A friend pointed out Arnaud de Borchgrave’s early February UPI interview with Singapore’s elder statesman Lee Kwan-yew. It’s a fascinating piece, thanks in no part to the breadth of the issues discussed but also the frankness of the discussion. Lee’s thoughts on Taiwan, the decline of “statesmanship,” new technologies, and capitalism are sure to provoke, but I was interested in his pick for president in 2008:
Of all the candidates who will inherit the [Iraq] problem, I prefer John McCain. He will see this thing through. Walking away from it would also have disastrous consequences. If Afghanistan is a failed state, it’s not your fault. No one has ever made sense out of it. But if you leave Iraq in its present state, you will have even bigger problems throughout the entire Middle East. The Shiites will get together. The Iraqi Shia will become dependent on Iran, and the Iranians will have mastery of that critically important Gulf area.
Massive “Clash of Civilizations” headfake or a real endorsement? You tell me.
While I’m not sure of McCain’s relative prowess in building a stable Iraq, and I dislike some of his recent rhetoric on the subject, I tend to agree that we have a moral duty to try and fix Iraq and that a quick withdrawal abdicates that duty. It’s just too bad for McCain (or Obama or Hillary) that Iraq doesn’t have its own Lee Kwan-yew to run the place when we need. I’ve a feeling that Iraq will need a period of efficient soft authoritarianism (think MacArthur in Japan) before democracy can truly flourish along the Tigris and Euphrates.
Anyways, read the rest of the interview with Lee — it’s highly recommended.