For the first time in 1,000 years Arabs are taking control of their own affairs.–Farheed Zakaria
Dare we say that the explosion of freedom in the Middle East and North Africa might be the equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall? We can pray that it is at least as eventful and we should be doing everything in our power to ensure that it is so. We can do a lot worse than be guided by two references: one, George W. Bush’s second inaugural address of January 2005 and two, Natan Sharansky’s classic The Case for Democracy. Bush essentially invoked the criteria established by Jeanne Kirkpatrick in her Dictatorships and Double Standards, the gold standard in distinguishing between totalitarian and authoritarian regimes and why it matters. This makes a significant difference in the current cases when determining which messages to send to the respective regimes in the region. Sharansky, of course, makes the case for the fact that the desire for freedom is universal and that a regime must ultimately be judged and dealt with based on the way in which it treats its own people.
This is a major watershed event, world historical, a huge opportunity, but our response to this combustion has been mixed at best. We were slow to recognize the scope of the revolutions across North Africa and worse, very tentative in standing with the insurgents in the streets. The response in Libya has been particularly disappointing. Here we have a brutal dictator and enemy of long standing and the administration cannot even bring itself to acknowledge these facts in spite of direct questioning. And while we have now at least demanded that Gadhafi leave the country, we have a situation in which this delusional tyrant is murdering his own people and we are relegated to appeals to the United Nations and its committee on human rights on which Libya serves!
I have repeatedly emphasized since 9-11-01 the absolute necessity of moral clarity in dealing with and defeating the forces arrayed against us in the Islamic world. Why is this so difficult for this administration? Why the relativism? Why the confusion when identifying the enemy, even when it has clearly exposed itself, as in the case with the Fort Hood shootings and other terrorist attacks and attempted attacks on Americans over the past two years? Say what you want about the mistakes of George W. Bush, but moral clarity was not a problem for him, and I suspect that Gadhafi would be as well aware of that as he was during his encounters with Ronald Reagan.
We know that revolutions often do not end well for the people, and we have only to look at history to confirm this. Of the major revolutions of the past 250 years only the American resulted in a better deal for the people, and the reason was that it alone was a battle for the acknowledgment and restoration of rights that are God-given, not a battle for rights to be granted by the state. The French, Russian, and Iranian revolutions were disasters for their people, and we would be well-served to help the struggling freedom fighters of the Arab Middle East and North Africa understand the difference.