29. July 2005 · Comments Off on Confusing Democraization With Conservatism · Categories: General

In the most recent TNR, J. Peter Scoblic takes a basically profound concept, that democratization should not be the be-all and end-all of anti-terrorist foreign policy, particularly when it comes to nuclear weapons:

The war on terrorism is, at some level, a war of ideas: To the extent that we can substitute democracy and liberal values for autocracy and Islamic fundamentalism, we will probably improve our security–and we should therefore try to do so. But freedom–as Richard Haass, Bush’s former director of policy planning at the State Department, has written–is not a doctrine. That is, the spread of freedom cannot be our guiding principle in the war on terrorism, because the spread of freedom cannot protect us from all terrorist threats, particularly the immediate ones. In fact, in the short term, democratization appears to exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, terrorism. The case in point is, of course, Iraq, which, according to the National Intelligence Council, now serves as a training and recruitment ground for the next generation of jihadists–its popularly elected government notwithstanding. Even nations that successfully transition to democracy can breed terrorism: As former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke has written, “In Indonesia, which just achieved its third democratic transfer of power since Suharto’s rule ended in 1998, the jihadist movement is growing stronger, as it is in other Asian democracies. In Algeria, free elections in 1990 and 1991 resulted in victories for those who advocated a jihadist theocracy.” Even if the president’s assumptions about the pacifying effects of representative government are correct, democratization is a long-term process, taking years, decades, even centuries. Bush doesn’t dispute this; in his second inaugural address, he said that spreading freedom would be the “work of generations.”

Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of time–not when the next terrorist attack could be nuclear. According to a recent survey conducted by Senator Richard Lugar, proliferation experts believe on average there is about a 30 percent chance of a successful nuclear attack somewhere in the world within the next ten years. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry has put the odds of a nuclear attack on U.S. soil by 2010 at 50 percent. Graham Allison, author of Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe, has put the odds at better than half within ten years. Unlike an attack with a conventional weapon–or even a chemical, biological, or radiological weapon–a nuclear bomb has the potential to radically alter the U.S. economic and political landscape. Although we think of the September 11 attacks as having “changed everything,” they did not. Nearly 3,000 lives were lost, but the political and economic fabric of the country was not torn apart. Clearly, our foreign policy underwent a massive shift, but day-to-day life in the United States proceeds much as it did on September 10, 2001.

And then he turns it on its ear, in an idiotic, three-page diatribe against the Bush administration, mistakenly categorizing democratization as a central tenet of “conservatism”.This is absolutely incorrect. As TNR’s own Martin Peretz has commented on in the past, democratic evangelism has traditionally been the province of liberals (who took us into Korea? Vietnam? Somalia?).

The fact is, this issue is on a different plane than traditional liberal/conservative differentiation. I certainly know this, as the issue of Iraq has cleaved myself, and my fellow libertarians into opposing factions. The situation has been deftly explained in this OpinionJournal article by Charles Krauthammer::

The post-Cold War era has seen a remarkable ideological experiment: Over the past 15 years, each of the three major American schools of foreign policy–realism, liberal internationalism and neoconservatism–has taken its turn at running things. (A fourth school, isolationism, has a long pedigree, but has yet to recover from Pearl Harbor and probably never will; it remains a minor source of dissidence with no chance of becoming a governing ideology.) There is much to be learned from this unusual and unplanned experiment.

The era began with the senior George Bush and a classically realist approach. This was Kissingerism without Kissinger–although Brent Scowcroft, James Baker and Lawrence Eagleburger filled in admirably. The very phrase the administration coined to describe its vision–the New World Order–captured the core idea: an orderly world with orderly rulers living in stable equilibrium.

I think Krauthammer’s only error is that he fails to give credence to the strength of isolationist sentiment, as evidenced by Pat Buchanon, and my friends at CATO.

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