In the City Journal forthcoming essay, I, like Michael, try to emphasize that the sanctity of dissidents and promotion of democracy are critical in our requisites. But I do think that outside information has a destabilizing effect on societies like North Korea or Libya; greater access ipso facto won’t lead to constitutional government, but it worries autocrats all the same.
There have apparently been a number of plots against Qadhafi by Islamists, and the response is both to round them up-and also to start building mosques.
All sorts of theories abound why now the recent “liberalization” – worry over a fate similar to Saddam’s, the Westernization of some of his adult offspring, need for Western expertise to bulk up failing gas and oil production, anger at subsidized third-world revolutionaries who sold out and cut deals with the West, realization that the 50 billion barrels in known oil reserves, ancient sites, and proximity to Europe are an untapped gold mine,etc.
But the bottom line is that you can’t ask Americans to die in Anbar or the Hindu Kush for democracy, and then resort to realpolitik by giving a pass to Qadhafi to liquidate democratic reformers who took us at our word. The latter is a real worry since all of a sudden the current muscular support for democracy is, as a result of Iraq, being demonized, both by the realist Right, and the soft-power, pie-in-the-sky, if it isn’t perfect, it’s not good Left.