Interesting Times: What the realists don´t realize (JERUSALEM POST) By SAUL SINGER 01/28/05)
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We can be sure that there was jubilation among political prisoners
all over the world as the news inevitably filtered through to them of
the gauntlet thrown down to their tormentors by President George W.
Bush. We know this, because we know how Natan Sharansky and his
fellow inmates celebrated in the Soviet gulag when Ronald Reagan gave
his "evil empire" speech.
If there is panic, it is among a dominant school in Western foreign
policy, the misnamed "realists."
Swiftly riding to the defense of the old order came Richard Haass, a
former senior State Department official and current president of the
Council on Foreign Relations. "It is neither desirable nor practical
to make democracy promotion the dominant feature of American foreign
policy," he writes in The Washington Post, and proceeds to outline
how dangerous, difficult, impractical and irrelevant promoting
democracy can be. Pushing democracy is a fine sentiment, but in
China, Russia, come to think of it, almost everywhere, Haass claims
it´s just not true that "America´s vital interests and our deepest
beliefs are now one."
Striped-pants set to Bush: "Get real."
I will grant the realists this: They are right that Bush´s broad
framework must be translated into practical, implemental policies.
That wasn´t the job of an inaugural address; perhaps the one time
when it is appropriate to show the audacity of a Babe Ruth, who
legend has it pointed to the bleachers to which his next home run
blast would sail.
What the realists don´t realize is that if there is a problem with
Bush´s speech, it is neither utopianism nor excess ambition. If
anything, Bush has made the goal of securing the world seem more
daunting than it really is.
The terror the world is at war with is not quite as amorphous and
global as it is made out to be. It is limited to one particularly
virulent subculture within one civilization: to militant Islamism.
And that subculture can only count two governments and one society as
active allies: Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Of these, Syria is small
and weak and the Saudis are also quite vulnerable and divided. This
leaves Iran, the one regime in the world whose fate will determine
whether the war takes a significant step forward or backward.
Iran, Haass chimes in, is a classic example of where Bush´s vision
falls short. "There is no realistic way that democracy will arrive in
either North Korea or Iran before nuclear weapons do. And even
if ´freedom´ were somehow to come to Teheran, it is almost certain
that free Iranians would be as enthusiastic as the mullahs are about
possessing nuclear weapons."
If this seems like a slam dunk against what Newsweek
called "Sharanskyism" (as described in Bush´s favorite new book, The
Case for Democracy), it is actually where "realism" cracks up
First, it is ridiculous to assert that the Iranian regime is stable
or permanent. In a month, a year, or a decade, it will collapse under
its own weight, with much help from the Iranian people. As early as
this summer, when the regime plans to rig its next election, the
people could pull a Ukraine and stay out in the streets until the
regime steps down.
How long this takes is determined less by the ample bravery and
desire for freedom of the Iranian people, than by the entirely
optional hypocrisy of the West. The Ukrainian government understood
that it couldn´t steal an election and roll in the tanks when the
people protested, because the world would no longer accept its
legitimacy. By the same token, if Europe and the US together side
with the people in the streets against the thieves of their
government, the mullahs will not be able to retain power.
Second, it is absurd to argue that it makes no difference which
finger is on the nuclear button, the mullahs or their much more
democratic, pro-Western successors. The best would be neither, but
the latter is vastly preferable.
Realists should get this: Unless they have an idea how to stop the
coming Islamist nuke, they have nothing to offer. Bush potentially
has three ideas that should be pursued at once: challenge the UK,
France, and Germany to impose stiff sanctions (through the UN or not)
on Teheran linked to nukes and terror; back sanctions with the threat
of force; and ramp up support for the Iranian people.
Is it "realistic" to believe that it is impossible to stop one hated
government from effectively terrorizing the entire world? Only if one
believes the West, despite its overwhelming military and economic
superiority, is congenitally incapable of lifting a finger in its own
For 50 years, the realists said the Soviet Union could not be
defeated, only held at bay by Western power. They said that democracy
had no hope in Latin America and Asia. They saw the refusal to
confront Middle Eastern tyranny as the preservation of "stability."
The heart of "realism" is the willingness to settle for defeat.
firstname.lastname@example.org - Editorial Page Editor Saul Singer is author of the
book, Confronting Jihad: Israel´s Struggle & the World After 9/11
(© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 01/28/05)
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