07/05/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bush Waves a White Flag

President Bush has surrendered the rationalization that he used for seven years as a fig leaf to cover his limp foreign policy. By removing North Korea from the list of terrorist supporting states and by lifting sanctions imposed on it for decades, Bush put a nail in the coffin of the Neo Con theory. Bush started his misbegotten administration with the Neo Con theory that only democratic states make reliable partners in peace. He embraced Fukuyama's rosy prediction that history was ending as nation after nation was embracing our kind of politics. Bush and company then claimed that they were out to accelerate history by sending the US military, the CIA, and mercenaries to change those regimes that did not rush along. North Korea was at the top of the list of the three regimes to be changed one way or the other.

Now Bush is acting to shore up the North Korean communist totalitarian regime in exchange for its promise to give up its program of producing and selling nuclear arms. He finally, during his waning days, is turning to the sensible position that if a nation is willing to give up its weapons of mass destruction, it should be encouraged, rewarded, and appreciated. (For more arguments in support of this approach, and for more details, see Security First [Yale 2007] here).

The same approach has been applied, with great success but much more reluctantly, in dealing with Libya. Here too, the nefarious regime gave up its support for terrorism and allowed the US and its allies much more than to just inspect its WMD program -- it allowed the program to be shut down and the hardware involved to be shipped out.

None of this entails giving up our soul for more security. We do not have the troops or even the stomach to invade more and more countries in order to change their regimes, and when we try to democratize nations by the use of force, most times we make unholy, bloody mess. We need to leave such changes to the locals and help them, through non-violent means, when they ask for it, as those in Zimbabwe do.

Meanwhile, all I can say about Bush is better very late than never. And now try the same thing in dealing with Iran -- before we get down to blows.

Amitai Etzioni is a professor of International Affairs at The George Washington University and the author of Security First: For a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy. To contact him, write