Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Cause and Effect or Mere Coincidence?

After 9/11, the US quickly and, as it turned out, accurately pinned the attacks on Usama bin Ladin and al Qaeda. They demanded that the Taliban government of Afghanistan, where UBL had been training radical militant Islamists to carry out attacks against the West, deliver him over to the US for prosecution. The Taliban, quite reasonably, I thought at the time, demanded to see the evidence against UBL. After all, here in America, if someone commits a crime in state A and is subsequently found to be in living in State B, the accused has a right to a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to warrant his extradition. What is true between States of the US, I reasoned, is at least reasonable to hold among Countries. The US declined the invitation, causing me to think that the evidence was not so certain as President Bush was making out. In any case, the US took the Taliban's refusal to extradite as an act of war under the new Bush doctrine that nations that give safe harbor and or aid to Terrorists are as guilty as the Terrorists whom they harbor. Long made short, with broad international support, we sent in CIA and special forces and air support to assist anti-Taliban forces within Afghanistan and the Taliban was quickly removed. UBL, however, eluded capture and, to this day, remains a fugitive.

On October 9th, 2004, Afghani men and women elected Hamid Karzai, their choice of national leadership in the first direct Presidential constitutional election in Afghanistan's history. Their display of ink-stained fingers, proof of their having voted, was an inspiration to the world. This is the first exhibit in Bush's other doctrine: that Democracy is contagious even in Muslim nations.

Afghanistan is the first domino.

Not that this next occurrence resulted from US action, although the US did play an indirect part in the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, but the theory that democracy is contagious does not require that the US play any role. The revolution began as a result of the most recent Presidential elections in the Ukraine, the first round of which took place on October 31, 2004, over which there were many, credible allegations of election irregularities, including the poisoning of one of the candidates. The first round of voting was close enough to require a second round. Initially, the second round was given to the outgoing President’s favored candidate, Yanukovych but, again there were complaints of voting fraud. People rose up in support of the opposition candidate, Yuschenko, and gathered, in freezing weather, in Kiev to protest the results. The popular, peaceful uprising, publicized worldwide on television, lead to the official rejection of the revote results and a new vote under a new elections board. The result is that Yuschenko was elected and the power of the people of the Ukraine won a victory over corrupt Government. Aside from vocal support by the Bush administration, the US played no direct role.

Domino two has fallen.

Now a historical note. On January 20, 2005, George W. Bush gave a controversial inaugural speech. It was controversial, primarily because in it the President declared it to be the United States policy to work for and support the growth of Democracy throughout the world. He said, in part:

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and earth. Across the generations, we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.

The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America's influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's cause


We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.

We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America's belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty.

Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.

Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.
As we shall later see, it seems that the world was listening. And, it seems, people have dared to believe our President. I will have more to say on that later.

On March 19, 2003, with far less international support than we had for the Afghanistan action, the US led an attack on Iraq with air and ground troops. The immediate objective, the removal of the Saddam led Ba'athist government, controversially celebrated on an Air Craft Carrier with a banner proclaiming, "Mission Accomplished", was brought to pass in three weeks. Unfortunately, chaos that the coalition forces failed to quell, in the form of violent looting, ensued. This was followed by an, apparently pre-prepared, insurgency—one that has caused the death of some 1,500 US military forces, and has left some 10,000 US soldiers wounded, not to mention perhaps several hundred thousand Iraqis dead—that continues to the present day.

Nevertheless, on January 30, 2005, elections were held under threat of death by insurgents. While the openness of these elections is questionable and it is clear that certain groups of Iraqis, due to calls by Sunni religious leaders to boycott the elections and threats by insurgents, were under represented, the sight of some 8 million Iraqis, again with ink-stained fingers, voting for a governing council that would select a Prime Minister and construct a Constitution was, if anything, even more inspiring than the Afghanistan elections held months before. The elections were seen to be so successful that even Sunni leaders, who had called for the boycott, reconsidered that decision and requested to be included in the governing council, a request that has been complied with.

Witness domino number three has fallen.

On February 10, 2005, local elections were held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with others to be held elsewhere in the country on March 3, 2005 and later in April 21, 2005. These are municipal elections, there will be elections to fill seats in 178 councils. There are questions of just how much power these councils will have and, as with any election, there are questions about how fair the elections in Riyadh were. Women were not allowed to run for Office, nor did women vote. There is no question yet of competitors for the national Government. All of this is to say that Democracy has a long way to go in Saudi Arabia, but can anyone seriously question that President Bush’s policies in Afghanistan and Iraq and his stance against oppressive governments and for Democracy have not influenced the decision to hold even these limited elections in there?

Domino four has, however weakly, fallen as well.

On February 14, 2005, former Prime Minster of Lebanon, Rafik Al-Hariri, was assassinated. Although there is no proof, yet, it is widely supposed that this was the work of Syria. This act has outraged a great many Lebanese who, like Ukrainians before them, have risen up in protest and applied such popular and, thanks to television coverage, international pressure that, on February 28, 2005, the Syrian backed Government of Lebanon stepped down—a move that surprised virtually everyone. Apparently, the Government felt that it could not count on the Syrian troops, that have occupied Lebanon since the 70’s, to quell the uprising or they felt that any such repression would bring reprisals from the US and the International community. Perhaps the Lebanese people were listening when President Bush promised to stand by them in their fight against oppression.

In a display of people power, domino number five has fallen.

Within the last few days, Syria has promised to remove its troops from Lebanon, a promise that has been made before and reneged upon. The US has been joined by, of all nations, France as well as Egypt and Saudi Arabia in urging—some might say threatening—Syria to keep its promise this time. Time alone will tell whether Syria believed President Bush.

Not a domino, yet.

As recently as January 2005, Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, turned a deaf ear to calls for Democratic reforms in his country. On February 27, 2005, Mr. Mubarak reversed himself, ordering a change to his Country’s Constitution allowing competitive elections, the first challenge to his 23 year reign. Although the reforms fall far short of real Democracy—it is unlikely that Mubarak’s Presidency is in any danger of falling—it is a step in the right direction. It is clear that pressure will need to continue to be brought to bear upon him so that genuinely Democratic elections may take place. Clearly, however, Mubarak has been paying attention to Democracy’s march and it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that President Bush’s second Inaugural Address played some part in this event. There can be little doubt that the world takes Bush at his word or there would be little reason to suppose that this small step in the direction of Democracy would have taken place.

Yet another domino has fallen.

In the title of this piece, I asked: “Cause and Effect or Mere Coincidence?” There should be little doubt in any reader’s mind how I answer the question. Democracy is clearly on the march, in fits and starts, feebly in places it is true but it is marching none the less. I clearly believe that President Bush has played a key part in moving that march along.

Update: Doh! I completely forgot the elections in Palestine. It is still questionable whether Abbas will be able to rein in the more militant terrorist groups or whether continued attacks upon Israel will destroy the possitive things that have been occurring in the region since Arafat's death. Nevertheless, The Palestinians have partaken in the Democratic process, chosen their own leader and positive steps toward peace have been taken by Palestinians and Israel, both.

Yet another Domino has fallen.

Update: Is another Domino being set up? According to this article, women in Kuwait are demanding the vote. Kuwait is already a democracy but only half of the adult population are allowed to vote. So, does Bush's promise to stand by those seeking democratic reforms have anything to do with this? Well, at least one of the protest signs was in English, a language even a Texan can understand.

Is Kuwait a tottering Domino? You decide!

The question is, what do you think?

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