Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Middle East Embraces Democracy

From the Opinion Journal section of the Wall Street Journal:

"George W. Bush has unleashed a tsunami on this region," a shrewd Kuwaiti merchant who knows the way of his world said to me. The man had no patience with the standard refrain that Arab reform had to come from within, that a foreign power cannot alter the age-old ways of the Arabs.

"Everything here--the borders of these states, the oil explorations that remade the life of this world, the political outcomes that favored the elites now in the saddle--came from the outside. This moment of possibility for the Arabs is no exception." A Jordanian of deep political experience at the highest reaches of Arab political life had no doubt as to why history suddenly broke in Lebanon, and could conceivably change in Syria itself before long. "The people in the streets of Beirut knew that no second Hama is possible; they knew that the rulers were under the gaze of American power, and knew that Bush would not permit a massive crackdown by the men in Damascus."

My informant's reference to Hama was telling: It had been there in 1982, in that city of the Syrian interior, that the Baathist-Alawite regime had broken and overwhelmed Syrian society. Hama had been a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood, a fortress of the Sunni middle class. It had rebelled, and the regime unleashed on it a merciless terror. There were estimates that 25,000 of its people perished in that fight. Thenceforth, the memory of Hama hung over the life of Syria--and Lebanon. But the people in the plazas of Beirut, and the Syrian intellectuals who have stepped forth to challenge the Baathist regime, have behind them the warrant, and the green light, of American power and protection. To venture into the Arab world, as I did recently over four weeks in Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Iraq, is to travel into Bush Country. I was to encounter people from practically all Arab lands, to listen in on a great debate about the possibility of freedom and liberty.

I met Lebanese giddy with the Cedar Revolution that liberated their country from the Syrian prison that had seemed an unalterable curse. They were under no illusions about the change that had come their way. They knew that this new history was the gift of an American president who had put the Syrian rulers on notice.

The speed with which Syria quit Lebanon was astonishing, a race to the border to forestall an American strike that the regime could not discount. I met Syrians in the know who admitted that the fear of American power, and the example of American forces flushing Saddam Hussein out of his spider hole, now drive Syrian policy. They hang on George Bush's words in Damascus, I was told: the rulers wondering if Iraq was a crystal ball in which they could glimpse their future.

The weight of American power, historically on the side of the dominant order, now drives this new quest among the Arabs. For decades, the intellectual classes in the Arab world bemoaned the indifference of American power to the cause of their liberty. Now a conservative American president had come bearing the gift of Wilsonian redemption. For a quarter century the Pax Americana had sustained the autocracy of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak: He had posed as America's man on the Nile, a bulwark against the Islamists. He was sly and cunning, running afoul of our purposes in Iraq and over Israeli-Palestinian matters. He had nurtured a culture of antimodernism and anti-Americanism, and had gotten away with it.

Now the wind from Washington brought tidings: America had wearied of Mr. Mubarak, and was willing to bet on an open political process, with all its attendant risks and possibilities.

Read the rest.

TVD comments:

Our postmodern Western world is blind to the universe of possibilities. How the underqualified C-student child-of-privilege George W. Bush became the visionary of the Western World is beyond me. (The less prudent and worldly call it a miracle.)

(Pastorius note: Has anybody read Shakespeare's Henry IV?)

The phrase "reality-based community" became a self-definition for our friends on the left, in reaction to this quote from an anonymous White House staffer:

"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality...we'll act again, creating other new realities..."

Now, this was taken as some neo-con psychosis, but how different is it from Bobby Kennedy?

"There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask, 'Why?' I dream of things that never were, and ask 'Why not?'"

Actually, Bush didn't have the vainglory to dream of things that never were; more like he wanted to help the things that are blossom. The desire for freedom and to be rid of tyranny goes back to at least the ancient Greeks, and no doubt further.

I'm certain our real Vietnam mistake was that the Vietnamese were not offered freedom, only a slightly less abusive tyranny than that of the Viet Cong. All things considered, people go with the locals.

Bush's a belief in the "consent of the governed" means that he and his evil advisors have learned the lessons of history. The Cedar Revolution in Lebanon tells us about the hunger for freedom.

The assertion that Syria, still stuck in Thomas Hobbes' and Machiavelli's observation that might makes right (which it does when there are no decent people around), hasn't bathed the streets of Beirut with blood to preserve their little empire because they're afraid of George Bush rings true to me.

In 1982, the Syrians killed 25,000 people who hungered for freedom in one night(the "Hama"). The only difference I can see is that C-student cowboy George Dubya Chimp on the world stage, being as reality-based as all get-out.