Free Dartmouth
7/13/2006 12:08:00 AM | Jared Alessandroni

It's as if he had a few in his desk...

It seems like, and I could be wrong on this, David Brooks times his scattered and logically questionable defenses of Iraq policy with the news in Iraq, waiting for the really bad news to come out before he explains, as the Bush administration often strains to do, why bad news is really good news.

Today he posits what future generations might think of this time of unrest. His thesis is that the middle of the 19th century saw a great deal of conservative, somewhat autocratic leadership that would unify troubled states and eventually lead to stable democracy in Europe. For instance, he argues, didn't der Eiserne Kanzler rule with an eiserne fist, only to later be forced to submit to the will of the people?

In fact, Brooks argues (in an awkward rhetorical past-tense) that the liberals (whoever they are) who want to bring Democracy to places like Iraq weren't interested in the right thing at all:

Unlike the Western democrats, the conservatives — Putin in Russia, the theocrats and strongmen who came to dominate Iraq — did understand the desire for order. They understood the people’s desire to live in an environment in which it was possible to lead a dignified life. They shared the feeling of national shame that had come amid the chaos and the longing to restore national prestige. In short, they had a deeper understanding of human nature than the technocrats who came to modernize them.

In fact, it is fair to say that a desire for order in many ways trumps the ideas of freedom as an abstraction. However, Brooks' ability to ignore that it was a certain cowboy conservative of our own and his do-it-cheap club who cared less about protecting order than, say, oil wells, borders on maniacal.

Comparing the current war to the unrest and disunification of Germany, Brooks sees a pattern:

So if the first stage of the democratic era in these places was liberation and the second stage was chaos, the third stage was conservative restoration.

It's historically questionable in the first, but I think the scariest part of it is the ease with which this chaos is muted into just being part of the process. Imagine if he had postulated this when we went into war, had talked about how, rather than the flowers they were going to throw at us, we would have (and this would be a good thing) an extended period of "chaos" followed by an autocratic regime.

What's particularly inane is that Brooks is actually making an argument for keeping someone like Saddam in Iraq - here's a man who was slowly reforming his country (certainly compared to most of their neighbors), and had certain... expansionist interests. I'm not saying this is good, just as I wouldn't use Bismarck as a model for democratic evolution.

Brooks continues:

We’re out of the period of mass rallies and toppling regimes and orange revolutions. We’re coming into a period of, at best, a gradualist conservative reform. It’s time to come up with a strategy for helping today’s unimaginative autocrats to become new and improved Bismarcks.

Brooks' argument, if you don't gloss over as he did, is that a conservative hawk liberates a people, but fails. Chaos ensues, but the chaos is a good thing because it brings forth a Bismarck character who, though not exactly a Democratic ideal, will take advantage of the chaos. An autocracy, however, is not sustainable, so by definition, we will end up with a democracy. In a sense, he is correct. Germany seems to have gotten it right, after all, after only two world wars.

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