Editor’s Note: On April 5-6, 2006, The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College hosted its second annual conference, titled, “Mr. Jefferson Goes to the Middle East: Democracy’s Prospects in the Arab World.” A number of views were expressed by a diverse panel of experts, including renowned scholars such as: Michael Novak, Radwan Masmoudi, Daniel Pipes and Ralph Peters. The following blog entry was made by the Coalitions Manager and Associate Editor of Townhall.com, Jennifer Biddison, who was in attendance.
I’m not used to hearing my partner groups be so critical of President Bush’s foreign policy. Spending, yes, but the War on Terror is usually cheered by most of my groups.
So I was pretty shocked to find our lunch speaker, Dr. Antony Sullivan of The Fund for American Studies, calling America’s efforts in Iraq “a catastrophic error.” He believes that entering Afghanistan was necessary for our national security, but says Iraq is an unwinnable mess.
(UPDATE 11:30 pm: Roger Ream, president of the Fund for American Studies, clarified that Sullivan was speaking only for himself and not for the Fund. Sullivan is employed by the University of Michigan, and does Fund-sponsored lectures from time to time on topics such as liberty and economics.)
Sullivan believes that aside from matters of definite national security (and he seems to define this strangely – Kuwait and Afghanistan were, Iraq was not), the American government and military should stay out of the Middle East. He believes the only role for Americans in the Islamic nations is in the private sector or as educators. He takes great exception to even the title of this conference — “Mr. Jefferson Goes to the Middle East” — because it sounds like we’re heading there with what he calls “American imperium.”
Sullivan describes himself as a conservative who believes in traditionalism and noninterventionalism. He says conservatives have lost sight of Russell Kirk and are now understood quite differently than how he sees himself.
Other points made by Sullivan (and I’m not pretending to agree with most of these):
* Americans are needed — but to listen more than talk.
* The Islamic world possesses enough resources within itself to foster democracy.
* Americans would do their best in the Middle East by sticking to non-military means.
* “Democracy must be Islamic or it will not be” in Muslim nations. There is no future for the French variety of secularism in Islamic democracy.
* Democracy will develop there in its own way and timing.
* Freedom House reports indicate that liberty is spreading already in the Middle East. Two-thirds of the nations that have jumped up a level are Islamic (Indonesia moved from partly free to free and the others moved from not free to partly free). No Islamic nations have moved down a level.
* Muslim nations have a great deal of young people, and these young people are tired of autocratic rule.
* Mohammed himself was a merchant, so Muslims have no reason to be anti-market.
* There are things that Muslims want more than democracy or a price system: independence, authenticity, and redemption. When you combine these with strong nationalism and an Islamic system, it’s “easy to see why there’s no room for American imperium.”
* Those who know the Middle East well are refused a seat at the table when the Bush Administration creates its policies.