“Promoting democracy to Arabs,” he added, “is coming to be regarded in this country as the ultimate fool’s errand.”
Instead of the personal freedoms cherished in the United States, he says people in the Middle East are working off a different model in which they are more protective of collective freedoms, such as the right to speak their language, if not the freedom of speech.
“Were the United States to champion those kinds of freedoms, it would have greater resonance than perhaps the single championing of elections,” said Mr. Kramer.
He believes the countries with the most stability in the region, such as Egypt and Jordan, practice a form of government in which a de facto bargain has been reached between a central power and the people in which there are no elections, but the rulers guarantee security and stability, recognize some collective rights, and limit their intrusions into the lives of law-abiding people.
In another panel on June 5, 2007 at the Prague conference on “Democracy and Security: Core Values and Sound Policies,” Mr. Kramer delivered a speech that he fashioned as a direct challenge to Mr. Bush, who was set to deliver his own remarks in the same room hours later, and challenged the Bush doctrine’s core tenant that democracy promotion ultimately serves the interests of America’s national security.
“Democracy competes not against them, but against this consensual authoritarianism,” Mr. Kramer said in Prague. “And the reason democracy is losing that competition is that consensual authoritarianism produces security for its peoples, and exports security to its neighbors and the world.”
Mr. Bush, in his remarks later that day at the same conference, took an opposite view.
“Still, some argue that a safer goal would be stability, especially in the Middle East,” said Mr. Bush. “The problem is that pursuing stability at the expense of liberty does not lead to peace–it leads to September the 11th, 2001. The policy of tolerating tyranny is a moral and strategic failure. It is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.”
Mr. Giuliani has long supported the administration’s rationale for going into Iraq, saying that the Sept. 11 attacks made it clear that the United States had to move off the “defense” and go on the “offense.” But he has since sought to put at least a small measure of distance between himself and the White House by criticizing the tactical mistakes made in the war’s prosecution.
Mr. Kramer, who supported the war, goes further in criticizing the Bush administration, saying that every one of the president’s stated reasons for attacking—the weapons of mass destruction, the introduction of free elections and, especially, the alleged ties to Sept. 11—was flawed.
“I believed like others and I still believe that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11,” said Mr. Kramer.
Asked if Mr. Kramer’s role as a Giuliani campaign advisor reflected a break with the president on the idea of liberating the Middle East from non-democratic governments, Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for the Giuliani campaign, said in an e-mail, “The Foreign Affairs piece speaks for itself where the Mayor speaks to achieving the ultimate, long-term goal of democracy.”
The area where Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Kramer are most in sync, and the area in which they seem closest to the neo-conservatism of the Bush administration, is their shared belief, as Mr. Giuliani likes to say, that there is a “terrorists’ war on us” and that America faces an “Islamic fascist” enemy.
“I call it a vision, a big idea,” said Mr. Kramer. “The idea in the Middle East or Arab Islamic world is to be free of the restraints that are presently imposed on it by American power. If you look at what these organizations what they say to themselves, it doesn’t matter if it is Al Qaeda or Iran, obviously they are different strands but different strands of the same grand idea, which is that Islam does not enjoy the dominant power that it enjoyed throughout most of history and it should rightfully enjoy again.”
Asked whether Mr. Giuliani, whom he hopes to meet next month at Harvard, truly understands that threat, Mr. Kramer seemed certain.
“It is one of the things he gets,” he said. “He also understands that this is a long-term struggle.”