The advance of freedom and the dangers of turning such a Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen slogan into a policy.
by Urs Lüscher/CoW
The inaugural speech the US President Bush has given on January 21 was about as unspecific as the situation calls for. To criticise the speech for its lack of specifics would mean to ignore the circumstances (...prescribed by law and marked by ceremony...) it was delivered under. So, that much said what else is there to write about? hmmm, what about those last
four years and what about a good deal of the electorate which brought Bush a second term? The Base :-) as it has been named. Nobody knows the future and so experience is all one can go by. But hey who would disagree with such a nice slogan for past and present US-policy anyway ? Apart from some missfits rangeing from the ones enjoying currently the tropical hospitality of Guantanamo without any protection by the rule of law, to the perverted consenting adults enjoying some anal or oral intercourse (still illegal in some states and not only in the oval office), and everthing in between in the land of the free. Or the people enjoying the many freedoms in Pakistan or the Caspian Sea countries known as “Pipelineistan"? All of them should be quiet. After all they have been set free from the confinement of the Geneva Convention, their privacy and the proceeds of their natural rescources. Will that change? No.
In short: expect more of the same.
(BTW: after that ritual bashing you might want to read on anyway...)
So, should one go back to the sports pages? No. Bush and his administration's pledge to go after freedom – sorry go for freedom carries the flavour of other US campaigns. Starting with the prohibition, the war on drugs and until now the war on terrorism, and from this day on the aheem, push for freedom.
Somehow these campaigns are reminiscent of Mao's campaigns (1950 - 1976). The purpose of those campaigns was "sociopolitical transformation and economical advancement" (1) by focussing the masses. I hope this doesn't sound too familiar....
The campaign of freedom as a politcal ideal turned into action is not going to produce any more tangible results than the prohibition stopped drinking, the war on drugs stopped the drug cartels or the war on terror will abolish terrorism. It is sometimes flabbergasting to see selfstyled anti-comunists follow the failed steps of the former communist countries.
F. A. Hayek named as one of the defining differences between a planned economy and a free market economy the information deficit a central steering comitee always has. A central comitee with its not only limited number of members but also by its disconnection through privilege has never the necessary amount of detailed information to allocate goods effectively but does have with its flawed decisions(2) a huge impact on the everyday life of its citizens. Asymetric information or the faith ideals suffer when they are turned into policies and consequently collide with reality. This carries a lesson for todays policymakers too.
Looking at interventions in recent times (Vietnam, Afganistan, Chechnya, Iraq, Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine) there is a pattern developping which shows that discreet encouragement of local people by the advance of personal exchange on every level from diplomats to business from univesities to schools to tourism is a lot more efficient and effective in winning the heart and minds than "shock and awe". The concept of induction - as Timothy Garton Ash called it in his recent article in the New York Times - taken to the very individual level . But it takes not only the carot but also the stick? What kind of stick? Military? Get real! Taking on Iran would not work without reinstating the draft. And even with the draft there would not be enough manpower to tackle the next declared member of the Axis of Evil. The Iraq war blunted the military option. (see New York Times Editorial Article as of May 16th 2005)
Is the push for freedom a flawed ideal? No, of course not. But it carries the danger of many a good idea. If crafted into dogmatic policies, it will produce mayhem.
The big question arising from the inaugural speech therefore is : Can Bush and his administration think outside the mental barriers which defined his first term? If yes, then there is a good chance for the advancement of the concept of freedom. If not, then expect the US and Europe to drift further apart and we can only wait for the next US policy campaign.
1) see:Kenneth Lieberthal “Governing China" p.66
2) for further reading see: Dimitri Volkogonov “The rise and fall of the Soviet Empire”