Mark Helprin, former speechwriter for Bob Dole, contributing editor to the Wall Street Journal, and God’s Personal Novelist, takes a look at Bush’s so-called foreign policy and finds it sorely lacking:
And the more Turkey and Pakistan approach the genuine democracy to which American policy would direct them, the more Islamist they will become and the more they will want to do exactly the opposite of what we desire. The more Kuwait democratizes too, the more Islamist it becomes. In the 2003 elections, only 20% of contested seats went to neither traditionalists nor Islamists, and of late the democratically nascent governments of Iraq and Kuwait have had to erect a fence along their border to prevent Kuwaiti youth from crossing to join the insurgency.
Not only does the U.S. expend a great deal of effort to usher politically impure states into a form of popular sovereignty that will not stop them from acting inimically to our interests, but in distancing itself from authoritarian states that are willing to work with us, it forgoes potentially critical advantages. For the pleasure of displaying our virtue, we may someday suffer innumerable casualties in a terrorist attack that a compromised state might have helped us to prevent.
In foreign policy, carelessness and confusion often lead to tragedy. Thus, a maxim chosen to guide the course of a nation should be weighed in light of history and common sense.
Or is that too much to ask?
Helprin hits on something here that I think is important, and I’m just rambling away, but bear with me. We seem to have lost, among the many things we’ve sunk into the sand in Iraq, any concept of what our national interests are. He quite rightly points out that we now seemingly have a foreign policy which says that we will enforce representative democracy at gunpoint in every country around the world. Bush’s speeches talk about freedom as if we have freedom in a box, and can hand it out to whoever we want, forcing it on those who don’t want to take it.
It’s radical and it’s infantile, either of which qualities would be dangerous enough on its own. As Helprin points out, there have been many, many times in our nation’s history when propping up authoritarian regimes has been deemed to be in our national interest. If we need another nation for money, or goods, or security purposes, do those concerns automatically take a backseat to whether or not they have elections? Has anyone stopped to think whether making this or that country adopt this or that system of government will actually be good for us? Let alone whether it’ll be good for them.
And then, here’s the other problem. You force people to have elections, you tell them to vote, and then … they elect some anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-freedom nutball who offers Osama a wing of his house to set up a TV studio in. Then what? They did what you asked, you can’t exactly bitch at them, but now you’ve got democratically elected crazies you can’t work with, and you did it to yourself. Nice job, Slick. You want fries with your theocracy?
I don’t think the approach Helprin’s outlining is actually Bush’s foreign policy. I don’t think Bush has a foreign policy so much as lists of likes and dislikes scrawled in crayon on the back of an Applebee’s placemat. I think our new “love freedom or we’ll kill you” policy has been pastede on yey to make Iraq look less crazy than it does now in light of, you know, all the dead people.
Still, following Helprin’s line of thinking, it’s chilling, the idea that from now on, we have no national interest beyond, “GOTV, bitches, or we’ll get it out for you!”