General Wesley Clark has written an interesting article criticizing the grand neocon strategy of democratizing the Middle East. It contains some good advice that I think can be added to this strategy, a number of things that I have minor differences with, and three ideas that I would like to critique directly.
Seeking to intervene and essentially impose a democracy on a country without real democratic traditions or the foundations of a pluralist society is not only risky, it is also inherently self-contradictory. All experience suggests that democracy doesn't grow like this.
What about Japan General? Obviously Japan is not the same as Iraq, the problems of Iraq are very different than the problems of Japan after WWII. However, there can be no doubt that we intervened and imposed a democracy on a country without democratic traditions. Does Japan prove that this will work in Iraq? Obviously not, but it does give hope that it might.
We should work primarily with and through our allies, and be patient as we were during the four decades of the Cold War. More than anything else, we should keep in mind the primary lesson of the fall of the Soviet Union: Democracy can come to a place only when its people rise up and demand it.
This would be nice. Patiently waiting for the Arab autocracies in the Middle East to collapse under their own weight and give way to democratic reform sounds like a very happy fluffy way to solve the world’s problems. There is one problem with this though. The Middle East is exporting terror to our cities. Nuclear, Chemical and Biological proliferation is rampant in the region (although less than it was a few years ago). With advances in technology it seems inevitable that, far sooner than the four decades we had with the cold war, terrorist will get their hands on these most dangerous weapons. The Soviet Union could be deterred. Islamic fundamentalists cannot.
Also, unfortunately, it takes more than just than just people rising up and demanding it for democracy to flourish and Saddam’s brutal repression of the 1991 Shiite uprising shows. The communists lost faith in their system and therefore lacked the will to destroy their internal enemies. Arab totalitarians with their faith in either the hereafter or in raw temporal power may prove more stalwart.
We must also recommit ourselves to a real peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. We should measure success on the progress we make, not merely on final resolution. We must also recognize that here, the neoconservatives had it backwards: The "road to Jerusalem" didn't run through Baghdad at all; rather, until real progress is made towards resolving the Israeli-Palestinian issue in a way that respects both sides, all American efforts to work within the region will be compromised.
Once again this is a nice idea. Solve that pesky Israel Palestine problem and everything else will fall into line. Only problem, for too many people in Israel and in Palestine the solution is the extermination of the other side. In particular the Palestinians have proven they are unwilling to negotiate with good faith. President Clinton worked hard to get Israel to agree on a compromise with the Palestinians. Arafat betrayed the process and chose instead to escalate the violence.
The real problem with this statement is the idea that until we solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we can do nothing else. Since no one has been able to solve this problem for years this means we can do nothing at all.
Several of Gen. Clarks ideas for promoting democracy are valid and I think can be used effectively in conjunction with our military campaign in Iraq. Special associations and trade benefits for countries that engage in reforms, for example, is something that strikes me as a great idea.