Sunday, October 17, 2004

Domino Theory

Way, way, back in 2003, although Paul Wolfowitz, in this interview explicitly rejected the terminology, there was much talk in the policy press about the Bush Administration's domino theory of democracy in the Middle East. Simply stated, in words I like to think Mr. Wolfowitz would agree with, a functioning democracy in the Middle East would, in theory, stand as an example to the region of the benefits of such a system of government, and the local populations of neighboring countries would put pressure on their existing regimes to institute reforms.

Leaving aside the simplistic thinking inherent in this idea, largely discredited after the Vietnam war (southeast Asia did not universally become a group of satellite countries of the USSR or China viz. the Warsaw Pact nations in Europe), has anyone else noticed that the world's largest democracy, India, nearly borders the world's largest Communist (term used loosely, and examination reserved for another time) nation?

India and China don't seem to have a great deal of influence on one another's system of government. Feel free to point out all the racial, cultural, historical and geographical barriers that would hinder such a flow of influence, but I submit that it is only America's tendency to lump large groups of diverse foreign peoples into monolithic mental categories that helps seduce policy makers into imagining that such barriers do not exist between groups and nations with fewer obvious differences.

In the same interview, Mr. Wolfowitz holds up Japan as successful leader-by-example in southeast Asia in the adoption of the "free" markets (this post is rich with future targets for discussion) in a number of southeast Asian countries, a subject close to many a neoconservative's heart, which brings up an interesting point:

If you have Japan as a regional example, you don't need Vietnam as another.
If you have Afghanistan...

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