Tuesday, May 31, 2005

IN THE NEVER-ENDING DEBATE OVER WHETHER DEMOCRATIC reforms around the world can be attributed to the Bush foreign policy, Tigerhawk has a blurb from Lawrence Kaplan which tries to find some middle ground between the two camps.

Each camp approaches the events of this spring from a different direction, but both end up in the same place: repeating the claim that "people power," triggered either by unique circumstances or the example of Iraq, accounts for the democratic wave sweeping over the Middle East and Central Asia, and that it alone can accomplish the ends of U.S. foreign policy in the region. What neither mentions is that, absent direct U.S. intervention, not one of these movements would have succeeded. This holds true in Egypt, Ukraine, Georgia, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan, and wherever else democracy has gained a foothold since the invasion of Iraq. Has that invasion changed the world directly? Maybe. Maybe not. What we do know is that it changed the orientation of U.S. foreign policy. And that is changing the world.

Kaplan argues that recent movements to democracy would not have "succeeded" without U.S. intervention. While partisans and historians could argue that point for generations, it would be just as true to say efforts at reform would neve have been attempted without intervention.

Regardless of what one thinks of the war, it is undeniable that it has encouraged oppressed people in many countries to stand up for local democreatic reforms. Some might argue that those reforms could have been sparked by rhetoric and not war, but as Tigerhawk points out, the war and our willingness to use the most extreme form of diplomacy, add "teeth" to the issue.

One need only ponder what would have happened to reforms in such places as Lebanon or Egypt without an American demonstration of sincerity regarding our desire to see those reforms. The phrase "squashed like a bug" comes to mind.

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