The Iraq strategy
Whether or not you agreed with the president’s decision to invade Iraq–and I did not–there’s no doubt that America has a right and a duty to take whatever actions are necessary, including military action, to protect ourselves from the clear security threats emanating from this deeply troubled part of the world. Authoritarian rule in these countries has clearly created fertile ground for terrorists, and so establishing democratic governance in the region must be seen as one of our most vital security goals. There is good reason, however, to question whether the president’s strategy is advancing or hindering that goal….
This dream of engineering events in the Middle East to follow those of the Soviet Union has led to an almost unprecedented geostrategic blunder. One crucial reason things went wrong, I believe, is that the neoconservatives misunderstood how and why the Soviet Union fell and what the West did to contribute to that fall. They radically overestimated the role of military assertiveness while underestimating the value of other, subtler measures. They then applied those theories to the Middle East, a region with very different political and cultural conditions. The truth is this: It took four decades of patient engagement to bring down the Iron Curtain, and 10 years of deft diplomacy to turn chaotic, post-Soviet states into stable, pro-Western democracies. To achieve the same in the Middle East will require similar engagement, patience, and luck.
Clark’s parallel to the Soviet Union is flawed, like Bush’s, for though we thought the Soviets were enemies plotting against us day and night they did not attack us on our soil. The Soviet Union bred spies, not suicide bombers. That is an urgent difference. So I don’t agree with all of Clark’s recommendations, but it’s a good piece to read as homework for tonight’s Bush speech on Iraq policy. Compare and contrast.