May 13, 2004

This dream of engineering events in the Middle East to follow those of the Soviet Union has led to an almost unprecedented geostrategic blunder.

him, John, run with Gen. Wesley Clark (D-NATO). We won't second-guess you, BUT a Kerry-Clark ticket underscores the Myth ("Band of
Brothers") and strengthens the Math (Electoral College
impact of Republicans and Independents)...Running with
Wes Clark provides you with an expert witness on 9/11
and Iraq, running Wes Clark sends a atrong message to
our allies (help is on the way) and to our enemies
(the party is over), running with Wes Clark let's
everyone know that you are serious, that you are
playing for keeps and that you have back-up...

Wesley Clark (D-NATO), Washington Monthly: This dream of engineering events in the Middle East to follow those of the Soviet Union has led to an almost unprecedented geostrategic blunder. One crucial reason
things went wrong, I believe, is that the
neoconservatives misunderstood how and why the Soviet
Union fell and what the West did to contribute to that
fall. They radically overestimated the role of
military assertiveness while underestimating the value
of other, subtler measures. They then applied those
theories to the Middle East, a region with very
different political and cultural conditions. The truth
is this: It took four decades of patient engagement to
bring down the Iron Curtain, and 10 years of deft
diplomacy to turn chaotic, post-Soviet states into
stable, pro-Western democracies. To achieve the same
in the Middle East will require similar engagement,
patience, and luck.

Restore the Timeline, Show Up for Democracy in 2004:
Defeat Bush (again!)

Broken Engagement: The strategy that won the Cold War could help bring democracy to the Middle East-- if only the Bush hawks understood it.

By Gen. Wesley Clark

During 2002 and early 2003, Bush administration
officials put forth a shifting series of arguments for
why we needed to invade Iraq. Nearly every one of
these has been belied by subsequent events. We have
yet to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq;
assuming that they exist at all, they obviously never
presented an imminent threat. Saddam's alleged
connections to al Qaeda turned out to be tenuous at
best and clearly had nothing to do with September 11.
The terrorists now in Iraq have largely arrived
because we are there, and Saddam's security forces
aren't. And peace between Israel and the Palestinians,
which prominent hawks argued could be achieved "only
through Baghdad," seems further away than ever.
Advocates of the invasion are now down to their last
argument: that transforming Iraq from brutal tyranny
to stable democracy will spark a wave of democratic
reform throughout the Middle East, thereby alleviating
the conditions that give rise to terrorism. This
argument is still standing because not enough time has
elapsed to test it definitively--though events in the
year since Baghdad's fall do not inspire confidence.
For every report of a growing conversation in the Arab
world about the importance of democracy, there's
another report of moderate Arabs feeling their
position undercut by the backlash against our
invasion. For every example of progress (Libya giving
up its WMD program), there's an instance of
backsliding (the Iranian mullahs purging reformist

What is certainly true is that any hope for a "domino
theory" rests with Iraq's actually becoming something
that resembles a stable democracy. But here, too,
there has been little progress. Despite their heroic
efforts, American soldiers have been unable to make
the country consistently stable and safe. Iraq's
various ethnic entities and political factions remain
deeply divided. Even the administration has concluded
that the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council lacks
credibility with the ordinary Iraqis it is intended to
represent. The country's reconstituted security forces
have been ineffectual--indeed, in some cases, they
have joined the armed resistance to our occupation.
The ease with which the demagogue Muqtada al-Sadr
brought thousands to the streets and effectively took
over a key city for weeks has sparked fears that an
Iranian-style theocracy will emerge in Iraq. And the
American and Iraqi civilian death tolls continue to

Whether or not you agreed with the president's
decision to invade Iraq--and I did not--there's no
doubt that America has a right and a duty to take
whatever actions are necessary, including military
action, to protect ourselves from the clear security
threats emanating from this deeply troubled part of
the world. Authoritarian rule in these countries has
clearly created fertile ground for terrorists, and so
establishing democratic governance in the region must
be seen as one of our most vital security goals. There
is good reason, however, to question whether the
president's strategy is advancing or hindering that

President Bush's approach to Iraq and to the Middle
East in general has been greatly influenced by a group
of foreign-policy thinkers whose defining experience
was as hawkish advisors to President Reagan and the
first President Bush, and who in the last few years
have made an explicit comparison between Middle
Eastern regimes and the Soviet Union. These
neoconservatives looked at the nest of problems caused
by Middle East tyranny and argued that a morally
unequivocal stance and tough military action could
topple those regimes and transform the region as
surely as they believed that Reagan's aggressive
rhetoric and military posture brought down the Soviet
Union. In a March 2002 interview on CNN, Deputy
Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, one of the main
architects of the Iraq war, argued that the moral
judgment that President Bush made "very clear, crystal
clear in his State of the Union message" in which he
laid out the Axis of Evil is "exactly the same kind of
clarity, I think, that Ronald Reagan introduced in
understanding the Soviet Union." In a speech last
year, Defense Department advisor Richard Perle made
the comparison even more explicit: "I have no doubt
that [Bush] has the vision that Ronald Reagan had, and
can envision, can contemplate change on a very large
scale in Iraq and elsewhere across the region."

This dream of engineering events in the Middle East to
follow those of the Soviet Union has led to an almost
unprecedented geostrategic blunder. One crucial reason
things went wrong, I believe, is that the
neoconservatives misunderstood how and why the Soviet
Union fell and what the West did to contribute to that
fall. They radically overestimated the role of
military assertiveness while underestimating the value
of other, subtler measures. They then applied those
theories to the Middle East, a region with very
different political and cultural conditions. The truth
is this: It took four decades of patient engagement to
bring down the Iron Curtain, and 10 years of deft
diplomacy to turn chaotic, post-Soviet states into
stable, pro-Western democracies. To achieve the same
in the Middle East will require similar engagement,
patience, and luck.

Inspiring smoke screens

Just as they counseled President Bush to take on the
tyrannies of the Middle East, so the neoconservatives
in the 1980s and early 1990s advised Presidents Reagan
and George H.W. Bush to confront the Soviet Union and
more aggressively deploy America's military might to
challenge the enemy. As an Army officer in and out of
Washington, I met many who would later star in the
neoconservative movement at conferences and briefings.
They're rightly proud of serving under Ronald Reagan,
as I am. And as someone who favored a strong U.S. role
abroad, I received a good deal of sympathy from them.
As has been well documented, even before September 11,
going after Saddam had become a central issue for
them. Their Project for a New American Century seemed
intent on doing to President Clinton what the
Committee on the Present Danger had done to President
Carter: push the president to take a more aggressive
stand against an enemy, while at the same time
painting him as weak.

September 11 gave the neoconservatives the opportunity
to mobilize against Iraq, and to wrap the mobilization
up in the same moral imperatives which they believed
had achieved success against the Soviet Union. Many of
them made the comparison direct, in speeches and
essays explicitly and approvingly compared the Bush
administration's stance towards terrorists and rogue
regimes to the Reagan administration's posture towards
the Soviet Union.

For them, the key quality shared by Reagan and the
current President Bush is moral clarity. Thus, for
instance, long-time neoconservative writer and editor
Norman Podhoretz, after noting approvingly that Bush's
stark phrase "Axis of Evil" echoes Reagan's "Evil
Empire," wrote in Commentary magazine: "The rhetorical
echoes of Reagan reflected a shared worldview that
Bush was bringing up to date now that the cold war was
over. What Communism had been to Reagan in that war,
terrorism was to Bush in this one; and as Reagan had
been persuaded that the United States of America had a
mission to hasten the demise of the one, Bush believed
that we had a mission to rid the world of the other."

In the neoconservative interpretation, Reagan's moral
absolutism allowed him to take on the Soviet Union by
any means necessary: Because he recognized the supreme
danger the Soviets posed, he was willing to challenge
it with a massive military buildup. In this
understanding, the moral equivocation of Carter and
his predecessors left them satisfied with the failed,
halfway strategy of containment. Only when Reagan
changed the moral template of the conflict, their
argument goes, was America able to get past the weak
pieties of containment and rid the world of Soviet

Likewise, as Perle has argued, Bush's moral certainty
allowed him to recognize Islamic tyranny for what it
was (a manifestation of evil) and unfetter American
might to defeat it, which meant deploying the military
to enact regime change. "Had we settled for
containment of the Soviet Union," Perle wrote in
December 2002, "it might still be in business today.
Are we--and millions of former Soviet citizens--not
better off because the United States went beyond mere
containment and challenged the legitimacy of a
totalitarian Soviet Union? The ideological and moral
challenge to the Soviet Union that was mounted by the
Reagan administration took us well beyond containment.
If containment means that a country such as Iraq, that
is capable of doing great damage, is left unhindered
to prepare to do that damage, then we run unnecessary,
foolish and imprudent risks."

In justifying his policy towards Iraq, Bush himself
echoed Perle.

"Moral clarity," President Bush said in his 2002
commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy,
"was essential to our victory in the cold war. When
leaders like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan refused
to gloss over the brutality of tyrants, they gave hope
to prisoners and dissidents and exiles and rallied
free nations to a great cause ... We are in a conflict
between good and evil, and America will call evil by
its name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we
do not create a problem, we reveal a problem." Never
mind that the regime the administration was most
intent on confronting was the one in the region that
had perhaps the least to do with the events of
September 11 or the immediate terrorist threat.

And the neoconservative goal was more ambitious than
merely toppling dictators: By creating a democracy in
Iraq, our success would, in the president's words,
"send forth the news from Damascus to Tehran--that
freedom can be the future of every nation," and Iraq's
democracy would serve as a beacon that would ignite
liberation movements and a "forward strategy of
freedom" around the Middle East.

This rhetoric is undeniably inspiring. We should have
pride in our history, confidence in our principles,
and take security in the knowledge that we are at the
epicenter of a 228-year revolution in the
transformation of political systems. But recognizing
the power of our values also means understanding their
meaning. Freedom and dignity spring from within the
human heart. They are not imposed. And inside the
human heart is where the impetus for political change
must be generated.

The neoconservative rhetoric glosses over this truth
and much else. Even aside from the administration's
obvious preference for confronting terrorism's alleged
host states rather than the terrorists themselves, it
was a huge leap to believe that establishing
democracies by force of Western arms in old Soviet
surrogate states like Syria and Iraq would really
affect a terrorist movement drawing support from
anti-Western sentiment in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and

Perhaps most fundamentally, the conditions of the
Middle East today are vastly different from those
behind the Iron Curtain in 1989. And the fact is that
the Soviet Union did not fall the way the
neoconservatives say it did.

Red herring

The first thing to remember about American policy
towards the Soviet Union is that we never directly
invaded any nation under Soviet control. In the early
1950s, some in America saw the expansion of communism
as an inevitability which must not only be resisted by
force but also rolled back. And for a time during the
Eisenhower administration, there was brave rhetoric
about such an effort. Struggling resistance movements
survived from year to year in the Baltics, Romania,
and the Ukraine. And immigrant dissident groups in the
United States kept up the political pressure on
Washington to consider a more confrontational
strategy. But any real prospect of rollback died as
Soviet tanks crushed the Hungarian Revolution in 1956.

Instead, the foreign policy consensus coalesced around
containment, an idea which had been in the air since
the early post-war period, when George Kennan, then a
veteran American diplomat, published his seminal
Foreign Affairs article "The Sources of Soviet
Conduct." Kennan argued that the Soviet system
contained within it "the seeds of its own decay."
During the 1950s and 1960s, containment translated
that observation into policy, holding the line against
Soviet expansion with U.S. military buildups while
quietly advancing a simultaneous program of cultural
engagement with citizens and dissidents in countries
under the Soviet thumb.

These subtler efforts mattered a great deal. The 1975
Helsinki Accords proved to be the crucial step in
opening the way for the subsequent peaceful
democratization of the Soviet bloc. The accords,
signed by the Communist governments of the East,
guaranteed individual human and political rights to
all peoples and limited the authority of governments
to act against their own citizens. However flimsy the
human rights provisions seemed at the time, they
provided a crucial platform for dissidents such as
Russian physicist Andrei Sakharov. These dissidents,
though often jailed and exiled, built organizations
that publicized their governments' many violations of
the accords, garnering Western attention and support
and inspiring their countrymen with the knowledge that
it was possible to stand up to the political powers
that be.

With the rise of the Solidarity movement in Poland in
the 1980s, it became clear once more that it would be
the demands of native peoples, not military
intervention from the West, that would extend
democracy's reach eastward. Step by step, the
totalitarian governments and structures of the East
lost legitimacy in the eyes of their own citizens and
elites. The United States and Western Europe were
engaged, of course, in assisting these indigenous
political movements, both directly and indirectly.
Western labor unions, encouraged by their governments,
aided the emergence of a democratic trade union
movement, especially in Poland. Western organizations
provided training for a generation of human-rights
workers. Western broadcast media pumped in culture and
political thought, raising popular expectations and
undercutting Communist state propaganda. And Western
businesses and financial institutions entered the
scene, too, ensnaring command economies in Western
market pricing and credit practices. The Polish-born
Pope John Paul II directed Catholic churches in
Eastern Europe and around the world to encourage their
congregants to lobby for democracy and liberal

Such outreach had profound effects, but only over
time. In his new book, Soft Power, the defense
strategist Joseph Nye tells the story of the first
batch of 50 elite exchange students the Soviet Union
allowed to the United States in the 1950s. One was
Aleksandr Yakovlev, who became a key advocate of
glasnost under Gorbachev. Another, Oleg Kalugin, wound
up as a top KGB official. Kalugin later said:
"Exchanges were a Trojan horse for the Soviet Union.
They played a tremendous role in the erosion of the
Soviet system...they kept infecting more and more
people over the years."

Of course, military pressure played a vital role in
making containment work. But we applied that pressure
in concert with allies in Europe. In the 1980s, for
instance, President Reagan began the deployment of
intermediate range missiles in Europe as part of NATO.
It was a political struggle in the West, but we
engaged NATO and made it work.

Rising Soviet defense spending aimed at competing with
the United States may have hastened the economic
decline in the Soviet Union, helped convince the
Russian generals that they couldn't compete with U.S.
military technology, and strengthened Gorbachev's hand
as he pushed for glasnost. But this end-game challenge
of Reagan's would have been ineffective had 40 years
of patient Western containment and engagement not
helped undermine the legitimacy of the Communist
regime in the eyes of its subjects. It was popular
discontent with economic, social, and political
progress, and people's recognition of an appealing
alternative system, that finished off the repressive
regimes of Eastern Europe, and eventually the whole
Soviet Union. No Western threat of force or military
occupation forced their collapse. Indeed, subsequent
examination by Germany's Bundeswehr has shown that the
East German military remained a disciplined conscript
organization that could have effectively responded to
Western intervention. But these governments were
unable to resist focused, strongly-articulated popular

What the West supplied to the people of the East was,
as former Solidarity leader and Polish Foreign
Minister Bronislaw Geremek told me, very simple: hope.
They knew there was a countervailing force to the
occupying Soviet power which had repressed them and
subjugated their political systems. Democracy could
reemerge in Central and Eastern Europe because of a
several decades-long dance between popular resistance
and cautious Western leaders who moved ever so
carefully to provide support and encouragement without
provoking the use of repressive force by the Communist
governments in reaction or generating actual armed
conflict between East and West.

So, when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an
"Evil Empire," or stood before crowds in Berlin and
proclaimed "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," he
was reaching a receptive audience on the other side of
the wall. The neoconservatives persist in seeing a
vast difference between Reagan's policy of confronting
the Soviets and previous American administrations'
tack of containing it. In fact, it was precisely those
decades of containment and cultural engagement that
made Reagan's challenge effective.

A long way from Prague

Bush, of course, has accompanied his invasion of Iraq
with similarly bold and eloquent rhetoric about the
prospect of peace and democracy throughout the Arab
world. But it is hard to exaggerate how differently
his words and deeds have been received in the Middle
East, compared to Reagan's behind the Iron Curtain.
While heartening some advocates of democracy, Bush's
approach has provoked perhaps the fiercest and most
alarming anti-American backlash in history. To take
but one example, a March poll conducted by the Pew
Center found that the percentage of people in Muslim
countries who think suicide bombings are justified has
grown by roughly 40 percent since the American
occupation of Iraq. Even the most Western-friendly,
pro-democratic media outlets in countries such as
Jordan and Lebanon now openly question whether the
Americans are anti-Islamic crusaders bent on assisting
the Israeli occupiers of Palestine. This is a long way
from Prague, circa 1989.

The reaction of the Middle East to America's invasion
of Iraq should hardly have been surprising. Only
willful blindness could obscure the obvious fact that
the political and cultural conditions in the Middle
East are profoundly different than those in the states
of the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. To one
degree or another, the values and forms of democracy
were part of the historic culture of the states of
Central and Eastern Europe: There were constitutions
and parliaments, in one form or another, in the Baltic
States, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and elsewhere before
World War II. In some cases, these precedent
experiences with democracy dated back into the 19th

This is evidently not the case in the Middle East. The
Enlightenment never much penetrated the Ottoman
frontiers, and so the great conflicts of faith versus
reason and the value of each individual and his
conscience which defined Western civilization were
largely screened out there. Modern states in the
Middle East emerged after the Ottoman Empire crumbled,
and except in the cases of Turkey and Lebanon, there
was nothing comparable to a Western democracy.
Instead, "state socialism" was eventually imposed upon
tribal and colonial heritages in many Arab
states--replacing the Ottoman Empire with
Western-drawn boundaries, authoritarian rulers, and,
at best, pseudo-democratic institutions. Through it
all, Islam--with its commingling of secular and
religious authorities, and the power of its mullahs
and its more fundamentalist, anti-Western
sects--remained a significant force. As the example of
Iran shows, elections and parliaments can be subverted
by other means of control.

Nor is the desire for Western culture anywhere near as
pronounced in the Middle East as it was behind the
Iron Curtain. At the height of glasnost, American
rock'n'roll bands toured the Soviet Union, playing to
sold-out arenas of fans. By contrast, even many
educated Muslims, who resent the yoke of tyranny under
which they live, find much of American culture
shocking and deplorable. Central European countries
had enjoyed a culture of secular education and Western
music and art dating at least to the late Renaissance,
privileges and luxuries that ordinary citizens fought
for centuries to gain access to. For much of the
population of Central Europe, the Soviet darkness
which descended in the late 1940s was something so
fundamentally alien to the underlying culture that its
overthrow can in hindsight be seen as close to
inevitable. In the Middle East, periods of cultural
openness can only be found in the fairly distant past.

Finally, the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe,
the Caucasus, and Central Asia felt the extra sting of
being ruled by an outside imperial force--Russia. By
contrast, the tyrants of the Middle East, like Assad
in Syria, the Al Sa'ud dynasty in Saudi Arabia and,
indeed, Saddam Hussein, are all locally grown and can
draw on some amount of nationalism for support. The
imperial powers that most residents of the Middle East
remember are, in fact, Western powers. And today's
Western governments, including the United States, have
long supported these Middle East strongmen. Whether we
should have or should continue to do so is open to
debate. What is not is that our sponsorship of these
regimes has made the citizens less willing to believe
our intentions are honorable. This is made all the
more difficult because our strongest ally in the
region, Israel, is seen by most Arabs as the enemy. It
is then perhaps not surprising that opinion poll after
opinion poll has shown that Osama bin Laden is far
more popular among potential voters in Islamic states
than George W. Bush.

Arab people power

Seeking to intervene and essentially impose a
democracy on a country without real democratic
traditions or the foundations of a pluralist society
is not only risky, it is also inherently
self-contradictory. All experience suggests that
democracy doesn't grow like this. But we are where we
are, and we must pull together to try to help this
project succeed.

First, and most obviously, we need to avoid an
impending disaster in Iraq. The current situation
there is not only alarming in itself, but may also be
creating a negative rather than positive dynamic for
democracy in the Middle East. In the short term, we
must significantly increase U.S. troop strength to
restore and maintain stability. In the medium term,
our European allies must share the burden--which will
only happen if we share decision-making with them. And
in the long term, we must draw down U.S. troops. A
massive American military presence in the heart of the
Middle East, after all, can only increase support for
terrorism and undercut the position of indigenous
pro-Western reformers.

We must also recommit ourselves to a real peace
process between Israelis and Palestinians. We should
measure success on the progress we make, not merely on
final resolution. We must also recognize that here,
the neoconservatives had it backwards: The "road to
Jerusalem" didn't run through Baghdad at all; rather,
until real progress is made towards resolving the
Israeli-Palestinian issue in a way that respects both
sides, all American efforts to work within the region
will be compromised.

Democracy and freedom have been ascendant in most
parts of the world for at least the last 15 years, and
it's hard to imagine that they aren't also destined to
take root in the Middle East. But to play a
constructive role in bringing this about, we must
understand the facts on the ground and the lessons of
history clearly. Our efforts should take into account
not just the desire for freedom of those in the Middle
East, but also their pride in their own culture and
roots and their loyalty to Islam. We should work
primarily with and through our allies, and be patient
as we were during the four decades of the Cold War.
More than anything else, we should keep in mind the
primary lesson of the fall of the Soviet Union:
Democracy can come to a place only when its people
rise up and demand it.

Instead of brandishing military force and slogans
about democracy, we must recognize what our real
strengths and limitations are. In this part of the
world, American power and rhetoric tend to produce
countervailing reactions. Demands and direct action
are appropriate in self-defense, but in a region
struggling to regain its pride after centuries of
perceived humiliation by the West, we should speak
softly whenever possible. If we really want to
encourage forms of government to emerge which we
believe will better suit our own interests, then we
have to set a powerful example and act indirectly and
patiently--even while we take the specific actions
truly necessary for our self-defense.

We should also recognize that it is not merely
democracy itself--a popular vote to elect a
government--that we seek for the Middle East, but
rather more enlightened, tolerant, and moderating
decisions and actions from governments. The tolerance,
aversion to aggression, and openness which we hope to
see emerge from a democratic transformation in the
Middle East will require much more than just censuses,
election registers, polling booths, and accurate
ballot counts. We must avoid what Fareed Zakaria calls
"illiberal democracy," governments which are elected
but which routinely ignore constitutional limits on
their power and deprive their citizens of basic rights
and freedoms. Only by creating a system of pluralistic
and overlapping structures and institutions that check
the power of their leaders can the nations of the
Middle East avoid this fate.

Any attempt to build democracy in the Islamic world
must begin by taking into account Islam itself, the
region's major source of culture, values, and law.
There has been no "Protestant reformation" within the
Muslim world. The teachings of the Koran tend to
reflect an absolutism largely left behind in the West.
When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced
that he would not accept the emergence of a theocratic
state within Iraq, he gave voice to a profound
concern: that even in Iraq, one of the more
secularized Arab states, the majority of people look
to Islam for their values and beliefs. (Indeed, Saddam
himself in his final years in power increasingly
turned to religious rhetoric to shore up support among
his impoverished people). Inevitably, any lasting
constitution there must entail compromises that
reflect popular values. Hopefully, a form of
government can emerge that reflects Islamic notions of
rights, responsibilities, and respect but that is also
representative in nature, reflects popular
sovereignty, and retains the capacity to make
pragmatic decisions.

There are, after all, some reasons to be optimistic.
One Islamic country in the Middle East that has made
the transition to democracy is Turkey. But it did not
do so overnight. After decades of tight military
supervision of the political process, during which the
United States and Western Europe embraced the country
as part of NATO and urged subtle reforms, Turkey has
only within the last few years overcome the last
obstacles to full democracy. Spurred by a broad
national desire to join the European Union, Turkish
voters approved constitutional amendments which, among
other things, separated the Turkish military from
politics, and today an avowedly democratic but openly
religious party runs the government and enjoys strong
popular support. Algeria, a country only recently
racked by fundamentalist violence, has taken tentative
steps in this direction, as have Jordan and Bahrain.

Nowhere in the Middle East has the public demand for
freedom been more striking than in Cyprus, 60 miles
from the Syrian coast. For 30 years, the Christian
Greek and Muslim Turkish sides of the island have been
divided by a 120-mile "green line," the equivalent of
the Berlin Wall. Last month, 40,000 Turkish citizens
(a fifth of the population of the Turkish portion of
the island) marched against their long-time
authoritarian leader, Rauf Denktash, in favor of a
U.N.-drafted unification plan with the Greek side.
This upwelling of popular demand was not the result of
American military action; the protests were only the
latest in a series that started long before the U.S.
invasion of Iraq. What motivated the Turkish Cypriots
was a simple desire for a better life. The Greek side
of the island will be joining the European Union next
month. Citizens on the Turkish side didn't want to be
left behind. Indeed, 65 percent of them voted for the
U.N. plan (though the Greek side rejected it). We must
do everything we can to encourage others in the Middle
East to do as the Turks of Cyprus have: to step
forward and demand change. We must strengthen the
liberal institutions in these countries and aid
embryonic pro-democracy movements, using every tool we
have and creating some new ones. In this effort, we
will have to rely heavily on the proven capacities of
groups one step removed from the U.S. government, such
as the National Endowment for Democracy, the National
Democratic Institute, and the International Republican
Institute. But I also believe there is a need for a
cabinet- or sub-cabinet level agency designed to
support and evaluate the kind of political and
economic development efforts that can prevent later
crises and conflicts. This will require substantial
budget authority as well as research, development, and
operational responsibilities.

We must also recognize that to be successful, we're
going to need our European allies. Europe is closer to
the Middle East geographically and more enmeshed with
it economically. It is home to millions of Middle
Eastern immigrants, who are a natural bridge across
the Mediterranean. It is not so strongly associated
with Israel in the minds of Arabs as we are. And yet,
its very proximity gives Europe at least as much
incentive as we have to fight terrorism and work for a
stable, democratic Middle East. This makes the Bush
administration's belittling and alienating of Europe
all the more perplexing.

With Europe as our partner, we can also think more
ambitiously and inventively than we can alone. One
possibility is to offer select Middle Eastern
countries the chance at membership in our most
valuable alliances and organizations--the incentive
that roused the Turkish Cypriots. The desire for the
benefits of joining alliances like the European Union
are there. I remember a conversation I had in 1998
with King Hassan of Morocco. He told me of his desire
to join the European Union in order to have the
European highway system extended into his country.
Realistically, neither the European Union nor NATO
will be in a position to expand for many years to
come, having recently added many new members. But it
should be possible to create adjunct regional
organizations or associate memberships, such as the
"Partnership for Peace" program that brought former
Warsaw Pact countries into NATO's orbit. Middle East
countries that sign up would get certain commercial
and security benefits in return for shouldering
responsibilities and making democratic reforms.

The Bush administration seems to understand the
potential of this approach, even as its own
unilateralist impulses undermine the possibility. Late
last year, senior administration officials began
talking about a "Greater Middle East Initiative" in
which Western nations would offer Arab and South Asian
countries aid and membership in organizations such as
the WTO in exchange for those countries' making
democratic reforms. It was exactly the right tack but
required a subtle, consensus-building approach to
implement. Yet instead of consulting with Islamic
countries and with European allies who had been making
similar plans, the administration developed the plan
all on its own, in secret, and when a copy was leaked
to the Arab press, it caused a predictable backlash.
Europeans groused and Arab leaders with no interest in
democratic reform used the fact that America had
developed the plan unilaterally as a convenient excuse
to reject it out of hand. The State Department had to
send diplomats out to do damage control so that the
president can talk about the idea in a series of
speeches next month.

We need to take the American face off this effort and
work indirectly. But there are some American faces
that can be enormously useful. Among our greatest
assets during the Cold War were immigrants and
refugees from the captive nations of the Soviet Union.
Tapping their patriotism toward America and love of
their homelands, we tasked them with communicating on
our behalf with their repressed countrymen in ways
both overt and covert, nursing hopes for freedom and
helping to organize resistance. America's growing
community of patriotic Muslim immigrants can play a
similar role. They can help us establish broader,
deeper relationships with Muslim countries through
student and cultural exchange programs and
organizational business development.

We can't know precisely how the desire for freedom
among the peoples of the Middle East will grow and
evolve into movements that result in stable democratic
governments. Different countries may take different
paths. Progress may come from a beneficent king, from
enlightened mullahs, from a secular military, from a
women's movement, from workers returning from years
spent as immigrants in Western Europe, from privileged
sons of oil barons raised on MTV, or from an
increasingly educated urban intelligentsia, such as
the nascent one in Iran. But if the events of the last
year tell us anything, it is that democracy in the
Middle East is unlikely to come at the point of our
gun. And Ronald Reagan would have known better than to

Gen. Wesley Clark, U.S.A. (Ret.), was Supreme Allied
Commander, Europe, from 1997-2000, and a candidate for
the Democratic nomination for president in 2004.

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Posted by richard at May 13, 2004 02:48 PM