November 19, 2004

removing shackles, universal values...

There's a great interview with Paul Wolfowitz in Prospect. I recommend it. Here's one good thought:

Radek Sikorski Conservatives are suspicious of projects to change human nature. They oppose social engineering in domestic policy. Yet here you are, full of ideological zeal, crafting a new form of government for people very different from us. Is this a contradiction?

Paul Wolfowitz If you put it that way, you create a contradiction. We're not trying to graft our system of government on to people who are different from us. We're trying to remove shackles that keep them from having what they want. And it's astonishing how many of them want something that's similar to what we in the west have. I was assistant secretary of state for east Asia when we first confronted Marcos under the Reagan administration. People said: "What are you doing? We'll end up with what Carter got in Iran." But we pressed Marcos very hard in the Philippines and I think the proof is in the outcome. The contradiction is to say that allowing people to choose their government freely is to impose our ideas on them. There was a wonderful moment at a conference here in Washington where someone said it's arrogant of us to impose our values on the Arab world, and an Arab got up and said it's arrogant of you to say these are your values because they are universal values.

Exactly! to say that Democracy is a "Western value" is like someone a hundred years ago saying that science or industrialization or stock markets are "Western skills." Only until the Japanese started doing the same. The West just happened to develop the tool-kits, but once that's been done it's anybody's game.

Posted by John Weidner at November 19, 2004 7:45 AM
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