The National Interest

  1. Anyone subscribe to this magazine?
    They claim to be conservative. I am not certain about that but there is a wide range of subject and opinion.

    2004, Posted On: 3/30/2004

    Uncle Sam in the Arab Street

    The following is an excerpt. Full versions of the article are available to subscribers only.
    It is established U.S. policy that the promotion of democracy in the Middle East is vitally necessary to secure America's strategic interests. Washington policymakers and pundits routinely proclaim the virtues of a democratic order and the seamless compatibility of America's interests and ideals. In light of the tragedies of September 11, Washington's long-standing approach that saw authoritarian rulers as the most suitable custodians of America's strategic imperatives seems naive, even reckless. President Bush's disdain for such realpolitik calculations was all too evident when he proclaimed that "sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long-run stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty."
    While historically empires have relied on local autocracies to curb popular passions, the Bush Administration's strategic planners have come to the paradoxical conclusion that the durability of America's hegemony in the region is contingent on the spread of democratic polities.

    It is a compelling argument, since the existing Arab political order has succeeded only in producing unpalatable dictatorships, stagnant economies and militant ideologies. There are many indications that the rise of democracies in the Middle East is likely to lessen inter-state conflicts, diminish the zeal of radical Islam and its violent outbursts and even promote long-delayed economic reforms. However, the partisans of the "democratic thesis" must realize that there are tradeoffs. Prospective Arab democracies will not behave as compliant agents of the American empire.

    On issues ranging from the Arab-Israeli peace process to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Washington may find a more democratic Middle East less prone to adhere to its mandates. Freed from the restraints of authoritarianism, the nationalistic Arab masses are unlikely to acclaim the merits of the liberal American imperium and eagerly embrace its priorities. In the end, while the spread of democratic rule in the Middle East is likely to stabilize one of the most volatile regions of the world, it will extract its costs in terms of key U.S. preferences.

    2004, Posted On: 3/30/2004

    Does Iraq Matter?

    The following is an excerpt. Full versions of the article are available to subscribers only.
    The invasion of Iraq was in great part a role of the dice. The only certain consequence was an end to the Saddam Hussein regime--an unmitigated blessing--and to its potential military threats to its neighbors. But beyond that, there were no certainties and apparently little introspection and analysis in the top ranks of the executive branch. The future of Iraq was rather in the eyes of the beholder. Iraq policy is now increasingly a response to developments on the ground there and the vagaries of our domestic politics. Ending the Arab-Israel conflict would have far more influence on transforming the Arab world than creating a new Iraqi government.

    Knowing what we now know about Iraq, one could make the argument that we would have been better off if we had spent only a fraction of the hundreds of billions our Iraq venture will end up costing us in bribing Arabs and Israelis into a settlement and enforcing it. Neither the United States nor any other democracy for that matter ever works that way. Hopefully, Iraq will turn out reasonably well. This is still certainly possible. Power, much money and better livelihood can contribute significantly.

    History, however, shows that short-term military occupations have rarely produced successful nation-building. "Staying the course" might just mean digging in. The best that can be said with some certainty is that to stay or leave Iraq is going to be messy, costly and engage our energies and public discussion for a long time to come.