Transforming the Middle East

Washington’s High-Stakes Gamble

It is increasingly clear that the Bush administration’s nation-building policy in Iraq is merely one component of an ambitious project to transform the Middle East politically.  That goal is consistent with the principles that President Bush expressed in his Second Inaugural Address, in which he announced that “it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world.”

Bush’s bold statement symbolizes what Fred Barnes, executive editor of the neoconservative Weekly Standard, has described as a “shake-up-the-world” view.  Such an approach normally does not appeal to the most powerful country in the international system.  Historically, hegemonic powers, because they owe their dominant position to current international arrangements, tend to pursue conservative policies designed to preserve and enhance the status quo.  Upstart revisionist powers are the ones that tend to embrace revolutionary policies.  It is unprecedented for an incumbent hegemon to advocate revolutionary change.  Thus, the Bush administration is venturing into uncharted waters.

The rationale for the administration’s policy is not merely that it would be humane to bring the blessings of democracy to the Middle East (and other regions). ...

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