Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Uzbek Dilemma (Tech Central Station)

This guy is good. He spells out the fundamental tension between wanting democratic states and wanting states that aren't Islamist, and how the US needs to choose one way or the other.

As I've said before, democracy isn't the magic formula that makes nations behave in a civilized manner - freedom is. Having elections in a society that doesn't accept Western-style freedoms means that the elections are not truly free. Sharansky gets it, but it is not clear that Bush does, yet.

This is an excerpt, the article is worth reading in full.
Herein lies the brutal choice that the Bush administration currently faces in Uzbekistan, and which it will have to face in other regions throughout the Muslim world in the coming months and years. It is a choice between two principles that, taken together, constitute the foundation of Bush's policy toward the Muslim world. First, the administration is committed to fighting Islamic terrorists and militants. Second, it is committed to promoting popular democratic government in the Muslim world.

For over two years now the Bush administration has insisted that there was no conflict between these two principles. Indeed, the essence of Bush's policy toward the Islamic world has been that the way to end terrorism was by making Muslim societies more democratic, and thus more responsive to popular sentiment. Yet if Muslim popular sentiment turns out to be violent anti-American and virulently pro-terrorist, then what?

Given this unattractive choice, there are only two solutions. The Bush administration can continue to insist on more democracy, even if this ultimately means the Talibanization of the entire Muslim world, and the dissemination of virulent anti-Americanism from one end of the region to the other. Or else the administration can do a complete about-face on democracy: discourage the spread of popular government in Islamic societies, and be prepared to back authoritarian governments that are willing to use brutal means to check popular uprisings whenever these uprisings, however popular, threaten to overturn pro-American governments and to replace them with hostile anti-American Taliban-like regimes.

Of course, there is always a third alternative, which is simply to pretend that there is a third alternative, when in fact there isn't. Regrettably, this is the course that the Bush administration appears to be following at the moment. How long it can continue to be guided by the this noble delusion, before dismal reality shatters it beyond repair -- that is the sixty four thousand dollar question. Tragically, it may be that the Bush administration is too committed to its delusions to make the choices that we must make if we are to survive. If so, the blame will lie as much in those liberal critics of Bush who have chosen to focus on trifling and petty issues, such as "Did he lie," instead of concentrating on the one thing needful, namely, how to meet the challenge posed by an enemy who has made it clear, over and over, that he does not like us, and will never like us, and that he will use any opportunity given to it to embarrass us, to attack us, and to kill us.

If America, and the West, has slept, it has been because its pundits and wise men, both on the left and on the right, have made no serious effort to wake it up, preoccupied as they have been, by and large, with tweaking each other's noses and scoring debating points. They have permitted the United States to pursue a policy that could be entertained only by an intelligentsia that has lost touch with the springs of the human heart, out of a sincere, noble, but profoundly misguided attempt to convert into friends those who have no desire to share even the same planet with us.

Lee Harris is the author of Civilization and Its Enemies.