Third Party & Independents Archives

From Principles to Results in the Current War

President George W. Bush’s second inaugural address laid out an ambiguous worldview, one which puts the American role in Iraq, Afghanistan and the war against Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in the proper context. Rather than focusing on individual nations, Bush properly highlighted the major national security and moral issue facing the United States and other nations in the free world. This problem is the continued prevalence of dictatorship governments, especially in the Muslim world, which make the people subjugated under those regimes a constant threat to our security.

While many have mocked Bush's ambitious declarations, the differences are more in terms of practical steps rather than principles. That is, most Americans realize that now that the cold war is over, and the number of democracies continues to rise, it is no coincidence that the area of the world that poses the gravest threat to our security is the only region where freedom, democracy and individual rights have made little advance. In fact, I have yet to hear a realistic alternative proposal of how to make serious headway in this war. Given the lack of other serious proposals to win the current war, the next challenge is how to effectuate the move to an even more free world. In order to do that, we need to push the administration to consider questions like:

1. What countries are best strategically suited for immediate movement toward rights-respecting democracies? For example, a nation like Iran, which has a young pro-western majority, seems like a better choice than Saudi Arabia, much of whose population is supportive of Al Quida and its goals.

2. What are the best means to achieve the movement toward rights-respecting democracy in any particular nation? Most people recognize that we cannot afford another large-scale war in the foreseeable future- but methods from diplomacy to sanctions to even targeted assassinations must be considered.

3. What level of international support from other democracies do we need for any of the strategies? This inquiry is important for logistical, diplomatic and financial reasons.

4. What countries pose more immediate threats to our security?

I list these questions without giving specific answers because this war defies easy one-size fits all methods, even if the ends of democratic, individual-rights respecting governments are the same. I am encouraged that the Bush administration understands the principles and broader vision needed to secure both our security and a world based on individual rights (those two things are inexorably tied- as they were during the Cold War). Whether the administration has the intellectual flexibility to realize the difference between clear principles and unclear methods is much more uncertain.

Posted by Misha Tseytlin at January 22, 2005 8:10 PM