June 02, 2004

Enlightened Authoritarianism

Pervez Musharraf argues that the Muslim world must move towards what he calls "Enlightened Moderation":

"The stark challenge that faces anyone with compassion for the common heritage of mankind is determining what legacy we will leave for future generations. The special challenge that confronts Muslims is to drag ourselves out of the pit we find ourselves in, to raise ourselves up by individual achievement and collective socioeconomic emancipation. Something has to be done quickly to stop the carnage in the world and to stem the downward slide of Muslims.

My idea for untangling this knot is Enlightened Moderation, which I think is a win for all -- for both the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds. It is a two-pronged strategy. The first part is for the Muslim world to shun militancy and extremism and adopt the path of socioeconomic uplift. The second is for the West, and the United States in particular, to seek to resolve all political disputes with justice and to aid in the socioeconomic betterment of the deprived Muslim world...

...I say to my brother Muslims: The time for renaissance has come. The way forward is through enlightenment. We must concentrate on human resource development through the alleviation of poverty and through education, health care and social justice. If this is our direction, it cannot be achieved through confrontation."

Good thoughts, doubtless.

But I can't help thinking what the General is really doing is trying on for size appearing something akin to the Pakistani version of a very famous Prussian. (Hat Tip: An underwhelmed David Adesnik).

Still, Musharraf is right that we need to "seek to resolve all political disputes with justice" (read: move Kashmir and Palestine towards fair settlements) and concentrate on "poverty alleviation" and such.

Policy Needs to be Reinvigorated

I've asked before, but do again today: who in Washington is giving serious thought to pursuing a grand project of economic liberalization through the Arab world--in concert with the European Barcelona process (the better to have a common project by which to patch up the strained trans-atlantic relationship)?

Jeffersonian democracies (or, for that matter, Hamiltonian or Jacksonian ones), as Iraq makes pretty clear, are not necessarily going to sprout out hither dither amidst the less than fecund soil of the Levantine, Mesopotamian and Arabian land masses.

But a focus on economic liberalization (with carrots dangled as ossified and atrophying economies liberalize--and biggers carrots proferred as and when roughly concommitant political liberalization follows), undertaken in tandem with conflict resolution initiatives, offers a pretty decent way forward.

After all, despite all the chest-beating about all the bad guys in Amman, Riyadh and Cairo--if Mubarak and Abdullah (whether the plucky King or the Crown Prince) dissapeared tomorrow--methinks their prospective successors likely wouldn't be rushing to empower newly formed bicameral legislatures.

Why not, in the spirit of impending D-Day remembrances and such, call for a major international conference to discuss how the U.S. and Europe can spearhead real movement on the economic liberalization front in the region--as a way to mitigate the crisis of radical Islam's toxic potency?

Musharraf (hell, Mahatir too) would attend. So too would key Arab leaders (and Sharon, or at least, Shimon Peres!).

Throw in Gerard, Jacques, Vladimir, Tony and Dubya.

A meeting just for meeting's sake, you skeptically query? Perhaps.

But why such a lack of imagination, verve--why so much timidity of realistic vision?

So little political will mustered towards achievable ends? So little creative Beltway-think in terms of the art of the possible (as compared to, say, Mike Leeden think)?

The Ideas Deficit

Partly because policymakers in Washington are hunkered down in operational crisis mode with little time to cogitate about the big picture.

And, despite good folks like Dan Drezner, too many social science academics are bogged down in petty debates about methodology and statistics.

Want tenure, you say?

Well, as I've heard someone quip recently, pick as obscure a topic as possible.

To be sure, there is an ideas deficit right now amidst policy and academic elites.

There is no Kennan-like X telegram. No Huntingtonian or Fukuyamaean take on the post 9/11 world.

There is, to be sure, lots of partisan rancor and hyperbolic rhetoric (Kerry simply as a noxious hybrid of hyper-liberal Kennedy and feckless Clinton; Bush as militaristic cowboy rueful that he couldn't march into Damascus and Teheran because the going in Iraq got a tad rough...)

Sadly, too, many think-tanks are split along pretty rigid party lines.

When is the last time someone at Heritage dared to suggest that John Kerry had a decent idea that might not imperil the Republic's future?

Or someone at Brookings talked up Bush's (quite multilateral) handling of counter-proliferation efforts?

With policymakers a tad busy; think-tanks politicized; academics squabbling over methodology and such--we do face somewhat of an ideas deficit.

And we need fresh thinking desparately, don't we?

Readers are invited to suggest who might pick up the slack.

I'm thinking some of us folks (at least ones smarter than me!) in the private sector--but, you know, we're a tad busy too...

UPDATE: We get mail from Heritage linking this "WebMemo". Seems said think tank has suggested Kerry had an idea that didn't necessarily imperil the Republic. I stand corrected!

And Drezner kindly links commenting:

"In the past three years, there have actually been a fair number of big-think books from very disparate points of view out there on grand strategy -- John Mearsheimer, Michael Mandelbaum, Charles Kupchan, Fareed Zakaria, Robert Kagan, Joseph Nye, John Lewis Gaddis, countless others. My readers are invited to suggest which article/book they think most closely approximates the Kennan mantle." [emphasis added]

Countless others? Really?

And the mere fact that there is such a bouillabaisse of attempted "grand strategy" iterations actually helps support my point that fundamental policy re-thinks are necessitated.

Bottom line: None of these guys "approximate the Kennan mantle." They all fall short.

If one did, Drezner wouldn't have to ask his readers whether Zakaria, Kagan, Nye, Gaddis, Mandelbaum, Mearsheimer, etc deserved the Kennan-mantle.

Rather, a clear victor would have emerged.

Put differently, none of the works Drezner mentions come close to providing an overarching foreign policy vision that would guide (as did Kennan's X telegram) US policy for many decades.

True, perhaps, the bipolar division of power Kennan grappled with was less complex than today's geostrategic environment. But I would still hope academics, think-tankers, policymakers etc could do better.

Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" might come closest to assuming the Kennan mantle (and it is tempting to view as still relevant post 9/11)--but it doesn't do the trick in my view. I hope to have more on why soon.

Posted by Gregory at June 2, 2004 10:49 AM
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