Revisitation (David Warren, 3/12/06, Real Clear Politics)
A new book just landed in my mailbox, Redefining Sovereignty, ed. Orrin C. Judd. It contains an essay by me from four years ago, in which I tried to explain President Bush’s Lincolnesque thinking on world order. I think the essay has borne up fairly well, to this short passage of years. I said that Mr Bush was trying to vindicate and uphold the existing national state-system in the world, in exactly the way Lincoln went about upholding the American union. And that, Mr Bush’s commitment to spreading democracy was like Lincoln’s commitment to extinguishing slavery — not the key point, but necessary to the key point of recovering order. If Lincoln could have preserved the union, and it meant keeping slavery, he would have done that.
Ditto, if Mr Bush thought he could restore the status quo ante of a Middle East that was no threat to the West, without pushing democracy down anyone’s throat, he would do that. But as he examined the problem presented to him by the Arab raids on New York and Washington, the morning of Sept. 11th, 2001, he saw that something more would be required. He believes, still, that there can be no lasting peace in the world until the “root cause” of this terrorist violence is removed. Hence, the evangelizing for democracy. Hence, the willingness to kick-start, by taking out two of the most abhorrent regimes known to man, and trying to repeat in Afghanistan and Iraq what the Americans accomplished in Germany, Italy, and Japan after World War II.
In this view — which I hold to be Mr Bush’s — we are dealing with what amounts to a planetary civil war, between those who accept the state-system descended from the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), and an emergent Islamist ideology that certainly does not. To Mr Bush’s mind, only legitimately-elected governments, presiding over properly-administered secular bureaucracies, can be trusted to deal locally with the kind of mischief an Osama bin Laden can perform, with his hands on contemporary weapons of mass destruction.
Note though that the requirement of democratic legitimacy actually effects a revolution in sovereignty and disposes of the Westphalian model.