Jonathan Raban on neocon foreign policy

“There’s a sort of corrupted idealism about the insanely innocent Wolfowitz plan for the Middle East, the domino theory in reverse, the spreading of democracy like a germ across the Middle East. Just invade Iraq, lop off the monster’s head, and the people of Iraq will want to create a democracy. It’ll be like Connecticut on the Euphrates, and this germ of infection will spread to neighboring countries, irresistibly, because everybody wants to be Americans. Everybody wants to dream of democracy.

“And there’s a germ of truth in that, too. But the way in which it was conceived by Wolfowitz and those guys: They knew nothing about its culture; they knew nothing about its political divisions, its religious divisions. They went blind into this place, simply seeing it as a bunch of people under a dictator — take the dictator away and then there would be some sort of natural reversion that would take place to democracy, as if that were what people reverted to. Actually, as it’s becoming plainer and plainer, if you had a democracy in Iraq, what the democracy would almost certainly be, with the majority of Iraqis being Shiites, would be a theocratic state, with close ties to Iran. This completely seemed to evade Wolfowitz’s thinking — it’s extraordinary. But it was presented as a kind of idealism: America doing good in this world.”

–Jonathan Raban, in Michael Shapiro’s A Sense of Place (2004)

Posted by | Comments (1)  | January 20, 2005
Category: General

One Response to “Jonathan Raban on neocon foreign policy”

  1. Tom Says:

    The irony with this passage is that it accuses Wolfwowitz and his ilk of being simple, of grossly oversimplifying the reality in Iraq and the larger region, of failing to understand the complexities– while at the same time the author is guilty of the same with respect to the neocons and the world. It is not at all clear that the weight of that group ever thought Iraq would be simple or easy. It’s now reported that way, but the reality is not so clear. That’s a stunningly smart and talented group of people who have in their employ people who are extremely savvy about the region, its culture, etc. This doesn’t mean they are right about anything in particular, but it does mean they aren’t bumbling simpletons. My own sense is that they were in fact right about the broader picture. There would be pain in doing something, and the degree of pain was unclear, but it was clear that the pain of continuing to do nothing was much more likely to be far, far greater. You know, many people can travel and learn about the world, but the world is a stuningly complex place and so traveled people tend to disagree just as much as non-traveled people. Hence, the larger theme of the passage is even sillier. It’s naive to think that if we all traveled and learned about the world, if we all had a sense of place, that it would be the same sense of place.