interim administration headed by a yet-to-be named American civilian who would direct the reconstruction of the country and the creation of a “representative” Iraqi government, according to a now-finalized blueprint described by U.S. officials and other sources.

The article notes that Iraqi opposition leaders were informed ” that the United States will not recognize an Iraqi provisional government being discussed by some expatriate groups.” This may be the reason for the initial outcry from Iraqi expats. I think Chalabi wanted to be an Iraqi de Gaulle, taking power behind American tanks. We apparently are not going to play that. Rather, “some 20 to 25 Iraqis would assist U.S. authorities in a U.S.-appointed ‘consultative council,’ with no governing responsibility.” Also, the article makes clear, there will be a process of “de-Baathification.” See also Paul Wolfowitz’s speech to Iraqi Americans in Michigan: “We have one of the most powerful military forces ever assembled” now on the borders of Iraq. “If we commit those forces, we’re not going to commit them for anything less than a free and democratic Iraq.”

Nicholas Lemann’s article, which I saw in the New Yorker, is available in two parts here and here. Lemann quotes at length from an interview with Douglas Feith, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy. Feith talks about bringing “institutions of democracy to Iraq”

“I use the term ‘institutions of democracy’ carefully. I don’t like to talk just about ‘democracy,’ because that connotes that there’s a particular system that works for everybody, and I’m too much a respecter of Burke to assert that.” He paused and said, “But the notion that when you have governmental institutions that are free, and allow for a greater degree of political and economic freedom, and people are protected from tyranny by having multiple institutions in their society that have power-the principle of checks and balances-it leaves open a tremendous amount of room for how societies organize their governments, and their societies in general. The notion of checks and balances as a safeguard against tyranny is something that I think can have applicability all around the world. It’s not peculiar to a particular culture.

“Then, you have the phenomenon that this greater freedom that came to Latin America, that came to various parts of Asia, largely missed the Middle East. And there is all kinds of writing on the subject, on whether there is anything inherently incompatible between either Muslim culture, or Arab culture, and this kind of freer government. This Administration does not believe there is an inherent incompatibility. And if Iraq had a government like that, and if that government could create some of those institutions of democracy, that might be inspirational for people throughout the Middle East to try to increase the amount of freedom that they have, and they would benefit both politically and economically by doing so.”

Feith goes on to assert that this process would spread, less out of U.S. compulsion, but because:

“There are people throughout the Middle East who have interests in promoting greater freedom,” he went on. “You have various people in various countries who have an interest in improving their country. And if there were to be a model of political success along these lines in the Middle East, in Iraq, one can imagine it would be impressive and influential. If somebody elsewhere in the Middle East looks at this and says, ‘If the Iraqis can have these benefits, perhaps we can get some of these benefits for our own people,’ I think that’s really more the mechanism.”

(Trent Trelenko had previously linked to this Lemann article.)

Perhaps most reassuring was the President’s recent speech to the American Enterprise Institute:

The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq’s new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected.

Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations, including our own: we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more. America has made and kept this kind of commitment before — in the peace that followed a world war. After defeating enemies, we did not leave behind occupying armies, we left constitutions and parliaments. We established an atmosphere of safety, in which responsible, reform-minded local leaders could build lasting institutions of freedom. In societies that once bred fascism and militarism, liberty found a permanent home.

There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. The nation of Iraq — with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people — is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom.

That all sounds like a “maximalist” approach I have been hoping for. Bush, the gambler, the risk-taker, is swinging for the fences.

Finally, as if to make sure our false friends, the bigots in Saudi Arabia, will be “maximally” offended, comes news that the person chosen to “run Baghdad after the defeat of Saddam Hussein” is one Barbara Bodine. She is described as “the senior civilian on the Pentagon task force that is charged with reconstructing Iraq.” She sounds like a tough cookie. She has actually been a terrorist hostage. The story was in the Chicago Sun Times, but I can’t find it online. I’ll update this post if I can find a link.

UPDATEThis news story references Ms. Bodine, though it is not the one I referred to above.

Some Thoughts on the Pope’s Pacifism

My friend ParisLawyerPundit (“PLP”) sent me this recent New York Times article, entitled “Catholics Debating: Back President or Pope on Iraq?” PLP is a devout Catholic who has lived in France for many years, and wanted my take on all this.

First, anything from the New York Times has to be decrypted, by asking, what partisan gimmick is the Gray Lady up to here? In this case, it is an attempt to splinter-off a key part of Bush’s coalition, church-going Catholics. Nice try, guys, but it ain’t gonna work. This is really a non-story.

I will show some of my cards and tell you that Lex is a very conservative Catholic who has many friends who are very conservative Catholics. To generalize grossly, so-called liberal Catholics, doctrinally, tend to be politically liberal, and Conservative Catholics tend to be politically conservative, with some variation around the edges. On the “Conservative” side, I have seen no one who has any qualms about the war or the Pope’s objection to it. Nor should they.

My response to PLP was pretty much as follows:

The Catholic Church is an entity with a legal structure and delimited powers. The Pope’s authority is limited. He speaks with authority on matters of faith and morals. On prudential political decisions, he is a wise, good and well-intentioned man and no more. We had a Pope bless the Armada before it set out to conquer England. That was wrong as well as stupid. This one, by making himself an objective ally of the tyrant Saddam, is also, in my view, wrong. Any conservative Catholics who have a problem with all this do so because they have inadequate religious education and don’t understand what the Church is or how it works. Like their liberal opponents, in their ignorance, they go by their feelings, in this case, tribal loyalty to someone they perceive as being “on their side”. Anyway, most mainstream Catholics are so disgusted with the Church hierarchy right now that it’s moral authority is at an all time low, and its ability to influence any public debate is minimal. I chuckle at the liberal clergy in this country suddenly clutching this much-despised Pope to its bosom. They have not trumpeted from the altars his pronouncements about the evils of contraception, abortion, homosexuality, divorce. They have not preached with fiery conviction the value of priestly celibacy, or the mandatory nature of the reservation of ordination to men. They have not taken up in their homilies the Pope’s suggestion to reemphasize the sacrament of penance, or daily mass attendance, or corporal mortification, or traditional pious practices, particularly the rosary. They had not heeded his admonition that any political or social activism must be preceded by and rooted in personal prayer and conversion. In other words, when the Pope is working within the ambit of his actual authority, the American clergy pay him no heed whatsoever. They use him as a prop, when convenient, for their own political interests, and toss him aside when his immediate utility has been exhausted. I saw Cardinal George at a retreat for lawyers the other day. He, unlike JPII, made perfect sense on this issue. He said he is opposed to the war. He thinks it is a bad idea. He is worried about hubris, overstretch, a too-great reliance on military force, the alienation and anger of foreigners. These are plausible worries, though I do not share them, or deem them outweighed by other considerations. Cardinal George then said that where there is a legitimate government in place, which ours unquestionably is, then it is necessary, barring the most egregious circumstances, to defer to that government and give it “the benefit of the doubt” in making decisions within its own sphere of competence, such as when, where and against whom to go to war. He went so far as to say that a State cannot be pacifist, since it has an obligation to protect its citizens. He said that it would be wrong for him to give Catholic military personnel any qualms of conscience about following their orders, for example, in this situation. Then, being the realist he is, he smiled and said, “though it is not likely that any of them would pay any attention” if he did. The Pope is apparently a pacifist. This appears to be a result of his early experiences in a helpless and oppressed country. Whatever its genesis, this position is an intellectual and moral error. Much like his also wrong views on the death penalty, he is, to this degree, a true son of the “Spirit of Vatican II”, and innovating and going beyond or even against the Church’s long-standing teaching. Consult John Henry Newman’s book on the development of doctrine and apply his seven-point criteria for legitimate developments, and it becomes apparent that these innovations will likely die out as the alien transplants they are. In a sense it is the error that Eric Voegelin condemned as trying to “immanentize the eschaton”, i.e. arrive at a world something like the one which will follow the return of Christ in Glory by pretending that it is here already. It is a utopianism which can only lead to disappointment if not disaster. In a fallen world there will always be, at best, law-abiding armies, policemen and prisons. The alternative to just and lawful order imposed periodically by force is not a benign utopia but bloody-handed anarchy. Catholics used to know this. They need to relearn it.

PLP wrote back that he had heard that the scuttlebutt amongst certain academic clergymen is that the Pope has chosen this episode to begin a campaign of activism directed against the liberal democratic West, akin to that which he conducted against the Soviet bloc. The idea here, amongst wishful thinking liberals, is that the Pope despises the liberal West as much as he did the communist East, because of its capitalisme sauvage and so forth, and is now going to wield the hammer against the hyperpuissance. This strikes me as a delusion, particularly where simpler explanations cover the facts better. I responded:

It would be odd if the Papacy really is choosing this moment as the time for a showdown with “democratic liberalism” generally or its American incarnation more specifically. For one thing, as a tactical matter, it is doomed to fail since Bush is absolutely determined to remove Saddam and has made that clear. Anyway, this scuttlebutt is either wishful thinking or conspiracy theorizing. More plausibly, the Pope genuinely hates the notion of armies marching, as a matter of personal “tastes and preferences”. That is the main reason for all this. Also, this Pope and the Vatican hierarchy have long held a very benign view of the UN as a nascent world government — one Pope and one Caesar again. Of course, I consider this to be folly, but it is a fact. And, in good Italian fashion, and like any diplomatic service, the Vatican foreign office prefers “jaw jaw” to “war war”, on the theory that something will turn up or the principals will get old and die or get bored and give up, and stability is to be valued over everything else. Also, the Pope has made efforts to reach out to Muslims, and he is very worried about a civilizational conflict. Those are the remote bases for the Vatican’s current policy of vigorously opposing the war. The proximate reason is apparently the Chaldean Catholics in Iraq. While there have been stories in the news in recent years that they are suffering persecution in Iraq (e.g., here), it is my understanding that they have benefited from Saddam’s regime, which by being explicitly secular has not discriminated against them, and has protected them from Muslim discrimination and persecution. It seems that in traditional divide-and-conquer fashion, Saddam has employed this Catholic minority in his government, which makes them reliant on him and hence loyal to him. Tariq Aziz is, I believe, a Chaldean Catholic. When the “getting even” process gets going following the destruction of Saddam’s regime, a pogrom against Chaldean Catholic “collaborators” is likely. This concerns the Vatican, with good reason.

This Pope is a genuinely great man. Many very good and important things for the Church have occurred during his papacy. I pray for him and for his intentions every day. But he is wrong on this one.

Update:I just noticed Rev. Sensing’s post, citing this post on the same topic.

Update:This essay by Deal Hudson is on point and nicely done. This site, “Catholic Just War” looks pretty interesting, generally, after a very cursory perusal.

Who else. . .

Who else, after watching today’s UN Security Council performance and subsequent press conferences, has a strong desire to see Dominique de Villepin flogged?

Better Odds

Market-determined probabilities of Saddam Hussein’s removal from power have been increasing over the past few days. End-of-March odds last traded at 34%, while end-of-June odds were at 80%.