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August 23, 2005

Comments

The Lounsbury

Well, I am not a fan of democracy promotion myself (indeed I rather think it's a waste of time), but how pray tell is the United States going to generate these "liberals"?

I am all for realism, indeed even Realism, but it strikes me as bloody magical thinking to think the US can create liberalism in the Arab world via continuing to support incompetent shrimp eating idiots like Mubarek.

Re his response to you, it rather strikes me that the Terror angle is something of a non-sequitor. Or at least one needs to define reducing/stopping terrorism better.

Certainly democratisation might (well, probably will) produce anti or at least not pro American regimes, that is not the same as terror promoting regimes, however. Nor does the presence of oppressive pro-American regimes seem particularly conducive to stopping terrorists from emerging. (Calling Iraq a democratic opportunity strikes me as fanstastical, failed state opportunity is more bloody like it.)

In regards to American national interest, it would strike me that the best medium term interest, realistic not khayali wishful thining, is served by reasonably stable regimes that are capable of delivering economic growth and opportunities to their populaces, helping reduce the frustration level that clearly feeds into the jihadi cultists popularity.

Domestic liberalism is certainly a key there. I see no contradiction with Islamists under the right circumstances, and better than than own a Shah style collapse as seems likely Mubarek will end up with eventually.

The Lounsbury

I'd add that quite clearly if you're willing to shell out the falous, Haife would be more than happy to perform.....

John Burgess

I'd suggest that certain freedoms that generally accompany democracy--freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, free and fair elections, rule of law--are conducive to lessening terror because they permit an individual to play a real role in determining his/her future. It is not absolutely necessary to have a democratic form of government, nor is there a single role model for democracy. But with those freedoms, one is not "driven to desperation" by any exterior force.

This all presumes that one is willing to take responsibility for one's own actions, of course, but that's an argument for another day.

Rashad

I'm a big fan of Gause's meticulous attention to the empirical evidence in his work. However, I feel like his argument carries the seeds of its own destruction within it. By limiting his definition of US national interest to the trifecta (military presence, Israel, Oil) without consideration of deeper, underlying interest he handicaps himself. It seems pretty clear to me that as Marc says, improving the US image in the Middle East should make it onto the list, as should increasing its credibility as a moral presence in the region. Regardless of how interest is currently perceived, there is a deeper layer of arguably truer interest that Gause neglects.

Or you can just say screw interest and that it is just and moral and right to promote the spread of freedom and political representation for all peoples, everywhere.

The Lounsbury

Well, it may be moral and right to promote and spread freedom everywhere, but that's just bloody words.

What does that mean in reality? Does it mean invasions to install democracy? Certainly it could. Does it mean cutting off funding to near term friends, who happen to be awful people (Mubarek) - damn the consequences? It could.

Slogans are not policy. Feel good slogans are even further from policy.

Now, in my opinion you are right, the "interests" defined are too narrow and worse, to immediate term. They are tactical as much as anything, rather than strategic.

Without getting into frilly democracy and freedom talk, it would be a reasonable proposition to say in the near-medium term the United States and the EU have a collective interest in seeing a Middle East that has more governments capable of delivering better lives overall to its citizens and thus delivering less frustration and resentment.

In short, there are diminishing returns to a purely near term "defend the market" so to speak play - which is how I read his framing of "realist" interests. At the same time, grounding policies in actual interest, not fuzzy ideology, is bound to work better. Defining real interests and the playoff between them, of course, is not simple.

the aardvark

Lounsbury - you're probably right about Haifa, which makes you think: with Haifa, you pay your money and you get the performance you wanted; with Arab leaders, you pay your money and then they keep doing the same crap anyway. Haifa in her own way is actually the more honest and reliable!

The Lounsbury

See!

With Haife you get (more or less) what is advertised.

Of course, Haife is also cheaper than buying most Arab leaders. Look how much it costs to buy Mubarek, and he's not even good.

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