Full piece here.
‘In the world we live in, however, where the world’s only superpower is a liberal democracy, elections are considered the norm. Political freak-shows like Moammar Qaddafi didn’t even pretend to believe in elections (he argued in his ludicrous Green Book that elections allowed 51 percent of the country to oppress 49 percent), and look at what happened to him. His regime was finally bombed into oblivion, and not by a cowboy like George W. Bush but by the dovish Barack Obama.
Even blood-soaked tyrants like Bashar al-Assad think they’ll benefit at least somewhat by pretending to adopt our political structure. Russia might even pretend to believe Syria’s election results. The Iranian regime and its state-run media will surely pretend to believe’
One of the main reasons the United States won the Cold War, and has such enormous influence wasn’t just because of a belief in the eventuality of peace and/or mostly non-interventionist democracy promotion.
It was a Cold War, which occasionally got hot, and where points around the globe could become part of a chessboard with nuclear consequences.
The Korean War, the Cuban Missile crisis, the Vietnam War, or even the Yom Kippur war all had this larger backdrop at play, whatever your thoughts on those conflicts.
North Korea and Iran are still trying to join the club with deliverable nukes. Russia and China are not necessarily seeing themselves as part of an ‘international community.’ (these are complex relationships to manage, indeed).
From my perspective, the human-rights crowd puts too many carts before too many horses, and despite having the brakes of realpolitik on human rights idealism, the pursuit of these ideals on a global scale often leads to relatively dysfunctional institutions and international laws that still require, of course, force behind them (which the U.S. is still largely bankrolling and providing).
Human rights activists, progressives, secular universalists etc. often tend to believe their ideals are universals, and thus ought to form the foundation for global cooperation and the pursuit of mutual interests under international institutions usually designed by themselves (issues like global warming, human rights abuses., the campaign for women and girls come to the fore).
As I currently see it (my opinion and $1 gets you…$1), the idea of pure, equal democracy doesn’t exist, nor can it exist, nationally, nor globally, except as an ideal. As I also see it, we live in a Constitutional Republic, with a functioning democracy, as we gaze out at a dangerous, ever changing, often poorly understood, world.
We need alliances and strategies, and probably to maintain low-level conflicts in order to maintain security enough to prevent worse outcomes and threats of bigger conflicts.
Other goods can come out of that, of course, genuine and arguably vital goods. That said, a little more realism would be nice, not merely the realism that is claimed to grounding the quite Left-liberal peace activism and idealism of the current U.S. administration, which has its own ambitions and dangers, and threats to freedom at home.
I don’t know exactly what you do with a loon and a thug like Gadhafi, but long speeches at the U.N. only highlight some of the ill-designed incentives and current problems with international institutions:
Related On This Site: Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’
Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’…James Kirchik At The American Interest:
Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient: “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”. It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire
I received a copy of Totten’s book, Where The West Ends, and it’s good reading.