Michael Totten

The Dark Side of Engagement with Governments

I have always appreciated George Packer’s work, even when I do not agree with him. His latest piece in the New Yorker is worth a look, and I can’t help but wonder how many of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy hands will cringe a little bit when they read the opening:

Last June, in Cairo, President Barack Obama, at the heart of his speech to the Islamic world, enumerated the many issues that have created tension between the United States and Muslim nations. “The fourth issue that I will address is democracy,” he said, and continued, “I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.” Then the President paused, apparently expecting this sensible recognition to prompt a round of applause, but there was silence, and he seemed to stumble. His timing was off; the people in his mostly Egyptian audience had already done their clapping when he uttered the word “democracy.” Tom Malinowski, of Human Rights Watch, who had been an informal adviser to the Obama campaign, said, “I don’t think he was aware that the audience both despised George W. Bush and desperately wanted Bush’s help in their cause.”