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Saturday, May 8, 2004

The disaster of Bush's failure.

How badly has President Bush damaged our ability to meet the real threats from failed states, international terrorism, ethnic cleansing, humanitarian disasters, and anti-democratic ideologies? Consider former neo-conservative David Brooks's "Crisis of Confidence":

Believe me, we've got even bigger problems than whether Rumsfeld keeps his job. We've got the problem of defining America's role in the world from here on out, because we are certainly not going to put ourselves through another year like this anytime soon. No matter how Iraq turns out, no president in the near future is going to want to send American troops into any global hot spot. This experience has been too searing.

Unfortunately, states will still fail, and world-threatening chaos will still ensue. Tyrants will still aid terrorists. Genocide will still occur. What are we going to do then? Who is going to tackle the future Milosevics, the future Talibans? If you were one of those people who thought the world was dangerous with an overreaching hyperpower, wait until you get a load of the age of the global power vacuum.

In this climate of self-doubt, the "realists" of right and left are bound to re-emerge. They're going to dwell on the limits of our power. They'll advise us to learn to tolerate the existence of terrorist groups, since we don't really have the means to take them on. They're going to tell us to lower our sights, to accept autocratic stability, since democratic revolution is too messy and utopian.

That's a recipe for disaster. It was U.S. inaction against Al Qaeda that got us into this mess in the first place. It was our tolerance of Arab autocracies that contributed to the madness in the Middle East.

To conserve our strategy, we have to fundamentally alter our tactics. To shore up public confidence, the U.S. has to make it clear that it is considering fresh approaches.

We've got to acknowledge first that the old debates are obsolete. I wish the U.S could still go off, after Iraq, at the head of "coalitions of the willing" to spread democracy around the world. But the brutal fact is that the events of the past year have discredited that approach. Nor is the U.N. a viable alternative. A body dominated by dictatorships is never going to promote democratic values. For decades, the U.N. has failed as an effective world power.

We've got to reboot. We've got to come up with a global alliance of democracies to embody democratic ideals, harness U.S. military power and house a permanent nation-building apparatus, filled with people who actually possess expertise on how to do this job.

It sounds like Brooks has abandoned Weekly Standard neoconservatism for New Republic liberal nationalism.

Meanwhile, you still have a day to read or download human rights scholar Michael Ignatieff's cover story from last weekend's New York Times Magazine, "Lesser Evils." His argument — that unless liberal democracies and the U.S. especially find ways to carefully manage the dangerous tools we need to fight "destructive jihadist terrorism with its totalitarian ideology" (Joschka Fischer's phrase), we're in danger of losing not just the "war on terror" but the freedom our societies enjoy — has become even harder to bear and more urgent to understand since the story broke about prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. I urge you to read it.

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 8 May 2004 at 9:34 AM

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