In his article yesterday, mentioned here, Niall Ferguson claimed that "the correct strategy" in the Middle East would have been pursued if John McCain had been elected president:

The correct strategywhich, incidentally, John McCain would have actively pursued had he been elected in 2008was twofold. First, we should have tried to repeat the successes of the pre-1989 period, when we practiced what we preached in Central and Eastern Europe by actively supporting those individuals and movements who aspired to replace the communist puppet regimes with democracies. ... The second part of our strategy should have been to exploit the divisions within the Islamist movement.

Larison's eyes widen:

Only the hopelessly naive (or the desperately opportunistic partisan) would believe that a little more McCain-sponsored Western support for, say, Ayman Nour would have dramatically altered the political landscape in Egypt in just a few years’ time. If “the best organized, most radical, and most ruthless elements” will be able to exploit the situation in Egypt now, they would have been able to do so even if the U.S. had followed all of the democracy promotion advocates’ advice.

There is also a pretty massive difference between Eastern and Central Europe in 1989 and the Arab world today. Much of central Europe had been occupied by the Soviets and their dictatorships were enabled by such a power. The US was that power's global enemy. And so decades of 439px-Sans-culotte pro-Americanism had prepared the way for the moral credibility of American intervention.

The opposite is the case in the Arab and Muslim Mediterranean and Middle East. For decades, the West - following Kissingerian logic - propped up these monsters and tyrants. When we invaded Iraq, we copied their methods of rule - with mass arrests and torture - before finding a way to construct an Iraqracy that would enable us to save face enough to leave.

In Libya right now, Niall is arguing for armed intervention because of the ghastly fact of possibly thousands of murdered Libyans. I don't doubt his sincerity or motives. But when the US occupied and was responsible for security in Iraq, over a hundred thousand people were murdered in sectarian warfare. If carnage is your metric, how on earth can the West preach now about humanitarian values? Paul Wolfowitz - yes a man who served in the Defense Department under which so many were slaughtered in the streets of Iraq and so many tortured by US soldiers and CIA agents - worries that America's "moral credibility" will be shaken by not intervening in Libya. Is he out of his fucking mind?

Whatever moral credibility America has ever had in the Middle East was destroyed by Wolfowitz and his crew. McCain particularly has none, especially after he signed off on the very same torture techniques once used on him. I totally accept the fear that revolutions can result in worse tyrannies than they replaced. I also see the benefit of exploiting intra-Muslim splits when and where we can if necessary. But the danger there is the US becoming involved in a sectarian struggle between Sunni and Shiite. It's not as if we need to remind the Arab world why the brutal regime of the King of Jordan is scared to death of Iran - as well as bigoted toward Shiites in general. Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs/Persians are already divided. There may be some tactical opportunities to protect our interests, but a strategy? God help us.

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