America is not the world

by Beacon Staff • March 22, 2006

In his resignation letter to the Harvard community, President Lawrence Summers said, "I have reluctantly concluded that the rifts between me and segments of the Arts and Sciences faculty make it infeasible for me to advance the agenda of renewal that I see as crucial to Harvard's future."

Summers's statement suggests that when an environment becomes unstable or unfriendly, it is far more difficult to carry out an agenda.

Unlike Summers, President George W. Bush seems to believe that victory is still possible among the chaos that exists in Iraq.

There will be no victory tomorrow, there will be no victory next week or one in the near future.

So far, accounts articulated by many American opinion writers suggest that an area of darkness lies ahead rather than a ray of light. One can also forecast that the deaths of American soldiers will continue to rise as well as the cost of the war, along with the national deficit and a global anti-American sentiment that seems reluctant to wane.

These predictions are made from the premise of the Bush Doctrine, that America alone knows what it means to be civilized and rational.

America's hegemony also adds comfort to the unexamined assumption that democracy is possible in Iraq, a notion that is not only false but also unpropitious as well.

It all began with the belief that Iraqis would have welcomed the Americans to their home soil because they wanted freedom.

That didn't happen.

The other notion was that elections would legitimize the invasion and at the same time persuade Iraqis that Americans acted in their interest.

That didn't happen, either. It didn't happen then, and it won't happen now.

President Bush may soon realize that Western democracy cannot be forced onto a people without first understanding the culture's history.

If one does not know of the past, how can one plan for the future?

In a February New York Times Magazine article, author Nir Rosen recalled his conversation with Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, who founded a group called "Allegiance to Imam."

According to Maqdisi "democracy is heretical religion and constitutes the rejection of Allah, monotheism and Islam . democracy is an innovation, placing something above the word of god and ignoring the laws of Islam."

If Muslims see "democracy" the way Maqdisi described it to Rosen, then Bush's war on terror is an illusion that has more far-reaching complications than one could imagine.

More than that, the war on terror now has to take on other fronts as well, from the reaction in the Middle East to the publication of Danish cartoons that have left hundreds dead, to the recent civil unrest in Iraq that would no doubt change the Bush agenda.

In fact, some critics have also observed that the U.S. military may not be able to stretch its resources further to accommodate all these battles.

Interestingly enough, it's everyday Americans who, in the long run, will have to pay the price for the president's lack of good judgment.

It is also obvious that no amount of political spin from the White House can manage this disaster.

We must face the reality that the war in Iraq has been lost.

At this time, the best route for the president would be a gradual withdrawal of troops and a handover of Saddam Hussein to the International Criminal Court.

This move would send the right signals of our commitment to legitimate institutions, and at the same time start to convince others that America indeed doesn't believe it is the world.