Kissinger is dreaming.
By Ted Belman
Kissinger articulates A New Doctrine of Intervention. His assesment is that the current government is abandonning “national self-interest and replacing it with “humanitarian intervention”. The reason being that:
The evolving consensus is that the United States is morally obliged to align with revolutionary movements in the Middle East as a kind of compensation for Cold War policies — invariably described as “misguided” — in which it cooperated with non-democratic governments in the region for security objectives.
He rightly poionts out that Libya and Egypt have turned Islamist and no democratic as hoped in the euphoria of the Arab Spring.
As for Syria he says:
Nor do democrats seem to predominate in the Syrian opposition. The Arab League consensus on Syria is not shaped by countries previously distinguished by the practice or advocacy of democracy.
Rather, it largely reflects the millennium-old conflict between Shiite and Sunni and an attempt to reclaim Sunni dominance from a Shiite minority. It is also precisely why so many minority groups, such as Druzes, Kurds and Christians, are uneasy about regime change in Syria.
He worries that things are not going well.
The more sweeping the destruction of the existing order, the more difficult establishment of domestic authority is likely to prove and the more likely is the resort to force or the imposition of a universal ideology. The more fragmented a society grows, the greater the temptation to foster unity by appeals to a vision of a merged nationalism and Islamism targeting Western values. [..]
The revolution will have to be judged by its destination, not its origin; its outcome, not its proclamations.
For the United States, a doctrine of general humanitarian intervention in Middle East revolutions will prove unsustainable unless linked to a concept of American national security. Intervention needs to consider the strategic significance and social cohesion of a country (including the possibility of fracturing its complex sectarian makeup) and evaluate what can plausibly be constructed in place of the old regime.
He rightly asks:
Do we believe that a less explicitly strategic involvement disclaiming a U.S. national interest will make nation-building less complex? Do we have a preference as to which groups come to power? Or are we agnostic so long as the mechanisms are electoral? If the latter, how do we avoid fostering a new absolutism legitimized by managed plebiscites and sect-based permanent majorities? What outcomes are compatible with America’s core strategic interests in the region? Will it be possible to combine strategic withdrawal from key countries and reduced military expenditures with doctrines of universal humanitarian intervention? Discussion of these issues has been largely absent from the debate over U.S. foreign policy regarding the Arab Spring.
He is right of course. When the neo-cons were influential in the US, their policies were endlessly discussed. Nothing of the sort has happened with this administration. There has been no national debate on the advisability of deposing friendly dictators in favour of Islamist forces.
He then sums up American policies for the last half century.
U.S. policy in the Middle East has been guided by several core security objectives: preventing any power in the region from emerging as a hegemon; ensuring the free flow of energy resources, still vital to the operation of the world economy; and attempting to broker a durable peace between Israel and its neighbors, including a settlement with the Palestinian Arabs.
Iran, he says, is challenging all these goals resulting in,
A process that ends with regional governments either too weak or too anti-Western in their orientation to lend support to these outcomes, and in which U.S. partnerships are no longer welcomed, must evoke U.S. strategic concerns — regardless of the electoral mechanisms by which these governments come to power.
I think the horse is out of the barn and that the US is not about to reverse itself but he remains optimistic.
Within the framework of these general limits, U.S. policy has significant scope for creativity in promoting humanitarian and democratic values.
He ends with false hope.
The United States should be prepared to deal with democratically elected Islamist governments. But it is also free to pursue a standard principle of traditional foreign policy — to condition its stance on the alignment of its interests with the actions of the government in question.
U.S. conduct during the Arab upheavals has so far avoided making America an obstacle to the revolutionary transformations. This is not a minor achievement. But it is one component of a successful approach. U.S. policy will, in the end, also be judged by whether what emerges from the Arab Spring improves the reformed states’ responsibility toward the international order and humane institutions.
Hey Henry, its over.