“Freedom is on the March!” This was stated by President Bush in response to the recent events that have been taking place in the Middle East. Actions of great magnitude have occurred in the Arab world that can lead to bigger and greater things in the Middle East. I'm sure a lot of Mr. Bush's elitist critics are grinding their teeth in frustration at being wrong. They were wrong in thinking that Dubya's aspirations for liberty in the Middle East were nothing more than a pipe dream.
Remember back in the 80's when a lot of “pragmatic” slobs doubted President Reagan's goal of defeating communism? Well before we all knew it the Iron Curtain rusted away, so to speak, and today most of Eastern Europe is free and prosperous as a consequence of Reagan's legacy. A decade from now the Middle East may very well be on that road too.
Total credit cannot go to Mr. Bush and his administration alone in the occurrence of these developments but rather an interplay of their desire for greater change in a politically stagnant area and a number of events both good and bad. Of great importance were the efforts of courageous dissidents from Cairo to Tehran some of whom have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their cause.
The tradition of authoritarian rule in the Arab nations seems to be crumbling and this was manifested in the recent elections in Palestine and in Iraq. The moderates among the Palestinians are no longer keeping a low profile among the vocal minority who think that they can achieve their aims by sending suicide bombers to murder Israeli civilians. Hopefully they will be able to toe the line against the purveyors of anger and violence.
And the Iraqis have made known that they want to rebuild their nation in the democratic tradition of casting ballots and remaining steadfast against the criminals, Saddam loyalists and Islamofascist who want to bring Iraq to complete chaos and destruction. The Iraqis had shown these sub humans that the threats of car bombs, hit squads and beheadings are not enough to deter them from their dream of Iraq being free and prosperous.
One thing is leading to another like in Lebanon a momentum was slowly building for a united front against Syria's domination over Beirut. A leading voice for this crusade was the billionaire politician Rafiq Hariri. He was killed on Valentine's Day by a car bomb and it was supposedly carried out by an unknown Syrian based terrorist group. Instead of cowering the Lebanese into shock and silence, quite the opposite had happened. This event miraculously united Lebanese from all religions and all walks of life to embark on a grass roots campaign to rid Lebanon once and for all of Syria's all-encompassing influence.
Last week some 25,000 Lebanese nationals had gathered in Martyr's Square in Beirut in a massive show of resolve and solidarity. They had come out to call for the complete withdrawal of Syrian troops and intelligence agents from Lebanon so they could have a free and fair parliamentary election in May. Such a massive display of non violent and ordered civil disobedience has never been seen in the Arab world and this was directed against one of the most brutal regimes in the world.
Despite Tuesday's huge pro-Syrian rally in Beirut organized by Hizbollah, the Syrians are in a serious bind. The international community is pretty much unanimous in their desire for a prompt Syrian withdrawal without any preconditions. That would mean the release of Damascus's stranglehold over Beirut and enabling Lebanon to progress and prosper.
Lebanon's new found freedom from Syria would enable it to have free and fair elections in May and another positive milestone would be added to the Middle East. Imagine broadcast images on Arabic satellite television stations showing jubilant crowds of Lebanese celebrating their independence and new found liberty. Those images would make the citizens of other Arab and Muslim nations want the same thing for themselves.
The Egyptians, the Saudis, Jordanians, Syrians and other nationalities would all ask the same question: “Why can't the same thing happen to us?” Recently we had seen new developments like the municipal elections in Saudi Arabia which were mostly symbolic and without much substance but nonetheless a big change for the al Saud family. What's more, Egypt's President Mubarak, who has ruled for 24 years, announced his desire for a constitutional amendment to allow multi candidate presidential elections. I guess he got tired of feeling alone during his one man election campaigns all these years.
Then there is Iran, a non-Arab nation that has been run by Shiite clerics for the past 26 years. It is a brutal oligarchy that has an anti American/anti Israeli platform that is marked by viciousness, pervasive government control, nepotism, corruption and pervasive mismanagement of the nation's affairs.
The irony is the Iranians themselves are probably the most pro American in the Muslim world. Another point is that the majority of Iranians have no feeling of resentment towards Israel because the two nations have no issues of contention between them. So the contrast of the mentality and desires of the Iranian people and that of the ruling Islamofascist oligarchy running the nation is so big it baffles many.
One sees in the people of Iran a great yearning to be a part of the world community, to be respected and for Iran to be an ideal model to her neighbors. More and more people in Iran today have less interest in Islam because it symbolizes their oppression and daily struggle for survival. Many of Iran's youth are hoping for great success in the U.S. operation in Iraq. It will be too much for the Iranian people to bear when they see more and more of their neighbors enjoying new found freedom and optimism.
It is only a matter of time before the proverbial walls come tumbling down which seems very certain in Lebanon this May. The demographics of the nations, the poor state of the economies, the collective desire by the populace for better lives and increasing U.S. pressure makes profound change unavoidable. One way or another it will happen.
This will be beneficial to the citizen's of these nations and to wider security concerns around the world. 9/11 made us realize that oppressive governments are very bad for the peace and stability of the world even if that tyranny is on friendly terms with those concerned. Tyrannies stay in power through lies, threats and terror. They spend a great deal of time and resources to stay in power; time and resources that could be better spent on education, healthcare, infrastructure development and so on. Also they aim to direct the anger and frustration of their populations at imagined external enemies through the state controlled media and education systems so that it lessens the likelihood that the collective rage will be turned on them.
Natan Sharansky for those of you who do not know him was a dissident from the former Soviet Union; a man of great courage, conviction and vision. For years he has been saying basically this: democratic nations are far less likely to wage war on their neighbors and citizens of democratic nations are far less likely to engage in acts of terrorism. It does not pay to keep friendly dictatorships in power. The hijackings, car bombings, beheadings and other brutal crimes that have been carried out against civilians around the world unequivocally prove this!
The Bush administration has realized America's past blunders in treating these nations as gas pumps and nothing else. For reasons of morality and national security, America must press harder for political and economic reform in the Middle East just as they had done in Central and Eastern Europe.