Friday, March 04, 2005
We Don't Need "Europe"
Bush was trying to sell the Europeans on "freedom" and "liberty." The BBC reported that in one speech he used the former 22 times and the latter five times. He can repeat them a million times, but they are unlikely to influence the Europeans. They know him for what he is, and no amount of pontificating will change their minds on philosophical concepts tailored and shaped long before this administration was born.
And while liberals and academics in this country whine and moan along with France and Germany the world is changing; leaving them behind:
It is a region known for rulers and despots, where power passes from father to son and opposition is silenced by the secret police.
Yet in the space of only a few weeks the Arab world has experienced a political upheaval that could signal a Levantine revolution in democracy like the collapse of the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe 16 years ago.
Bush deserves at least some credit here, if we are to be honest:
Even so, it cannot be escaped: the US-led invasion of Iraq has changed the calculus in the region. The Lebanese protesters are surely emboldened by the knowledge that Syria is under heavy pressure, with US and France united in demanding its withdrawal. That pressure carries an extra sting if Damascus feels that the latest diplomatic signals - including Tony Blair's remark yesterday that Syria had had its "chance" but failed to take it and Condoleezza Rice's declaration that the country was "out of step with where the region is going" - translate crudely as "You're next".
Similar thinking is surely at work in the decisions of Iran and Libya on WMD and Saudi Arabia and Egypt on elections. Put simply, President Bush seems like a man on a mission to spread what he calls the "untamed fire of freedom" - and these Arab leaders don't want to get burned.
In answering critics of Bush's Middle East policy I commented that going into Iraq was the right thing to do. We take out Iraq, an easier proposition than say Iran, and the seeds of freedom and liberty are planted. So what has Iraq gotten us? In part, events in Iraq have led to promising changes in Lebanon, Syria, Libya and even Saudi Arabia of all places. As Mark Steyn notes:
Consider just the past couple of days' news: not the ever more desperate depravity of the floundering "insurgency", but the real popular Arab resistance the car-bombers and the head-hackers are flailing against: the Saudi foreign minister, who by remarkable coincidence goes by the name of Prince Saud, told Newsweek that women would be voting in the next Saudi election. "That is going to be good for the election," he said, "because I think women are more sensible voters than men."
Four-time Egyptian election winner - and with 90 per cent of the vote! - President Mubarak announced that next polling day he wouldn't mind an opponent. Ordering his stenographer to change the constitution to permit the first multi-choice presidential elections in Egyptian history, His Excellency said the country would benefit from "more freedom and democracy". The state-run TV network hailed the president's speech as a "historical decision in the nation's 7,000-year-old march toward democracy". After 7,000 years on the march, they're barely out of the parking lot, so Mubarak's move is, as they say, a step in the right direction.
Meanwhile in Damascus, Boy Assad, having badly overplayed his hand in Lebanon and after months of denying that he was harbouring any refugee Saddamites, suddenly discovered that - wouldja believe it? - Saddam's brother and 29 other bigshot Baghdad Baathists were holed up in north-eastern Syria, and promptly handed them over to the Iraqi government.
And, for perhaps the most remarkable development, consider this report from Mohammed Ballas of Associated Press: "Palestinians expressed anger on Saturday at an overnight suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed four Israelis and threatened a fragile truce, a departure from former times when they welcomed attacks on their Israeli foes."
And now back to the task at hand. Freedom and liberty might be ridiculous notions to El-Kihia, the French, and the Germans, but as events are proving, they mean a lot to people around the world who don't have them. As usual, the United States has given hope to oppressed people around the world, this time in the Middle East. This fact still alludes Dr. El-Kikhia. A few other points about the El-Kikhia article; take a look at these two sentences:
1. They started the democracy-and-civilized-behavior game earlier and have played it longer.
2. It was, after all, the Europeans who coined "La mission civilatrice."
Amazingly, in just two sentences he makes two errors! First, he says "they [the Europeans] have played it longer; however, I don't think there is a European democracy that pre-dates the US Constitution of 1789. Secondly, there is no French word "civilatrice," the correct word is "civilisatrice."
Finally, a word to my wise brethren on the right---don't gloat. Events are happening fast in the Middle East right now and the outcome is by no means guaranteed to be favorable.