Saturday, February 26, 2005


Elections in Egypt!

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has announced that he has ordered the amendment of Egyptian election law to allow for a presidential election in which the people will be allowed to choose between multiple candidates fielded by multiple parties.

The change will be on the ballot as a referendum in the September election.

As some of the European press observed last week, notably Der Speigel in Germany, "What if George Bush is Right?" Has the march of democracy in the Arab world really begun? Bush was greeted in some European countries, not by the little groups of protesters prominently showcased on CNN, but by large and enthusiastic crowds. In Slovakia, the crowds came out and the Prime Minister
scolded the international media for their anti-Bush bias, and their ignorance of the realities of the liberation of Iraq. Perhaps some European countries suffer the same disconnect between their media elites and the people as we have in this country?

Bush's unabashed support for democracy has created a climate where, in countries like Egypt, it has become impossible for the rulers to clamp down on reformist voices without bucking an American President who clearly has the will, and the political power, to change the world. Many of us have noted over the past month that reformist dialogue has come out into the open in places like Egypt, and even Saudi Arabia. While the mainstream media has ignored this, and ignored the first ever Saudi municipal elections, the Arab world is paying attention. And while the Saudi elections didn't permit women, still it was an enormous leap into the future for what is essentially a mediaeval kingdom. The genie is out of the bottle, and the Saudis may soon find, like Gorbachev, that it's tough to hold the line at being "a little bit democratic".

In Lebanon, people who cowered in the shadows at the mention of the Syrian occupiers have taken to the streets to demand that the Syrians get out. But surely this has nothing to do with Bush? It has everything to do with Bush. Jim Geraghty of
TKS (formerly "The Kerry Spot" during the election, a blog sub-site located at The National Review) noted this quote from a David Ignacius column in the Washington Post last week:

The leader of this Lebanese intifada [for independence from Syria] is Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria's occupation. But something snapped for Jumblatt last year, when the Syrians overruled the Lebanese constitution and forced the reelection of their front man in Lebanon, President Emile Lahoud. The old slogans about Arab nationalism turned to ashes in Jumblatt's mouth, and he and Hariri openly began to defy Damascus... "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Yep. The genie is out of the bottle. What will happen remains to be seen. But one thing seems certain: the Arab world is changing forever, and George W. Bush forced that change. It could all go wrong, you could end up with a bunch of countries where militant Islamic fundamentalists seize power. Like the collapse of the Soviet Union, the democratization of the Arab world will likely give birth to some successes (Poland) and some real basket cases (Yugoslavia).

The U.S. and its allies can help this process along by aiding the political development of these countries: one reason Communists always seemed to gain the upper hand in the post-war world was that they were organized, and the opposition generally wasn't, consisting of a number of tiny interest groups unable to forge a united front. Another reason, of course, was the Soviet 600-pound gorilla, a role which will be played by the Islamist terrorists seeking to support the seizure of power by fundamentalists. And the power of the U.S. and its allies must continue to be brought to bear to destroy these people. But once a people embrace the idea of democracy, how readily can they again submit to tyranny and oppression?

Is the Iranian revolution far off now?

What will come in the middle east is anybody's guess. And for sure, parts of it are going to be ugly. Won't it just be the ultimate historical irony if George W. Bush, repeatedly characterized as "Hitler" and a "Nazi" by the leftists here and abroad, goes down in history as the "Great Liberator of Peoples"?

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