The PJ Tatler

Iraq, Tunisia and Egypt:Paul Wolfowitz

Commenting on the situation in the Middle East, Paul Wolfowitz speaks to the Spectator’s Daniel Korski :

DK: Many of the protesters in Tunis and Cairo – and more of their international supporters – are clear that today’s events are unrelated to the Iraq War and in fact represent a different paradigm, namely one of endogenous democratic change. But what in your view is the link between the invasion of Iraq and the events in the Middle East today?

PW: We did not go to war in Iraq or Afghanistan to promote democracy, but rather to remove regimes that were dangerous to us and to the world. Having done that, we have attempted to enable the Iraqi and Afghan people to enjoy the benefits of free and representative government. Those efforts have enjoyed mixed success, but we would have done worse – and been much more deserving of criticism – had we attempted to reimpose some new dictator. So far, Tunisia and Egypt seem to be following the paradigm of the long list of countries I mentioned earlier, from the Philippines and Chile to Indonesia and Georgia. They are proud, and rightly so, that they have had no help from the outside. Tragically, Tunisia probably enjoyed better conditions for a peaceful democratic transition than any other Arab country, but Bin Ali suppressed that possibility ruthlessly.  Hopefully now Tunisia will continue to demonstrate in a positive way that Arabs too can progress through democratic reform.

DK: The on-folding events in the Middle East would seem to suggest that the premise of your policies – that people in the region yearn for freedom – was right, but the means, military power, were costly, deadly and, some would say, wrong. Did you pick the right means and allies (including in Washington) to carry out the policy of promoting democracy in the region?

PW: It is wrong to say that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were fought to promote democracy. Whether right or wrong, they were fought to protect ourselves and others from dangerous regimes, but once those regimes were removed we could not reimpose dictators. At the same time, we did believe that peaceful democratic change, of the kind I’ve mentioned earlier, could help to change the conditions in the Middle East that were breeding terrorists and support for terrorism That is why President Bush spoke strongly, as for example in London in November 2003, that “Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold.” Unfortunately, in his second term President Bush seemed to retreat from pursuing his “freedom agenda” and President Obama has retreated further. But that earlier analysis of the false stability brought by tyranny seems even more accurate today.