< link rel="DCTERMS.isreplacedby" href="http://davejustus.com/" >

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Unrealistic realism

Lawrence F. Kaplan writes about the wave of realism sweeping the Washington power circles and offers a critique to that worldview.

But the United States is entitled--on September 11, the aim of a democratic Middle East became a matter of our national well-being, even survival. And the United States is obligated--because either pressure for democracy in the Arab world will come from the United States or it will come from nowhere at all. For the source of America's entitlement, look no further than the region's "friendly regimes." Not only has repression fueled terrorist movements in places like Saudi Arabia and Egypt; the very governments we prop up have sanctioned the worst elements as a way to deflect popular anger from their palace gates. The absence of civil society, the weakness of independent media outlets, the weakness of secular opposition parties--all these things underpin the truth that, as Bush said in a recent speech to the National Endowment for Democracy, "as long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready to export." This is more than conjecture. A recent study by Princeton's Alan Krueger and Czech scholar Jitka Maleckova analyzed data on terrorist attacks and measured it against the characteristics of the terrorists' countries of origin. The study found that "the only variable that was consistently associated with the number of terrorists was the Freedom House index of political rights and civil liberties. Countries with more freedom were less likely to be the birthplace of international terrorists." Unfortunately, according to the U.N.'s Arab Human Development Report, not a single Arab state offers such freedoms. One could plausibly have argued before September 11 that this was none of America's business. But, on that day, the Arab world's predicament became our own--thrusting the United States into a war of ideas to which realism has no adequate response.
Realism is a copout. It is simply an excuse for taking the easy route for failing to deal with the tough problems, out of fear or weakness. Neville Chamberlain, the quintessential realist, should have buried this philosophy. But it is seductive. It is a ready-made excuse to do less than we can because it is hard. To paraphrase Tolkien, good and evil have not changed; it is not one thing for Arabs and another for Americans. We should do everything we can to encourage the good and oppose the evil.


Post a Comment

<< Home