Broken Engagement

In “Broken Engagement”:, Gen. Wesley Clark argues that the only way to bring democracy to the Middle East is the same way it was brought to the Soviet bloc: not through military confrontation but through long-term, patient cultural exchange, waiting for the moment when the call for it comes from their own people.

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.

A fine piece by our next Secretary of Defense, maybe State. There’s an excellent section outlining neoconservative misconceptions about why we won the Cold War. The sad thing is that by taking the neocon route in Iraq we’ve set the timetable back on real, postive change by decades.

Hat tip to “Slacktivist”:

UPDATE: In the comments, Dvd Avins points out that, by law, Clark _can’t_ be SecDef because he’s been an active duty officer in the past ten years. Shows what I know.