Both newspapers downplayed the Korea and Japan analogies which Mr. Bush also delivered at the convention. This is more than a little convenient. The president spent much more speech time on Korea and Japan than on Vietnam. Both Korea and Japan stand as rebukes to people who once argued for the purported incompatibility democracy and freedom among peoples who lacked a history thereof. Today we hear it about Middle Eastern peoples instead of Asian ones. Mr. Bush’s point is that each was proven wrong in time and that he expects the same to be true in Iraq. ~The Washington Times
Everyone has been preoccupied with the (admittedly flawed) Vietnam sections of the speech, while dismissing or overlooking the others. The others are, in their way, far more dishonest and inaccurate. This is why I focused most of my attention on showing why Bush had no understanding of modern Japanese history, since Japan was his principal example of America creating democracy where none had existed. The trouble was that some form of it had existed prior to the war, just as it had in Germany for decades prior to Nazism.
Helping to rebuild a constitutional representative government (which is what we’re actually talking about) in a place that has already had one is immensely easier than laying a foundation on the sand of a political culture unsuited to such government. The social, political and economic structures of modern Japan made it vastly different from Iraq, c. 2003, and made it much more able to resume its constitutional parliamentary government. Japan’s cultural and ethnic homogeneity, its long history as a unified state, and the unifying symbol of the emperor all combined to make postwar Japan as unlike Iraq as could be imagined. So many of the conditions that explain Japan’s success after the war do not exist in Iraq. It is simple realism to acknowledge that two radically different societies are, in fact, radically different, and the development of democratic institutions in one may be impossible while it is possible in the other. The simplistic Bush/Times notion is that the critics always underestimate the democratic potential of foreigners, so the right response is to consistently overestimate that potential while striking a pose of moral superiority. There may have been occasions in the past when doubters were wrong (it is likely that doubters of Japanese democracy were as poorly informed as Mr. Bush about pre-war Japanese politics), but for the same to be true about Iraq the examples being cited would have to bear some remote resemblance to present-day Iraq.