When I was in Afghanistan, one of my journalistic compatriots recommended one of Samuel Huntington’s first books to me as his best. It is indeed fantastic. Although the then-contemporary examples he uses are all out of date, it bristles with enduring insights. Here is one passage I particularly liked. The first part addresses an argument you’d sometimes hear from conservatives about Iraq and we heard from some coalition officers on the ground in Afghanistan—sure these societies are having trouble setting up governments, but so did the United States. This facile comparison ignores the extent to which our government was a cultural inheritance, not a new implant on previously barren terrain. The second gets to a key flaw in the Bush approach—it’s the absence of order and functioning institutions not democracy that is the fundamental problem in these societies.
Totally agree with his second point—Bush basically putting the democracy cart in front of the order horse.
But doesn’t his thought about America inheriting British institutions reinforce—rather than contradict—the comparison between the difficulty of setting up governments now and what happened in America, post-Revolution?
In other words, it was extremely hard to get it right then, despite our advantages.
It was supposed to be easier in Iraq?
I don’t get it.
But then, there’s much about Rich’s early Iraq commentary I don’t get. Back then, he didn’t think we did anything right…