Sunday, November 26, 2006

Past sins, present virtues

For those unfamiliar with him, Victor Davis Hanson is one of the major voices in the pro-war camp in the US. He's a Classics academic, firm believer in the superiority of Western civilisation and has not performed any U-turns recently. Here's what he has to say about past US policies.

The United States had been far too friendly with atrocious regimes in the Middle East. And when bloodletting inevitably broke out, either internally or between aggressive regimes, too often we cynically played one side off the other. Or we backed repugnant insurgents, with little thought of the "blowback" that would result. We outsourced sophisticated arms and training to radical Islamists fighting against the Soviet-backed Afghan government.

We hoped the murderous Saddam might check the murderous Iranian theocracy -- and then again sold arms to the mullahs during the Iran-Contra affair. We breezily called for an uprising of Shi'ites and Kurds only to abandon them to be slaughtered by Saddam after the first Gulf war. We cynically gave the Mubarak dynasty of Egypt billions in protection money to behave. While we thought we were achieving short-term expediency, American policy only increased long-term instability by not pressuring these tyrants to reform failed governments.
I put this here because of a discussion I've been having with Wodge. He has pointed out, as have many others, that the US record in supporting dictators of Saddam's ilk is not a reassuring one. Agreed, though I don't find this as heinous as he obviously does. This is especially so in the Middle East where you choice of rulers is not of the widest. However, there is a more important point.

The alternative to the Bush doctrine of "trying to help democratic reformers" is the old 'realism' outlined by Hanson above. That is, from a range of nasties, you help the nasty least dangerous for your own interests. The alternative is not, as is often implied, leaving them all alone because that would be the decent thing to do. It would not.

The result would be, now more than ever, the growth of regimes not only antithetical to our values, but dangerous to their own people and to the rest of the world. With the Middle East on the verge of a nuclear arms race, with its unemployed, alienated masses of young men and a well-developed ideology and methodology for turning them into weapons, the prospect of the US withdrawing into itself is truly frightening.

No comments: