Democratic Opportunity

Most of you are more than familiar with my views on international affairs and politics, and some politely disagree with me. Looking forward, however, I think there are things that people of good will on both sides can work on together. The Economist reports on ripples of liberalism in the Middle East, using the recent Egyptian elections as the backdrop. What needs to be pointed out is the following:

Most Arab reformers warm much more to the caustic critiques of American filmmaker Michael Moore than to George Bush’s “forward strategy of freedom”. Most believe that when push comes to shove, America’s thirst for oil will exceed its democratic principles.

Yet there is little doubt that American influence has helped to tip the balance of regional forces in favour of reform. A coincidence, perhaps, but it was shortly after Condoleezza Rice, America’s secretary of state, abruptly cancelled a scheduled visit to Egypt that Mr Mubarak announced his initiative to hold contested presidential elections. Later, speaking in Cairo, Ms Rice won over even a few Egyptian sceptics by appealing to their pride, suggesting that their country should lead the region in political progress as it has led before in pursuing peace. Lebanon’s dramatic overthrow of veiled Syrian rule this spring was only made possible by American-led moves to de-claw and isolate Syria’s regime. And these moves were made possible, in turn, by the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

There are lessons there for everyone. You don’t have to have agreed with the reasons, whether official or publicly promoted, for the war in Iraq. But you can take a look at some of what’s been going on, and see an opportunity. For the Democrats in particular, this is a chance to sell themselves as the party most naturally suited in helping sclertoic autocracies face the democratic future. After all, it’s in their very party name.

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]