Tuesday, March 08, 2005

"The Genie is out of the Bottle"

Reuel Marc Gerecht has an excellent article in the March 14th Weekly Standard on the impact of the democratic changes under way in the Middle East, and how the Bush Administration can further support this process:

Have the Iraqi elections produced a democratic earthquake that has changed forever the fundamental political dynamics in the Muslim Middle East? Only the culturally deaf, dumb, and blind--for example, Michigan's Democratic senator Carl Levin--can't see what George W. Bush's war against Saddam Hussein has wrought. The issue is not whether the basic understanding of contemporary Muslim political legitimacy has been overturned--it has--but how forcefully the regimes in place will resist the growing Muslim democratic ethic.

And the crucial question for the United States is whether the Bush administration will realize that the most consequential regimes in place--Hosni Mubarak's in Egypt, the Saudi dynasty in Arabia, the military junta in Algeria, and the theocracy in Iran--probably won't evolve without some internal violence. The Bush administration ought to be prepared to encourage or coerce these regimes into changing sooner, not later. What the United States should fear most is not rapid change--the specter of the fallen shah of Iran will surely rise in many minds--but the agonizing, dogged resistance of dictatorship. (Would that the United States had understood in 1971, after the shah's delusional and obscenely expensive celebration of 2,500 years of Persian kingship, that Washington had an increasingly sclerotic, corrupt autocracy confronting perhaps the most intellectually dynamic and angry society in the Middle East.)

Although it is now beyond doubt that President Bush is philosophically a Reaganite--holding, that is, that the United States' self-defense is inextricably connected to the expansion and protection of democracy--many within his administration share Europe's overriding concerns about "stability" in the region. And even among Reaganites, it's not hard to find those who are profoundly anxious about Muslim fundamentalists becoming potentially powerful players if free elections were actually held in the Arab world. The Bush administration has not yet worked out a grand strategy of democratization: Clear, simple principles applied with as much consistency as practicable would be an entirely adequate approach. Events are likely to make Elliott Abrams's democracy-promotion job on the National Security Council perhaps the most critical office to President Bush. Iraq has unleashed a wave of pent-up frustration and anger against the status quo throughout the region. The clever dictators, like Mubarak and Tunisia's Zine el Abidine ben Ali, will try to preempt it by fixing multiparty elections and adopting pro-American/pro-Israeli foreign policy initiatives. The Bush administration will likely get hit from several directions at once, as the peoples of the Middle East and their rulers continue to react to what started on January 30, 2005.

Gerecht's analysis is detailed and thoughtful. Please give it a look:

What Hath Ju-Ju Wrought!


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