Genuine Freedom Is Empty Freedom, Composing, 08/10/2015

Why did I write those last two posts the way I did? I’m trying to understand the roots of modern conservative thinking. Why folks like Dick Cheney, Bill Kristol, Ben Carson, and Rand Paul believe what they do. 

Playing these esoteric and over-complicated ideas in Fukuyama's writing against my thoughts on the Arab Spring helped me wrap my head around a problem. It goes a little something like this.

We will be greeted as liberators, they said. Let's see if
this all works out, then.
Start from this premise. 

Premise 1

Think back to the first years of this century, if you can bear it. It’s not much worse than the state of the world today, honestly. George W Bush and his administration genuinely believed that all people universally yearned to live in a capitalist liberal democracy. 

This was especially true of those who had worked for the think tank Project for a New American Century in the 1990s. This think tank developed the democratic domino effect theory of Middle East politics: if one Arab country overthrew its dictators and democratized, then they would all quickly follow suit.

Fukuyama’s End of History was the key source for this idea, that capitalist liberal democracy is humanity’s universal aspiration. I explored why this is so strange and self-contradictory (or at least hypocritical) yesterday.

Fukuyama and the neoconservatives of PNAC were also impressed by the fall of the Eastern Bloc and Soviet Union. All their lives, they’d grown up with the idea that there wouldn't be an end to the Cold War but nuclear annihilation. 

Everyone thought that everyone in communist countries loved their regimes. Then the citizens overthrew their communist governments and embraced capitalist life and democracy. 

At least it seemed the case in 1992. Russia and Serbia threw us all for a bit of a loop since then. And no one noticed the exception of Belarus, which remains a strange military dictatorship. 

And they didn't count the central Asian former Soviet Republics that remained totalitarian monarchies, like Turkmenistan under Saparmurat Niyazov – Turkmenbashi.

American marines at the Battle of Fallujah. This
"liberators" thing isn't working out well by now.
Test Premise 1

The problem with this theory of the universal democratic dream is that when it was tested – overthrowing Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq in 2003 – liberal, culturally pluralist democracy didn’t replace him. Instead, the population of Iraq split on sectarian grounds. Shia factions took over the government and armed Sunni resistance grew.

So Shia and Sunni nationalism tore Iraq to pieces, and inflamed tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Since then, the Middle East has been engulfed in proxy wars as they jockey for dominance. 

The incompetence and violence of the US occupation only made things worse. The US had an army with no real training in peacemaking or guerrilla warfare, was grossly underfunded, relied on desperate volunteers for their numbers, and still relied on unreliable and psychotic teams of mercenaries to do most of the real offensive work of the occupation.

Let's not forget that ISIS formed in America's Camp Bucca. It’s the product of the most dangerous and radical members of Al Qaeda in Iraq growing even more deranged under day after day of torture.


So looking at this, you’d say that capitalist liberal democracy isn’t a universal aspiration. If it was, Iraq would be a peaceful democracy and not a country on fire.

And this is Tahrir Square, Cairo, in June 2011. The
revolution was televised, and I watched it on TV.
Hey, Wait a Minute . . . 

But the Arab Spring happened, even though its revolutions were cruelly suppressed. Only Tunisia's was successful. Yet those revolutions were driven by the real desires of the populations of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf Emirates for freedom.

Maybe This Conclusion?

So maybe the desire for freedom from autocratic, totalitarian, and military governments really is universal. But precisely what that freedom is may not always take the form of Fukuyama’s ideal society: Western capitalist liberal democracy.

What I’ve figured out so far is that freedom is the ability to change your society. Putting that power in the hands of the people. What solutions you come up with will depend on the problems you have to solve. 

The last ten years of financial crisis and economic recession gave us plenty of problems. Now, we need to figure out how to solve them. Freedom is when the people drive that change.

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