Friday, December 10, 2004

Too Developed for Their Own Good?

Charles Krauthammer gives a number of reasons for the success in Afghanistan, especially in relation to the more limited progress in Iraq. The following passage regarding the ill-effects of political modernism is particularly interesting:

"The interesting question is: If we succeeded in Afghanistan, why haven't we in Iraq? One would have thought Afghanistan, with its obviously less-developed human and industrial infrastructure, to be far less conducive to democracy. It is more tribal, more primitive and has even less of a history of modern political development.

Yet that may have been an advantage. Iraq has for decades been exposed to the ideas of political modernism — fascism and socialism as transmuted through Baathism (heavily influenced by the European political winds of the 1920s and '30s) to which Saddam Hussein added the higher totalitarianism of his hero, Stalin.

This history has succeeded in devaluing and delegitimizing secular ideologies, including liberal-democratic ones. In contrast, Afghanistan had suffered under years of appalling theocratic rule, which helped to legitimize the kind of secularist democracy that Karzai represents."

There's probably a serious book or dissertation to be written about how some countries are too "developed" or corrupted at least in terms of fancy, late-modern ideas (and some practices that go with them) for their own good. Perhaps one could say this about Europe as well?

Of course, Krauthammer does not think that Iraq is beyond repair.


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