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Arab spring
Who lost Egypt?
Answering the wrong question
American politics
Democracy in America
Mar 1st 2011
BY M.S.
EIGHT years after the craziness that was the invasion of Iraq, I barely have the patience to address neo-conservative fantasies about how to turn political evolution in the Muslim world into a story that's somehow all about America liberating grateful locals. So I'm glad Daniel Larison still does, though, in responding to Niall Ferguson, he seems to be almost out of patience too:
The sobering thing about rapid political change in these countries is that there really is very little that the U.S. could have done differently in just the last few years that would have produced a significantly different outcome. Democratists look at what happened in the 1980s, they reason foolishly that 1989 happened because of what the U.S. and Western allies did in supporting political dissidents, and they conclude that “we did it before, we can do it again!” Just as Iraq war supporters stupidly invoked Japan and Germany as meaningful precedents for the political transformation that could happen in Iraq, Ferguson is invoking the successes of eastern European dissidents as precedents for what could have happened in the Near East.
What makes Ferguson's comparison even harder to take is the presumption that Western support for eastern European dissidents was important to their success, when the success of eastern European revolutions in 1989 rested almost entirely with the peoples of those countries. Ferguson's analysis and recommendations seem to hinge on believing that Western support for dissidents in communist states was important to the successful political transition in those states, because Ferguson can't seem to imagine foreign political movements that succeed or fail regardless of what Westerners do or don't do...If there is anything more pathetic than the usual round of “who lost [fill in the blank]?”, it is the risible attempt to claim that all would be well if there had just been more American emphasis on democracy promotion earlier on.
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