Two Views on Bush and Democracy, One Will Win Out

Here are two views written days apart about the crossroads we stand at in world history.

The first view is that of today’s radical or pessimist. We hear from the radical voice daily in our news and in our media. The radical today sees a world with tainted lenses where nothing should change and a belief that “things were better before chairs were re-arranged.” Frequently, this groups understands events from a selfish, angry perspective and may twist the truth to cement his views.

Then there are the visionaries. This group sees the need to change and has the courage to confront the broken status quo. This group is hated by the radicals for not playing pretend. The visionaries force the radicals to come out of a comfort zone of denial. But, often the radicals attack the visionaries rather than face reality. The visionary faces obstacles, temptations, suffering, betrayal, and loneliness, but perseveres for what is right. The road may be dangerous, his opponents vicious, but he forges ahead, not about to be shaken. That is the way of the visionary or dissident.

Today the world is at a crossroads. Tomorrow we will know which road we chose.

The first view was written by Gamil Mattar, the director of the Arab Centre for Development and Futuristic Research, in the Al-Ahram Weekly on March 30, 2006:

A marriage made in hell

Meanwhile, the drive of Arab governments to repel the democratic invasion has been resumed with renewed vigour, with some regimes busy recuperating authoritarian territory many believed had been lost forever.

There are many reasons behind the rising anti- democratic tide. Bush’s foreign policy and his government’s flagrant human rights violations top the list. Washington’s determination to turn Iraq into a model of democracy to be emulated throughout the region has also set the cause of democratisation back by decades.

All any anti-democrat now has to do is point to the disaster the US has wrought in Iraq. Washington’s erratic fluctuations between ideological fervour and pragmatism have also been inimical to the spread of democracy. When Washington turns a blind eye to the anti-democratic behaviour of some of its allies while lashing out at other countries for the same sins, one cannot avoid the conclusion that Washington is manipulating the appeal to democracy for its own ends. Such cynicism, sadly, is contagious.

Another reason, impacting the Middle East in particular, is growing anti-Arab and anti-Muslim feeling on the part of the West. This, combined with growing Western support for Israeli terrorism, compounds suspicions over US intentions and frustrates the efforts of Arab democrats.

Whatever the cause — or causes — behind the retreat from democracy, there is no doubt that the US has squandered immense moral capital by wedding democratic evangelism to destructive military campaigns and quasi-racist wars. This mad concoction has, more than anything else, placed freedom and political rights out of the reach of many of the world’s peoples, particularly those in the Middle East. Now, in the name of the war against terrorism, anti-democratic governments are being given ample time to absorb lessons from the first campaign to promote democracy and to entrench themselves behind stronger and more sophisticated defences than ever in the case of any renewed democratic offensive, however far off that might seem.


Anatoly (Natan) and Avital Sharansky phone President Ronald Reagan in 1986 to thank him for Natan’s release from prison.

The second view on President Bush and democracy was written by Natan Sharansky and published in the Opinion Journal today. Sharansky spent nine years as a political prisoner in the Soviet Gulag. A former deputy prime minister of Israel and currently a member of the Knesset, he is co-author, with Ron Dermer, of “The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror” (PublicAffairs, 2004).

Dissident President
George W. Bush has the courage to speak out for freedom

There are two distinct marks of a dissident. First, dissidents are fired by ideas and stay true to them no matter the consequences. Second, they generally believe that betraying those ideas would constitute the greatest of moral failures. Give up, they say to themselves, and evil will triumph. Stand firm, and they can give hope to others and help change the world.

Political leaders make the rarest of dissidents. In a democracy, a leader’s lifeline is the electorate’s pulse. Failure to be in tune with public sentiment can cripple any administration and undermine any political agenda. Moreover, democratic leaders, for whom compromise is critical to effective governance, hardly ever see any issue in Manichaean terms. In their world, nearly everything is colored in shades of gray.

That is why President George W. Bush is such an exception. He is a man fired by a deep belief in the universal appeal of freedom, its transformative power, and its critical connection to international peace and stability. Even the fiercest critics of these ideas would surely admit that Mr. Bush has championed them both before and after his re-election, both when he was riding high in the polls and now that his popularity has plummeted, when criticism has come from longstanding opponents and from erstwhile supporters.

With a dogged determination that any dissident can appreciate, Mr. Bush, faced with overwhelming opposition, stands his ideological ground, motivated in large measure by what appears to be a refusal to countenance moral failure.

And, here is another good read from the wires today…

President Lincoln ‘Lied’ Us Into War Too

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