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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Bush Doctrine's Next Test

Victor Davis Hanson has a worthy essay up on Commentary:

Nor is inconsistency the only problem. Tens of thousands of American soldiers are fighting in the belief that replacing dictators with democrats is not only smart for America but good for the people of the Middle East. How can we go on asking them to die for freedom in the Sunni Triangle while their government subsidizes dictatorship in Egypt and Pakistan—the former a weak heartbeat away from a populist revolt, the latter a bullet away from theocracy? The President’s bold plan appears to be based on a model of democratic contagion. We have seen such infectious outbreaks of popular government in Latin America and Eastern Europe, so we know the prognosis is not fanciful. But in the Muslim and Arab Middle East, democracy has no real pedigree and few stalwart proponents. Thus, recalcitrant autocracies will inevitably serve as sanctuaries and strongpoints for those trying to reverse the verdict in an Afghanistan, an Iraq, or a Lebanon; the idea that these same anti-democratic societies are supported by the U.S. is presently embarrassing and eventually unsustainable. Fortunately, however, the reverse is also true. A metamorphosis of these same dictatorships would help accelerate the demand for democratization elsewhere. Far from representing a distraction in the struggle against current front-line enemies like Iran and Syria, the reformation of Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia would only further isolate and enfeeble those states—as William Tecumseh Sherman’s “indirect approach” of weakening the rear of the Confederacy, at a considerably reduced loss of life, helped to bring to a close the frontline bloodshed of northern Virginia, or as Epaminondas the Theban’s freeing of the Messenian helots dismantled the Spartan empire at its very foundations. Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia are not the equivalent of the Soviet Union’s satellite states of Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania. Rather, they are the East Germany, Hungary, and Poland of the unfree Middle East: pivotal nations upon whose fate the entire future of the Bush Doctrine may well hinge.
He gives a somber account of the challenges in democratizing these nations and the real risks that would entail, but also gives compelling reasons to do so. I think we are already putting some pressure on Egypt, and we have gotten some results, although more is needed. Saudi Arabia is moving at a slower pace (glacial perhaps?) but other Gulf States are moving toward signifigant reforms and I think that is a matter of time. My biggest concern there is that our rhetoric matches our ideals. I don't think huge amounts of pressure are useful against Saudi Arabia, but a clear message that while we have no intention of invading, the autocratic rules of that country are bad for the people of Saudi Arabia and we think they should change. Pakistan is a tougher nut to crack. The Pakistani ISI is riddled with Islamists who may well be more loyal to Bin Ladin than they are to Musharraf. In addition the present state of the Pakistani 'street' mentality makes it very uncertain what sort of person they would propel to power to replace him should he fall. Even the 'best' outcome, a peaceful revolution that led to a functioning democracy could well entail enough chaos to allow some of Pakistan's nuclear weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists. I don't like Musharraf, but I don't know that their is an alternative right now. I am hopeful that Afghanistan will, in time, be enough of a success to legitimize democracy enough in the eyes of the Pakistani people that Musharraf will be able to, and feel obliged to, institute gradual reforms and eventually full scale democracy without much chaos or disorder. In the meantime, I don't see much choice but to support Musharraf. That is a crappy solution, but given the realities it seems to be the best we can hope for.


Anonymous tsykoduk said...

In a somewhat related article, NPR interviewed several pivotial people in the early days of the Hunt for Bin Laden. The reason that I bring this up, is that Gary Schroen brings up a good point about Pakistan. That the goverment in Pakistan does not want Bin Laden caught on their soil. It would enrage a large part of the people there, and possible end the goverment. The entire article is a very good listen.

5/03/2005 01:33:00 PM  

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