Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Trade as a cure-all: The idea that free trade with despotic regimes -- bringing to their people more wealth, democratic ideas and a glimpse of what freedom is -- will somehow, eventually, undermine the ruling elite is an idea embraced by many on both sides of the political spectrum.
There's just one problem: There's little evidence that it actually works.
In his column today, The New York Times Nicholas Kristof champions this idea as the way to undermine the mullahocracy in Iran and dissuade the terrorist-supporting regime from pursuing nuclear weapons.
So we should vigorously pursue a "grand bargain" in which, among other elements, Iran maintains its freeze on uranium enrichment and we establish diplomatic relations and encourage business investment, tourism and education exchanges.
"What would destroy the conservatives [in Iran] would be a money flood" of American investment, says Hooshang Amirahmadi, the president of the American Iranian Council. "In just a few years, the conservatives would be finished."
Unfortunately, this appears to be little more than wishful thinking.
For the past 30+ years, we have taken a similar path with China. Ever since President Richard Nixon went to China, Americans have flooded the country with foreign investment.
An unknown number, but believed to be in the thousands, of pro-Democracy students and others killed at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
A rollback of freedoms in Hong Kong, in violation of promises made to the people of Hong Kong prior to the British handover of the colony.
The theft of nuclear weapons secrets and missile technology from the United States.
Illegal funding of political campaigns in the United States in an effort to influence elections.
The forcing down of a U.S. surveillance plane in international waters and detaining the crew in violation of international law.
Repeated and systematic violations of the U.N. Charter with regard to refugees from North Korea.
Denial of the right of people to practice religion freely.
And today, threats against the democratically elected leader of Taiwan.
This is the model that Kristof would have us follow?