This is actually a post that I thought about writing when I first started this blog in 2003. President George Bush had just invaded Iraq with the belief that he could shock and awe the radical out of Islam, and that the people of Iraq would join the world on the path to becoming a modern liberal democracy with a free market, respect for human rights and all the things that traditional America used to hold dear.
I thought the venture was dubious as I don't believe one can kill hatred out of a people. Nor do I think it possible to force people into freedom.
Winning the war of ideas is something far too subtle for an army. The war of ideas is won through reason and not force. Unfortunately, with the left still under the sway of material dialactics, there is no way our country can engage in the discourse necessary to win the war of ideas raging in the middle east.
Unfortunately, the decision of how to procede in the Middle East was a decision left up to our elected officials. Bush won the diplomatic effort with Iraq and Hussein was reducing his stockpiles of WMDs. We invaded anyway with the hope that we could liberate and liberalize an oppressed people.
Bush's decision made me deeply depressed. Looking at the map we can see that if Iraq were to transform into a liberal democracy it would mean a new age of prosperity for the world. Yet the idea of forcing freedom on people is a tenuous affair.
Unable to see a great deal of hope for Iraq, I decided to look closer to home for hope.
One reason that I had some hope for the Iraq venture is that this little Valley of Salt Lake underwent a transition from an extremely oppressive theocracy to becoming a state that appreciates the American way.
My view of Utah history is that Brigham Young had created one of the most oppressive states ever conceived. By claiming to be the mouthpiece of God, he had set himself up as the head of state, church and local military. By spouting socialism, he was able to claim people's property and he even set himself up a sugar daddy with scores of wives.
The American army invaded Utah. Using means that by all rights should be labeled oppressive, the US government put an end to polygamy and most of the excesses of the LDS theoracy that had taken hold in Utah.
With Brigham Young's grab for absolute power stifled, the Mormons were turned from the path of totalitarianism to simply being a group with a highly active church and a with a tendency to vote as a block.
Although Mormons occasionally pull nasty tricks on their fellow men, Mormons have also become staunch defenders of liberty. So, in its short history, Mormonism essentially turned into its opposite.
Although I strongly disagreed with Bush's decision to invade Iraq, I thought that if we could just get Iraq to its second election with under a hundred thousand dead, there was a chance that democracy might take root.
It is the first official peaceful transfer of power than matters most. When Bush committed our nation to war, he committed our troops to providing security at least until the second election.
People, political parties and alliances are always changing. The value of an elected government is that it creates a peaceful mechanism for realizing that change. Even when a group of people do not hold to Democratic ideals, they often become appreciative of the fact that democracy solves the problem of succession. When people become appreciative of elections, they often turn from totalitarianism.
Of course, my thesis that you can draw any correlation between the Mormon experience and Iraq is quite weak. A very large number of the immigrants who became Mormon did so because they wanted to part of the United States. The United States had purchased the land that the Mormons wanted for their country from Mexico; So the invasion of Utah was a little bit more legitimate than the invasion of Iraq.
The idea that Bush could turn a bad religion good through force becomes even more dubious when one realizes that the vast majority of people on this planet reject and even outwardly hate the ideals of liberal democracy. Go to a Democratic fundraiser and talk about the ideals of freedom and small government held by Thomas Jefferson. You are guaranteed to be tossed out on your arse.
There is a staggeringly large number of Americans (especially in the academic world) who still are deeply committed to realizing socialism. These people would reject the argument that Mormonism was a bad ideology that has been tempered with time but was a good socialist ideology turned bad.
I did not finish this post, because the idea that social engineers can force a bad religion good is too tenuous to deserve serious discussion.
Dammit, the Republicans were supposed to be the party that rejected social engineering. George Bush the first fell short of toppling Iraq after Desert Storm simply for that very reason.
There may be one case where a group of people was forced to change and they changed for the better. Yet this is not the way to win the war of ideas. In the long run, force seems to bring the worst ideas to the surface.
Look at how all of the bad ideas like socialized medicine, massive government regulation, wage and price controls, protectionism, ..., are all back on the table in the wake of Bush's attempt to change a group of people by force.
Prior to Bush's decision to invade, the classical liberals of the world had the world engaged in a dialog. It was a dialog they were winning.
Bush's listening to the neocons and invading Iraq, when diplomatic efforts were succeeding, has thrown it all into reverse.
I didn't post this idea in 2003, because I know in my heart that is actually to turn good things bad than to make bad things good.