Blogs > Liberty and Power > Michael Young and "beating your wife."

Nov 17, 2005 4:05 pm

Michael Young and "beating your wife."

An article by Michael Young reminds me of the old comedy routine in which a hapless man is asked"When did you stop beating your wife?" Young describes two (and apparently only two) choices for the U.S. in the Middle East: promote"the spread of democracy" (through a carrot and stick strategy) or"playing down democratic principles and helping buttress the illegitimate, failing states that make a new 9/11 possible."

Is that all? What about the third alternative of having the U.S. government stay out entirely? As more Americans than ever support withdrawal from the Iraq quagmire (thus implicitly rejecting both of Young's alternatives), this possibility seems, at least, worth mentioning. For more background, Young might want to have a chat with his colleague at Reason and Hit and Run, Jesse Walker.

P.S. Another problem with Young's two-sided approach is that it is unrealistic. American politicians and bureaucrats often trump all other considerations because of ever-shifting and unpredictable motivations such as poll ratings, partisanship, career advancement, and government contracts.

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Stephanie Michelle Crist - 11/19/2005

I'm sorry. I misunderstood you then, because it seemed like you were suggesting that we isolate ourselves from the Middle East. But, I have to ask, how can we have free trade and exchange ideas if we don't have a political relationship with these countries? I don't claim to know the nitty gritty details, but I don't think it works that way.

"I think we underestimate the power of example."

On that, I totally agree. Our incumbent politicians (and, unfortunately, sometimes our every-day citizens) often take on the attitude of "do what I say, not what I do," which puts us in a very difficult position.

For example, it's a travesty of justice that, on the one hand, we celebrate the independence of women in Afghanistan, but on the other support the regime that suppresses the rights of women in Saudi Arabia. Now, I'm not a feminist by American standards, but the irony, not to mention hypocrisy, of Condi Rice visiting Saudi Arabia irritates me to no end. We have to come up with a better way to do this.

David T. Beito - 11/18/2005

Thanks for the thoughtful comments. However, I am not an isolationist in the sense you describe. In fact, I think free trade and the exchange of ideas are our best strategy to ultimately attitudes in the Middle East.

While I am for political isolation, I think we underestimate the power of example. During the nineteenth century, the United States inspired revolutions in Latin America and Europe through this method.

Stephanie Michelle Crist - 11/17/2005

Having a single strategy for developing diplomatic relations for all the Middle East seems to me to be problematic at best. The Middle East is not one cohesive unit that can be dealt with as a whole. These are individual nations with individual histories that, while they do over-lap and consist of similiarities, require separate strategies to deal with them effectively.

While I agree, what we've been doing hasn't been working. Worrying more what the government officials opinions of our nation are, versus the opinions and concerns of the citizens of these various countries, hasn't helped us. I don't see how isolating ourselves from a whole segment of the world is going to endear them to us, or give them less motivation for retaliation.

"American politicians and bureaucrats often trump all other considerations because of ever-shifting and unpredictable motivations such as poll ratings, partisanship, career advancement, and government contracts."

That statement I agree with completely. I volunteer with an organization called VOID, Vote Out Incumbent Democracy, that is made up of individuals who are tired of political motivation coming before the needs of this nation and the American people, including our government's response to foreign policy.

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