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Whether or not the quip is apocryphal, it sums up a longstanding Western approach to much of the world – and one that underpinned U.S. foreign policy throughout the Cold War.But lately an even more troubling sentiment seems to have emerged, with Western leaders willing to settle not for "our son of a bitch," but for just about any son of a bitch who can impose stability, whatever the cost.Experience should have pushed Western leaders in the opposite direction. As the Bulgarian political analyst Ivan Krastev recently noted, Putin – a longtime ally of Assad – is doing his best to promote the idea that Western efforts to promote good governance lead only to volatility.The desire for human dignity and respect – the cornerstones of good governance – cannot be quelled, especially at a time when people have unprecedented access to information through the Internet and mobile technologies.So good governance is the key to long-term stability. But, like stability, good governance cannot be imposed from the outside; rather, it must develop organically, supported by sturdy roots within a society.On the contrary, by helping to cultivate a strong civil society at the local and national levels, external forces can play an important role in creating a strong foundation for good governance in crisis-stricken countries.
American power without wisdom, a risky road
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