Fareed Zakaria's book, which argues that liberalism is more important than democracy, is the missing voice of a sane internationalist US Republicanismby Anthony Dworkin / May 20, 2003 / Leave a comment
Book: The Future of Freedom Author: Fareed Zakaria Price: WW Norton, $24.95
What is the US fighting for in Iraq-apart from its own security? Rationales for the conflict have come and gone, but the one constant refrain in President Bush’s comments on the subject has been that the war is for freedom. The campaign is even called Operation Iraqi Freedom. In his speech to the American Enterprise Institute in February on the future of Iraq, Bush used the words “free” or “freedom” 18 times.
Freedom here means the liberation of Iraq from an oppressive dictatorship-but what then? Will the US install some form of democracy in Iraq-and how successful will it be? Would that constitute freedom? The questions are significant not only for Iraq, but much more widely, because the notion of freedom is for Bush the organising principle that should guide the US in its engagement with the world. During one of his debates with Al Gore during the 2000 election, Bush summarised his foreign policy philosophy in one sentence: “We’ve got to be humble yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom.” (How ironic the word “humble” now sounds.) Since 11th September, Bush has framed the campaign against terrorism as a battle between the forces of evil and “people who love freedom.”
The problem is, Bush has never taken the trouble to spell out what “freedom” means to him in today’s world. In his mouth, the word evokes the comfortable certainties of the cold war-when the US led the free world against the Soviet evil empire. If freedom means freedom from oppression, why did Bush (and much of his current administration) oppose the humanitarian interventions of the Clinton era? If freedom means democracy, why has Bush turned a blind eye to the authoritarian manoeuvring of Pakistan’s General Musharraf? If freedom means the spread of world trade and global markets, why has Bush slapped tariffs on foreign steel? There is no positive and consistent vision to match the military muscle that is being brandished so aggressively in the world’s face.
However, a lucid and intelligent account of what freedom might mean as a guiding principle for US foreign policy has just appeared-not from an administration official, but from the journalist Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International. His book The Future of Freedom reads like the missing voice of a sane, internationalist Republicanism. Or perhaps, since Zakaria appears…