The Freedom Crusade, Revisited

The Freedom Crusade, Revisited

Mini Teaser: Leslie H. Gelb, Daniel Pipes, Robert W. Merry and Joseph S. Nye offer their reactions to Robert W. Tucker and David Hendrickson on the Bush Doctrine.

by Author(s): Leslie H. GelbDaniel PipesRobert W. Merry

Leslie H. Gelb:

PROFESSORS TUCKER and Hendrickson so devastate the Bush Doctrine of democratizing and bringing freedom to the world as to raise questions about whether the administration actually believes its own rhetoric.

First of all, the real policymakers in the administration come down to six people, and while President Bush might well believe his new doctrine, he has no track record on the subject before entering the White House. Nor did he say much on this subject broadly during his first term. Vice President Cheney, on the other hand, is a hard-headed conservative pragmatist whose history would suggest great skepticism about policies designed to transform the world. Secretary of State Rice spent most of the Clinton years calling that administration dangerously naive for fomenting notions like human rights and democracy. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld delights in debating doctrines, not advancing them. Stephen Hadley, the national security advisor and consummate policy lawyer, never met a generalization, let alone a high-falutin' idea, he liked. Karl Rove, the key White House political strategist, probably doesn't object to promoting democracy abroad as long as it helps Mr. Bush and hurts the Democrats at home. (And who could be surprised to find such noble motives in American politics?) One other, now departed, was present in the Pentagon at the creation of the democracy doctrine-Paul Wolfowitz, who almost certainly believed it then.

Before Mr. Wolfowitz and many other top officials left the administration, they wedged hordes of neoconservative acolytes into the bureaucracy. They remain true believers. As for the throngs of career underlings throughout the government, they generally convey careful reserve, bordering on insouciance, about the doctrine.

So, we can say with confidence that at least one senior member of the administration is devoted to the doctrine, namely, Mr. Bush himself. His adherence to his own doctrine is no trivial matter. It means that he will insist on repeating it and that the secretary of state will join in regularly. The doctrine will not be discarded as was the anti-nation-building doctrine.

Nor, it seems, will it be implemented. The administration did publicly twist President Mubarak's arm to hold free elections for Egypt's presidency. Much to everyone's surprise, he emerged victorious. Now Egypt is freer and more democratic, and we can turn our gaze elsewhere. But the administration doesn't appear to be cashing in its chips to democratize Saudi Arabia. Karen Hughes, the State Department's anti-anti-America chief, visited there to offer Saudi women help in being free, but those who attended the meeting said they were already free.

About the only place where the administration seems to be applying the doctrine is Iraq, and there only barely. We plow ahead, as we should, promoting the constitution and elections. But the realistic aim is now much more to avoid a civil war than to transform the country into a free-market democratic paradise.

None of this is to suggest that I would remove democracy and freedom promotion from their pride of place in U.S. foreign policy. These principles deserve that place. And here, perhaps, I part company with the authors. They come close to suggesting that the only way to promote these ideals is by example, by being a city on a hill at home. In other places, they hint at advancing democracy and freedom, but doing it without war. They don't say how.

I suspect they and I would agree on how, and I wish they had added something to their fine piece that covered the issue. The United States has in its power the skills to promote our ideals by helping other societies build the necessary institutions and attitudes. I mean the obvious things like a free press, the rule of law (first commercial, then civil), NGOs and labor unions-that is, civil society. And we should never shrink from standing up for human rights, women's rights and minority rights, sometimes publicly where it will help, always privately. We know how to do these things; we've done them successfully. And most certainly to me, the United States must use military force or provide arms and other support to prevent and stop genocide, quite apart from promoting democracy and freedom.

All of Mr. Bush's reasons for moving other nations toward democracy and freedom are the right reasons. Truly democratic societies would be generally better for their peoples and safer for the world. But wherever these good ideals have taken root, it has taken time-along with a steady and consistent effort by the United States. We cannot escape the laws of history and the patterns of economic and political development simply by rhetorical lurches or military victories. We cannot realistically say, "here, we got rid of your dictator, now make yourselves into a democracy", or "here, hold an election or have a constitution and get on with it." That is not policy, it is folly!

Messrs. Tucker and Hendrickson have stripped away the historical, ideological and political claptrap about the Bush Doctrine of democracy and freedom. Now, it seems to me, the think tank and university warriors should move on and tackle the harder job-actually helping to figure out how the United States can use its power and influence in individual countries to square our good ideals with their different ways.

Leslie H. Gelb is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Daniel Pipes:

THE DEBATE over promoting democracy is hardly a new one for Americans; indeed, the locus classicus for the ambitious argument is Joshua Muravchik's 1991 study, Exporting Democracy: Fulfilling America's Destiny, where he argues for democratization as the central theme of U.S. foreign policy. "The American president", he wrote, "should see himself not merely as custodian of the country, but as the leader of the democratic movement." This is full-bodied idealism, implying American exceptionalism and its special calling.

In contrast, the realist approach argues, along with David C. Hendrickson and Robert W. Tucker, that promoting democracy (or anything else) is neither practical nor desirable. It tends to see the United States as a more ordinary country with more limited goals. American realists share the same assumptions about foreign policy as realists everywhere else around the globe. American idealists, in contrast, point to America's unique role in the world, and therefore bear the burden of justifying their views.

A three-fold assumption undergirds the suggestion to "export democracy." First, that democracy in some fashion belongs to Americans, in the sense that virtually every country that democratizes has drawn on the American experience. Second, that democracy can indeed be exported. And finally, that non-Americans, given a choice, want democracy.

The historical record supports these three contentions, argue Muravchik and others. Democracy has been an American trait for over 200 years. Washington has indeed exported this form of government, sometimes at the point of a bayonet. And democracy's spread from its North Atlantic strongholds to eastern Europe, Latin America and much of East Asia proves its attractiveness.

Personally, I am somewhere between idealism and realism, sometimes encouraging the United States in its unique career of exporting social and political institutions (think Japan) and at other times fearful that such efforts will overextend the American reach and end badly (what I expect in Iraq). I encourage the vision of spreading American-style democracy even as I worry that the circumstances are not propitious (whereas the Japanese had been defeated in war, war liberated the Iraqis).

Turning to George W. Bush's policies, the focus of the Hendrickson and Tucker article, I should begin with two observations: The Middle East will define his presidency, and with regard to each of the region's major issues (terrorism, radical Islam, Iraq, the Arab-Israeli conflict and perhaps yet Iran), he has proven himself to be a radical innovator prone to reject decades-old, bipartisan policies, tossing them aside with Žlan and even disdain.

I admire the spirit but worry about the practicalities. The vision of a free and prosperous Middle East is incontrovertible, but a characteristic American impatience wants it all done yesterday. Experience shows that full democracy requires decades of preparation, rehearsals and mistakes (look at the troubled careers of Russia and Mexico).

In all recent Middle Eastern moves toward democracy-such as elections in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt-a too-quick removal of tyranny threatens to create conditions for Islamist ideologues to take power and enduringly install their totalitarian ideology. Islamists have what it takes to win elections: the talent to develop a compelling ideology, the energy to found parties, the devotion to win supporters, the money to spend on electoral campaigns, the honesty to appeal to voters and the will to intimidate rivals.

The Middle East currently suffers from a severe case of totalitarian temptation, so democracy could well bring even worse regimes than the unelected tyrants of old. Enthusiasm for the Cedar Revolution has already quickly tempered in Washington after Hizballah did well at the polls and joined a new government in Lebanon. A pro-Iranian Islamist became prime minister of Iraq, leading to the ironic situation noted by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, that, after fighting hard to keep Iran out of Iraq, "we are handing the whole country over to Iran without reason."

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