SEMI-STRONG FOR DEMOCRACY
Odd sort of news juxtaposition today with Secretary Rice in Egypt
and President Bush in the White House with Prime Minister Van Khai.
Dr. Rice 's message on Democratic reform was strong and was perceived as sincere because of who it happened to irk, the respective oligarchies in Egypt and KSA. On the other hand, confusion reigned when she ruled out the USG even talking to the Muslim Brotherhood, something that must have left Egyptian heads scratching since they would be the largest opposition group in Egypt.
No they aren't our friends but neither are they our active blood enemies and if we push Democracy the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood will only grow in terms of Egyptian government policy. At least the CIA should be talking to them, if only to know what is going on in Egypt. We went down this " don't talk to the opposition" path with the Shah of Iran once and four years from now we'll be celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the consequences of that policy of willful blindness.
The nice thing about the Van Khai visit is that the White House felt compelled to emphasize the religious freedom pact, which in all probability Van Khai has absolutely no intention of honoring but Hanoi won't be able to get away from either. Every time the Politburo want something new from Washington, this agreement will be waved by the religious right in Congress and not a few special interests who fear cheap labor competition and want something more altruistic sounding with which to bash Vietnam. The Vietnamese will have to pay a higher political transaction cost, make more agreements and travel further down a slippery slope toward connectivity and freedom.
Not perfect but I'll take an ugly win over a graceful loss any day.