September 10, 2011


The ugly gash of 9/11 (Michael Gerson, September 8, 2011, Washington Post)

In a series of speeches and documents (some of which I helped to write), President George W. Bush set out the elements of a strategic response. At West Point, he talked of preempting gathering threats. The military "must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world." In his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush argued that the rule of law, respect for women, equal justice and religious tolerance -- the "non-negotiable demands of human dignity" -- would be the basis for reform in Arab nations. In the National Security Strategy of 2002, Bush placed international development at the center of the response to terrorism: "Poverty, weak institutions and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders."

These priorities became collectively known as the Bush Doctrine. Following initial failures in Iraq, critics argued that the doctrine was "in shambles." Foreign policy "realists," skeptical of preemption and democratic idealism, dismissed the five years after Sept. 11 as a brief, neoconservative interregnum.

Yet, a decade beyond Sept. 11, the Bush Doctrine has been adopted by the Obama administration and vindicated by events. [...]

After an extended Arab Spring, the realist practice of supporting favorable autocrats in the Middle East and North Africa seems hopelessly naive. The combined dictatorial rule of 95 years in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya collapsed in the course of eight months, and there is no reason to believe the revolution has ended. Citizen participation always carries the risk of poor choices by citizens. But it is now clear that autocratic and economically backward nations are inherently unstable, and that democratic transitions are the best hope of constructively channeling discontent. Obama has been a reluctant, foot-dragging convert to the democracy agenda. But he is a convert nonetheless.

Posted by at September 10, 2011 9:41 AM

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