Really, Matt?

by Nathan Hamm on 7/12/2004 · 3 comments

Wow, seems I missed this one. The pile-on went Josh’s way, but there’s no reason to leave Matthew out.

Because I dealt with why Matthew is wrong about Uzbekistan in my earlier post, I won’t repeat myself.

Let me add a couple things though.

Matthew says (and I’m dropping the stuff about Democrats here),

The notion that Bush has adopted some variant of the traditional liberal concern with spreading American values […] has a vice-like grip on the American discourse, but there’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that this is what Bush has done.

Unless you look for it…

I think the reason that Matthew and Josh are so miffed is revealed in the title of the Yglesias post: “Democracy Now?” Their metric for judging whether or not the Bush Administration has a genuine commitment to democracy promotion is action, not rhetoric. They are right to feel that way. However, their analysis breaks down either because they are too lazy to actually look for the results or they have unreasonably high expectations. Though I know there’s some of the former going on*, they exhibit the latter (what the hell is with the aircraft carrier analogy? Comparing social change to producing ships?).

Democracy Now?

If the Bush administration could push as hard as it wanted, to the point of ordering elections, without any blowback from the autocrats, the results would be atrocious. Few of those countries would make it to a second free election. The slow-and-steady strategy of constructive engagement that Clinton started and Bush continued with the addition of repeatedly and publicly promoting democracy will win this race–even if the pundits can’t see what’s happening.

*Almost all “jack-of-all-trade” pundits have the problem of being lightweights when it comes to dealing with the factual nitty-gritty, even the ones I love. Their real strenth is in argumentation.

UPDATE: Props to praktike in Matthew’s comments section! Didn’t see that at first.

Subscribe to receive updates from Registan

This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

For information on reproducing this article, see our Terms of Use


praktike July 13, 2004 at 1:50 pm

Nathan, did you read my guest post at Tacitus?

I’m in a strange middle ground in re: Bush foreign policy right now.

praktike July 13, 2004 at 2:28 pm

As for the “jack-of-all trades” pundits, there is a kind of pernicious influence that generalists have on political discussions.

These are smart people who learned in college how to develop an argument on basically any side of an issue — Matt in particular is sharp enough to be able to work up something plausible in a jiffy. But I do that the difference between Bush and Kerry regarding democratization is overblown. Most of the policies that actual work in this direction are carried out under the radar by faceless bureaucrats.

Nathan July 13, 2004 at 2:41 pm

I fall victim to the same pernicious influence you’re talking about–and that’s why I think I notice it so easily. It’s that damned debate background…

You’re right too that the difference between the two candidates in this regard is overblown. I’ve tried to make clear that a lot of the reward reaped by the Bush administration in Georgia came from programs initiated by Clinton bureaucrats. If Kerry becomes prez and helps to mid-wife something similar in Central Asia, Bush’s bureaucrats will have to get some credit too.

Previous post:

Next post: