Why the Bush Doctrine Failed
This dissertation aims to evaluate the utility of democracy promotion in the Middle East to U.S. foreign policy; in particular, it asks why the Arab-Islamic world has proven uniquely resistant to liberal democracy. The overall argument is that an inadequate theoretical understanding of our own regime and its prerequisites led American policy makers simultaneously to expect too much of democratization, and to think too little of liberal democracy. We overestimated its promise, believing transforming key regimes could, in a cost effective manner, bring peace and prosperity to the Middle East, and in the long term help root out terrorist acts committed in the name of Islam. One of the reasons for this: policymakers underestimated what liberal democracy requires of its citizenry--deeply ingrained beliefs and social practices that are acquired only with difficulty. In Iraq, the Bush administration failed to appreciate that long established opinions and mores establish boundaries that constrain political action. Part I begins by giving an account of the assumptions and deliberations that led the Bush administration to pursue regime change in Iraq. It goes on to demonstrate by concrete examples drawn from the occupation period, the insurgency period, and the period since (characterized by utterly dysfunctional and increasingly authoritarian politics), that the rights and privileges associated with democracy--free and fair elections, new liberties, even the constitutional convention itself--are often used in illiberal ways, as weapons to serve narrow and self-interested factions, where the citizenry has not internalized a liberal political consciousness. Part II argues that a rare political personality--largely separable from any particular national character--accounts for the confluence of political liberalism and democratic institutions in the North Atlantic states. Our gentle and tolerant politics are the result of a series of revolutions in social consciousness that have not occurred in the Islamic world. In fact, the Islamic Resurgence of the last century, a revolution as consequential as the French of American Revolutions, is the consequence of a conscious project dedicated to popularizing guiding opinions that are deliberately inhospitable to political liberalism. Analysis of leading Islamist thinkers in the Sunni and Shiite world demonstrates the extent to which they have been successful in erecting barriers to modern and moderate government in the Middle East, which they reject as unjust and corrupting. The dissertation concludes by arguing that Turkey succeeded at establishing a mixed regime by emulating, so far as possible under its own circumstances, the conditions that made the emergence of liberal democracy possible in the West.