April 13, 2005
The groupthink goes on. P.J. Crowley's recent piece, "Winning The Battles, But Not The War," is a great example of the national security groupthink I talked about in my latest column, "DLC Misleadership." Crowley rightly asserts that "What we really need is a new national security strategy—and a more balanced national security budget." But once again, a senior democratic national security hand—this time at the more liberal Center for American Progress—fails to assert a strategic concept substantially different from President Bush's.
Instead, Crowley willingly accepts the president's assertion that Islamic extremism is our biggest threat and that therefore the promotion of democracy in the Middle East is our primary objective. Where Crowley aims his criticism is in how we best accomplish Bush's objectives—not whether Bush identified the real strategic issues facing America. This fully mirrors the confused approach taken by John Kerry in the 2004 campaign.
Now, don't get me wrong. Peace and democracy in the Middle East is an essential element of any progressive national security policy. The people of Iraq need to find a modus vivendi that will provide security and prosperity; Israel and the Palestinians need to get to final status negotiations; and the rest of the region needs participatory democracies that serve their citizens' long-term interests.
But the specter of increasing global dependence on Middle Eastern oil—and the anti-democratic revenues and external intervention that will accompany that dependence—greatly outweigh the meager forces of liberalization in the region. Yesterday, I commented on an illuminating article by Edward Cody in the WP. Cody discussed the "string of pearls" strategy China is mounting, building a series of military posts along the route from the Middle East to China's ports. It's the prelude to more intense political competition in the Persian Gulf. China, no friend of democracy, enters that competition with a growing market for oil, plenty of tradable consumer goods and an increasingly sophisticated weapons industry.
Let's add another reality check here. Cody's string of pearls thesis backs up Michael Klare's recent article, "Imperial Reach" in The Nation, in which Klare asserts that Bush's real focus is not terrorism or democracy, but a grand extension of the Carter Doctrine. As Klare puts it,
Now if that is true, it puts folks like Crowley in quite an uncomfortable position. Not only are they Bush lite, but they are blindly supporting the rhetorical façade that masks a deeply troubling Bush administration national security strategy. If they're consciously supporting that façade, all the worse.