Saturday, January 22, 2005

Iraq & the War on Terror

At Damascus Road, Guy reiterates the common contention that Iraq is one front on the war on terror:
The current conflict we are engaged in is not just a “war against Iraq". It is only one front in the ongoing global war against terror. Secondly, one would have to have just dropped down from another planet or just taken off their tinfoil hat not to realize that there is only one exit strategy…and that is victory.
One thing that is rarely seen, however, is a full explanation of just how the war in Iraq relates to the broader War on Terrorism. From what I've been able to glean, the argument seems to utilize these propositions:

P1: Democracies don't support terrorism (the domestication thesis: formerly unruly or hostile peoples can be tamed if their 'energy' is channeled into acceptable forms of political action)

P2: When one country in a region becomes a democracy, people in surrounding countries will transform their own countries into democracies (the domino thesis)

P2': When one country in a region becomes a democracy, the pressure exerted by people in surrounding countries will render State support of terrorism politically infeasible.

For the moment, I'll bracket the commonly cited objections that: the above is too State-centric, and thus is an inadequate reaction to the problem; and that it is impracticable, since P1 requires that the new democracy is fully functioning and has control over all of its territory in order to prevent terrorists from setting up shop in unstable regions.

At the moment, what interests me are the arguments for the plausibility of the domestication and domino theses. Why would we believe that democracy will necessarily, or even probably, lead countries to ally themselves with America in the fight against terrorism or al-Qaeda? The domestication thesis seems to presuppose some curious 'magnetism' among democracies. This magnetism needs to be explained, or an alternative posited. If one argues that democracies will probably or likely gravitate toward one another, I'd imagine that a well-argued version would discuss what likelihood is sufficiently high to take the risk, and what adverse consequences may flow from the failure of democracies to gravitate toward one another.

With the domino thesis, P2 appears to be the most frequently encountered; I added the version P2' as a more moderate, realpolitick version as a suggested alternative in case P2 is found wanting. To put my cards on the table, P2 just doesn't seem very plausible to me; while talk of revolution is common enough, actual revolutions are far and few between. I would think an adequate defense of this prong of the argument would discuss the larger foreign policy in which P2 could gain some plausibility (for example, the combination of internal political pressure and external incentives, such as the Millenium Challenge Account, will foster democratic reform).

At any rate, I find the Bush/neocon vision very interesting, if for no other reason than it's incredible grist for thoughtful mills.