Monroe, FDR and George W. Bush
From democratic reforms to peace overtures, the past few months have been a time of remarkable changes in the Middle East. In Egypt, strongman President Mubarak reversed himself and announced plans to hold his nation’s first-ever multi-party presidential elections. Then the Israeli Parliament approved plans to evacuate all settlements in the Gaza Strip.Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is working with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, beseeching them to abide by his truce with Israel.King Abdullah II of Jordan attended the summit in Egypt that led to the Israeli-Palestinian truce.Syria has begun a partial withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon.And even in Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive cars, Prince Saud said, “Women would make more sensible voters than men” and billboards with slogans such as “Islam is moderation” and “Say no to terrorism” are popping up in Riyadh. So what’s going on in the Middle East? Two events have conspired to bring the winds of change to the region. The first was the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The second was the timely death of Yassar Arafat.The first event was brought about by George Bush’s vision for a new American grand strategy, the second by the caprice of time. Nevertheless, together they are cause for hope in the region. Millions have been moved by the sight of 8 million waving purple fingers. In interview after interview, people from Syria, Egypt and throughout the Middle East say that the times are changing.The Bush-haters will never be mollified regardless of how much positive movement there is in the region and will focus on every setback. Yet even the most imperceptive must recognize that the historic changes taking place throughout the region would not have been possible with Saddam in power.Noted Middle Eastern expert Tom Friedman of The New York Times agreed that the Iraqi elections were “the tipping point” in the series of mini-transformations that are beginning to coalesce throughout the Middle East. While there is cause for optimism, we must be wary of giddiness because militant Islam remains an implacable foe. Like a wounded animal, it will become more dangerous as it is increasingly placed into a corner. Middle East transformation remains a complex process, and there are many, many years of struggle ahead in the global war against militant Islam. A look at our own history reveals that the Boston Tea Party, one of the first overt displays of disgruntlement with the crown, occurred in 1773, but it wasn’t until 16 years later in 1889 that our Constitution actually went into effect. Nevertheless, the world is bearing witness to the beginnings of fundamental change. As a result, a strong case can be made that George Bush stands in a unique category with two other American presidents: James Monroe and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Why? Because in our 229-year history there have only been three grand strategies of American foreign policy.Professor Gaddis, author of ” Surprise, Security, and the American Experience” (Harvard Press), says, “A grand strategy is the blueprint from which policy follows. It envisions a country’s mission, defines its interests and sets its priorities. Part of grand strategy’s grandeur lies in its durability: A single grand strategy can shape decades, even centuries of policy.”According to Professor Gaddis, the first grand strategy by James Monroe followed the British invasion and the burning of the White House in 1814. Monroe responded by developing a policy of gaining future security through territorial expansion, i.e. filling power vacuums with American pioneers before hostile powers could move in. That strategy lasted throughout the 19th and the early 20th centuries, and accounts for our sea to sea expansion and its attendant two-ocean security that protected Americans for years. The second grand American strategy was FDR’s plan for the post World War II world. He sought American security by establishing free markets and self determination in Europe as a safeguard against future wars. He also envisioned the United Nations and related agencies to help manage the rest of the world and contain the Soviets. The end of the Cold War changed that dynamic and unfortunately led to the assumption that a new grand strategy wasn’t necessary because many, including Bush I and Bill Clinton, felt that globalization would lead to inevitable democratization.But 9/11 changed that illusion. To his credit, George Bush recognized the need to install a third grand strategy, one that would place the democratization of the Middle East and the imperative to prevent terrorists and rogue states from obtaining nuclear weapons at the center of his foreign policy. In essence, the Bush Doctrine boldly rejected the constraints of an outmoded international system that was predicated on a 1945 power structure, which ineluctably had become a shadow of what existed 60 years ago, and embarked upon a new course to protect our national security.No strategy is without problems, and obtuse pundits will rant and magnify every misstep. But one thing is certain. Since the Iraqi elections, minds and times are changing in the Middle East.Butch Mazzuca of Singletree, a Realtor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgVail, Colorado
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