March 8, 2005

Could It Be True?

In a recent article on the January 30 Iraqi elections, Bill Kristol notes:

History is best viewed in the rear-view mirror. It's hard to grasp the significance of events as they happen...

But sometimes not. Just four weeks after the Iraqi election of January 30, 2005, it seems increasingly likely that that date will turn out to have been a genuine turning point. The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, ended an era. September 11, 2001, ended an interregnum. In the new era in which we now live, 1/30/05 could be a key moment--perhaps the key moment so far--in vindicating the Bush Doctrine as the right response to 9/11. And now there is the prospect of further and accelerating progress.

Consider three surprising testimonials from this past week--one from the Old Middle East, one from Old Europe, the third from Old New York.

From the Middle East, listen to Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese Druze Muslim leader and member of parliament, formerly an accommodator of the Syrian occupation and no friend of the Bush administration or its predecessors.

It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. . . . The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.

...From Old Europe, listen to Claus Christian Malzahn of Der Spiegel, writing under the headline "Could George W. Bush Be Right?" Malzahn's answer: Perhaps.

President Ronald Reagan's visit to Berlin in 1987 was, in many respects, very similar to President George W. Bush's visit to Mainz on Wednesday. . . . The Germany Reagan was traveling in, much like today's Germany, was very skeptical of the American president and his foreign policy. When Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate--and the Berlin Wall--and demanded that Gorbachev "tear down this wall," he was lampooned the next day on the editorial pages. He is a dreamer, wrote commentators. Realpolitik looks different.

But history has shown that it wasn't Reagan who was the dreamer as he voiced his demand. Rather, it was German politicians who were lacking in imagination--a group who in 1987 couldn't imagine that there might be an alternative to a divided Germany…

Europeans today--just like the Europeans of 1987--cannot imagine that the world might change…

It was difficult not to cringe during Reagan's speech in 1987...At the end of it, most experts agreed that his demand for the removal of the wall was inopportune, utopian and crazy.

Yet three years later, East Germany had disappeared from the map…When analysts are confronted by real people, amazing things can happen. And maybe history can repeat itself…

Just a thought for Old Europe to chew on: Bush might be right, just like Reagan was then.

...As for Old New York, listen to Kurt Andersen in the February 21 New York magazine:

Our heroic and tragic liberal-intellectual capaciousness is facing its sharpest test since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Back then, most of us were forced, against our wills, to give Ronald Reagan a large share of credit for winning the Cold War. Now the people of this Bush-hating city are being forced to grant the merest possibility that Bush, despite his annoying manner and his administration's awful hubris and dissembling and incompetence concerning Iraq, just might--might, possibly--have been correct to invade, to occupy, and to try to enable a democratically elected government in Iraq...

It won't do simply to default to our easy predispositions--against Bush, even against war. If partisanship makes us abandon intellectual honesty, if we oppose what our opponents say or do simply because they are the ones saying or doing it, we become mere political short-sellers, hoping for bad news because it's good for our ideological investment.

A second article by a Bush opponent makes several interesting comments:

We need to face up to the fact that the Iraq invasion has intensified pressure for democracy in the Middle East...

...the US-led invasion of Iraq has changed the calculus in the region…

...[W]e have to say that the call for freedom throughout the Arab and Muslim world is a sound and just one - even if it is a Bush slogan and arguably code for the installation of malleable regimes. Put starkly, we cannot let ourselves fall into the trap of opposing democracy in the Middle East simply because Bush and Blair are calling for it. Sometimes your enemy's enemy is not your friend.

The Weekly Standard's latest issue has a series of interesting articles on these Middle Eastern developments (here, here, here, here, here, here).

President Bush gave a speech today at the National Defense University, where he reiterated his beliefs in the strategic calling of bringing freedom to oppressed people in the Middle East and beyond:

Our strategy to keep the peace in the longer term is to help change the conditions that give rise to extremism and terror, especially in the broader Middle East.

Parts of that region have been caught for generations in the cycle of tyranny and despair and radicalism.

When a dictatorship controls the political life of a country, responsible opposition cannot develop and dissent is driven underground and toward the extreme.

And to draw attention away from their social and economic failures, dictators place blame on other countries and other races and stir the hatred that leads to violence.

This status quo of despotism and anger cannot be ignored or appeased, kept in a box or bought off.

Because we have witnessed how the violence in that region can easily reach across borders and oceans, the entire world has an urgent interest in the progress and hope and freedom in the broader Middle East.

The advance of hope in the Middle East requires new thinking in the region.

By now it should be clear that authoritarian rule is not the wave of the future, it is the last gasp of a discredited past.

It should be clear that free nations escape stagnation and grow stronger with time because they encourage the creativity and enterprise of their people.

It should be clear that economic progress requires political modernization, including honest representative government and the rule of law.

And it should be clear that no society can advance with only half of its talent and energy. And that demands the full participation of women.

The advance of hope in the Middle East also requires new thinking in the capitals of great democracies, including Washington, D.C.

By now it should be clear that decades of excusing and accommodating tyranny in the pursuit of stability have only led to injustice and instability and tragedy.

It should be clear that the advance of democracy leads to peace because governments that respect the rights of their people also respect the rights of their neighbors.

It should be clear that the best antidote to radicalism and terror is the tolerance and hope kindled in free societies.

And our duty is now clear: For the sake of our long-term security, all free nations must stand with the forces of democracy and justice that have begun to transform the Middle East.

Encouraging democracy in that region is a generational commitment. It's also a difficult commitment, demanding patience and resolve when the headlines are good and when the headlines aren't so good…

Across the Middle East, a critical mass of events is taking that region in a hopeful new direction. Historic changes have many causes, yet these changes have one factor in common. A businessmen in Beirut recently said, "We have removed the mask of fear. We're not afraid anymore."

…We're also determined to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

This objective will not be achieved easily or all at once or primarily by force of arms. We know that freedom by definition must be chosen and that the democratic institutions of other nations will not look like our own.

Yet we also know that our security increasingly depends on the hope and progress of other nations now simmering in despair and resentment.

And that hope and progress is found only in the advance of freedom…

Yet the success of this approach does not depend on grand strategy alone. We are confident that the desire for freedom, even when repressed for generations, is present in every human heart.

And that desire can emerge with sudden power to change the course of history.

Americans, of all people, should not be surprised by freedom's power. A nation founded on the universal claim of individual rights should not be surprised when other people claim those rights.

Those who place their hope in freedom may be attacked and challenged, but they will not ultimately be disappointed, because freedom is the design of humanity and freedom is the direction of history…

Millions have gained their liberty and millions more have gained the hope of liberty that will not be denied. The trumpet of freedom has been sounded and that trumpet never calls retreat.

Before history is written in books, it is written in courage: the courage of honorable soldiers, the courage of oppressed peoples, the courage of free nations in difficult tasks.

Our generation is fortunate to live in a time of courage, and we are proud to serve in freedom's cause.


KelliPundit has posted an interesting article by Charles Krauthammer.

PowerLine highlights comments from both The Belmont Club and Austin Bay, which take a less optimistic view of current events in Lebanon.


Here is a further update on the latest in Lebanon and the broader implications for Syria and Iran.

The latest demonstration in Lebanon, calling for an end to Syrian occupation, was reported to have over 800,000 people in attendance.