Francis Fukuyama & Adam Garfinkle: Promote democracy and prevent terrorism--but don't conflate the two





[Mr. Fukuyama is professor at Johns Hopkins and author of "America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy," published this month by Yale. Mr. Garfinkle is editor of the American Interest.]

As an editorial in The Wall Street Journal recently asked: "Anyone out there have a better idea" than the Bush administration's policy of high-profile democracy promotion in the Arab and Muslim worlds as a means to fight terrorism? Well, yes, there is one. That better idea consists of separating the struggle against radical Islamism from promoting democracy in the Middle East, focusing on the first struggle, and dramatically changing our tone and tactics on the democracy promotion front, at least for now.

The essential problem with the administration's approach is that it conflates two issues that are separate. The first has to do with violent, antimodern radical Islamism (on display both in the reaction to the Danish cartoons and in the mosque bombing in Samarra); the second concerns the dysfunctionality of political and social institutions in much of the Arab world.

It is, of course, the administration's thesis that the latter condition causes the former. It is also its contention that U.S. Cold War policies of support for Arab "friendly tyrants" are mainly to blame for Arab authoritarianism. Thus did the president say in November 2003--since repeated several times by Condoleezza Rice--that we sacrificed freedom for stability in the Middle East for 60 years, and got neither. It follows from this view that if the United States stops supporting authoritarian regimes and instead does all it prudently can to bring about democratic ones, our terrorist problem will be dramatically reduced if not altogether solved.

Authoritarian political cultures do function as enablers of radical Islamism, but the essential cause of the latter--today as before, in dozens of historical cases concerning violent millenarian movements--is the difficulty that some societies and individuals have in coming to terms with social change. That is why rapid modernization is likely to produce more short-term radicalism, not less. Muslims in democratic Europe are as much a part of this problem as those in the Middle East. This is not a trivial point; it is a central one that directly challenges a key tenet of the administration's view.

What the administration sees as one problem ought to be seen as two. Radical Islamism needs to be dealt with separately from democracy promotion. This involves doing everything we can to ensure the political success of the governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also involves killing, capturing or otherwise neutralizing hard-core terrorists in many parts of the world, and keeping dangerous materials out of their hands, in what will look less like a war than like police and intelligence operations. ...



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