Endringene i Midtøsten får mange observatører til å stille spørsmål ved vedtatte sannheter om USAs utenrikspolitikk. Amerikanske American Enterprise Institute (AEI) utgir nå et temanummer om endringene. Hvordan tenker Bush-administrasjonen – «What makes them tick?», er interessant og ofte lite nyansert gjengitt i europeiske medier
In the Middle East, a New World
«It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of
-Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt, in the Washington Post
«A long-frozen political order seems to be cracking all over the
–New York Times editorial
«More-aggressive U.S. policies in the Middle East–from the invasion of Iraq to President Bush’s rhetoric about fostering democracy–are mingling with local politics to jostle once-unquestioned realities in the region.»
–Wall Street Journal news story
«As thousands of Arabs demonstrated for freedom and democracy…it was hard not to wonder whether the regional transformation that the Bush administration hoped would be touched off by its invasion of Iraq is beginning to happen…. Those who have declared the war an irretrievable catastrophe have been gloating for at least a year over the supposed puncturing of what they portray as President Bush’s fanciful illusion that democracy would take root in
–Washington Post column by Jackson Diehl
The bandwagon is starting to fill–and thank goodness for that.
Those of us who spent much of 2003 and 2004 urging Americans not to give up on Iraq can attest that those two years were stained with many harsh attacks, much niggling criticism, and abundant disdain for America’s aggressive efforts to reshape the dysfunctional governments of the Middle East into more humane and peaceful forms. From the very beginning, of course, the Bush administration’s left-wing enemies in the
But that’s politics. In
Everyday Americans also proved sturdier than our chattering class. They stayed with the fight long enough for some hard facts to emerge. Now some very good news is obvious to all who have eyes: We are not facing a popular revolt in
So here, at last, come the soldiers of the «me too» brigade. Even the French have joined in. They’re sending one man (yes, one) to help train Iraqi security forces. And he’s welcome. Victory is magnanimous.
I do not (as those of you who have read my books about the war know) claim that happy days are here again, that the future will bring nothing but a cheery whirl of American marshmallow roasts with the lovely people of the Middle East. For my entire lifetime, this has been the worst-governed part of the planet. Its economic policies are in a photo finish with
But that’s exactly why
Many daunting obstacles still lay ahead in the
Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese politican I quote welcoming democracy at the top of this essay, has periodically made nasty cracks about the
America’s struggle with incivility from the Middle East will continue in the years ahead, and we will have to hold our noses at times as the various countries in the region make their way from fascistic to freely elected governance. In
Nearly every Muslim country has a potentially troublesome extremist minority; in some of them it is big enough to influence the government. Even
But these sorts of shrieks and shouts are how democracies blow off steam and gradually fold discontented factions into national compromises. Demagogic politicians, newspaper lies, and popular conspiracy theories are part and parcel of life in every nation with free politics. Ever heard of Al Sharpton? Over the long run, I’ll say again, participatory government works as an antidote to political extremism, not an enabler.
I’ll never forget the day I received the results of
In a chapter of Dawn Over Baghdad titled «What Ordinary Iraqis Want,» including subsections «No Need for Nightmares,» «The Un-Fanatics,» and «Unpopular Insurgents,» I reiterated many of these points, and added observations (drawn from my time spent in Iraq’s Shiite southern half) on the relative moderation of Iraq’s majority Shias. Over the past year, AEI Islamic expert Reuel Gerecht has made many similar points. On page 40 of this issue, he contributes an encouraging analysis of Shiite intentions (the «$64,000 Question» of Iraqi politics). Alas, non-dire views like these were mostly ignored or discounted during the feeding frenzy of media negativity and defeatism that took hold shortly after the liberation of
Thankfully, the election finally exposed the falsity of claims that Iraqis were unwilling participants in
Not likely. It isn’t just that Iraqis have the benefit of knowing what a mess the clerics produced in
The man asked by Sistani to recruit election candidates, Hussein Shahrestani, is a nuclear physicist–hardly someone at cross purposes with modernity. After being tortured by Saddam, he escaped to
The forbearance that
While a replay of the Khomeini nightmare seems dubious, we should keep our expectations modest when it comes to the newly emerging politics of the Arab world. In particular, we need to give
Introducing democracy does not mean that other people must remake themselves in our image. Beyond respecting basic human dignities, Iraqis should have the right to shape their society as they see best–including basing it on traditional Islamic precepts if they choose. We in the West must not anathematize Islamic law; our goal should instead be to housebreak Islamic fundamentalism, to link it to democratic due process so that the potential for tyrannizing and bellicosity is tamed out of it.
The first Islamic democracies are not likely to be places where we would be tempted to take our kids for vacation. Even the friendliest ones will sometimes be rhetorically quite anti-American. Then again, so is
Besides, there are plenty of social questions where modern Western solutions may not necessarily be the best ones. If Islamic nations choose to ban pornography, if they want a different balance between work and leisure, if they prefer their own patterns of family life, Americans should be perfectly satisfied to let them follow an alternate path. There are some forms of «enlightenment» that other nations could be better off without, as this amusing anecdote from Deepak Lal’s new book In Praise of Empires indicates:
In 1995 I was staying in
Beijingwith the Indian ambassador to . China was hosting a U.N. Conference on Women, and the large number of female delegates were housed in a large tent city. One night the ambassador was woken by an agitated Chinese official asking him to rush to the tent city, as the Indian delegates were rioting. On getting there he found that the trouble began when some American delegates went into the tents of their Beijing Third Worldsisters and tried to initiate them into the joys of gay sex. With the Indians in the lead, the Third Worldwomen chased the American women out of their tents, beating them with their slippers.
In general, however, the
Of course the elections in
The fresh hope now pulsing through the
As I write this, amidst a beautiful March blizzard, I am gulping tea from a mug emblazoned with the shield of one of the
Luckily, our country had a leader willing to communicate this clearly, and the steeliness to shoulder the losses that come with any righteous war, exactly when we needed him. There were a thousand points where the democracy train now pulling into the
This is finally being acknowledged even by George Bush’s enemies: «The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance,» conceded the New York Times on March 1, 2005, with the concluding understatement that «there could have been no democratic elections in
That same week, Der Spiegel, the German weekly that two years ago was part of the European crusade against the
President Ronald Reagan’s visit to
Berlinin 1987 was, in many respects, very similar to President George W. Bush’s visit to on Wednesday…. The Mainz GermanyReagan was traveling in, much like today’s , was very skeptical of the American President and his foreign policy. When Reagan stood before the Germany Gate…and demanded that Gorbachev «tear down this Wall,» he was lampooned the next day on the editorial pages. He is a dreamer, wrote commentators…. Most experts agreed that his demand for the removal of the Wall was inopportune, utopian, and crazy. Yet three years later, Brandenburg had disappeared from the map…. Just a thought for Old East Germany Europeto chew on: Bush might be right, just like Reagan was then.
While we’re distributing credit, the next bouquet needs to go to the everyday people of the
The strength of the democratic impulse should never be underestimated. Again and again, liberty’s appeal has proved powerful enough to overcome great obstacles. Elites, professing to know how the masses really feel, have time and again predicted disillusionment with democracy and its abandonment by the citizens of poor nations. Yet, in the past decade, nearly all fledgling democracies have resisted slipping back into authoritarianism. As always in matters of liberty, ordinary people have proved far wiser, and infinitely more patient, than intellectuals. Today’s emerging democracies have shown remarkable resilience under harsh conditions. The voters in these poor and incomplete democracies seem to have grasped–as have few journalists or experts–the essence of Isaiah
Berlin‘s adage: « is liberty, not equality, or justice, or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience.» Democracy itself, even amidst hardship, is cherished by consistent and solid majorities. Liberty
Today’s snobs are just the latest in a long train of doubters of ordinary citizens. Almost 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln battled such men while campaigning for the Senate. In a speech that has been wonderfully preserved in handwritten form, with
Most governments have been based, practically, on the denial of the equal rights of men…Ours began by affirming those rights.
They said some men are too ignorant and vicious to share in government. Possibly so, said we; and by your system, you would always keep them ignorant and vicious.
We proposed to give all a chance; and we expected the weak to grow stronger, the ignorant wiser, and all better, and happier together.
That’s a pointed endorsement of the power of democratic self-responsibility to elevate both individuals and societies. And it’s as relevant to today’s Middle East as it was to slaveholding
Of course, good everyday citizens will only raise their hands if someone first suppresses the bullies in their midst. The reason reformers in the Middle East are finally coming out of the woodwork is because, as a Washington Post column recently acknowledged, «the new U.S. democratization policy, far from being an unwanted imposition, has given them a voice, an audience, and at least a partial shield against repression–three things they didn’t have a year ago.» Which brings us to our third set of heroes:
There is little grandeur in that work. No one gets wealthy doing it. Some of the servicemen have only a hazy notion of the deeper stakes they are fighting for.
But those who reported for duty, including many who suffered and died, are now being paid in the transcendent coin of having created one of history’s turning points. Look again at the cover of this magazine. That simple flat map depicts tens of millions of human lives in the process of radical transformation. Those black voids represent dark breeding grounds of terror and economic destruction and mass homicide–and nearly every one of them is now in the process of brightening. This we owe to our GIs.
Many others are in their debt as well. Though his words got little attention from the
Karl Zinsmeister is TAE editor in chief.
Whatever we have achieved in Afghanistan–the peace, the election, the reconstruction, the life that the Afghans are living today in peace, the children going to school, the businesses, the fact that Afghanistan is again a respected member of the international community–is from the help that the United States of America gave us. Without that help,
would be in the hands of terrorists–destroyed, poverty-stricken, and without its children going to school or getting an education. We are very, very grateful, to put it in the simple words that we know, to the people of the Afghanistan for bringing us this day. United States of America
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