Monday, February 14, 2005

Slate runs a piece today blasting EU policy toward dictatorial Belarus, entitled "Mincing around with Minsk." Low on persuasion and high on righteous-minded indignation, the writer, Peter Savodnik, opines
The United States and the Eastern Europeans, particularly the Lithuanians, understand the only way to change Belarus is to fight Lukashenko—to aid the opposition, to discourage investment in the country, to do everything short of arming an insurgency. The Western Europeans, the so-called Old Europeans—the Europeans who think that Slobodan Milosevic deserves his day in court and that the Iranian mullahs can be talked out of building a nuclear bomb—have yet to figure this out.
Two comments.

First, don't bother reading the piece: nowhere does the author bother to provide an argument that the American approach is more effective than EU engagement. Was it because the successes of the everything-short-of-insurgency tactic are so apparent in the history of American policy? Two recent examples - American policy Iraq during 1991-2003 and towards Iran during 1980-2005 - suggest otherwise. By contrast, at least two examples where the EU type policy succeeded are immediately apparent: South Korea and Taiwan during the cold war.

Secondly, the really curious thing about this piece is the inability of the writer to spot a pattern in U.S. foreign policy. Replace Belarus with China or Saudi Arabia, and suddenly U.S. policy begins looking suspiciously like EU policy. Whatever the mertis of U.S policy, its hardly consistent: when the U.S. practices constructive engagement with its favorite dictators, it loses the right to criticize others for doing the same.


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