Thursday, May 05, 2005

Dems and democracy

As Democrats try to get a grip on the difficult terrain of national security in advance of 2008, Wes Clark is going to be very influential. But while I appreciate what he’s saying here, I think he’s protesting too much in trying to deny the Bush administration credit for any of the surprising, democracy-related developments in the Middle East. He makes a decent argument that the costs of the Iraq invasion (geopolitical, economic, image, etc.) outweigh the very limited benefits so far, and that stirrings of democracy in neighboring countries are not directly traceable to developments in Iraq. But the argument has so many moving parts that it’s hard to grasp – and it cuts against the intuitive sense that the U.S. effort in Iraq is having some positive spillover. And that kind of commonsensical, intuitive argument is what wins elections, not well-reasoned naysaying. I think Democrats should tip their hats to Bush on Middle East democracy – making that small concesssion can only help their credibility – while looking beyond the current mess and coming up with their own approach. If Iraq doesn’t implode, and Democrats expend a lot of energy just tearing down the Bush Iraq effort – as Kerry did – it’s not going to get them anywhere, no matter how many stars they wear.