Friday, August 31, 2007

Natan Sharansky: Where Bush Went Wrong

Author Natan Sharansky survived the communist gulags and by President Bush's own admission has been a huge influence on him, especially Sharansky's book 'The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.' The president personally awarded Sharansky the US Medal of Freedom in Washington.

In a fascinating interview, Sharansky assesses how the president has done in implementing the vision they both share and outlined where he feels Bush went wrong:

"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 pointed out three instances where he felt President Bush could have and should have been more consistent: the Palestinians, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

He claims he tried three times unsuccessfully to prevent the president from insisting on the Palestinian election last year that was won by Hamas.

"I told Bush before and after [the vote] that quick elections cannot replace the democratic process," Sharansky said. "Elections require a free society. Elections have to be the last step of the democratic process."

For my part, I'd add Lebanon and Iraq to that list. They've all been failures because, without a background and history of free institutions, Islam and tribalism trump everything we've seen.

One of the central problems, as Sharansky points out is that the US State Department insists on supporting `friendly' dictators like Egypt's Mubarak in spite of their corruption and hostility to democratic reform, and Bush has essentially gone along with it.

And Sharansky points out the essential dichotomy of our Middle East policy quite succinctly.

"America was afraid that if they would fight corrupt dictators, the Muslim Brotherhood would come to power in the Middle East. When America starts speaking powerfully, democratic dissidents are strengthened. But when America makes dictators allies, the dissidents are weakened and Islamic fundamentalism is strengthened. That's why America should not support Mubarak or Saudi Arabia."

"America has wanted for many years to make Saudi Arabia part of the solution in the Middle East, but if you believe in a link between security and democracy, it's not possible," Sharansky said.

"It's true that Saudi Arabia is against Iran, but it's ridiculous to say Israel has to make concessions to bring the Saudis on board the Middle East peace process. Bush said only leadership that brings democratic reforms can bring peace to the Middle East. That's the last thing the Saudis want to do. Democratic reforms are almost as big a threat to the Saudis as Iran."

For that matter, democratic reforms are also a threat to Iran, and it's one area where the Saudis and Iran agree heartily. As a matter of fact, there are a number of things the Saudis and Iran agree on, including jihad against the West, and I would differ with Sharansky that they're as opposed to each other as he might least in the short term.

However, Sharansky is spot on in pointing out that in order to truly encourage democracy and freedom in the Middle East and enhance our own security, we are going to have to consistently support people in the region who actually favor freedom and democracy..and that's going to mean finding Arabs and Persians who are secular in outlook, who favor political equality over tribalism, and whom support a free press, the liberation of women and a free society.

It is also likely to mean the defeat and discrediting of radical Islam, given the Middle East's honor/shame culture...and that includes here in America, where loyal, patriotic decent Muslims need to be encouraged instead of the racist Wahabi radicalization pushed and funded by the Saudis.

If President Bush had forcefully followed the Bush Doctrine to the letter and been more consistent to those principles without temporizing them to please the Saudis and others and had been less willing to coddle radical Islam here at home, we would be much farther along in winning this war.

1 comment:

Soccer Dad said...

For my part, I'd add Lebanon and Iraq to that list. They've all been failures because, without a background and history of free institutions, Islam and tribalism trump everything we've seen.

I hadn't really thought about Lebanon, but you're right there too. Daniel Pipes has been saying similar things for years.