President Bush gave a speech at the U.N. today (Transcript Here). Here is perhaps the most important point:
In this young century, our world needs a new definition of security. Our security is not merely found in spheres of influence or some balance of power, the security of our world is found in the advancing rights of mankind.
I will freely admit that my belief in Democracy being the silver bullet for terrorism is based upon faith and hope rather than facts, although certainly their are facts that support this hypothesis.
Right now we are in the early stages of testing this hypothesis in Iraq, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan. So far, the results are mixed. I will admit that I expected things to be going smoother my this time. On the other hand, things are certainly better than my worst fears. It does not seem at all likely that Iraq will become an Islamic theocracy and civil war, though still a possibility, has not broken out. In general the population of Iraq seems supportive of their government and want a democracy.
That being said, the insurgency in the Sunni triangle and, too a lesser extent the Sadrist uprising, continue and are troubling. What is difficult to analyze is how much of this violence is truly home-grown and how much of it is the result of foreign instigation by such countries as Iran and Syria. From what I can determine, the Saddam supporting regime loyalists have either been totally defeated or have joined up with the Al-Qaida linked movement headed by Zarqawi. The ease with which these regime remnants have melded with Zarqawi's organization should give pause to any who felt that Al-Qaida and Saddam would never work together.
At the moment however we must admit that it is not certain the hopes for Democracy will succeed in Iraq. Even if it does, there is the possibility that the Democracy Domino effect that is hoped for will not take place. Even if the greater middle-east largely becomes Democracies we will then have to see if in fact this does prove to be an antidote for Al-Qaida style terrorism. Obviously this hope rests upon a lot of ifs.
While there is nothing that America can do to guarantee any of these steps from taking place, there are things we can do to make the outcome we desire more likely. First and foremost is a strong commitment to supporting the people of Iraq in their fight for democracy.
That being said, what if this strategy fails, at any step? What options do we have, and what would be the likely result of such options.
Mark Helprin has written an essay
on a different method of fighting the war on terror. It is worth reading, and some of the defensive ideas (border control, screening, etc.) make a lot of sense right now. As to his more offensive strategies, to me they are a second option, should we fail in Iraq. This is the heart of his strategy:
To coerce and punish governments that support terrorism, until they eradicate it wherever they exercise authority. To open for operations any territory in which the terrorist enemy functions. To build and sustain the appropriate forces and then some as a margin of safety, so as to accomplish the foregoing and to deter the continuing development of terrorism. To mount on the same scale as the military effort, and with the same probity, the necessary civil defense. To reject the temptation to configure the defensive capabilities of the United States solely to the War on Terrorism, as this will simultaneously stimulate China's military development and insure that we are unprepared for it. These should be our aims in this war.
I call this the client state paradigm. Basically it would mean decapitating any regime that supported terror, letting the decapitated country fend for itself, and should the new leadership support terror doing it again. At the same time, any country that fought against terror, however brutal and cruel would be our friend and free from any reprisals.
The also means enacting de-facto global hegemony as part of this plan is to insist that American forces be given free reign to enter any territory which contains terrorists.
I can see, if sufficient resources were allocated to such a plan, that it might work. It would be a least as expensive as our current plan and it is very doubtful that we would have any international help in such an undertaking. We could do it however, and for a time, probably solve the terror threat.
It is also important to note that we are enacting some of the elements of this plan now. A good example of this is Pakistan. Pakistan has earned a free pass in the war on terror in exchange for supporting us in this war and hunting down Al-Qaida members in its territory. We are helping them in this endeavor, but have not demanded access to Pakistan's sovereign territory, as Halprin's plan would. It must be said though, the we support Musharref because he is out thug (although less thuggish than many). Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait and other nations are similar although the exact circumstances differ in each country.
The main problem I have with the client-state strategy (well the main pragmatic, rather than moral problem) is that while it would work for a while, I don't know if it would work for very long. Eventually under such a scenario America would relax it's guard. Our brutal clients in the middle east would likely either slip back into supporting terror or fall themselves, likely, in this scenario, to a very anti-American government. The specter of terror would rise again, and be perhaps more dangerous as technological advancements will likely make WMD capacities easier to obtain in the future.
In many ways, Halprin's plan is the gateway to the scenario I most fear, although certainly preferable to nuclear detonations in several western cities or submitting ourselves to Sharia law. It is however, the sort of plan that I think will gain more favor if several terrorist attacks happen in the United States or if one catastrophic one were to happen. It is the quick, dirty and completely amoral way to destroy terrorism, at least for a time.
I think the Democratization Scenario holds a lot more hope. It is a doorway to a different, better future. I cannot guarantee that it will succeed, but it is worth trying for, worth sacrificing for.