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Geography Week 3 Vocabulary from WSJ Article

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Geography Assignments


September 9, 2008

Wall Street Journal

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Democratization and Its Discontents
September 9, 2008; Page A23

"Yes, Leezza, Leezza, Leezza," leched Libya's Moammar Gadhafi last week on the eve of his meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State in Tripoli. "I love her very much."

Posterity will surely not record whether the dictator's feelings were reciprocated. But it will remember that Ms. Rice, who began her tenure as secretary with a ringing call for freedom and democracy, is ending it on a more genial note when it comes to the world's despots.

[Global View]
Tripoli, Libya, Sept. 5, 2008.

"For 60 years," she said in Cairo in June 2005, "the United States pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither." Yet the U.S. rapprochement with Libya is nothing if not the triumph of the stability agenda over the freedom one. Just ask Libyan democracy activist Fathi El-Jahmi (on whose behalf Sen. Joe Biden has made honorable exertions), assuming you can find him in whatever dark cell Mr. Gadhafi has him.

But let's give Ms. Rice her due. Her return to the realpolitik of onetime mentor Brent Scowcroft is earning rave reviews. In Time magazine, reporter Scott Macleod lauded her visit to Libya as "an unqualified success" and "an example of how violent disputes in the troubled region can be settled through diplomacy rather than war." Former Clinton administration official James Rubin is over the moon over Ms. Rice's reported efforts to establish a U.S. interests section in Tehran. Her push to bring about an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is also being lauded, as is her diplomatic outreach to Syria and North Korea.

Meanwhile, Washington is getting what so far seems a crummy return on its pro-democracy investments. The Bush administration made a notable push for Palestinian democracy and wound up electing Hamas, which will almost certainly win next year's presidential election should it choose to contest it. It pushed the Syrians out of Lebanon, only to get a weak and divided democratic government that crumbled in the face of Hezbollah's (and Syria's) violent provocations.

It looked on as Pakistan democratized its way out of Pervez Musharraf's autocratic -- and relatively clean and competent -- hands and into Asif Ali Zardari's dirtier and clumsier ones. It supported Georgia's Mikheil Saakashvili as he blundered his way into a war with neighboring Russia. In Iraq, it has discovered that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a man in the mold of Charles de Gaulle: firm, astute, nationalistic -- and not particularly eager to be seen as America's man, much less George W. Bush's.

So is the freedom agenda a bust? I think not. As in life, so too in foreign policy: The options before us are rarely marked "good" and "bad."

Would the Palestinian Authority be a more peaceable kingdom if a "secular" tyrant like Yasser Arafat were in charge? Was Lebanon better off when Syria terrorized its citizens (and supported Hezbollah) openly, without a murmur of opposition? Would America's influence in Pakistan have been enhanced had we stood in the way of the groundswell of popular opposition to Gen. Musharraf after he began rounding up lawyers, judges and civil-rights activists? Would Georgians have been better off under a Belarus-style regime that did the Kremlin's bidding automatically?

And could the administration have better fought the insurgency in Iraq or defended its political position at home if it had done so in the service of a puppet or military Iraqi government? Previous administrations tried something similar with South Vietnam's Nguyen van Thieu, not to the best effect.

This isn't to say that policies that promote democratization are always and everywhere the better option: The world would have been better off if Jimmy Carter had backed the autocratic Shah instead of acquiescing to the totalitarian Ayatollah. Nor is it to deny that democratization is a fraught, dangerous and reversible process.

On the other hand, a policy that encourages democratic openings wherever they are feasible is at least potentially sustainable, whereas policies biased toward maintaining autocratic stability are invariably unsustainable.

Time will tell whether Iraq is able to maintain its democracy. But it stands a better chance of survival than Egypt's pressure-cooker regime, the Saudi gerontocracy, Iran's theocracy or Libya's cult-of-personality state. Time will also tell whether Georgian democracy will be able to survive the Russian onslaught. But that onslaught is a potent reminder of the neocon notion that the internal character of authoritarian states really does predict their foreign policies.

So let's grant that in normalizing relations with a WMD-free Libya, Ms. Rice has chalked up one of the few wins of her desultory tenure -- so long as we also grant that turning one dictator would never have happened had we not turned out another.

Write to bstephens@wsj.com1

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