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12:06AM

The "escape from New York" approach to failed states

Fareed Zakaria remains in full mea culpa mode over Iraq and Afghanistan.  In this WAPO op-ed (via WPR's Media Roundup), he embraces the notion of putting a fence around failed states and sending in the drones only when absolutely needed:

What to do in Somalia? In a thoughtful report, Bronwyn Bruton of the Council on Foreign Relations makes the case for "constructive disengagement." The idea is to watch the situation carefully for signs of real global terrorism -- which so far are limited. Al-Shabab's "links" with al-Qaeda seem to be mostly rhetoric on both sides. But if they become real and deadly, be willing to strike. This would not be so difficult. Somalia has no mountains or jungles, making it relatively hospitable for counterterrorism operations. Just be careful not to become a player in the country's internal political dynamics. "We have a limited capacity to influence events in Somalia, to influence them positively," says Bruton. "But we have an almost unlimited capacity to make a mess of things."

The horrific cynicism on display here is disheartening, but it reflects Zakaria's odd take on nation-building.  For a guy who crystalized the argument about not trying to bring democracy too early to underdeveloped states, he uses the straw-man about either fast-forwarding political modernization (impossible) or pulling back similarly in Afghanistan.  All I can say in response is, Why must the choice be defined in such binary form?  And why put this down solely to "American imperialism"?  In a world where the "rest" are rising, why is our strategic imagination so limited re: potential allies or alternative nation-building approaches?

It's weird, but Zakaria isn't even staying true to his own ideas and observations.  Watching him embrace this kind of self-defeating thought makes me think he's caved in to the conventional wisdom of this administration.  Here I think his journalism is limiting his analysis, meaning his need to maintain access has put him into pandering mode.

And that's too bad.  His voice is too important to waste on a TV show or even this administration.

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Reader Comments (1)

Why must the choice be defined in such binary form?
......
Zakaria isn't even staying true to his own ideas and observations. Watching him embrace this kind of self-defeating thought makes me think he's caved in to the conventional wisdom of this administration. Here I think his journalism is limiting his analysis, meaning his need to maintain access .....

I've also been concerned with the ability of media to cause smart analysts to adopt simple "either-or" approaches. It could be the need to use that approach to gain access to public, but it could also be from being absorbed in media communities that only think in terms of such 'debate' mindsets.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlouis Heberlein

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