Saturday, September 02, 2006

Iraq and Freedom (Locke and Hobbes)

There there many in charge of our government right now who enjoy cloaking their foreign policies in the mantle of freedom. They speak of how it is a gift, from the Lord, who will deliver to the poor, unenlightened masses of the Middle East. As if they are the messengers sent to bring this "divine" gift.

However, the word "freedom" by itself is meaningless. I recall one bitter Iraqi's statement on freedom, saying that he now had the freedom to wait in gas lines, to loot, and to be blown up. He was not so happy that the Iraqi people were now exposed to such freedoms. We truly did bring a freedom, a license, for the people to do whatever they wanted after our occupation began, becuase we did not control the country.

One of the most important freedoms is the freedom from fear. Security should be freeing, it should be liberating. In America, I can go down to the street corner and speak outrageous slanders on the heads of state, or on the mayor, or the local police cheif. And I can do this without worry of violence against me. I am free to stroll down the street on a sunny day without a care in the world, and perhaps even slip inside a dark saloon for a cool glass of beer. There is a loosening of the tensions of life when the threat of random violence; it allows a person to focus on loftier goals.

This freedom is conspicuously absent in Iraq. It was absent before, in the era of Saddam, and it is absent today.

I think the intent is, that we shall bring a representative form of government to the Country. But one of the prerequisities for a government of this type, one that relies on the will of the people, that there aren't armed secarian groups at each others throats. The will of the people tends to be inflamed after violent acts are perpetrated against their religious shrines, schools, hospitals, and government leaders. We want to build a sytem of government influenced by Locke and Montesquieu, but there is no check or balance against the senseless violence of the current Iraqi civil war.

The county, to put it simply, lacks its Hobbes. There is no Leviathan. There is no monopoly of the use of perceived legetimate violence in the hands of the state. And so various political actors, be they Bathist, Badr Brigade, Al-Queda, the Mahadi Army, or just bandits, smugglers, and kidnappers for profit, perhaps a virulent strain of highly violent organized crime, that bred unchecked from extended lawlessness.

This lack of control is a direct result of two failures of the U.S. leadership. The first is he failure to secure the peace. This is a result of Rumsfeld's decision to go in with the minimal troop levels of 150,000 people to keep the order in a county of 26 million people. But most of these were logistical, and haven't been outside keeping order.

The problem of Hobbes must first be tended to before the question of Locke. There must be order in Iraq for the U.S. to be efective in brokering the creation of a new democracy. There was basic peace and order in Germany and Japan, and there was success. People had a swift opportunity to see what living in a more just society could bring. But there has only been bloodshed, murder, bombings, and assassinatons since we captured Saddam. This is a failure of a society on a fundamental level. We have witnessed the birth of shadow armys of death squads, and have been powerless to prevent it.

In order for there to be a Leviathan, there must be some degree of legitimacy of the party who controls the last word on violence. Right now that is the U.S. military. Their use of violence is always legitmate, and the prosecution of breaches of military law rests with the U.S. Now, as far as an occupying army in the midst of a gureilla war, we have done a decent job in prosecuting some low level perpatrators of unacceptable violence, but our reputation is currently soiled by the various killings and prison abuse that is very difficult to avoid in prosecuting an insurgency. The U.S. has failed to avoid these difficulties.

The U.S. has also done a poor job of preventing basic crime from plaguing the citizens. Shopkeepers are firebombed. Many family members face threats of kidnapping. Frankly, it is a poor environment for investment. No one is comfortable investing heavily into an active civil war or an epedemic of banditry. The people simply do not trust the U.S., although it is sad to say that they generally trust the U.S. forces more than someone wearing a police uniform.

Saddam Hussein understood Hobbes. He kept the order. But he had a loyal cadre of Bathists willing to enforce his brutal regime. The U.S. has 150,000 soldiers, most of which do not leave their large, fortified compounds. Most of our troops do not understand those they seek to control and order. They lack both a literal understanding of language, and also a cultural understanding that would both permit a true communication of goals and desires and an understanding of how to effectively apply force to the society. We have generally failed to create the Hobbesian world of government since the day Baghdad fell and the looting began. Three years of impotent control. I believe that is three years too long. Only a massive influx of troops, on a scale we are clearly unprepared to comit, could have a chance to reverse this history of failure.

Imagine it, though. Order. Normalcy. Garbage men able to do their jobs without fear of assassination. Civil servants performing their duties normally.

A society will seek out its Hobbes in one way or another. If the Leviathan fails to materialize, one will be made. This new Leviathan may not gain full control of a a political sphere. But people will give up freedom for safety. This is a sad lesson of history, from time Julius Ceasar was declared dictator for life, to the rise of fascism in Europe after World War I. Such chaos is the meat and drink of demagouges.

No comments: