"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


what a mess

I don't like Bill Odom. This is because, on the first day of his American national security policy class in the fall of 2001 (one week before 9/11) during the course "shopping period" that is one of the perks of course scheduling up there, he asked me to explain my research interest. I told him that I was writing a thesis on U.S. security policy towards Africa. "There's no such thing," he replied with a withering stare. I glared back, replied, "yes there is," sat quietly for a few minutes, decided that perhaps this was not the class for me, and left.

I do not regret that decision. In the boys' club that is American political science, you learn quickly who you can work with and who you can't. My friend Lauren and I figured out that if we would talk about weapons systems, some of the men would accept us, but for some boys, women just can't possibly have knowledge about these things, even if they work twice as hard and know all there is to know about the topic. Such is life. It doesn't really bother me any more.

So I am not a fan of Mr. Odom. But as much as it pains me to say this, he's right about Iraq. This piece is worth reading.

(Although I would disagree with his assessment that political scientists didn't argue in 2003 that creating a democracy wasn't as easy as the Bush administration made it out to be. We did. We do. It was glaringly obvious then and it remains so now.)


Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White said...

One of the finest to argue that this would be a disaster was Dr. Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies and Foreign Policy in Focus. She's brilliant and everything she predicted has, unfortunately, happened.

If one of the progressive Democrats (Kucinich, Obama, Edwards, or Richardson) gets in the White House, she's my first recommendation for Secretary of State. She'd put Albright, Powell, & Rice in the shade.

Monday, February 12, 2007 9:28:00 PM

Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I guess I'm also less pessimistic about Arabic countries becoming democratic. I just think that cannot be imposed militarily from without. Democratic traditions and processes take time to develop and work best when they come from within a nation. If Iraqis had overthrown Saddam, nonviolently or violently, the overthrow would presumably have been multi-ethnic and multi-sectarian. The U.S. would not have been an occupying force and could have contributed financially to the process of nation building while the UN contributed the kinds of expertise and transition that it did so well in places like East Timor.

And, although they are not Arabic, there are 2 Muslim-majority countries that were well on their way toward becoming true democracies before Bush came to power: Turkey and Iran. The hardliners came back to power in Iran in reaction to Bush's threatening stance and the invasion of Iraq, but the youth are still very pro-democracy and pro a liberal form of Islam. Without the disastrous policies of the U.S. in the last 6 years, I believe Iran would have made the transition to full democracy faster than Turkey.

Turkey is taking 2 steps forward and 1 back constantly, even with the carrot of possible EU membership--which it desperately wants.

But we undermine these kinds of developments constantly.

Monday, February 12, 2007 9:38:00 PM


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