Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hamas Tests Bush's Vision

WSJ.com - Thinking Global: ""From Suicide Terrorism to Parliamentary Tactics." Or, for the more sociologically oriented, "How We Learned to Live Beside Neighbors We Wanted to Exterminate."

For foreign-policy historians, Mr. Bush has created a live-fire contest between his unique "transformationalist" application of Wilsonian ideals -- which made democratic promotion a national ethos -- and his Republican Party's "traditionalist" foreign policy espoused by former President Bush, Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft that argues democracy succeeds only if preceded by the evolution of an educated middle class and civil society.

Egyptian officials, who have been reluctant to introduce too much democracy even in the face of U.S. pressure, believe that their go-slow approach has been validated not only by Hamas's success but also by their own experience last year with new local elections in which the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood performed far better than expected.

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, on hand in Davos, says Egypt's strategy is first to foster participation in a quickly growing and liberalizing economy and then form secular parties to give voters a wider choice than just the ruling party or radical Islam. For Cairo, the evolutionary democratic change of Korea or Singapore has more appeal than what they consider the too-abrupt changes of Iraq or Palestine.

The U.S. has always pursued a mixture of idealistic and realistic foreign policy. Even as the Bush administration has promoted Iraqi change with billions of taxpayer dollars it has defended Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf as that country's best available politician for fighting terrorism.

What Mr. Bush has done is tilt more toward transformation and thus also increase America's necessity to remain engaged. One won't likely know until long after the Bush administration whether his bold gamble paid off. One can be sure, however, that it will fail without a commitment that is at least as patient, long-term and focused as what followed World War II in Europe -- for the obstacles are greater and the fundamental underpinnings for democracy far weaker.

• Which offers better results, Mr. Bush's transformational foreign policy or the more traditional approach of his father? "

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