Douwe Osinga's Blog: Why Rumsfeld was right

Monday, April 9, 2007

By now Rumsfeld has probably gone down in history as the worst secretary of defense ever. But I was thinking whether we shouldn't have another look at his doctrine. Yes, the same guy that said we should storm Iraq without a plan for rebuilding it.


The world is not perfect of course. There are bad regimes and there are terrible regimes (and some are ok). Now from a humanitarian point of few there are regimes that are so bad that you want to overthrow them (think Hitler 1939), but usually we don't (think Pol Pot). Why not? Well, partly because it is so unpractical, marching in is only half the work.


So what would happen if we would just say, as a dictator you can do what you want, but if it gets worse then X, we're going to kick you out. Now there will be a temptation with some not to just march in, but also to try to make sure that the country becomes a model democracy, but we shouldn't; that will cost a lot more time and is frankly not always possible.


Stick with the Rumsfeld doctrine like this and fast-forward a bit. Basically we'll end up with a world where there are still bad regimes, but no longer any very terrible. Initially some invading might have been needed and mostly those very bad guys will have been replaced by bad or not so ok guys, but it would still be an improvement. And once the doctrine has been established the potential bad guys will realize just how far they can go and never become very bad guys, just stay bad.


And maybe over the years we can increase the minimum requirements for dictators. The perfect is the enemy of the good or even the rather very mediocre. But considering the qualities of many of the regimes in the world, this might still be worth shooting for.