Peace, Free Markets, and Democracy
. Tom Friedman has a very optimistic
column in today's New York Times
. It argues, basically, that the American model of government has beaten all of its serious rivals and emerged as a global consensus. This, more than anything else, is what makes the U.S. the most powerful nation. The argument is provided by a new book by a chap called Michael Mandelbaum. It's exactly the kind of long-term trand argument that I really love. But this one isn't ringing true for me. I haven't read the book, so I'm just going on the strength of the column here.
I am skeptical about just how loyal we are to these three concepts of peace, free markets, and democracy. Looking back at our recent political history (going back to, let's say, the Reagan Administration), one wonders if those ideas mean anything at all. Peace has always been a cardinal internal value, no doubt. But this country has exported bloodshed on a grand scale. The Reagan Administration is a wonderful place to look for examples. One could argue that these situations were part of the greater Cold War with the Soviet Union, and it's only since the Soviet Union collapsed that the United States has been this recognized leader, so maybe it isn't fair to go back that far. But now, we've got an administration pushing for an unnecessary war when peaceful means will suffice. I'm talking, of course, about Iraq. Since the Gulf War, Iraq has not threatened the United States in any way, except through a failed assassination attempt on a former President. That is to say, Saddam has theatened Bush's family, he hasn't threatened mine. And I shouldn't like to have to go and fight in the desert to protect Bush's father. It isn't necessary. It is necessary that we deal with Saddam Hussein, that we keep him boxed in and powerless. But we've been doing that for a decade without an all-out war, and Bush has failed to articulate why that's no longer adequate.
As for democracy, that is not a principle value of the current government. I'm not just talking about the 2000 election, but it can be seen in its "Terrorism Trumps Everything" foreign policy which forces us to remain neutral in a conflict between India and Pakistan. India is the world's largest democracy, if I'm not mistaken. Pakistan, on the other hand, has actually used its new found friendship with us to move further from democracy and to further entrench its military dictatorship.
And no one seriously believes in free markets anymore. The left believes that the government must intervene in markets to protect the interests of the poor and unfortunate. The right believes that the government must intervene in markets to protect the wealthy and powerful (they're just not honest enough to say so). No one seriously believes in free markets anymore.
Other than that, it's an interesting thesis.