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Ramblings

Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is a syndicated columnist and associate editor of the Lincoln Review, a journal published by the Lincoln Institute of Research and Education, and editor of Issues, the quarterly journal of the American Council for Judaism.

Heading::: Conservatives and Neo-Conservatives: The Foreign Policy Differences Are Significant and Worthy of Serious Debate

As the presidential election campaign of 2008 gets under way, and as America's role in the world undergoes increasing scrutiny both at home and abroad, it would be useful for a serious exploration of what that role should be in the post-Cold War World.

The "democratic globalism" which has been promoted by those who call themselves neo-conservatives is quite different from the traditional conservative approach to foreign policy. The war in Iraq and the effort to spread "democracy" to the Middle East are the products of this world view. The results of this crusade are less than clear. The intellectual underpinnings of this effort, however, are far from what conservatives have generally believed about foreign policy. George Will, the conservative political commentator, notes that:

On foreign policy, conservatism begins, and very nearly ends, by eschewing abroad the fatal conceit that has been liberalism's undoing domestically-hubris about controlling what cannot, and should not, be controlled. Conservatism is realism about human nature and government's competence . . .

Those who would base U.S. foreign policy upon the internal governmental organization of a particular country rather than its foreign policy and international actions, traditional conservatives argue, may misunderstand the very nature of what U.S. policy is meant to achieve. Pat Buchanan notes that:

The point here is quite simple: Because a nation has a free press, free elections, and a bicameral legislature does not alone make it a valued ally of the United States; and because a nation is ruled by an autocrat, a king, or a general does not make it an enemy. When Americans were dying in Vietnam, one recalls, NATO merchant ships were hauling goods to Hanoi, and Swedish diplomats were harassing us at the United Nations. Meanwhile, South Korean soldiers were fighting alongside ours. Not all our friends are democratic; and not all democrats are our friends.

On June 7, 1988, a conference entitled "Promoting Democracy Abroad," was held at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. It was sponsored by the Philanthropic Roundtable, a group of foundations and grant-makers. Writing in Philanthropy (Spring 1987), Carl Gersham of the National Endowment for Democracy, declared that:

The job of assisting democratic political developments cannot be left solely to governments. Democracy cannot be sustained without the existence of countless private organizations and institutions. . . . Beyond its ability to mobilize financial resources, private philanthropy can engage private institutions and individuals whose knowledge and technical skills are vital resources for those seeking to develop new democratic structures.

Presenting a conservative rejoinder to the philosophy of promoting global democracy was Paul Gottfried, professor of political science at Elizabethtown College and author of a number of important books, including The Conservative Movement. Dr. Gottfried states at the outset that he shared the views of the other speakers concerning the "inhumanity endemic to Communist control anywhere" and noted that he would "find nothing wrong with having our leaders call attention to particularly heinous acts committed by other states or shamelessly tolerated within their borders," in the case of non-Communist regimes. He rejected the idea that opposition to the notion of spreading democracy around the world was rooted in "ethical relativity."

In this regard, Gottfried states that:

. . . generations of statesmen who believed in revealed religion and prescribed morality accepted a politically pluralistic universe. The 18th century Whig reformer and advocate of the American colonies, Edmund Burke, wrote to the sheriffs of Bristol in 1777 on the affairs of America: "I was never wild enough to conceive that one method would serve for the whole, that the natives of Hindustan and those of Virginia could be ordered in the same manner. . . . I was persuaded that government was a practical thing, made for the happiness of mankind, and not furnish out a spectacle of uniformity to gratify the schemes of visionary politicians.". . . Burke held a basic unquestioned assumption of Western political thought from Aristotle to Montesquieu and beyond: that there are different good or at least tolerable regimes adapted to the needs and histories of different peoples.

Those who advocate a global democratic revolution, Gottfried argued:

. . . reject that axiom not because they preach a higher morality than did Burke or Montesquieu. They are addicted to a 20th century enthusiasm that denies respect to all forms of government but their own.

To the argument that the U.S. should export democracy throughout the world because democratic regimes will feel a natural affinity for the U.S., Gottfried points to a long historic record that would challenge such a thesis:

It was Athens' bullying of a fellow-democracy, Corinth, that contributed to the entry of Sparta, Corinth's ally, into the Peloponnesian War. Democracies and, in the early 20th century, constitutional monarchies -- e.g., England and Imperial Germany and Habsburg Austria-Hungary -- have in fact fought each other.

Because, on particular occasions, the U.S. may "sometimes be called upon to make political-structural changes in far-off lands in pursuit of our national interest," Gottfried concluded, "it does not follow that we should dictate the constitutional-social arrangements by which the entire world must live."

Traditional conservatives point to the manner in which the U.S. policy of "democratization" brought the Sandinistas to power in Nicaragua. Almost from the beginning of his presidency, Jimmy Carter tightened the screws on Nicaragua. By executive decree, the president prohibited the sale of military equipment. The president's representative on the International Monetary Fund twice blocked badly-needed standby credits for Nicaragua. When financing for Nicaragua's hydro-electric dam project was obtained through other nations, President Carter pressured those nations to cancel the financing arrangements.

Under orders from the White House, the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave instructions to beef inspectors to shut down Nicaraguan beef exports to the U.S. The U.S. Embassy in Managua called and advised businessmen for the opposition political party to transfer their dollars from Nicaragua to the U.S. At one point, the U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, William Bowdler, told President Somoza that "the Carter policy was to see that all of the right-wing governments in Central America were replaced and that Nicaragua would be the first to go."

Under serious attack from rebels armed by Cuba, President Somoza was unable to purchase needed military supplies from the U.S. When he was finally able to purchase vital ammunition from Israel, Somoza later said that as the ship approached the Nicaraguan coast:

. . . it turned back to Israel. We suspected the reason for the sudden change in shipping plans, and later our suspicious were verified. U.S. intelligence had learned the destination of this ship and the cargo she carried. Under extreme pressure applied by the U.S., Israel made the decision to return the ship. . . . When Carter says the U.S. played no role in the death of my government, and when he says he didn't know international law was being violated, he is lying. . . . At the time of my departure, we must have had close to 20,000 men who wanted to fight the enemy. These men were never defeated by international invaders; they simply did not have the means with which to fight.

Thus, in the view of traditional conservatives, it was U.S. policy that put the Sandinistas in power -- just as it was U.S. policy which assisted the Ayatollah Khomeini in coming to power in Iran and Robert Mugabe in assuming power in Zimbabwe.

More recently, of course, particularly under the influence of neo-conservatives, the Bush administration has embarked upon an ideological crusade of "democratizing" the Middle East, most prominently in Iraq.

Not only have the reasons for going to war in Iraq proven to be less than persuasive, but the Bush administration's assessment of what was necessary for success appears to have been misleading and far from reality.

On May 1, 2003, President Bush gave a speech aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Lincoln beneath a large "Mission Accomplished" banner. Kenneth Adelman, head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during the Reagan administration, predicted that the mission would be a "a cakewalk." Other advocates of the war were equally optimistic. It would be like Paris in 1944, with the Iraqis greeting American troops as liberators, not occupiers. In April 2003, columnist Mark Steyn predicted that "in a year's time Baghdad and Basra will have a lower crime rate than most British cities." Furthermore, there would be "no widespread resentment or resistance of the Western military presence."

Those who worried about the deep ethno-religious divisions in Iraq were summarily dismissed. On April 1, 2003, William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, wrote that:

. . . there's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America . . . that the Shi'a can't get along with the Sunni, and the Shi'a in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all.

In May, Washington Post columist Charles Krauthammer stated, "The U.S. is in a position to bring about a unique and potentially revolutionary development in the Arab world: a genuinely pluralistic, open and free society." Department of Defense planners assumed the U.S. troop levels would be down to 50,000, or even lower, by the end of 2003. Some military experts, however, warned that such optimism was unwarranted. Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, predicted that the occupation would require "several hundred thousand troops" for a period of "many years." Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz flatly rejected Shinseki's assessment in congressional testimony and, for his candor, Shinseki was pressured into early retirement.

Wolfowitz also rejected the idea that the occupation would be a financial drain. He predicted that Iraq's oil revenues would pay for the entire cost of reconstruction. Those officials who did not share such an optimistic view were removed from office. Larry Lindsey, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, warned that the cost of the Iraq occupation would exceed $200 billion. He was quickly pressured out of his post. Even Lindsey's estimate was low. The Iraq war has cost far more, as of March 2007 it was $350 billion and counting. That figure does not include long-term, indirect costs, such as the continuing medical care and rehabilitation expenses for more than 22,000 service personnel who have been wounded. Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, has stated that the costs could exceed one trillion dollars in the near term.

In January, 2002, more than a year before U.S. troops entered Iraq, Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, cautioned that:

No matter how emotionally satisfying removing a thug like Saddam may seem, Americans would be wise to consider whether that step is worth the price. The inevitable U.S. military victory would not be the end of America's military troubles in Iraq. . . . Washington would become responsible for Iraq's political future and the U.S. would be entangled in an endless nation-building mission beset by intractable problems.

As war grew nearer, other experts in the traditional conservative "realist" school of foreign policy echoed such warnings. On September 26, 2002, 33 prominent foreign affairs scholars published an advertisement in The New York Times under the headline "War in Iraq Is Not in America's National Interest." They noted that the administration of George H. W. Bush "did not try to conquer Iraq in 1991 because it understood that doing so could spread instability in the Middle East. . . . This remains a valid concern today." They added: "Even if we win easily, we have no plausible exit strategy. Iraq is a deeply divided society that the U.S. would have to occupy for many years to create a viable state." Those who signed that ad included University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer, MIT Professor Barry Posen, Columbia University Professor Richard K. Betts, and the dean of Harvard University's Kennedy school of Government, Stephen M. Walt.

Writing in Chronicles, the Cato Institute's Ted Galen Carpenter notes that:

Not only did the administration and other proponents of war ignore such warning, they refused later on to recognize growing evidence that the mission was going badly. Even as the security environment deteriorated, the chorus of optimism scarcely diminished. In early 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney confidently asserted that the insurgency was "in its last throes." By late 2006, though, the evidence of massive disorder in Iraq was irrefutable. Instead of admitting error, most of the hawks have redoubled their efforts to give advice about future strategy. . . . The increasingly shrill neo-conservatives argue that the Bush administration had launched the mission with too few troops -- even though most of the lobbyists for war had argued exactly the opposite at the time. (Indeed, some of them, including Wolfowitz, had proposed going in with even lighter force -- no more than 40,000 or 50,000 troops). Now, they insist that even the existing force of 145,000 is insufficient.

In Carpenter's view:

Except when the survival of the nation is at stake, all military missions must be judged according to a rigorous cost-benefit calculation. Iraq has never come close to being a war for America's survival. Even the connection of the Iraq mission to the larger war against Islamic terrorism was always tenuous at best. For all of his odious qualities, Saddam Hussein was a secular tyrant, not an Islamic radical. Indeed, radical Muslims expressed nearly as much hatred for Saddam as they did for the U.S. Iraq was an elective war -- a war of choice, and a bad choice at that. . . . Alarm bells should be ringing when the people who pushed America into the folly of a nation-building mission in Iraq are now advocating a redoubled effort.

Assessing the role of neo-conservatives in the formulation of U.S. policy toward the Middle East, Professor Andrew J. Bacevich of Boston University, writing in the The American Conservative, declares:

Neo-conservatives . . . believe that the U.S. is called upon to remake the Middle East, bringing the light of freedom to a dark quarter of the world. Pseudo-realists like Baker (James Baker, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group) believe that the U.S. can manipulate events in the Middle East, persuading others to do our bidding. Both views, rooted in the conviction that Providence has endowed America with a unique capacity to manage history, are pernicious.

In Bacevich's view:

The way forward requires abandoning that conviction in favor of a fundamentally different course. A sound Middle East strategy will restore American freedom of action by ending our dependence on Persian Gulf oil. It will husband our power by using American soldiers to defend America rather than searching abroad for dragons to destroy. A sound strategy will tend first to the cultivation of our own garden. A real course change will require a different compass, different navigational charts, and perhaps above all different helmsmen, admitting into the debate those who earn their livelihoods far from the imperial city on the Potomac.

The tragedy of neo-conservatism, argues The Economist,

. . . is that the movement began as a critique of the arrogance of power. Early neocons warned that government schemes to improve the world might end up making it worse. They also argued that social engineers are always plagued by the law of unintended consequences. The neocons have not only messed up American foreign policy by forgetting their founders' insights. They may also have put a stake through the heart of their movement.

Needless to say, all Americans should hope for as successful an outcome in Iraq as possible. However mistaken the arguments presented in behalf of the war, it is in the interest of our own country and our friends in the region that Iraq is left better than we found it. Beyond the events of the moment, however, what is required is a careful revisiting of the different foreign policy perspectives of traditional conservatives and the neo-conservatives who have been so influential in the current administration. That debate has been postponed for far too long.

The World Refuses to Confront the Continuing Human Rights Violations by the Tyrannical Regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe

Life in Zimbabwe continues its dramatic decline as Robert Mugabe's cult of personality continues to grow.

In June, Mugabe threatened to seize foreign companies, including mines, which have raised prices and cut output in what he called an economic "dirty tricks" campaign to oust his government. Zimbabwe's businesses -- including a dwindling number of local subsidiaries of multinational companies, older white-owned firms, and black-owned companies that prospered after independence in 1980 -- are already struggling in what the World Bank calls the fastest-shrinking economy for a country not at war.

Analysts said that approval of the bill could deepen the economic crisis, which has pushed Zimbabwe to the brink of collapse, with inflation now believed to be more than 10,000 percent a year.

Yet, as Zimbabwe's people are struggling to survive in the face of growing food and fuel shortages, and the prospect of power cuts for up to 20 hours a day, President Robert Mugabe, who has led the country since 1980, is spending almost $4 million on a grandiose project -- a monument to himself. Work has already begun on a museum dedicated to his life in his home district of Zvimba. Construction of the grand edifice, which will cover the area of a soccer field and has been dubbed the "Mugabe Shrine" is being supervised by the local government minister, Ignatius Chomvo. Mugabe's extravagance is well known. Besides his five official residences, he owns a number of private houses including the most recent edition, a palatial three-story, 25-bedroom, $15.8 million residence in the exclusive Harare suburb of Borrowdale.

A recently published book, My Life with an Unsung Hero by Vesta Sithole, the widow of an early leader in the fight for Zimbabwean independence, the Rev. Ndabaningi Sihthole, places some of the latest developments in that country in historical perspective.

Vesta Sithole was a participant in the battle for independence and democracy in the former Rhodesia from the very beginning. She helped to recruit people for military training, sheltered freedom fighters and raised funds. As a result of her active participation in Zimbabwe's road to freedom, the author was harassed jailed and subject to mistreatment by both the Rhodesian forces and her fellow citizens. In 1967, she married Tanzanian banker and economist Jackson Mwakalyelya, with whom she had four children. She was widowed in 1972 and in 1980 married the liberation fighter and founder of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), the late Rev. Sithole.

We see from this memoir that Robert Mugabe was committed from the beginning to total control and that his verbal commitment to democracy and freedom was far from the reality of what he had in mind.

Mrs. Sithole writes that:

March 3, 1979, was the day Rev. Sithole, Bishop Muzorewa, Chief Chirau, and Mr. Smith signed the Internal Agreement. After the agreement was signed, an interim government was put in place and the country's name officially changed to Zimbabwe/Rhodesia. Mr. Smith and his delegation could not imagine the country without the name "Rhodesia" in it. . . . The Executive Council was made up of Rev. Sithole, Bishop Muzorewa, Chief Chirau, and Ian Smith. The Executive Council would rotate every month, and each leader would be the chairman of the council and run the affairs of the state before the scheduled election took place. It was not a perfect constitution, but it was a beginning.

Robert Mugabe, then outside the country, fought the internal settlement, in part because it did not elevate him to the power he sought. To the end, after a series of assassinations of his opponents, Robert Mugabe was sworn in as prime minister of independent Zimbabwe. Mrs. Sithole notes that:

Rev. Sithole was not even invited to the independence celebrations held in the country. . . . However, he did hope that Mr. Mugabe would give the Zimbabwean people what they fought and died for -- freedom to speak, freedom to associate, and freedom to be Zimbabweans. He publicly said this at our Waterfalls home soon after Mr. Mugabe was sworn in. He added that he would oppose Mr. Mugabe if he did not rule well.

While living in the U.S. the Rev. Sithole wrote two books, The Secret of American Success -- Africa's Great Hope and Hammer and Sickle Over Africa. He was convinced that the example of American freedom and free enterprise was the path Africa should take, not that of Communism. He declared:

It should be noted that what is Africa's great hope is not America, but the secret of American success. This is to say the principles that explain America's success are Africa's great hope, The constant success factors that have served the U.S.A. during the last 210 years are Africa's/Zimbabwe's great hope if she will adopt the same. . . . Allow the people free enterprise and they will succeed beyond belief. Deny them free enterprise, and you kill real success among them. Africa/Zimbabwe is more suited to a free economy than a nationalized economy, which tends to benefit mostly the ruling elites, and to retard ordinary people.

For Sithole, individual freedom was the path for Zimbabwe's future success:

Let everyone in Africa/Zimbabwe have his own dream, not another's dream. Let him become what he himself wants to become. In colonial days people were forced to become subjects of the colonial powers. In present-day Africa people are still forced to become Marxists, Marxist-Leninists, Communists, or Socialists. In other words, they are forced not to become themselves, but carbon copies of others.

After returning to Zimbabwe, the Sitholes suffered under Robert Mugabe's rule. Their home and property was confiscated and the Rev. Sithole were arrested and charged with treason. Finally, for health reasons, he was permitted to leave for medical care in the U.S., where he died.

Mrs. Sithole notes that:

The arrest of my husband on treason charges was neither the beginning nor the end of arrests by Mr. Mugabe of his political opponents. It is my observation that it was, and still is, Mr. Mugabe's modus operandi to charge with treason those who oppose him. Many will recall that Joshua Nkomo was accused of trying to overthrow Mr. Mugabe's government. . . . Fearing for his life, Mr. Nkomo escaped to Botswana disguised as a woman, and later made it to the United Kingdom. . . . Bishop Abel Muzorewa was imprisoned for 10 months after being accused of trying to kill Mr. Mugabe. Even Edgar Tekere, once his secretary general and right-hand man, was accused of trying to kill Mr. Mugabe when they become estranged.

Now living in the U.S., Vesta Sithole remains committed to speaking out against the injustices her fellow citizens of Zimbabwe have suffered at the hands of Robert Mugabe. Having devoted her life to the struggle for a free Zimbabwe, she believes that the people of her country deserve the freedom they fought for. The world that was eager for Zimbabwean independence, however, now seems indifferent to its fate.

In August, Southern African leaders did not urge Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to enact reforms in his country during a regional meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, and appeared satisfied with his human rights record.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, then new chairman of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) said the group of countries had relied on a report submitted by South Africa on Zimbabwe's crisis and had not raised the issue with Mr. Mugabe.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been mediating between the Zimbabwean government and its opposition, submitted the report. "We are quite happy that Mr. Thabo Mbeki was capable enough and was moving in the right direction," Mr. Mwanawasa said.

Asked if the SACD had pressed Mugabe on accusations of widespread human rights abuses during the summit, Mr. Mwanawasa said, "We have discussed them (abuse claims) and we are satisfied with the answers which were given."

It is clear that Southern African nations do not have the resolve to confront the regime of Robert Mugabe. Earlier, Mr. Mwanawasa had raised hopes that African states would break their public silence on Robert Mugabe when he became the first leader of the continent to publicly criticize him. But his description of Zimbabwe as a "sinking Titantic" during a trip to Nambia earlier this year has faded and he has softened his position.

Despite his brutal regime, Robert Mugabe, somehow, remains immune to criticism from his neighbors. More than this, the New York Times reported that at the Lusaka meeting:

Mr. Mugabe arrived . . . to a fusillade of cheers and applause from attendees that . . . overwhelmed the polite welcomes for other heads of state. . . . Mr. Mugabe was unrepentant and the comments of leaders of neighboring states about Zimbabwe's descent were notably bland.

Zimbabwe's seven-year decline is a result of increasingly repressive policies imposed by the Mugabe regime that have driven away foreign investment and stoked hyperinflation. In June, the government ordered all businesses to roll back prices, effectively declaring inflation illegal. Since then, factories have curtailed production, workers have been laid off, and store shelves have emptied of basic goods. In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city, a security guard and a child were reported to have been killed in August after a line of shoppers awaiting a rare delivery of sugar mobbed a storefront, toppling a brick wall on top of them.

While the rest of Africa -- and most of the world -- turns away, Zimbabwe is in a state of collapse. Water shortages have worsened because of pump breakdowns, and a senior government official said kidney patients were dying for lack of dialysis machines. Power, water, health, and communications systems are collapsing, and there are acute shortages of staple foods and gasoline. Unemployment is around 80 percent.

As 11 million people in Zimbabwe descend into destitution, a tiny slice of the population is becoming ever more powerful and wealthy at their expense. Zimbabwe, critics charge, is fast becoming a kleptocracy, and the government's seemingly inexplicable policies are in fact preserving and expanding it.

"Their sole interest is in maintaining power by any means," said David Coltart, a white opposition member of Parliament. "I think their calculation is that the rest of Africa is not going to do anything to stop them, and the West is distracted by Iraq and Afghanistan. The platinum mines can keep the core of the elite living in the manner they're accustomed to -- just in a sea of poverty."

According to New York Times correspondent Michael Wines, writing from Zimbabwe:

In interviews, Mr. Coltart's view was widely shared by blacks and whites alike, many with no political ax to grind. Even a governing party politician allowed that whatever the aims of Mr. Mugabe's policies, their execution had gone terribly awry. Zimbabwe's farm seizures destroyed the nation's rich agriculture industry, and, as a form of patronage, vast tracts of land were handed over to party elites with little experience or interest in farming. The looming take over of business is expected to produce the same result.

Zimbabwe's falling currency -- 200,000 Zimbabwe dollars now buy a single American dollar on the black market -- has rendered the salaries of working Zimbabweans all but worthless. Yet the official exchange rate is not 200,000 to 1, but 250 to 1. Those with connections to the government's reserve bank are widely said to buy American dollars cheap and sell them dear -- and reap an 800-fold profit on currency transactions.

Things have become so bad that the Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, has called on Britain to invade his country and engage in regime change against Robert Mugabe. Bishop Neube warns that millions of his countrymen face starvation without outside intervention. There is "massive risk to life" said the leader of Zimbabwe's one million Roman Catholics. "People in our mission hospitals are dying of malnutrition," says Bishop Ncube.

We had the best education in Africa and now our schools are closing. Most people are earning less than their bus fares. There's no water or power. Is the world just going to let everything collapse in on us?

Thus far, sadly, the answer appears to be yes. And those in the U.S., Britain, and elsewhere who so eagerly embraced Robert Mugabe in 1980, and bear some responsibility for his ascent to power, seem totally indifferent to the results of their efforts. *

"Liberty cannot be caged into a charter or handed on ready-made to the next generation. Each generation must recreate liberty for its own times. Whether or not we establish freedom rests with ourselves." --Florence Ellinwood Allen

Read 1895 times Last modified on Wednesday, 18 November 2015 19:10
Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby(Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

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