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February 06, 2005

The return of Richard Clarke

UPDATE (2/8): On rereading my post, I realize I may have been unfair to Clarke in one sense: I made fun of him for the wrong thing. Contrary to what I said below, he doesn't appear to be saying that "Zarqawi is perfectly happy with democracy, so long as the United States is not involved." What he does appear to be saying is that Zarqawi would be opposed to democracy regardless of U.S. involvement, and if that is true, Clarke is being ridiculous in blaming Bush for Zarqawi's attacks on democracy, which (on Clarke's theory) would be occurring even if the Iraqis had established democratic institutions on their own.

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Always something new in the New York Times.

Starting today, the Sunday magazine has a weekly column by Discredited Former Counter-Terrorism Adviser™ Richard A. Clarke called "The Security Adviser." Today's maiden column is entitled "No Returns." In the print edition, there's a helpful subhead "Why more democracy won't mean less terrorism." The point of the column, you will be surprised to learn, is that Bush Is Wrong.

Here is Clarke's thesis:
Zarqawi and his followers do oppose democracy in Iraq, but they do so partly because they believe that the continuing electoral process (a constitutional referendum is planned for October of this year and a national election for December) is an American imposition.
If I understand Clarke, the idea is that Zarqawi is perfectly happy with democracy, so long as the United States is not involved. (I sure hope the Times isn't paying Clarke for this column.)

We also learn from Clarke that terrorism can exist within democratic nations. He points out:
The Irish Republican Army, the Baader-Meinhof gang of Germany and the Red Brigades of Italy all developed in democracies. Indeed, in the United States, the largest terrorist attack before Sept. 11 was conducted in Oklahoma by fully enfranchised American citizens.
What analysis! What insight! Call me naive, but I thought the point was that the democratic nations themselves do not engage in warlike or terrorist acts against us, not that we will be 100% free from terrorism whenever nations are democratic.

But the kicker for Clarke is that democracy is actually counter-productive:
To the extent that President Bush's new policy is turned into action, the jihadists may well take it as further provocative American meddling, similar to the reaction to the president's earlier attempt at reform in the region, the Greater Middle East Initiative, which was dead on arrival.
Perhaps Clarke has not seen photos like this one. So what's the answer for Clarke? Rely on others to make the case that terrorism is a perversion of Islam. I'm not making that up. Here's the conclusion of the column:
The 9/11 Commission had a proposal similar to the president's, but more on point: a battle of ideas to persuade more Muslims that jihadist terrorism is a perversion of Islam. Most Middle East experts agree, however, that any American hand in the battle of ideas will, for now, be counterproductive. For many in the Islamic world, the United States is still associated with such acts as having made the 250,000 person city of Falluja uninhabitable. Because of the enormous resentment of the United States government in the Islamic world, documented in numerous opinion polls, we will have to look to nongovernmental organizations and other nations to lead the battle of ideas.
Three steps, then: First, no war; just a "war of ideas." Second, follow the advice of Middle East experts (and we know who they are) and have the U.S. stay out of the war of ideas, because the U.S. is blamed for having made "Falluja uninhabitable" (a condition Clarke does not appear to dispute). Third, turn the war of ideas over to NGOs and "other nations," the same crowd that blames every ill in the world on the U.S.

So here's my question: When Clarke speaks of a war of ideas, just which ideas is he referring to?