Tuesday, November 29, 2005

November 29, 2005

It's All in the Execution

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Success is the rare commodity. What separates successful ideas from unsuccessful ideas is execution. Bad ideas fail on their own. Good ideas, to fail, must be executed poorly.

Democratizing the Arab world is a good idea. Hundreds of millions of men and women – particularly women – are living in conditions not much different from their ancestors a thousand years ago. In most of the Middle East Arab women can be beaten, raped even murdered, not just with impunity, but under protection of Islamic law. Children go to schools that teach racial and religious hatred instead of the Three R's. And their self-appointed leaders keep it that way so they can treat their national treasuries like personal checking accounts.

So it's would be a good idea that Arab nations should be forced to get with the program and join the here and now. But what's the best way to take that idea from concept to success? How best to execute this idea?

One way would have been for the US and EU to use their considerable economic power to force change by refusing to trade with undemocratic nations in the region. Oil rich kingdoms, like Saudi Arabia, pose a special problem since we are dependent on their oil. But they in turn need the West. They need places outside their own corrupt and underdeveloped countries to hide and invest the enormous wealth they loot every year from their own people. They need western banks, investment houses, real estate, etc. Without access to these repositories their money is just so much paper.

It could work -- depending of course that the plan is well executed.

George W. Bush liked the democracy idea too. He would be Moses to the Arabs, leading them from slavery to freedom. He would give them Democracy.

Then he took this good idea and executed it about as badly as a good idea has ever been executed. Instead of democracy what George has brought the Middle East is more of the same... violence, torture, poverty, corruption. Oh, and intifada. He brought them intifada too – and not just to Iraq, but Afghanistan as well. But wait, there's more. This new intifada is now spreading to Jordan and Lebanon as well. Poorly executed, indeed.

Fools rush in where angles fear to tread and George rushed in, guns blaring. Damn fine idea, he figured. Folks there are gonna roll out the red carpet for the Bush cavalry. He was sure they wanted democracy. Who wouldn't? And that they'd know what to do with once he gave it to them.

George decided that the Iraqis and Afghans needed a example of democracy close to home. So he told Egypt they had to get with the program too. And, since we give Egypt about as much money every year as we give Israel, it was an offer Egypt could not refuse. President Mubarak tried to warn Bush that it was a bit soon to being giving Egyptians the right to vote for anyone they wanted. But Bush would not hear any of it. So, Egypt just had it's first democratic elections. How did they go?

CAIRO, Nov. 27 - The Muslim Brotherhood may be banned, but it has demonstrated in the latest parliamentary elections that it is by far the strongest Egyptian opposition group, trouncing the secular political opposition and weakening the governing party's power monopoly....The Brotherhood has been outlawed since the early 1950's, when some of its members tried to assassinate Prime Minister Gamal Abdel Nasser, who went on to become president." (Full Story)

Oops. The Muslim Brotherhood is listed as a terrorist organization by American intelligence. Nicely done, Mr. Bush. You just got the first terrorist group democratically elected to public office. Do you have a Plan B? I didn't think so.

Bush has also been executing his democracy idea in Afghanistan. So, how it going there?

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 27 -- An onslaught of grisly and sophisticated attacks since parliamentary elections in September has left Afghan and international officials concerned that Taliban guerrillas are obtaining support from abroad to carry out strikes that increasingly mimic insurgent tactics in Iraq...The recent attacks -- including at least nine suicide bombings -- have shown unusual levels of coordination, technological knowledge and blood lust, according to officials...The attacks have been particularly noteworthy for their use of suicide bombers. Some have struck in waves, with one explosive-laden car following the next in an effort to maximize casualties. That sort of attack has been a hallmark of al Qaeda and a regular occurrence in Iraq. But in Afghanistan, suicide attacks of any kind have been relatively rare, despite a quarter-century of warfare. Attackers have also shown a growing appetite for strikes in cities, particularly Kabul. (Full Story)

D'oh! Not so good. That's too bad because Bush executed the first part of the Democracy to Afghanistan idea pretty well. The cruel and backward Taliban were removed from power and on the run. And he had virtually the entire band of al Queda members, including their leader, trapped and on the verge of extermination.

Then Bush's attention deficit disorder kicked in. He was distracted by a nearby shinny object -- Iraq -- and the whole Afghanistan idea went straight to hell. The Taliban survived and the viral al Queda movement escaped containment and spread. Today al Queda has opened franchises throughout the Middle East. Al Queda has now super-sized it's products.

Instead of a democratized Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush created a full-blown and expanding intifada. Democracy can compete with a lot of problems, but it cannot compete with chaos. Chaos will trump democracy every time. Democracies require certain conditions to function; adherence to the rule of law, orderly procedures and public confidence those procedures can and will run their course. Chaos assures they won't. (Look no further than the on-again, off-again trial of Saddam.)

Now what? Ask the Israelis. Ask them how it could be that, with all their military superiority, western know-how and their own democracy as a side-by-side comparison, they could not defeat the Palestinian intifadas? Lord knows they tried. They tried bombing, tear gassing, shooting, assassinating and imprisoning the intifadas to death. But none of it worked. Which is why they left Gaza and now know they will eventually have to leave most of the West Bank.. Because until they do, things just keep blowing up. Not only could the Israelis not defeat intifada but the chaos it fostered had begun to unravel Israel's own democracy.

Maybe George really wanted to democratize the Middle East. Or mabye all he wanted was the oil. Likely he wanted both. He got neither. Instead he created a burgeoning intifada. Instead of democracy he brought the long-suffering Arabs more suffering. Instead of candidates for public office, he brought them suicide bombers and assassins. Instead of the rule of law he invigorated the already well entrenched rule of brute force, tribal hatred and the endless cycle of an eye-for-an-eye violence.

Instead of bringing democracy to the long-suffering Arab street, he brought them intifada.