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Rice: All Forest, No Trees

As late as 1987 or 1988, Rice said, the American policy of democratic change in Europe would have looked like a failure. What her answer suggested was that the Bush administration’s policy of encouraging democratic change in the Middle East might appear to fail for 50 years, and then might be judged to have been a farsighted success. ~David Samuels

Well, actually, since in 1987-88 the Soviets were already buckling, Gorbachev was talking up glasnost and perestroika, Solidarity remained a dynamic force in Poland, and Vaclav Havel had emerged in Czechoslovakia–all of which had followed deliberate, concerted efforts by a foreign imperial power to suppress by force all attempts at local political change as recently as twenty years earlier, we can say that Rice either doesn’t remember what was happening in the late ’80s in the one part of the world about which she was allegedly an expert or that she is spinning like a top.  Gentle reader, which do you think it is?  A huge difference between central and eastern Europe in the Cold War and the Near East today is rather obvious: many of the countries of central and eastern Europe had had at least some past experience with representative government in the late 19th century and the early 20th century.  Encouraging democratic change in a part of the world where that actually has a chance of working might be worth pursuing over the long term.  Pursuing a pipe dream, even if you pursue it studiously for five centuries, will not make the pipe dream any more realistic.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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