Thoughts on regime change
One thing that struck me while I was pondering international politics yesterday is that, sometimes, it seems as if we feel that we can achieve democracy in other countries overnight. Fundamentally, I suppose the four-year (or eight-year) lifetime of an American president ensures that people won't consider the effects of a policy longer than 10 or so years down the road. But I think the fact that this misses is that it really does take an extraordinarily long time to achieve stable, productive regimes. Our own country was 150 years in the making, and even after getting our nice Constitution it wasn't like the country lived happily ever after afterwards. Now, it's certainly true that we can hope that maybe with the guidance of those who have already made it through, we can help the Third World countries reach our level more quickly, but I think that it is going to be a much slower process than anyone can hope, and in the middle of that process it's going to be pretty unpleasant.
Of course, while we forget that it took 400 years to bring our nation to the point where it is today, it's equally easy to forget that, just 60 years ago, the whole world was at war. It surprises me, reflecting on it sometimes, just how quickly people's mindsets have shifted from being a world at war to having known essentially nothing but peace. So this does give me hope that, if we can ever bring stable governments to the countries that need them, it will be possible to forget past hatreds and injustices. But maybe that's just the optimist in me speaking.