A new American Confederacy
Jackson Diehl points out the (obvious) contradictions in the Bush policy of condemning corrupt, dictatorial Arab regimes when they happen to be run by Yassir Arafat, but looking the other way when they are run by our “allies” in today’s WaPo:
So why not press political reform not just on the homeland of Hamas and Islamic Jihad but on those of al Qaeda — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen? Because policymakers have concluded that it’s not a good idea to be so aggressive. They say the consensus is that liberal reform is a security interest of the United States and that the status quo of supporting Arab autocrats in exchange for oil and security cooperation is no longer workable. But the prevailing view is that it would be counterproductive to move too fast, that policy has to be aimed at achieving gradual change over years or even decades…
Why shouldn’t Arab states be pressed to commit themselves formally to guaranteeing basic political and religious rights and to the creation of an international mechanism, such as the former Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to hold them accountable?”
There was an argument to be made, years back, that in a coldly realpolitik sense, that leaving corrupt tyrants in place in the Middle East was the correct policy for at least the United States’ short-term interests. They kept the oil flowing, and didn’t pose any threat to us, so why in the world would we risk all that just to guarantee some Arabs a decent life?
The argument was never a very good one, but now, it’s a completely stupid one. “Asymmetric warfare” imposes a new reality on the planetary political landscape: and that is that if there is even a single country of modest means anywhere that harbors and supports lunatic murderers like al Qaeda, then those murders will continue to be able to inflict massive damage — to lives, to property, to economies — worldwide.
We all know this, deep down and instinctively. But it has not filtered through everyone’s rational minds yet to allow the realization that this creates a tremendously different world than the one that we previously lived in. Because it is now in the United States’ direct, selfish interest, to ensure that every single nation on this planet provides a stable, democratic government to its people where freedom is respected, and the rule of law enforced. This used to be the stuff of idealists : now, it is the bread-and-butter of hard-nosed cynics and pragmatists.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any nation willing to step up to the plate to address this problem, and start toppling these regimes. For most, “national sovereignty” — as if that concept has any honor or dignity without the sovereignty of the people living under a nation’s rule — remains a holy concept that must not be violated, regardless of the barbarism a particular “sovereign” chooses to inflict upon their society.
And so, as has often been the case in the past century, it’s left to the United States. We will accomplish this task, or it will not be done — with dire consequences for the world, I fear.
Let’s not mince words: we are talking about using all means necessary — support for dissident groups, sponsoring coups, assassinations, and flat-out military invasions — to establish what could be called a new American Empire across a swath of twenty or thirty countries. Trust me, if you weren’t thrilled about American Imperialism during the Cold War, you are going to absolutely hate this.
But Empire is not really the correct word to use here, although it will be used by those who oppose this effort. The appropriate word is “Confederacy”.
Yes, some interesting resonances with American history there, but nonetheless, the term fits. Dictionary definition (from Encarta ) : “an alliance of people, states, or parties for some common purpose, or the people, states, or parties in an alliance.”
This is what we need. An alliance of states that recognize the threat that faces us — such as our ally Britain — and of those states which have been ‘flipped’ from threats to allies — such as Afghanistan. We can turn enemies into allies, given time — we proved that at the close of World War II, and we must brush the dust off those skills for this conflict.
I’ve said it before in this space: there is much work to do. President Bush has taken the right first steps with his concept of an “Axis of Evil” and the idea that you are “with us or against us”. But he needs to put action behind the words, and bring these ideas together to form a coherent policy with the express goal of ending the regimes of all those who would support the murder of innocents, and oppose the rights of all human beings, across the globe.
You can focus on the selfish benefits to the United States in living in a world where these threats are ended, or if you prefer, you can focus on the morality of bringing democracy and freedom to people who have neither. Either view is fine, for the days when realpolitik was in conflict with the goals of human rights are over.
They are now one in the same.