Friday, August 08, 2003

Daniel Drezner on the Uses and Misuses of Edmund Burke

Drezner has a piece in TNR on the use of Edmund Burke by both the antiwar left and the isolationist right to argue against the war in Iraq. Within this context, he also takes on Fareed Zakaria's thesis about the necessary conditions for a truly liberal democracy to flourish.

I am in two minds about Drezner's piece. On the one hand, I agree with him that it is too easy to utilize Burke as a prop for an unwarranted pessimism about the prospects for a democratic Iraq, but on the other, I side with Zakaria in believing that many neo-conservatives are far too optimistic about the level of Western commitment that will be required to make an Iraqi democracy a lasting success. The idea that America can simply pull out after 2 years and leave the Iraqis entirely to their own devices strikes me as very much a pipe dream - it really is nothing more than an extension of the Rumsfeldian vision of "war-on-the-cheap" into the arena of nation-building. In any case, whether America likes it or not, the commitment is already on its' hands, and the worst possible way to discharge it would be to simply cut its' losses and "send the boys" home, without a viable Iraqi government in place to pick up the pieces.

Drezner also offers a useful summary on his blog of background material and related pieces on this issue. Even if one isn't particularly interested in Iraq, I still think the blog entry worth taking a look at, if for no other reason than that it offers links to some substantive work on an issue that is of relevance to the majority of developing countries - how to establish not just the forms of liberal parliamentary government, but also its' substance.