If you could trade with a mortal enemy, would you do it “without preconditions”? Would you do it if the government of your trading partner deploys snipers against it own domestic protesters? Could you be certain you’d even get paid?
In a book published by State Department adviser Vali Nasr, a professor at Tufts University, trading without preconditions is precisely the course prescribed.
Last Tuesday night, PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley conducted an interview with Vali Nasr, now a US State Department adviser to Richard Holbrooke, himself a special State Department adviser on Pakistan and Afghanistan. Nasr was on the program to hawk his book, Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What it Will Mean for Our World.
The central thesis of Nasr’s book is that the Muslim world is changing, as evidenced by a growing middle class in Muslim countries.
Nasr believes where authoritarian Muslim governments have previously maintained a small middle class and closed economies, a new prosperous middle class is emerging in Muslim countries and is demanding access to global markets as well as the political and social liberalization that will inevitably follow.
Nasr believes that free markets will ultimately open up and stabilize Muslim countries.
Smiley was good enough to point out that the decline of the US middle class is an “interesting irony”, as he put it, in light of the fact that a growing Muslim middle class will be far more adept at bringing positive changes to a previously closed society.
As Jon Stewart joked in a September 22 interview of Nasr: “It’s so interesting that in the Muslim world, the middle class is now rising just as we here in the United States have decided to destroy ours”.
To Smiley, Nasr diplomatically offered this response:
“… stability, prosperity, and democracy needs a large middle class tied to the market. So, its decline in America is not a good thing and its absence in the Muslim world is not a good thing either.
“So, the Muslim world needs much more of that middle class that the United States has had for a very long time, and the United States needs to preserve that middle class in order to be able to maintain the stability of its democracy and the prosperity of its society.”
Nasr’s criticism of Muslim nations is that initiatives to aid the middle class must come from the middle class, not from “above,” as he put it.
To be fair, Nasr mentioned in the Jon Stewart interview that it is not recommended to open all closed economies, and that it is not advisable to open the toughest ones first. Presumably that would include Iran.
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation announced last Friday the formation of a new technology fund tasked to provide capital for technology businesses overseas for a variety of technology products, including information technology, telecommunications and pharmaceutical products, almost as if on cue.
“Without preconditions” may not be an acceptable standard for diplomatic relations when it comes to the use of private monies for investment.
The Obama administration has shown some incredible ineptness regarding domestic economic matters, and thus is apparently willing to try internationally the things we know will work, while shunning those very solutions at home.