Paul Berman: US should encourage velvet revolutions
The thing I worry most about is our own American provincial naïveté. Like many people, I was not thrilled to see the picture of Jay Garner in front of a roomful of Iraqis, all of whom were sitting upright in jackets and ties, while the American proconsul was dressed like a slob and slouching in his seat. That indicated an arrogance, a provinciality, an ignorance of other customs. This has been demonstrated by President Bush, too, who’s famously, on a couple of occasions, addressed the Arab world on important questions while dressed like a slob. I worry that this kind of tiny sartorial problem may reflect a deeper American incapacity to deal with the rest of the world. The great challenge for us is to overcome this limitation.
Going it alone would be a gigantic error. I wrote an op-ed in the New York Times asking Germany to come in. Germany is the world’s leading expert on emerging from a totalitarian society: they’ve done it twice. We should involve the Germans, the French, the rest of the Europeans, as much of the world as possible. You can’t exactly throw these things on the Security Council or the General Assembly of the UN, because the UN contains all kinds of dictatorships and screwball states and states with their own tiny agendas that have nothing to do with the good of the people of Iraq or anything like that. But it ought to be possible to come up with a middle course.
There are some people who think we ought to do nothing about countries such as Iran and Syria, and who fear that an American imperialism is the great danger. But the regimes in these other countries do pose a danger, and something has to be done. The ideal way has been shown to us by the East Bloc revolutions of 1989. What we really want to encourage are velvet revolutions, which is to say the revolution of liberal thinkers, liberal political forces, in all of these countries. And the ideal thing is that the liberals within these countries will make their own revolutions.
In Iran, that’s already visibly possible. There is a kind of liberal revolutionary movement in Iran. It’s the student movement. And we ought to be doing everything we can to encourage, not discourage, that movement. We ought to be doing that because that’s how you end up with a really healthy liberal society, much more than when you’ve invaded and have a new system imposed from on top.
Now, Syria and Saudi Arabia are different, each from the other, but they’re more problematic. But even in those cases I can imagine that there are a whole series of things that we can do that are other than and much less than war, which I hope we will do — economic pressures, political pressures, and so forth — even while we are engaged in the war of ideas.
I think we should have stopped treating Saudi Arabia as our friend and ally 40 years ago. The Saudi Arabian elite has been in some large degree a persistent enemy of liberal civilization. The Saudis have founded 1400 mosques around the world which are preaching doctrines that are problematic at best. We should be doing everything we can to diminish their wealth, weaken their power — though, of course, without turning the place over to bin Laden, which is all too easy to imagine.
Paul Berman is the author of Terror and Liberalism (W.W. Norton, 2003). He is a political and cultural critic who has written for the New Republic, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, and Slate, among other publications.
Joseph Nye: Playing chess in three dimensions
I think it’s crucial that we not appear to be an imperial power, and that we try to restore the soft power, or attractiveness, that we squandered in the way we went into the war. If one looks at the three-dimensional-chessboard metaphor, on the top board is military power, and we are the only country with global military power. But on the middle board of economics, our power can be balanced by others, mainly Europe, Japan, and China. And on the bottom board of transnational relations, which cross borders outside the control of governments, nobody’s in control.
That became apparent after the victory in Afghanistan. Our military forces were able to defeat the Taliban government, which had been a state sponsor of terrorism. But we wrapped up less than one-quarter of Al Qaeda, which was a transnational network of cells in 50 or 60 countries. We can’t solve that kind of transnational threat by bombing. Some of those cells are in places like Hamburg or Detroit. So we absolutely have to have the cooperation of others to be able to deal with the full range of threats of that nature.
The United States can treat the UN as a vital player in the reconstruction of Iraq. The UN does not have the capacity to run Iraq, but it can play a significant role in humanitarian assistance. It can play a significant role in the construction of a legal system. If there are war trials, they will be far more credible if they’re done multilaterally. In the inspection and search for weapons of mass destruction, it will be far more credible if there is an international role. In other words, the extent to which the United States shows that its behavior going into Iraq is not necessarily the way it’s going to treat international institutions in the future can make a difference.
Invading Syria or Iran would be very unwise. There’s no reason that we should refrain from exercising diplomatic pressure on, say, Syria to stop its support for terrorism and to improve its position on human rights. But there’s a difference between doing that militarily, which I think would be a mistake, and doing it diplomatically, which I think is correct.
In Saudi Arabia you have a monarchy which has basically formed a deal with a clerical group which is quite extreme. The monarchy, by not attacking the clerical group, and the clerical group, by not attacking the monarchy, have a co-existence. What we have to do is impress upon the Saudi government that the export of hatred by some of the Saudi religious groups is not acceptable if they want friendship with the United States. And I think the Saudi political elite has begun to get that message.
Joseph Nye is the dean of the Kennedy School of Government, at Harvard University. His 2002 book The Paradox of American Power: Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone was recently reissued in paperback by Oxford University Press.
Katrina vanden Heuvel: Bury pre-emptive war in the sands of Iraq
This administration has been perceived in the Arab world and in the international community at large as arrogant, unilateral, pre-emptive. If it follows that model in rebuilding Iraq — for instance, allowing the Pentagon basically to run the reconstruction — it’s going to feed the view that this is not about liberation but empire-building. I think that’s very dangerous for the region, for any possibility of regional peace, democracy, stability. And it’s very dangerous to the United States in administering an occupation for which we see signs already of how angry and humiliated the Iraqi people are.
The US can’t go it alone. It will be less secure, more vulnerable. The United Nations should be brought in and given the political and economic capacity to act effectively to distribute humanitarian aid, to provide for security, to verify the existence of whatever weapons of mass destruction exist. That result will have international legitimacy, legitimacy among the very people we profess to be liberating, in a way that a unilateral US or Anglo-American imperial reconstruction will not.
Preventive war, US unilateralism, cannot create a safer, more democratic, prosperous, and secure world. The reality is that unilateralism cannot deal with a world that is factually interdependent. We may be the most powerful military might, but in the fight against stateless terrorism we desperately need global alliances and institutions, which this administration is undermining. We also need to rebuild a common-sense and truly internationalist foreign policy that will deal humanely and effectively with the dangers of terrorism, the dangers of poverty, environmental degradation, and violence. Key in the next weeks and months is to move resolutely to address the festering Israeli-Palestinian crisis by adhering to the original " road map " for peace under the auspices of the United Nations and through the international community.
The pre-emptive-war doctrine needs to be buried in the sands of Iraq if we’re going to have a more secure world. Can hopelessness and despair be addressed at the barrel of an M-1 tank? Yes, new institutions are needed, and old ones require reform. Yes, there needs to be some discussion of the use of military force — through the UN or with an international mandate — when faced with genocide, when faced with humanitarian crises. But external, unilateral intervention, as we’ve seen in Iraq, is a very unlikely means for advancing democracy. American efforts, if deployed militarily to this end, will be, as they have been, viewed with great suspicion, with anger. We already see it through the eyes of millions of Iraqis, who wanted to be free but who wanted to free themselves. And that is the lesson we’ve learned in Eastern Europe, in South Africa.
Finally, we must end the double standard where we support — for reasons of energy-policy failures in this country — monarchical, authoritarian regimes in the region. That needs to be resolved at home through a sane energy policy so that we are not dependent on those regimes in a way that makes our foreign policy hypocritical and based on double standards.
The hubris of this administration — that democracy will readily be brought to the region by tanks and smart weapons — is a policy destined not only to undermine our national security but to lead the United States to be more despised, in the region and in the world, in a way that greatly saddens me.
Katrina vanden Heuvel is the editor of the Nation, a regular television commentator, and the author of a new Web log, " Editor’s Cut, " at TheNation.com.
Dan Kennedy can be reached at dkennedy[a]phx.com
Read his daily Media Log at BostonPhoenix.com.