More of This, Please
CNN.com reports a trip by Donald Rumsfeld to strengthen ties with North African nations. It seems odd that SecDef is making the trip, rather than SecState, but whatever. North Africa has a huge role to play in the War on Terror, and the more conflicts we disarm through peaceful means (e.g. Lybia, Lebanon) the fewer we'll have to deal with militarily (e.g. Iran, Syria).
The indispensable Nouri takes issue with some elements in the two versions of the story he links: first, that Rumsfeld called Tunisia a democracy and the reporter didn't mention Tunisian human rights violations, and second that Rumsfeld was insufficiently open with the Algerians.
"Rumsfeld wouldn't answer when asked if the United States would stop cooperating with Algeria if the government refused to make further reforms, or would cooperate more in the case that the government accelerated reforms. So then, the United States isn't seeking to make ties with a "New Algeria" in which human rights matters and the military is acountable to the people, rather than the other way around. ... Basically, it doesn't matter if Algeria reforms, just that Algeria can help the US in finding Saharan terrorists and erradicating them."
His criticism is valid, because the whole point of Bush's Middle Eastern adventure is to substitute political freedom and stability for tyranny, not just to capture certain terrorists. If we want to take out the next generation of terrorists right now, give the people free and fair elections. But on the other hand, when Nouri complains that "Only the military relationship matters," again, this is Donald Rumsfeld. He's the guy in charge of the military. Condi Rice is the diplomat.
Anyway, it's a positive development, even if an imperfect one. We need to see more of this.