Onward neocon soldiers.
We have been noting the impossible-not-to-note rise in President Bush’s stock of late — domestically and even more dramatically in the international arena — due to felicitous democratic movement in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Egypt, Qatar and even Saudi Arabia, as well as unprecedented unanimity in condemnation of Syria for its occupation and manipulation of Lebanon.
But is it Bush himself, or the Bush Doctrine of fostering democracy abroad that is really on the rise? And if it is the latter (as I think it is), then we are really talking about the rehabilitation of the so-called neocons and in particular Paul Wolfowitz. David Brooks thinks so too:
- Let us now praise Paul Wolfowitz. Let us now take another look at the man who has pursued – longer and more forcefully than almost anyone else – the supposedly utopian notion that people across the Muslim world might actually hunger for freedom.
….with political earthquakes now shaking the Arab world, it’s time to step back and observe that over the course of his long career – in the Philippines, in Indonesia, in Central and Eastern Europe, and now in the Middle East – Wolfowitz has always been an ardent champion of freedom.
….”It’s fascinating how many echoes this is going to have,” [Wolfowitz] said. “The Iraqi election is an inspiration. It’s going to be a real challenge to all absolute rulers.”
He went on to suggest that American democracy-promotion could now get back onto its preferred course. Iraq, he said, was the outlier. “Iraq is exceptional because of the use of the U.S. military,” he observed.
Normally, the U.S. plays the supporting role. For example, Americans can usefully raise the profile of dissidents so dictators feel less inclined to kill them. Wolfowitz was the first U.S. official to meet with Corazón Aquino. The U.S. can use its access to dictators to pressure and annoy them. [NY Times]
Exactly, and that is just what the administration is doing now – RIGHT now, in fact (see below).
Iraq was the jolt to the system of the Middle East, the enema it needed to get things flowing. We must help keep up the pressure, we must keep front-loading the system so to speak; but having done so once, we hopefully will not have to do the explosive obstruction-removal on the back-end of the system again in the near-to-medium future. Once the digestive system starts really flowing of its own accord, there’s no stopping it.
Bush kept hammering away at the Syrian occupation of Lebanon yet again today in a rousing speech at the National Defense University:
- Across the Middle East, a critical mass of events is taking that region in a hopeful new direction. Historic changes have many causes, yet these changes have one factor in common. A businessman in Beirut recently said, “We have removed the mask of fear. We’re not afraid anymore.” Pervasive fear is the foundation of every dictatorial regime — the prop that holds up all power not based on consent. And when the regime of fear is broken, and the people find their courage and find their voice, democracy is their goal, and tyrants, themselves, have reason to fear.
History is moving quickly, and leaders in the Middle East have important choices to make. The world community, including Russia and Germany and France and Saudi Arabia and the United States has presented the Syrian government with one of those choices — to end its nearly 30-year occupation of Lebanon, or become even more isolated from the world. The Lebanese people have heard the speech by the Syrian president. They’ve seen these delaying tactics and half-measures before. The time has come for Syria to fully implement Security Council Resolution 1559. All Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel must withdraw before the Lebanese elections, for those elections to be free and fair.
The elections in Lebanon must be fully and carefully monitored by international observers. The Lebanese people have the right to determine their future, free from domination by a foreign power. The Lebanese people have the right to choose their own parliament this spring, free of intimidation. And that new government will have the help of the international community in building sound political, economic, and military institutions, so the great nation of Lebanon can move forward in security and freedom.
Today I have a message for the people of Lebanon: All the world is witnessing your great movement of conscience. Lebanon’s future belongs in your hands, and by your courage, Lebanon’s future will be in your hands. The American people are on your side. Millions across the earth are on your side. The momentum of freedom is on your side, and freedom will prevail in Lebanon.
America and other nations are also aware that the recent terrorist attack in Tel Aviv was conducted by a radical Palestinian group headquartered in Damascus. Syria, as well as Iran, has a long history of supporting terrorist groups determined to sow division and chaos in the Middle East, and there is every possibility they will try this strategy again. The time has come for Syria and Iran to stop using murder as a tool of policy, and to end all support for terrorism.
Say amen, brother! Dude has issues with speaking off the cuff, but he can sing a prepared speech with the best of them. And mincing words he was not: this is indeed “keeping up the pressure.”
But please, dear God, let us not get ahead of ourselves (once again) and declare victory at the beginning of a long campaign. Bill Clinton’s National Security Adviser Sandy Berger spoke words of wisdom to the Washington Post:
- “What’s happening in the Middle East is both hopeful and precarious” … Homegrown pressure for change combined with the purple-fingered success of the Iraqi elections “have raised the heartbeat of reform in the region. It’s still a very tenuous situation. There’s obviously both hope and danger.”
….”We’re getting ahead of ourselves,” said Mara Rudman, senior vice president for strategic planning at the Center for American Progress. And the more Bush takes credit, she added, the more counterproductive it will be to genuine popular movements that do not want to be associated with Americans. “Frankly, if we really care about helping the forces of reform in the region, the best way to do it is without our fingerprints.”
….”This is going to take a great deal of intelligent handling,” said Edward Djerejian, a former ambassador to Syria and assistant secretary of state for the Near East. “We want the march to freedom to happen in the Middle East but we don’t want unintended consequences where in these changes the wrong people come to power. . . . That is not a formula for stasis. On the contrary, we should continue to encourage vigorously political and economic change.”
And yet, those voices of surprise and recognition of the moment of the recent developments in the region keep coming from the strangest places.
- Jon Stewart, a liberal talk show host on Comedy Central, raised the idea last week that maybe Bush was right. “This is the most difficult thing for me, because I don’t care for the tactics,” he said, “but I’ve got to say I’ve never seen results like this ever in that region.”
His guest, former Clinton national security aide Nancy Soderberg, author of a new book critical of Bush policy, generally agreed: “There is a wave of change going on, and if we can help ride it in the second term of the Bush administration, more power to them.”
- “Could George W. Bush Be Right?” asked Claus Christian Malzahn in the German newsweekly Der Spiegel. Essayist Guy Sorman asked last month in the Paris daily Le Figaro, “And If Bush Was Right?” In Canada, anti-war columnist Richard Gwyn of the Toronto Star answered: “It is time to set down in type the most difficult sentence in the English language. That sentence is short and simple. It is this: Bush was right.”
….Given Bush’s insistence that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq would lead to a democratic political order in the Middle East, many Europeans are “somewhat embarrassed” by these developments, Sorman wrote in Le Figaro.
“Hadn’t they promised, governments and media alike, that the Arab street would rise up [against U.S. military forces], that Islam would burn, that the American army would get bogged down, that the terrorist attacks would multiply, and that democracy would not result nor be exported?”
“These dramas did not occur,” Sorman says. “Either Bush is lucky, or it is too early to judge or [Bush’s] analysis was not false.”
Interesting construction, that.
- Rüdiger Lentz, Washington correspondent for the German broadcast network Deutsche Welle, wrote, “There have been many good reasons to criticize the messianic political style of Bush’s first term. But isn’t it time now to stop finger-pointing and bickering?”
“After all, one has to acknowledge that Afghanistan and Iraq might have been catalysts for what we see now happening in Lebanon, in Egypt and even between the Palestinians and Israel.”
In Germany, the economic daily Financial Times Deutschland accused Europeans of ignoring events in Lebanon. “It is bizarre that here in Germany, where the Berlin Wall once stood, this development (in Lebanon) is greeted with hardly a shrug,” according to a translation by Der Spiegel Web site. The paper borrowed a phrase from New Yorker columnist Kurt Andersen saying that Europe is engaging in political “short selling — hoping for bad news to back up the continent’s ‘ideological investment'” in opposing Bush.
“Short selling,” the paper concluded, “is an honorable strategy on the stock exchange but in terms of democracy, it is looking more and more like a major mistake. Indeed, it isn’t honorable at all.”
….”The Lebanese intifada has provided a strong model for the Arab world,” Kuttab writes in the West Bank-based Arabic Media Internet Network.”It has sent shock waves throughout the Arab world,” he says, noting that many Arabs had given up on the possibility of peaceful and patriotic democratic movements.
….Rami G. Khouri, editor and columnist for the Daily Star in Beirut says … “The urgent, significant, unprecedented political reality” is that ordinary Arabs and the U.S. government “share mutually advantageous common goals,” he writes. Those goals include replacing dictatorships, forging a just Israeli-Palestinian peace and establishing diplomacy and the rule of law in the region.
“This has never happened in recent memory, which is why it is important now to focus on what needs to be done by all concerned parties, rather than argue about who started the ball rolling. We both did.” [Washington Post]
“Amen” AND a “Praise Allah” to that.