Monday, August 09, 2004


AEI op-ed on Arab Democracy

On the verge. Yes, that's where the American Enterprise Institute believes that George W. Bush has brought the Arab world. Right up to the brink. So close you can taste it. And Kerry is going to take all that hard work and throw it out the window, so says Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute in today's New York Times. In the interest of saving time (my own time, not yours, of course) I am going to simply post my reaction to it that I already sent in an email earlier. And I quote myself:
an interesting article. however, i believe that the entire premise of the article, that there is a difference between the "realism" of kerry and the "idealism" of bush, is fundamentally flawed. while there are differences between the foreign policies of the two, i don't think they break down along "realism" vs. "idealism" lines. i think the main differences are in areas of the level of aggressiveness and the militarization of foreign policy. i think pretty much everybody agrees that democracy in the middle east would be a good thing - bush, kerry, everyone. do you then dismiss somebody because they are not democratically elected and embrace those that are? looking at pakistan, uzbekistan, and palestine, it's pretty obvious that bush is hardly more an "idealist" than a "realist". to me the difference is on the issue of "regime change" (in other words, the military overthrow of those currently in power in the middle east). here, bush argues that regime change will lead to increased democracy (we'll see if it happens) and kerry seems to argue more than increased democracy (through US support of reformers and democratic movements in the middle east) will lead to regime change. pletka says that bush has made democracy a topic of discussion of debate in the middle east, while kerry's counsel of despair (we can't impose democracy, there is a danger in things happening too fast and too violent) damns the middle east to continued despotic rule. while i am no supporter of kerry's middle east policy, i think that there is a certain logic to these warnings - we hear of al-aqsa martyrs brigade members burning government buildings, kidnapping government officials, interupting government meetings because they want reform. if these are the great results of bush's headway in the middle east, i think we need to take a step back and rethink things. the PA does need reform, but should it be delivered by a group of masked gunmen? are these the reformers we want empowered in the middle east? personally, i would say no.
Let's also keep in mind that the regime change that Bush has brought about (in Iraq and Afghanistan) hasn't actually led to democracy yet. There have not been elections in either Iraq or Afghanistan. One could argue that America is safer without the Taliban and Saddam Hussein in power (although this, too, is debatable), but that isn't Pletka's argument.

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