Friday, March 04, 2005

If they see we've lost our nerve, don't you think that they deserve something more rewarding?

Charles Krauthammer has an excellent column on Syria, Lebanon, and the implications thereof in today's WaPo: Revolution is in the air. What to do? We are already hearing voices for restraint about liberating Lebanon. Flynt Leverett, your usual Middle East expert, took to the New York Times to oppose the immediate end of Syria's occupation of Lebanon. Instead, we should be trying to "engage and empower" the tyranny in Damascus. These people never learn. Here we are on the threshold of what Arabs in the region are calling the fall of their own Berlin Wall and our "realists" want us to go back to making deals with dictators. It would be not just a blunder but a tragedy. It would betray our principles. And it would betray the people in Lebanon who have been encouraged by those principles. As previously mentioned, I'm taking a class called Russia In Transition this term. On Wednesday we watched a collection of CBC News footage on the August Coup of 1991 that saw Mikhail Gorbachev temporarily sidelined by Politburo hard-liners. What struck me about the reporting was that all of it seemed to pin the hope for improvement squarely upon Gorbachev, in the context of maintaining and liberalizing the Soviet Union. Anna Maria Tremonti and Peter Mansbridge seemed equally unwilling throughout - as the official voices of Canadian sympathy with those standing against the coup - to even consider aloud the possibility that anything could or should be done to refom the USSR that involved destroying it, as the USSR. We need only consider the practical problems of coexistence - and let principle be damned. Today's hacks suffer likewise from a lack of imagination. The same instinct that made them call doom upon the invasion of Iraq for fear of "destabilizing the Middle East" is fearful of radical change for the better. That might just imply, after all, that the status quo isn't always something to preserve. We don't have to treat tyrants as equally valid members of the international community. We can demand better. I'm curious how this entire period is going to be seen when the history books are written. I'm coming to suspect 1980-20XX will be treated in blanket statements as a generalized era of reform, something that just bubbled up out of the zeitgeist. To be sure, to a large extent, it has - but only because of the perennial truth that liberty is desirable and contagious. The question is, in that larger context, will credit be appropriately given to the American presidencies responsible for jump-starting at least two waves of such liberalization? Mark Steyn thinks not: The other day in the Guardian Martin Kettle wrote: ‘The war was a reckless, provocative, dangerous, lawless piece of unilateral arrogance. But it has nevertheless brought forth a desirable outcome which would not have been achieved at all, or so quickly, by the means that the critics advocated, right though they were in most respects.’ Very big of you, pal. And I guess that’s as close to a mea culpa as we’re going to get: even though Bush got everything wrong, it turned out right. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? In a few years’ time, they’ll have it down pat — just like they have with Eastern Europe. Oh, the Soviet bloc [the Middle East thugocracies] was bound to collapse anyway. Nothing to do with that simpleton Ronnie Raygun [Chimpy Bushitler]. In fact, all Raygun [Chimpy] did was delay the inevitable with his ridiculous arms build-up [illegal unprovoked Halliburton oil-grab], as many of us argued at the time: see my 1984 column ‘Yuri Andropov, The Young, Smart, Sexy New Face Of Soviet Communism’ [see the April 2004 Spectator column ‘Things Were Better Under Saddam: The coalition has destroyed Baathism, says Rod Liddle, and with it all hopes of the emergence of secular democracy’ — and yes, that really ran in these pages, on 17 April, not 1 April.] I suppose the appeasement-minded bloc eventually getting on-board is something. But not, it must be said, something very inspiring. (Via Betsy Newmark.)

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