Where did the democratic movements go?
In the Middle East the momentum towards democracy has slowed. The Saudis have stopped after their first round of municipal elections. Mubarak’s dictatorship has retrenched and renewed its campaign against Egyptian bloggers and democracy activists. Iraq’s government is caught up in Shiite politics. Iran is a horror show. Pakistan’s current move towards reform seems designed to install dual civilian and military tyrants to replace an all-in-one civilian/military tyrant. Lebanon suffered from war after HizbAllah provoked retaliation from Israel last summer, fought Al Qaeda terrorists in refugee camps this summer, and is now falling under increasing Syrian and HizbAllah domination. Syria’s dictator received a visit from a veiled Nancy Pelosi this year and is secure in his power. And the Palestinean people in Gaza and the West Bank are ruled by feuding terrorist gangs, neither one of which tolerates free speech.
It behooves us to recall the purpose behind talk of democratization in the Middle East. Democratization was the raison d’etre for the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein and his National Socialist Baath party. But it was never treated by the incompetent big media as more than a catchphrase. Let us consult Natan Sharansky, whose The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror inspired George W. Bush’s vision of a democratic Middle East.
From an interview in Mother Jones with Natan Sharansky (emphasis mine):
MOTHER JONES: What specific steps would you like to see U.S. and Israel take to promote democracy in the Middle East?
NATAN SHARANSKY: Well, I think, the main steps are already in action. American and Israeli leaders have only to believe that democracy is possible. Everybody agrees that there must be some major, material contribution to help Palestinians to build their society. It must be clear that this contribution, this assistance, this legitimacy which is given to the Palestinian Authority will be given only if they themselves give economic freedom to their people, permit dissent, make sure that they’re improving the difficult conditions in which their people are living, start dismantling refugee camps and stop inciting hatred in the schools. In general, for the Middle East, I think what is important is that the leaders of the free world see that their allies are the dissidents who are concerned with status of freedom in their countries, rather than the dictators who are concerned with keeping their own people under control. And if the message of the free world is clear and strong, the changes will happen very quickly.
A more recent interview with Sharansky relates his opinion on how the democratization project has gone so far:
Sharansky, the former Prisoner of Zion who currently chairs the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, told The Jerusalem Post Thursday: “I have to give Bush credit, because he brought back the agenda of linking security and democracy, which was abandoned by the free world after the defeat of the Soviet Union. [But] what makes it hard for him to implement it is that he’s so lonely.
“Many politicians and institutions that should be promoting democracy and freedom are cynically reluctant to do it, because Bush raised the agenda,” Sharansky went on. “That’s why I give Bush an “A” for raising the idea, a “C” for implementation and I give his opponents, who abandoned the idea, an “F,” because they are attacking Bush not for inconsistency in implementing the agenda but for raising it. Their approach denies the people of the Middle East the ability to live in freedom.”
Sharansky, who has come a long way since he was imprisoned by the Soviet Union, saw the Soviet Union collapse under pressure from Reagan and others (including Pope John Paul II) to democratize. And he believes that Arabs are no less able to thrive under freedom and democracy than are the Russians and the former satellite nations of the Soviet Union. This is a path that leads towards hope for the Middle East. Let us not abandon it, no matter how narrow and rocky the path, or how pleasant and broad appears the path to appeasement of dictators, for in the end when free nations appease tyrants they end up with terrorists attacking them.
H/T: Chicago Boyz