Wednesday, March 09, 2005

NeoCon Advice

Just when I finally get around to write something nice about the neocons, I find this little article by the Weekly Standard's Reuel Marc Gerecht.

The Weekly Standard is one of the epicenters of neoconservative thought, edited by arch-neocon William Kristol. Kristol is also a project director for the neoconservative The Project for the New American Century, whose Rebuilding America's Defenses publication provided the framework for Bush's National Security Strategy of 2002. (Many members of the Bush Administration are attached to the think tank including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Elliot Abrams).

Within the article, Gerecht argues that "the Bush Administration ought to be prepared to encourage or coerce these regimes [Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Tunisia, Iran, and Iraq] into changing sooner, not later." (If the point is to "encourage or coerce" these countries toward democratization I'm all for it.) Gerecht's premise is that the Bush Administration is genuinely concerned with democracy promotion by virtue of the successful Iraqi elections. Yet, Gerecht fails to mention the Bush Administration was positively against free elections until Sistani forced the Administration's hand,publicly calling for voting according to the rule of "one man, one vote." This is an unforgivable sin of omission by Gerecht.

Next, Gerecht writes by force of faith and GOPventional wisdom that Bush follows a Reaganite foreign policy concerned with "expansion and protection of democracy." The people of Central America and South Africa may have a problem with Reagan being associated with the spread of democracy. Then, without irony, Gerecht writes of Elliot Abrams's "democracy-promotion job on the National Security Council." That Elliot Abrams and the phrase "democracy-promotion" can exist side by side is an indicator of Gerecht's Orwellian grasp of history. (Find out why here)

Despite his ideological affinity for Reaganite foreign policy, Gerecht's piece is nonetheless informative. He goes country-by-country either predicting the trajectory of democratizing trends or giving policy advice. Some are scary, some are dead-on. By country they are:

Advice: I gleaned none
Prediction: "...odds are good that the Syrians will withdraw"

Advice:"if the Syrian Baathists are aiding the Iraqi Baathists to the extent that the Bush Administration alleges...the United States ought to strike militarily...This doesn't mean the United States should invade Syria...But Syrian intelligence and military bases -- and any locales where Assad is hosting Iraqi insurgents -- are legitimate targets for air and special-ops raids."

Admittedly scary, albeit hard to argue with if Bush can provide proof. Again that's proof, not the dog n' pony show that led us into Iraq.

Prediction: "...the best we should hope for is an eventual cracking of Alawite power, allowing for a return of Sunni rule."

Advice: "If Mubarak thinks Egypt is ready for more democracy and freedom, then far be it from the United States not to take him at his word. Now is the time to announce that American aid to Egypt is henceforth conditioned on democratic progress. Mubarak cheats, the aid is cut. Mubarak cheats a lot, the ends."

Don't hold your breath, but if we did tie aid to democratization then everyone should support it.

Prediction: "If Egypt doesn't democratize, bin Ladenism will not end."

Logical enough, considering many terrorists are radicalized underneath dictatorships (that we supported). Let's not leave that unsaid.

Saudi Arabia
Advice: "Continue to push the democratic agenda publicly in the Arabian peninsula...and...As in Egypt, we should increasingly tie government-to-government relations and joint programs directly to Saudi progress with real national elections."

I'd like to see this, but color me cynical. The reason why Washington continues to support the Saudi monarchy is for preferential access to energy reserves and the fear that any populist government would nationalize them for the people's benefit.

Prediction: "The rather pathetic Saudi attempt to defuse democratic ferment at home and the Bush administration's growing anti-Saudi attitude by holding highly restricted municipal elections is likely to do the opposite of what the royal family intended...The turnout for the municipal elections clearly showed that the Shiites in the Eastern Province didn't consider the exercise a joke..."

Advice: "The Bush administration should relentlessly thump [President Zine el Abidine] ben Ali -- criticize his dictatorship whenever and wherever possible."

Prediction: None really, but some causes for hope. "Tunisia has an increasingly lively democratic culture developing on the Internet in the form of blogs and virtual publications..."

Advice: "...the Bush Administration would be wise to revisit the position of Algeria in the Arab world. Scarred by the civil war of the early 1990s, Algerians are probably a much wiser people than they were when Islamists first began to challenge teh corrupt military dictatorship.

Prediction: "If Algeria were to get back on track and follow through with democratic reforms, the impact on the region, and on the millions of Algerians who live in Europe, would likely be significant."

Advice: "Don't compromise the democratic future of the country by trying to buy the mullahs' nuclear goodwill. Democracy in Iran is the key to ending that country's long embrace of terrorism. And if there is a nationalist desire in Iran to have nuclear weapons (we only know for sure there is a clerical will to have these arms), then talking with a democracy about them is entirely different from trying to appease a dictatorship..."

A democratic, yet nuclear, Iran is something the U.S. can live with. If not, the same nuclear double standard prevails if the U.S. advocates against proliferation, while it refuses to downsize its nuclear capability.

Prediction: A bit of advice as well: "Let Iraq's Shia, in particular Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's democratic opinions and actions, have their effect."

Advice: Create "first and Iraqi C-SPAN controlled by Iraqis"

Good idea, but Iraqis should take the lead, although generous aid should be given by non-governmental organizations rather than the U.S. government so that no claims of U.S. interference can be leveled accurately.

Prediction: "If Iraq doesn't go off the rails--and the odds are very good that the Shiites, Kurds, and Sunnis will find workable democratic compromises--there will be more election aftershocks issuing from Mesopotamia, probably of a magnitude greater than January 30."

Insha'allah (God willing)

Much of Gerecht's analysis and policy ideas seems spot on, yet I can't quite get past the neocons' hegemonic adulation of President Reagan (and now Bush). I don't know, maybe its the tens of thousands of murdered Central Americans or the de facto support of apartheid on Reagan's part. Conceivably, this is all because neocons believe that democracy and capitalism are synonymous. There're not. And it's because of their inability to make this distinction and force our economic system on other countries that makes me continually fear that neoconservatism is just another form of neo-imperialism. Further, Gerecht forgets to mention the dictatorships we currently prop up throughout East Asia, particularly the "stans." So, democracy may be important to the Bush Administration, but that's only if it better fulfills economic and strategic imperatives needed for continued American hegemony.

And if you don't believe me, read between the lines of 2002's National Security Strategy. Or better yet, go to the source, PNAC's Rebuilding America's Defenses.