Neoconphobes Should Relax

January 20, 2005

I know some are going to recoil at the seeming neo-conservative bent to President Bush’s speech and infer that he is signaling an intention to embark on a proactive course of international aggression to spread democracy, even to those nations who aren’t supporting or sponsoring terrorists, or threatening America’s national interest in any other way. I don’t think we should interpret his remarks that way at all.

While I’ll concede that the President is very idealistic, especially where democracy is concerned, I don’t think he believes that America should export, through military aggression, democracy to nations who pose no threat to America’s national security or strategic interests. But I do think he recognizes that we are engaged in a longterm war against international terrorism, which is, essentially, a war against radical Islam. He also knows that Islamic governments are rarely, if ever, democratic and that they are the seed beds of radical Islamic terrorism. To the extent that Iraq flourishes following its transition to democracy, it can stand as a beacon to other backward Islamic theocratic states. The president hopes, to some extent, for a domino effect of democracy to spread through the Muslim world.

Now this is different from merely exporting democracy for its own sake or for the sake of its benevolence in giving people the gift of self-rule. No, it must be understood in the larger context of the War on Terror. I think President Bush believes, quite apart from his idealistic attachment to democratic ideals, that the best way to ensure the long term defeat of radical Islam, is for democracy to take root and spread among these Muslim nations spawning new terrorists every day. So while I think the president is all for the spread of democracy for its own sake, he is more interested in it spreading in Islamic countries for pragmatic reasons: the spread of democracy will ultimately work to the detriment of radical Islam and thereby work toward America’s national security.

For these reasons I don’t think we have to fear that President Bush is looking for new national targets to attack in the name of spreading democracy. But he will look to do whatever he can, short of military intervention, to promote the spread of democracy throughout the world, especially in the Muslim world. He would much prefer not to attack any other countries, even Iran, if he can possibly avoid doing so. So neoconphobes, in my view, should relax.