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Albright’s Middle East advice
Posted by: mcq on Friday, March 24, 2006

Former Clinton administration Secretary of State Madeline Albright offers the Bush administration some advice on the middle east. Let's start with the title and subtitle to her piece:
Good Versus Evil Isn't a Strategy

Bush's worldview fails to see that in the Middle East, power politics is the key.
Keep those in mind as we get to the details of her advice.

She begins by saying, in keeping with her title, that the Bushies just aren't very tuned in to the real complexities of the situation in the Middle East. I think, to some degree, a valid argument can be made for that assertion at different points in the past. I certainly think that when Albright says "the administration's penchant for painting its perceived adversaries with the same sweeping brush has led to a series of unintended consequences" has some validity, again in the past. I don't think the most ardent Bush supporter could be persuaded that the handling of Iraq, or for that matter, Iran, has been the most deft thing in the world. But that doesn't mean the administration hasn't learned from that or improved its act over the years.

Albright acknowledges that sometimes it is useful for leaders to rhetorically speak in broad terms. She, however, claims that in the case of the Bush administration, they seem to believe their rhetoric. Thus the title and subtitle I pointed out.

She cites the recently released National Security Strategy as proof of her contention. It is an interesting document which I've only had time to skim. But in its overview, it states the following:
For most of the twentieth century, the world was divided by a great struggle over ideas: destructive totalitarian visions versus freedom and equality.

That great struggle is over. The militant visions of class, nation, and race which promised utopia and delivered misery have been defeated and discredited. America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones. We are menaced less by fleets and armies than by catastrophic technologies in the hands of the embittered few.We must defeat these threats to our Nation, allies, and friends.
Now, while I don't think this is a particularly accurate statement of the state of the world (I don't think the "great struggle is over" at all, not with the leftward tilt of South America and the prosperity rising in totalitarian China as evidence), I don't think it at all reflects the oversimplification Albright claims. I have to work rather hard to distil this into "good vs. evil" as Albright does. However, to use her phrase, rhetorically speaking, it's useful for her to reduce it to such simplistic language if she wants to paint the Bush administration in an unflattering light.

To her advice:
The first is to understand that although we all want to "end tyranny in this world," that is a fantasy unless we begin to solve hard problems. Iraq is increasingly a gang war that can be solved in one of two ways: by one side imposing its will or by all the legitimate players having a piece of the power. The U.S. is no longer able to control events in Iraq, but it can be useful as a referee.
While her advice is sound (and obvious), her example seems to contend that it isn't what is happening. Given her false choice (there's a third choice at a minimum, do nothing. And apparently that's what she thinks we're doing.) you'd be left to believe that we're going to sit by and watch. Obviously we're not doing that and won't do that. We're already very much involved in the referee role. So thanks, Madeline, but you may want to catch up.

Second, the Bush administration should disavow any plan for regime change in Iran — not because the regime should not be changed but because U.S. endorsement of that goal only makes it less likely. In today's warped political environment, nothing strengthens a radical government more than Washington's overt antagonism. It also is common sense to presume that Iran will be less willing to cooperate in Iraq and to compromise on nuclear issues if it is being threatened with destruction. As for Iran's choleric and anti-Semitic new president, he will be swallowed up by internal rivals if he is not unwittingly propped up by external foes.
Her advice to disavow regime change as a policy apparently comes from the experience Albright had in helping declare that as the Clinton administration's policy for Iraq. It's not necessarily bad advice, but it is ironic that one of the architects of the US's regime change policy for Iraq now thinks it's a bad idea for Iran. Of course if world condemnation and resistance to Iran's nuclear program isn't enough to "strengthen a radical government", I'm not sure how our declaration of a policy of "regime change" would do it moreso.

As an aside, I'm beginning to believe that Iran's president will indeed "be swallowed" up within the country. I think the ruling mullahs see him as more of a problem than he's worth at the moment, and will find a way to move him quietly aside at sometime in the not too distant future. There seems to be an internal resistance building toward him among the rulers which does't bode well for his staying in that position.
Third, the administration must stop playing solitaire while Middle East and Persian Gulf leaders play poker. Bush's "march of freedom" is not the big story in the Muslim world, where Shiite Muslims suddenly have more power than they have had in 1,000 years; it is not the big story in Lebanon, where Iran is filling the vacuum left by Syria; it is not the story among Palestinians, who voted — in Western eyes — freely, and wrongly; it is not even the big story in Iraq, where the top three factions in the recent elections were all supported by decidedly undemocratic militias.
While the "solitare" v. "poker" analogies might be rhetorically pleasing, they're utter nonsense. We're back to the premise that this is all unilateral action on the part of the US. It's just not true. While there's plenty of room to criticize US foreign policy in the Middle East, this is the least valid of those criticisms. But it does satisfy the desire to cast the administration as simplistic and unallied in their approach to Middle Eastern problems.

Each of the areas and problems Albright points too are being handled in different ways and with different allies. This criticism, couched as advice, simply isn't valid.

Albright concludes:
In the long term, the future of the Middle East may well be determined by those in the region dedicated to the hard work of building democracy. I certainly hope so. But hope is not a policy. In the short term, we must recognize that the region will be shaped primarily by fairly ruthless power politics in which the clash between good and evil will be swamped by differences between Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Persian, Arab and Kurd, Kurd and Turk, Hashemite and Saudi, secular and religious and, of course, Arab and Jew. This is the world, the president pledges in his National Security Strategy, that "America must continue to lead." Actually, it is the world he must begin to address — before it is too late.
"Hope is not a policy?" The only one hoping here is Albright. Yes, the region will take on its own shape based on the power of the players there. But I've seen nothing which oversimplifies the struggle taking place there now or in the future as that between "good and evil", well, except by Madeline Albright. In my opinion the complexities of each of the situations has been acknowledged and different approaches and strategies outlined for each. There is certainly room for debate as to whether the strategies are workable and effective. There is even room for debate as to whether they're the right strategies. But to attempt to boil them down to an oversimplistic "good v. evil" one-size-fits-all approach is both disingenuous and invalid.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Do we really need to hear from one of the people instrumental to the previous administrations failures in that region?

And frankly, there is a great usefulness for the "good vs evil" speak, since so many people still don’t seem to understand it.
Written By: shark
URL: http://
1. The biggest abuser of ’we good v they evil’ tag is Bush. Deny it?

2. "oversimplification" here is merely a subject device, for an editorial. If one had ever written an op ed, one would know one has precious space to make the most impact of ones message.

3. I give you credit for the one time I have seen anyone dismiss the ’not conservative’ side without namecalling, such as calling her an ’old cow’. Kudos.

4. Helen Thomas is the last of the good Americans. She comes from the same mold as King, Goldwater and George Burns. Good honest humans. Not perfect, but pretty damn good by todays standards. Helen Thomas is no Bill O’Reilley.

With 3 above, I have reniewed hope that there are some posters on this blog who do not spittle while they type.
Written By: Rick D.
URL: http://
1. The biggest abuser of ’we good v they evil’ tag is Bush. Deny it?

Nope. In fact, I embrace it. Because he’s right.

Helen Thomas is the last of the good Americans. She comes from the same mold as King, Goldwater and George Burns. Good honest humans. Not perfect, but pretty damn good by todays standards. Helen Thomas is no Bill O’Reilley

Wow.....just wow. Some things just boggle the mind so much it stops comment. Just..............good lord.

PS- She IS an old cow (I have no compunction against name calling lol)
Written By: shark
URL: http://
obviously my liver disease is finally affecting my brain.

Allbright, not Thomas.

Allbright, not Thomas...

Thomas will be the next elderly female citizen attacked here. I was premature.


Hey shark: beware! there is a special place in Hades for people who call elderly women names. Especially ones they HAVE NEVER MET.

(shakes head) Exactly why do you hate your father?

And you did admit that Bush "abuses" the cliche. But your honesty will not save you from the ’fires of Hayell...’ as we say in GA.
Written By: Rick D.
URL: http://
beware! there is a special place in Hades for people who call elderly women names. Especially ones they HAVE NEVER MET

HA! If I should go to hades for THAT, I’ve lived much too boring a life >:)
Written By: shark
URL: http://
(I don’t think the "great struggle is over" at all, not with the leftward tilt of South America and the prosperity rising in totalitarian China as evidence
Right On!! Gotta watch out for those freakin commies popin out of the woodwork in the southern sewer there eh? I mean look what they’ve been up to since you’all had your hands full protecting the world from terrorism and Islamo-Facism. Like in Venezuela, since that frickin goose stepper Chavez got into power, 1.5 million of those damned spics from the Barrios went and learned to read. The next thing you know they’re going to be moving out of their card-board boxes!!

What about all those god damned doctors that Chavez has gone and brought into his country by supplying the pinko overlord in Cuba with cheap oil. For one thing, that aint his oil, it’s our oil. F@cker had better learn it soon enough cause if he thinks the US of A is gonna let him get away with selling it cheap to the trailer trash in the US, he’s got another thing comin. What about those doctors though man. Gotta put a stop to that soon as well!! With all those poor spics down in the land o Bolivar gettin free medical care and Sh1t??!! Man, soon enough Venezuela is gonna be just like Cuba and have a lower child death rate than the US of A!! Hell, might even be a lot lower considering that Venezuela doesn’t have to achieve that goal while being prohibited from trading with the world’s largest trader!!! Some weird sh1t goin on with that failed state man.

Now we’ve got that little son of a Pocahontas Morales threatening to legalize the cultivation of cocoa. If only those Spaniards figured out how to kill off all of those little savages in the first place eh? Man, there all like, "we’ve been growing and chewing on this stuff for time immemorial, its our right" blah blah blah. This, when we all know they’re comin up north and slipping it up our kid’s noses when they’re sleepin, that’s really the only way to explain it.

Man, gotta watch out for those f@chers like Chavez with his "populism" and his "weakening of democratic institutions" y’know? We need to get the good totalitarians goin again (as opposed to the bad ones like those Chinks you mentioned). You know, someone like Pinochet, or at least good ol’ Fujimori.

Gotta try to figure out how to get those politicos down in the sewer to be more like....say, Algeria!! That’s it, more like Algeria. Now there’s a government that know’s how to govern. Even Donald Rumsfeld agrees with that man. When he was in Algeria in February he said: "the United States and Algeria have a multifaceted relationship. It involves political and economic as well as military-to-military co-operation. And we very much value the co-operation we are receiving in counter-terrorism." WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! Right on Rumsfeld!!!

See, and those Algerian’s know how to get things done man!! No F@ckin teachin their Spics in the Barrios how to read man!! No, no, no. What they do to their spics is they tie them naked to ladders for a few days - and if they don’t start talking they slide a tube down their throats, into their stomachs and then they turn on the tap until they swell up like a balloon. That’s usually the guys though, apparently they have a separate department for women. Here they usually rape them before sending them off to the firing squad. Yeaaaaaaaah GOOD TIMES!!!!! There’s a government that knows how to be America’s friend eh - Rumy says so himself!!

Right on you guys - I love this site!! I don’t know how you come up with the stuff you write about on here - it’s almost like it came right off of The New York Times, or Fox News or somethin. Your brilliant - just brilliant!! F@ckin rock man. Commies - no, no - don’t need them back man!!! You guys.......yer just a bunch of f@ckin heroes!!!!!
Written By: Neil
URL: http://
"1.5 million of those damned spics from the Barrios went and learned to read. The next thing you know they’re going to be moving out of their card-board boxes!!..."

Yeah, and I bet he makes the trains run on time, too.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

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