The invaluable Andrew McCarthy has a new piece at NRO on American self-deception about Egypt in particular and the Arab Spring in general.
I don't believe that our policymakers have set out to promote Islamist regimes in the Middle East and Southwest Asia--but they have done so. Why?
It seems to me that there are two causes of the American-supported spread of Islamist regimes.
First, the Progressive confidence which underlies the idea of nation-building has been greatly attenuated by the relativism and multiculturalism which has become prominent in American intellectual life in the last several decades. On the one hand, we proclaim contemporary Western style democracy as the only just form of government. On the other hand, we feel guilt about judging the Islamist regimes which are popular with large majorities in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Egypt. The incoherent result is American-sponsored Islamist nation-building.
For an example of this intellectual confusion at work, I recommend President Obama's Cairo Address. It opens with multicultural praise of Islam, but the bulk of the speech is about the many changes that need to be made to modernize Egypt and make it acceptable to the standards of Western elites. The practical result is democracy Muslim Brotherhood style.
It goes without saying that Progressives from Teddy Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson never thought of assisting with the establishment of Islamic theocracies or any other form of government that was hostile to Progressivism
The second cause of our incoherent foreign policy is a perennial problem identified by John Quincy Adams as a reason to avoid intervening in the internal affairs of other nations. He points out that we will not know enough about the facts on the ground to avoid making mistakes and being manipulated by indigenous groups that do know those facts.
Naive American policymakers believed they were promoting democracy in Libya by toppling the Gadaffi regime. In reality they were merely empowering the group of tribes that Gadaffi had displaced when he came to power.
These are the kinds of mistakes we make again and again. We keep expending vast amounts of blood, treasure, and diplomatic capital for results which are inimical to American interests.
The American people don't much care about these things because they are far away. Nation-building has become unpopular, but most Americans are not directly harmed by our foreign policy debacles. They are more concerned with issues at home such as the economy. This makes sense--the economy is much more directly related to our everyday lives.
Our policymakers are the real problem. These are the people elected or appointed to oversee our foreign affairs. They have typically imbibed bad ideas that have no relation to reality, and they do not think clearly about the consequences of implementing delusional policies because they do not live in any real or meaningful way with the consequences.
Similar causes led American intellectuals and policymakers to fantasize about the end of history after the fall of the USSR. It is easy to daydream while living as a sort of lotus eater. There is no pressing reason or urgent necessity to question the reigning dogmas learned in prestige schools and reinforced by fashionable opinions floating around cocktail parties in D.C., New York, or Geneva.
I very much hope that we will wake up before further damage is done. It took 9/11 to disabuse our policymakers of the idea that we lived in a world where peace had an aspect of permanence. We should all pray that no other terrible events have to occur to awaken us from our current stupor.