Friday, June 27, 2014

Beinart: Cheney openly disparages 'Bush Doctrine'

Here's recent revisionist history, revised by the guy who recently made history, Dick Cheney! Peter Beinart explains [emphasis mine]:

It’s worth recognizing how directly Cheney is repudiating Bush’s vision. Bush’s core point—repeated by a thousand supportive pundits—was that when Middle Eastern dictators don’t allow democratic dissent, jihadist terrorism becomes the prime avenue for resistance. Egypt today is a textbook example. The Muslim Brotherhood won a free vote. In power, it ruled in illiberal ways. But Egypt was still due for additional elections in which people could do just what Bush had urged them to: express their grievances democratically. Instead, the military seized on popular discontent to overthrow the government, massively repress freedom of speech, and engineer a sham election. And just as Bush predicted, Egypt’s Islamists are responding by moving toward violence and jihadist militancy.

But it’s Cheney’s view, not Bush’s, that is ascendant on today’s right.  It’s now common to hear hawkish pundits declare that Brotherhood parties should be barred from running anywhere in the Middle East, which represents a full embrace of the authoritarian-stability argument that Bush devoted his second inaugural to arguing against.

Because Obama’s rhetoric about freedom and democracy is less soaring than Bush’s, the media often calls him a realist.  But as Obama’s Egypt policy shows, he’s actually proved far more willing to risk relationships with dictatorial American clients than most of his conservative critics would like.

Obama’s foreign policy is only “realist” in comparison to the vision Bush laid out in 2005—a vision now being trashed widely in his own party.  If there remains any significant faction in today’s Republican Party willing to risk America’s relationships with friendly Arab tyrants in the name of democracy, it is headquartered in Dallas, where a former president seems content to express himself merely through art.

Real historians will be studying Dick Cheney for decades. They'll eventually decide, I predict, that he was a malicious influence in the White House who parroted his President's foreign policy line when he couldn't get his way, while seeking to undermine it in practice. Now Cheney is repudiating Dubya out in the open. 

I for one agree that democratization is the only future for the Middle East, but that means Saudi Arabia, firstly, and then Egypt, Iran, Israel and Turkey. The rest will follow suit. But democracy can't be established at the point of a U.S. gun -- especially when it must be preceded by national liberation. Recent experience has asserted, once again, that national liberation is primarily the job of those who would be liberated. (And we're talking about countries that were drawn up by outside Western powers; the people inside those borders might not agree with those lines).  The U.S. can assist only at the fringes.

By Peter Beinart
June 27, 2014 | The Atlantic

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