Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger published "A new doctrine of intervention?" in The Washington Post on 3-30-12.* He posed a number of critical question regarding the Western policy position toward the Arab Spring, seeking policy guidance as we move forward into yet uncharted theory.
Kissinger evidently and rightly assumes the Arab Spring is not over.
Kissinger specifically asks, Has the standard for intervention shifted from national security to humanitarianism?
I composed a policy position in July 2011 to address this question.** I proposed a Doctrine of Exception, summarized thusly:
In a global environment, the United States is compelled to find ways to express its legitimate democratic aspirations while also respecting the rule of law. Thus far, this has been achieved through a "Doctrine of Exception".
DOCTRINE OF EXCEPTION
The Doctrine of Exception states: "The United States will act when there is a threat to the balance of power in known or emerging democracies in order to preserve the advancement of democratic ideals."
Only time and experience can decide the meaning of "act"; "threat"; "balance of power"; and, "democratic ideals".
In regard to "balance of power", I refer to the tipping point of historical circumstances in which change in a country's form of government is possible with minimal assistance from the West.**
The Doctrine of Exception construes the promotion of democracy as much an interest for U.S. national security as humanitarianism.
Under the Doctrine of Exception, is there a tipping point in Syria that justifies intervention? This is the critical question that determines an aggressive response in Syria and other countries. Would more harm than good be rendered under the circumstances?
MEASURES AND OUTCOMES
Equal access does not guarantee equal outcomes, thus the goal under the Doctrine of Exception is measured in constitutional ideals.
I propose that emerging democracies be judged by the quality of their laws, particularly their constitutions. Instead of replicating western constitutions, new democracies should improve upon to give greater weight to Solidarity than Liberty. Their difference is a matter of degree, yet historically Solidarity better reflects the community world-view of the Middle East.
Western counterparts ought to study Solidarity, adapt democratic ideals to it, and assist the new democracies in developing advanced constitutions and supporting institutions that reflect their cultural peculiarities, including benign Islamic ideals. This is the best way to enhance U.S. national security interests in the Middle East.
Kissinger posits this series of questions to clarify the Arab Spring:
Do we believe that a less explicitly strategic involvement disclaiming a U.S. national interest will make nation-building less complex? Do we have a preference as to which groups come to power? Or are we agnostic so long as the mechanisms are electoral? If the latter, how do we avoid fostering a new absolutism legitimized by managed plebiscites and sect-based permanent majorities? What outcomes are compatible with America’s core strategic interests in the region? Will it be possible to combine strategic withdrawal from key countries and reduced military expenditures with doctrines of universal humanitarian intervention?*
Each question warrants a reply:
Do we believe that a less explicitly strategic involvement disclaiming a U.S. national interest will make nation-building less complex?
I propose nation-building that does not involve occupation. The emphasis ought to be on formulating the legal structures.
Do we have a preference as to which groups come to power? Or are we agnostic so long as the mechanisms are electoral?
I am sympathetic to the role of religion as a positive, non-violent force for change.
If the latter, how do we avoid fostering a new absolutism legitimized by managed plebiscites and sect-based permanent majorities?
There is a risk. Fundamentalists are often more motivated than their moderate counterparts. It is also important to recognize the historical evolution of organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood. They have renounced violence as a method of social promotion.
It is theoretically possible to politically empower Muslim sects while limiting their exchanges to a non-violent assembly. It is preferable to battle with ideas and words on the floor of Congress than on the streets:
A BICAMERAL IRAQI LEGISLATURE
I propose a bicameral (two house) legislature similar in nature to the United States Congress. The United States House of Representatives and Senate are fashioned after the governmental likeness of democratic republicanism. There is a fundamental compatibility between democratic republicanism and the philosophical underpinnings of Shia, Sunni and Kurdish sectarianism.
The religion of Islam predominates modern Iraq. There are two primary sects of Islam in Iraq: Shia and Sunni.
According to "The World Factbook", issued by the United States Central Intelligence Agency; as of October 9, 2008, the ethnic breakdown of Iraq is Arab 75-80 percent and Kurdish 15-20 percent. The religions of Iraq are Muslim 97 percent (Shia 60-65 percent and Sunni 32-37 percent) and Christian or other 3 percent.
The essential differences between Shia and Sunni are historical and philosophical. These differences are further complicated by the element of religion.
Historically, Shia and Sunni disagree regarding the line of succession of the caliphs following the death of the prophet Mohammed. The caliphs are political successors of Mohammed entrusted with the duty of guarding Islam. Matters of religion and state were not separated by Mohammed.
Shia Muslims believe the legitimate succession, and therefore the pure faith, devolved upon the blood descendants of Mohammed; i.e., leadership "stayed within the Prophet's own family, among those specifically appointed by him, or among Imams appointed by God Himself". Thus, Shia Muslims believe that leadership should have passed to Mohammed's cousin/son-in-law, Ali.***
Sunni Muslims, however, argue that a new leader should be elected from among those capable of the job. The first successor was Mohammed's close friend and advisor, Abu Bakr.
Philosophically, Shia and Sunni approach Islam much in the same way that American Democrats and Republicans approach politics.
Our American Founding Fathers recognized the necessity of forming an altogether new system of government blending the best in a pure democracy, our historical heritage from the Greeks; and, a pure republic, our historical heritage from the Romans. The United States enjoys a democratic-republican system of government (not to be confused with the political parties, which the system predates).
The Founding Fathers saw an element of merit in the democratic ideal of citizenship and personal responsibility toward the body politic. Likewise, the Founding Fathers recognized the practicality of surrogate representation entrusted to an elected official chosen through a regular schedule of voting.
Democracy tends to emphasize power in the people, visualized as power flowing from the bottom upward; whereas, a Republic recognizes power in leadership, either elected or divinely ordained. This latter power flows from the top down to the people.
There are elements of truth and practicality in both positions insofar as they reflect typical aspects of the social psyche. There are natural leaders and natural followers, and whereas power sharing between the different groups is inevitable because of our social interdependence; the degree of power exercised by the one
group over the other must be minimized through checks and balances in order to avoid civil strife, or even civil war.
A bicameral approach to power sharing works because the people have democracy through a House of Representatives; and the republic has its voice through the Senate. Both the House and the Senate must agree before a piece of legislation becomes law. Their coordination is a check and balance.
The difference between Shia and Sunni philosophy is uniquely fitted, theoretically absent the element of religion, to dovetail into a bicameral approach to secular power sharing.
PHILOSOPHY AS WORLDVIEW
The Shia and Sunni philosophical approaches to both religion and law is also expressed in their attitude toward inspiration and authority, not unlike the debate between Catholicism and Protestantism within Christianity. At the basis of Sunni thought is the notion that inspiration and authority rest in the the people. Shia, on the other hand, find their inspiration and authority in "revealed" sources, such as the Quran and the psuedo-prophetic leadership found in their line of successors. Revealed sources refer to the body of inspiration resulting from revelation, a supernatural process by which God properly communicates through prophets. Revelation usually involves dreams and visions, during which the free-will of the prophet appears to be temporarily suspended. An anointed Son of God is greater than a prophet; God speaks directly to the Son without having to resort to dreams and visions or the suspension of His free-will.
Insofar as the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims stems from the initial question of political leadership, the resolution of their differences is at least partly political.
THE ROLE OF THE KURDISH PEOPLE IN THE GOVERNMENT OF IRAQ
The Kurdish people live in significant numbers in northern Iraq. The majority of Kurds are officially Muslim, belonging to a school of Sunni Islam. The Kurds ought to join with the Sunnis in the makeup of an Iraqi House of Representatives.
THE NATURE OF AN IRAQI CONGRESS
Finally, I propose a Congress of the Iraqi people comprising a House of Representatives and a Senate. The House would represent the interests of the Sunni and Kurds; the Senate would represent the interests of the Shia.
The Congress would neither debate nor settle matters of religious faith. I do not personally subscribe to the notion of a strict separation of religion and government. Questions relative to their proper relationship and public parameters ought to be decided by the non-legislative branches of government.****
Kissinger next asks:
What outcomes are compatible with America’s core strategic interests in the region?
Ultimately, a governmental alternative to a fascist Caliphate.
A FASCIST CALIPHATE
For purposes of this discussion, I define fascism as a governmental system led by a dictator having the power to forcibly suppress opposition and regiment all aspects of society, including its economy, to support an aggressive nationalism.
In September 1963, Manfred Halpern of the RAND Corporation published "The Politics of Social Change in the Middle East and North Africa", a report prepared for the United States Air Force. Halpern's report concerns itself with Islamic totalitarianism, or Islamic fascism.***** Halpern discusses the sources of totalitarian appeal, tactics, varieties, and the potential and fate of totalitarianism in the Islamic community. While Halpern gives special emphasis to the Moslem Brotherhood and the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood, he briefly notes Wahhabism, the Saudi Arabian faction of Islam that influenced Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.
Who is an Islamic fascist?
According to Halpern, "To call them 'fanatics' -- for in their concern for Islam they do not hesitate to kill fellow Moslems -- is to indicate primarily that we cannot fathom their ambiguous, destructive intensity. To call them 'extreme nationalists' is to mistake them for secular politicians. No nationalist in the Middle East, however extreme, is likely to join the leaders of Islamic Islamic totalitarian movements in saying that 'my religion is dearer to me than my family and clan. My religion is the first country that I take shelter in,' or to assert that nations have become 'idols,' and that national unity should never be purchased at the expense of religion. To say that they advocate 'the application of religious precepts in the government of Moslem countries' is to confuse them with moral reformers. . . .
"The neo-Islamic totalitarian movements are essentially fascist movements. They concentrate on mobilizing passion and violence to enlarge the power of their charismatic leader and the solidarity of the movement. They view material progress primarily as a means for accumulating strength for political expansion, and entirely deny individual and social freedom. They champion the values and emotions of a heroic past, but repress all free critical analysis of either past roots or present problems" (pages 135, 136).
As similar apocalyptic movements, Halpern likens modern neo-Islamic totalitarianism to Christian millennialism (page 136). Neo-Islamic totalitarian movements regard themselves as intermediary to the eschatological Caliphate.
ISLAMIC FASCISTS ARE NOT RELIGIOUS CONSERVATIVES
In their devotion to religion, totalitarians differ from mere conservative or ultra-conservative adherents, who are content to observe every jot or tittle of religious law, either under the paternalistic protection of the host society, or quietly, communally self-segregated but still "present in the world". Totalitarians identify with a leader and a movement who pledge the violent overthrow of the established order. By the self-admission of their own ideology, totalitarians cannot be reformed.
As soon as the totalitarian movement evolves into a mature totalitarian government, it typically includes a secret police, censorship, terror, and propaganda. An absolute leader incarnates the movement. His thoughts embody the state. Faith is reduced to the raw elements of love and hate.
ISLAMIC FASCISM IS NOT REFORMIST
"A neo-Islamic totalitarian movement has no real interest in a program. Its chiliastic expectation makes the very effort towards producing a program irrelevant; the reformist Islamic component makes its actual program irrelevant since its closed system of deductive procedure insures an inner coherence at the price of isolation from the world; its modern involvement, however, makes an effort to form a program inescapable" (Halpern, page 143).
ISLAMIC FASCISM IS EXPANSIONIST
Neo-Islamic totalitarianism "opposes the abstraction of the nation bound by geographic limits which separate the believers from each other. it is not an extremist nationalist movement; it is anti-nationalist at home and abroad. Far beyond the recapture of Palestine, it advocates conquest and aggrandizement for the sake of the community of believers -- an entity without territorial limits" (Halpern, page 147).
Halpern cites "The Call of the Moslem Brotherhood" (Cairo, October 1938):
"'The Mediterranean and the Red Sea must be two Moslem lakes, as they were before. . . . Following that, we would want to issue our call to the world, and subdue every powerful man to it completely, that there may be no confusion, and that all religions may be Allah's.'"
THE LEADER IS THE KEY TO FASCISM'S STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS
Halpern believes that the survival of a totalitarian movement depends upon the charisma of its leader. The hierarchical structure of the movement, while at first contributing to its rapid successes, eventually becomes its principal weakness.
Thus, the life-cycle of a totalitarian movement can be cut short by the assassination or natural death of its leader. If the leader fails to appoint a successor, the movement will succumb to internecine conflict as lieutenants vie for the position of leader. Further, the movement may split because, by relying on strong leadership, its members tend to know no way of resolving conflicts peacefully. Splitting results in further weakening.
DEMOCRACY THE ANSWER TO FASCISM
In a sub-section titled "The Authoritarian Road to Democracy", Halpern refers to the "inescapable laws of history" as supporting authoritarian leadership as a necessary stage of political development in cultures unfitted by the bias of tribe or kinship to practice representative government.
Citing John Stuart Mill, Halpern states that a despotism is permissible when "'the dictator employs the whole power he assumes in removing obstacles which debar the nation from the enjoyment of freedom'" (page 224).
Irrespective of the obstacles, the goal remains of representative government. Thus, on page 214ff, Halpern proffers democracy as the antidote to fascism. In this, Halpern has strong support from President George W. Bush.
NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY TO COMBAT ISLAMIC FASCISM
In his March 2006 National Security Strategy, President Bush cited Islamofascism as a significant factor in the War on Terrorism. President Bush touts the promotion of democracy as the principal weapon for defeating terrorism.
On page 9, he wrote "From the beginning, the War on Terror has been both a battle of arms and a battle of ideas – a fight against the terrorists and against their murderous ideology. In the short run, the fight involves using military force and other instruments of national power to kill or capture the terrorists, deny them safe haven or control of any nation; prevent them from gaining access to WMD; and cut off their sources of support. In the long run, winning the war on terror means winning the battle of ideas, for it is ideas that can turn the disenchanted into murderers willing to kill innocent victims.
"While the War on Terror is a battle of ideas, it is not a battle of religions. The transnational terrorists confronting us today exploit the proud religion of Islam to serve a violent political vision: the establishment, by terrorism and subversion, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These terrorists distort the idea of jihad into a call for murder against those they regard as apostates or unbelievers – including Christians, Jews, Hindus, other religious traditions, and all Muslims who disagree with them. Indeed, most of the terrorist attacks since September 11 have occurred in Muslim countries – and most of the victims have been Muslims."
President Bush recognizes the magnitude of the threat posed to the world by the expansionist aims of the Islamofascists. On page 36, he wrote: "The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century and finds the great powers all on the same side – opposing the terrorists. This circumstance differs profoundly from the ideological struggles of the 20th century, which saw the great powers divided by ideology as well as by national interest."
A CRITIQUE OF THE NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY
I propose President Bush errs in his assessment of the primary threat. He is correct in picking the ideologies of democracy and fascism as vying for dominance, but he fails to recognize 1) the religious component married to fascism; and 2) that the Islamofascist threat comes from Shia Islam, NOT Sunni Islam. In fairness, President Bush acknowledges that Al-Qaeda terrorists have hijacked the noble religion of Islam. The commitment among the classes of religious adherents, including the class of Islamic fascists, is a matter of degree.
While predominantly Sunni Muslims, Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda fighters are excursive in the context of the looming globalization and threat of the Shia Islamic Revolution, which is currently centered in Iran.
Furthermore, insofar as the fascist threat posed by Sunni Islam via Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda depends upon the survival of the top-tier leadership, especially bin Laden himself, the primary goal in defeating their Islamic terrorism ought to be the elimination of the leadership by capture or death. Democratic governments in the Middle East will not germinate and thrive absent this law of political nature; i.e., until the head is excised from the fascist body.
Lastly, Kissinger asks:
Will it be possible to combine strategic withdrawal from key countries and reduced military expenditures with doctrines of universal humanitarian intervention?
Not in the near term in select countries. I support withdrawal from Afghanistan.
To what extent are the Western accusations of fundamentalism attributed to Iranian Shia-ism a false characterization intended to alarm and alienate?
Is Shia Islam more or less conservative, or prone to fundamentalism, than the Sunni Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, for instance? How would Shia Islam compare with the form of Islam practiced by the Taliban, or Southern Baptists for that matter?
The Iranian Revolution is one of the most significant revolutions in modern history, certainly on par with the French and Bolshevik revolutions. The Iranian Revolution's importance to the spread of Islam as a forceful movement in modern history warrants credence as a careful object of study. Policies based in an accurate depiction of history, culture, and motive are more likely to invoke moral authority and long-term successful relations between nations.
UNIFORMITY AND RENAISSANCE
The restoration of the Caliphate was an oversight from WWI, resulting in national fragmentation and the rise of extremist groups and terrorists. The Caliphate provided the organization structure and authority to hold together the nations of Islam. The resurrection of a democratic, benign Caliphate that answers to the interests of both Sunni and Shia Islam would go far in restoring order to the Middle East.
Freedom is freedom. I do not propose exchanging one tyranny for another. I think we should anticipate a Palestinian Spring.
There is no major change in Western policy toward the Arab Spring. The West promotes democracy in the Middle East as a U.S. national security interest.
A Doctrine of Exception helps define the threshold for military intervention.
** "Doctrine of Exception",
**** "Reflections Toward the Future Form of an Iraqi Government",
***** Chapter eight, "Resurrecting the Past: Neo-Islamic Totalitarianism" (pages 134-155).