A couple of months ago, Newt Gingrich was highly visible speaking and making the rounds of the various talk shows with his call for major reorganization of the U. S. Department of State, criticizing its institutionalized duplicity and incompetence in the process. The furor settled down, but my immediate thoughts were that it is about time a high profile commentator gave voice to this problem. For much too long, particularly in an administration that prides itself in the primacy of freedom, when given a choice, our State Department has almost always opted for “stability” over the advance of freedom. The apparent reason is that there has long been embedded in the career bureaucracy an aversion to policies designed to encourage and assist the “messy” roll back of statism/authoritarianism/totalitarianism, often resulting in an obvious disregard for Presidential leadership. The coming transformation of the Islamic world offers a great window of opportunity to transform the State Department at the same time. I was reminded of this opportunity by a recent article by Ronald Bailey, who makes several insightful points, the first of which is the observation that the spread of liberal, free market democracy in the 20th century was largely accomplished by force of arms—mainly American. A second point is that a world that remains only half-free is inherently dangerous to liberty at home and abroad (those who feel threatened by our growing domestic security apparatus, take note). But the most important point is that we should return to the very productive Reagan Doctrine of assigning a high priority to supporting, training, and financing insurgent movements aimed at overthrowing tyrannical regimes. This is probably anathema to many senior career diplomats and policy wonks at State, but it should be an integral part of our policy for the half of the world that remains in the “not free” category. And, incidentally, a good place to begin immediately to revive this doctrine is in Iran!
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