Friday, March 24, 2006

Complexity vs. Clarity

Madeleine Albright wrote an Op Ed in the LA Times today entitled “Good Versus Evil Isn’t a Strategy". Albright’s piece criticized the Bush administration for portraying the foreign policy challenges of the world in terms of good and evil. She says, midway through her article,

When the U.S. invaded Iraq, Bush may have thought he was striking a blow for good over evil, but the forces unleashed were considerably more complex. . . although we all want to "end tyranny in this world," that is a fantasy unless we begin to solve hard problems.
The former Secretary of State later goes on to suggest that the U.S. should “disavow any plan for regime change in Iran” since a U.S. foreign policy desire would make it inherently harder for the regime to be changed.

Ms. Albright’s opinion piece is based upon flawed logic, most likely emanating from her well demonstrated bias against the Bush administration. The actions of this administration, especially recently, illustrate that it has an understanding of the complexities of the world. Hence the uneasy alliance with Musharraf’s Pakistan. Musharraf seized power in a coup, and the country’s intelligence services are credited with enabling the Taliban to develop and seize power in neighboring Afghanistan. Former Taliban guerrillas and anti-coalition militia forces find refuge and material support in the lawless areas of Pakistan, traveling north into Afghanistan to cause wreak havoc on coalition forces and the nascent Afghan security forces. And yet Pakistan, despite this ugliness, has been an invaluable ally in the war on terror. With Musharraf’s assistance, many terrorists have been killed or captured, including high ranking members of Al Qaeda.

An overly simplistic or idealistic foreign policy may well have written Pakistan off, yet the Bush administration has established solid relations with the country, and that alliance has reaped some positive results. There are countless other examples like this that clearly demonstrate President Bush and his cabinet members understand the complexities of the world.

And yet words mean things, do they not? When the President labels a terrorist group like Al Qaeda, or a regime like the current one in Iran (whose president in recent speeches has denied the holocaust and called for the destruction of Israel) as “evil” he is doing something that is as deliberate as it is clarifying. The Bush administration has recognized the complexities of the world in its many foreign policy pronouncements and cultivated diplomatic relationships; yet he has demonstrated that some actions, behaviors and stances are abhorrent and intolerable. The use of terror as a tactic to enable political or social change has been labeled as evil. Complexities aside, the deliberate slaughter of civilians , whether by Al Qaeda, the Tamil Tigers, the FARC, Hamas, or whomever, is now unquestionably addressed by the government (and thus the people) of the United States for the malevolent act that it is. Evil can be a descriptive word, indeed.

There is something refreshingly clear in President Bush’s use of descriptive words like evil and tyranny, concepts that Ms. Albright proved somewhat uncomfortable addressing during her tenure as Secretary of State. If the United States President uses words like evil to describe acts of terror, it further de-legitimizes these abhorrent acts of violence. This in turn makes it easier to deal with the “hard problems” that exist in a complex, interconnected world.

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