Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Condi's Euro-Mideast trip update

By Dawn's Early Light (via Roger L. Simon) has a solid round-up of Condi Rice's tour through Europe and the Middle East. What caught my eye was this comment from Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul during a presser with Rice:

"And I would just say to the countries of the Middle East that we recognize, and President Bush recognized when he was at Whitehall in Great Britain, that for too many years administrations, Democratic and Republican, were not sufficiently attentive to the aspirations of the people of the Middle East to live in freedom and liberty."

Not to toot my own horn, but was Messr. Gul reading my columns from Penn State?

From my 8 December 2003 column in the Centre Daily Times Blue (State College, PA) on President Bush's visit UK visit Gul is referring to, I wrote:

"In an honest attempt to earn the trust of skeptical Europeans and an even more skeptical Muslim populace that still sees the United States as hypocrites for our past policies, the president declared that, 'We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East. Your nation and mine in the past have been willing to make a bargain: to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Long-standing ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold.' And that failure was finally recognized on September 11, 2001."

And from my 28 October 2004 column in Penn State's Daily Collegian, I referenced Bush's Whitehall speech again:

"But the most telling part of the address was when the president acknowledged America's and Britain's 'decades of failed policy in the Middle East.' This failed policy, of course, was our longtime coziness with authoritarian dictators, choosing 'to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. The president added, 'Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold.' And ultimately, these 'problems' and 'ideologies of violence' manifested themselves into what we watched the morning of Sept. 11."

Yeah, I said basically the same thing twice, but the point must be made. Critics of Bush's democracy promotion plan love to say how the U.S. has supported dictators in the past, which, in their minds, means we really don't intend to spread democracy today - the flowery rhetoric is only a cover for other nefarious, more sinister reasons like siphoning Middle East oil or colonizing the poor Arab people. To the critics' dismay, the Iraqi elections (along with those in Afghanistan and Palestine) prove that our support for the establishment of representative government in the Arab-Muslim world is sincere. And we do so not only for the benefit of the Arab-Muslim world, but for our own national security as the opportunities in a democratic society provide a viable and hopeful alternative to radical Islam's call to jihad.

It's an unsettling mystery to me why Democrats and liberals in the U.S. and their counterparts in Europe can't comprehend this new reality because U.S. policy now promotes and send troops into battle for the very causes that are so near and dear to their left-leaning hearts: tolerance, human rights (and woman's rights, for that matter), and freedom. Honest liberals like Sen. Joe Lieberman, Thomas Friedman, and Christopher Hitchens understand this vision and their voice from the other side of the aisle is vital to our public debate on this issue. We're still waiting for the Howard Dean-Michael Moore crowd to hop on the democracy train, but my gut says they'd rather be left behind at the station.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your prior posts are on the money! I had missed Bush's Whitehall speech in the news (not too suprising there). I think you are right that what WAS United States policy of supporting allies regardless of their government structure is not policy today.

I hope we see substantive change in the Middle East after the Iraqi elections, especially if it motivates the Iranians.

Kind regards,

Dawn's Early Light

8:50 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

Bill, thanks for your kind words.

I am pretty sure the shift in American policy today is having its effect other Muslim-Arab countries, as their citizens recently observed their Iraqi neighbors plant the seeds for a democratic society. A big reason for this is that America is actually doing what it says it was going to do. As for Iran, I know the democrats there are just waiting for the right moment to rid themselves of the mullahs' theocratic rule.

You should check out Azar Nafisi's "Reading Lolita in Tehran" (if you haven't already done so) to get an amazing and inspiring look into the voices of progress and hope in Iran. It reassures you that this freedom thing we have is really something special.


3:14 PM  

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