As The Other Charlotte has expressed it better than I, we, the blogstresses of InkWell, are of the Fallujah Delenda Est school of thought when it comes to American intentions in Iraq. Charlotte says that we ought to bring democracy to Iraq–at the point of a gun. I say the point isn’t democracy but forcing the Baathist holdouts of the Sunni Triangle to behave in the civilized fashion we expect of other nations in the world. The murder and corpse-mutilation of American civilians don’t count.
Either way, we ought to follow the lead of the ancient Romans, who plowed the city of Carthage under and salted its fields after the Carthaginians gave trouble to Roman citizens. After that, the Romans rebuilt and transformed Carthage from a child-sacrificing menace into into a peaceful and prosperous outpost of Roman–that is, Western–civilization. The orator Marcus Cornelius Fronto, tutor of Marcus Aurelius, hailed from Certa, not far from ancient Carthage.
Which leads me to recommend highly National Review’s John Derbyshire’s take on G.W. Bush’s unfortunate ad lib comments last Friday about whether the Iraqis are capable of democracy. Here’s what Bush said:
“There’s a lot of people in the world who don’t believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren’t necessarily ‘ are a different color than white can self-govern.”
Of course the references to skin color are absurd: What an insult to my favorite Bush administration female, Condoleezza Rice! As Derb says, Bush’s problem is that he’s a nice guy, so he has followed the lead of the liberals and bought into a kind of mindless multiculturalism that says that all cultural differences among peoples are superficial, sort of like skin color–that is, skin-deep. Therefore, any culture–any collection of human behaviors–can produce a democracy. Writes Derb about Bush’s remarks:
“What, for instance, is all that stuff about skin color? What does skin color have to do with the matter of democracy in Iraq? I have blood relatives in England who are darker-skinned than Saddam Hussein. Practically the entire editorial staff of National Review is darker-skinned than Muqtada al-Sadr. And how did we suddenly segue from ‘people whose skin color may not be the same as ours’ (Whose? Yours? Condi’s?) to ‘people who practice the Muslim faith,’ then back again in the very next sentence to ‘people whose skins…are a different color than white’?
“The reason for all the confusion is that the president is talking ‘ or rather, like a good multiculturalist, tying himself in knots by trying desperately not to talk ‘ about race. One of the central tenets of the multiculturalist dogma is that there is no such thing as race. Populations of different ancestry may differ from each other in superficial and easily visible ways ‘ that is why it is O.K., just about, to mention “skin color” ‘ but in no other ways at all. So what the president is asserting is, if you translate it out of multiculturalist code, something like this:
“‘While people from various regions of the world might differ in appearance, they do not differ innately in psychology or characteristic patterns of behavior. There is, therefore, no reason why any nation, anywhere, should not have constitutional government under representative democracy. To suggest otherwise is racist.'”
Of course, as Derb points out, this kind of analysis is absurd–because cultural differences are real differences. Of the 18 Arabic-speaking nations in the world that he counts, not a single one has ever produced any kind of democracy. And I myself, as a trained medievalist, can tell you that the last culturally tolerant Arabic/Muslim society in the world, in southern Spain, perished during the 12th century–at the hands of other Arabic-speaking Muslims. Here’s more from Derb:
“Whatever the barrier is, it makes it awfully difficult for the Arabs to take up a civilized form of government. And there we come to the lesson. Either the Iraqis can break through that barrier, or they can’t. If they can, we are of course home and dry, and George W. Bush enters the rolls of history as a world-transforming president.
“If they can’t, though, then the American people are going to take a lesson from it. The lesson they take will be: ‘These people are fundamentally different from us. They don’t care about the things we care about ‘ liberty, law, constitutionalism, rational economics ‘ and can’t be persuaded to. They are different from us in some permanent, unfathomable, intractable way.'”
That lesson–that multiculturalism is bunk–is a good lesson. But we shouldn’t have to learn it the hard way. What we should be doing is forcing, by whatever means it takes, some dramatic changes in Iraqi culture. The way the Romans did when they secured 700 years of peace, prosperity, and civilization in Carthage.