War and Peace

From The New York Times:

A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Startegy for America in the Middle East By Kenneth M. Pollack

Book_3 Pollack has long since confessed to having been wrong about Iraq. “A Path Out of the Desert” includes other mea culpas. “There has been far too little asking the people of the region themselves what they thought and what they wanted,” he ruminates at one point, though the book offers slim evidence of his having pursued this advice. While the administration that Pollack served gets some light wrist-­slapping, it is the following eight years of Bush policy that he calls “breathtakingly arrogant, ignorant and reckless.” Many of Pollack’s other judgments are as sound as is this criticism of the Bush administration. Since most of the post-cold-war world has stabilized, democratized and prospered, it is probably correct to suggest, as he does, that America should commit itself to helping the messy Middle East come up to par.

His proposal of a Grand Strategy to achieve this, which is to say a generation-long effort of a scale and intensity similar to America’s engagement with Europe after World War II, is challenging but not irrational, given the world’s growing dependency on Middle Eastern oil. And Pollack is right to say that violence and tyranny are not hard-wired into Islam, and to conclude that the threat of Islamist terror has been overblown. He is also right that internal unrest in Middle Eastern states is quite likely to be a strategic threat, and that this danger will not pass until they manage to produce better schools, more opportunities for youth, wider social justice and more inclusive, accountable government. He is correct, too, in describing the region’s current regimes as singularly awful, and even in admitting that George Bush showed unwonted acuity when he called for draining the swamps of extremism by promoting reform.

More here.