Thursday, October 18, 2007

Giuliani: Nation-Builder

I'm going through Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton's Foreign Affairs essays tonight and I've just finished Rudy's piece. I'll have more on it when I finish Clinton's essay, but I did want to jot down some first impressions.

First: overall, the criticism the essay has received is entirely justified. Giuliani calls for an America with activist role in world affairs that is simply impossible, to say nothing of unwise. While the rhetoric is different, the tone is similar to Bush's second inaugural address in so far as it speaks in sweeping generalities and suggests that the American way of life is perfectly well-suited for the rest of world and they should all enjoy it quite nicely (thank you very much).

There are plenty of things that stood out to me, all of which in good time, but here's one passage that caught my attention:

Today, we need a similar type of exchange with the Muslim countries that we hope to plug into the global economy. Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates are pointing the way by starting to interpret Islam in ways that respect the distinctiveness of their local cultures but are consistent with the global marketplace. Some of these states have coeducational schools, allow women to serve in government, and count shopping malls that sell Western and Arab goods side by side. Their leaders recognize that modernization is their ticket to the global marketplace. And the global marketplace can build bridges between the West and the Islamic world in a way that promotes mutual respect and mutual benefit.

This paragraph arrives almost at the very end and was the first that I found myself agreeing with. One way to look at the Middle East is to examine the situations of two cities: Baghdad and Dubai. One is a hyper-modern, gold rush city on the verge of becoming the transportation, travel, and financial center of the 21st Century. The other is violent, anarchic hellscape. The first is product of a concerted effort started by the ruling regime to develop a capitalistic fantasyland. The later is the result of ethnic strife compounded by tragically inept management by a foreign occupying power. How these two cities develop in the future should be a study in contrasts that will provide scholars with plenty of fodder for discussion for years to come.

So, Rudy finally gets around to providing me with an ounce of sanity, then, in the very next paragraph, he unloads this:

Economic investment and cultural influence work best where civil society already exists. But sometimes America will be compelled to act in those parts of the world where few institutions function properly -- those zones that lack not only good governance but any governance -- and in states teetering on the edge of conflict or recovering from it. Faced with a choice between leaving a troubled zone to anarchy or helping build functioning civil societies with accountable governments that can serve as bulwarks against barbarism, the American people will choose the latter.

(emphasis added)

Excuse me? Does this mean we're headed back to Somalia? Are we off to Zimbabwe or Myanmar/Burma? These countries that "lack not only good governance but any governance" could be just about anyone that's not a classically liberal democracy that's a member of some kind of alliance with the U.S.

As if that's not a strange enough detour already, Giuliani -- again, in the very next paragraph -- wants to establish a kind of standing, permanent Coalition Provisional Authority that would serve as a sort of crack nation-building team that would presumably descend into a country after it's been bombed back into the Stone Age to rebuild in America's image. He even gives this agency a funky name: the Stabilization and Reconstruction Corps, and judging by the everything else in the essay, he intends to use them. Giuliani wants to use American military power to make rogue nations a thing of the past, but his plan for doing this is nothing more than a recipe for creating them.

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