If America could be magically granted its ideal Muslim strategic partner, what would we ask for? Would we want a country that fell in line with every U.S. foreign policy stance? Not if the regime was to have any credibility with the Islamic world. No, ideally, the government would be just Islamist enough to be seen as preserving the nation's religious and cultural identity, even as it aggressively modernized its society and connected its economy to the larger world. It would have an activist foreign policy that emphasized diplomacy, multilateralism and regional stability, while also maintaining sufficient independence from America to demonstrate that it was not Washington's proxy, but rather a confident great power navigating the currents of history. In sum, it would serve as an example to its co-religionists of how a Muslim state can progressively improve itself amid globalization's deepening embrace -- while remaining a Muslim state.
But let's not stop there. If we're honest with ourselves, we'd also want our ideal Muslim strategic partner to be able to advance American interests in ways we could not. For example, it might:
- Bravely pioneer a thoughtful reinterpretation of the Quran, updating the Prophet Muhammad's message for the modern age.
- Righteously confront the Israelis for their shabby treatment of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, putting its money where its mouth is by promoting job-creation schemes in those occupied territories.
- Reach out diplomatically to Iran over its nuclear program, while subtly balancing Tehran's corrosive influence throughout the Middle East.
- Do its best to co-opt Syria with the "soft kill" of economic opportunity.
- Be a responsible steward of Iraq's stability, offering the connective tissue of substantial investment flows.
- Quietly buttress our "reset" with Russia and our legacy operations in the Balkans.
- Commit its peacekeeping troops to both southern Lebanon and Afghanistan, reaching out to the Taliban to promote reconciliation in the latter case.
- Support infrastructure development in the restive Caucasus and in Central Asia to link those developing economies to the West.
- And make all these efforts while tamping down historical grievances with its neighbors, thus establishing its non-imperial, non-zero-sum bona fides.