Participation: Liberals, Conservatives
John Kerry's latest foreign policy speech. I am shocked by how misguided it seems, imho; hence the cri de coeur below. Discussion about it should totally blur the normal liberal/conservative good/bad lines drawn here, since what I consider so deeply misguided about Kerry's speech is normally more associated with the 'realpolitik' POVs of American conservatives (or at least used to be); hence posting it in the debate room.
First - the report:
Kerry says he'd stress domestic security
Candidate says he would put less emphasis on democracy abroad
By Glenn Kessler
May 30, 2004
WASHINGTON - Sen. John F. Kerry indicated that as president he would play down the promotion of democracy as a leading goal in dealing with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China and Russia, instead focusing on other objectives that he said are more central to the United States' security. [..]
In many ways, Kerry laid out a foreign policy agenda that appeared less idealistic about U.S. aims than those of President Bush or even fellow Democrat Bill Clinton. Although Kerry said it is important to sell democracy and "market it" around the world, he demurred when questioned about a number of important countries that suppress human rights and freedoms. He said securing all nuclear materials in Russia, integrating China in the world economy, achieving greater controls over Pakistan's nuclear weapons or winning greater cooperation on terrorist financing in Saudi Arabia trumped human rights concerns in those nations. [..]
During the interview, he eschewed the soaring rhetoric on freedom and democracy that are commonplace in Bush's speeches and news conferences. [..] Of promoting democracy overseas, Kerry said: "How fast you can do that and how rapidly others can embrace it and what can be expected over a period of time varies from place to place." [..]
On Egypt, Kerry said that he would not tie foreign aid to greater openness and reform. "I would first want to link it to the warmth of the relationship with Israel and the effort to secure general stability in Middle East," he said. "You have to put your priorities first."
Kerry said that China, tightly ruled by the Communist Party, could be the "principal partner" in his anti-proliferation effort and that it is essential to build a partnership that recognizes "the unbelievable economic power and clout" the nation will acquire in the coming years. "China is moving" on democracy on its own accord, he said [..]
Kerry said Pakistan is a "critical relationship," and he said he would not immediately pressure President Pervez Musharraf to loosen the reins of power.
"Is he a strongman to a degree? Did he promise elections that have not occurred and all the rest? Yeah," Kerry said. "I don't see that as the first thing that is going to happen in our priority of making America safer. It is a long-term goal. It is a goal that I will keep on the table. But it is not the first thing that has to happen." [..]
OK, here's my cri de coeur:
Does the above strike anyone else as an extraordinarily stupid
The lesson here (about Bush's "Iraq" fiasco, I mean) should be that you can't impose a democracy by military force - not that you should give up on wresting it altogether
Not even "for now". In fact, especially
not "for now".
If you want to fight dictatorial state terror but you dont want to resort to full-scale, military war and invasion, you should be all the more
vigilant and strict about using every single diplomatic, strategic and economic means of pressure - not shut your eyes on it altogether! The answer to not doing an "Iraq" on Saddam-like regimes is not just letting them get away with it - in fact, if you don't
want to end up having to do an "Iraq", you have to all the more crack down on generals and authoritarian leaders in Pakistan, China, Russia or whereever by every other means you got.
Same when you're talking about insurgents flocking to extremist, even terrorist groups. One of the main conclusions gotten to in, for example, this interesting Roundtable thread (somewhere from here onwards
) or this thread ILZ and I were using for this debate (see here onwards
) is that dictatorship fosters violent, unpredictably channelled rebellion - and that a state that represses all freedom of civic opposition is most likely to chase its disgruntled, frustrated masses towards extremist, terrorist groups. Ergo, it is unsafe
- for the "security" of the US itself, too - to let dictators get away with stuff ... because it'll bite you in the back later!
You gotta give it to them - the neo-cons got that part right at least. To truly make the world safer, you need
to export, foster, strengthen, and push for democracy and human rights everywhere, in a way previous generations of conservatives refused to (if it didnt concern commie states). What the Bush people got wrong was they thought they could have their army impose
democracy through invasion - without provoking an at least commensurate backlash. That was a bad move even if just because to pull off that one invasion, you need to make friends with every other dictatorship in the region to ensure their support or non-interference (Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Saudi-Arabia, etc) - and thats where you'll then have the same problem popping up five years on. You cant force your mould of democracy onto some foreign country by arms without provoking more harm than good. But what you can
do, is at least stop propping up dictators! Kerry, it seems, now proposes just throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
What is it with Americans, anyway - why the bipolar disorder? Switching to and from a militant "democratic imperialism" (we've got the superiorest system in the world and we're going to force it on you by military force) and a cynical, 'realpolitik' isolationism (dictatorship or democracy - as long as you're our friend we won't push the issue all too much). Anyone heard of "soft power"? The European Parliament, Council of Europe and OSCE are at least doing their best to force Russia to adhere to some human rights, in Chechnya too, through all the diplomatic and economic sticks and carrots they can muster. Why should the US, if it turns out democracy cant be imposed by arms
, give up on agressively pushing for it altogether?
One of my very strongest political beliefs is that democracy and human rights should be central to foreign policy. If the above really is going to be Kerry's take on it, I'm honestly not sure anymore which
of the two candidates is worse. Bush's shortsighted bluster might be counterproductive - but Kerry sounds like he's not even going to try