Freedom making its case

I’m reading Natan Sharansky’s The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. He makes a powerful case for the idea that spreading freedom, if not necessarily democracy as we see it, is not only the most effective defense for Western democracies, but is necessary for their long term survival.

Libertarians who oppose the Iraq invasion should read this book because it well describes why the invasion is necessary to the defense of the United States, defense being one of the generally acknowledged reasons we should have a government at all.

The President has said he was influenced by this book. That was apparent in his State of the Union Address. The Case for Democracy is worth reading if for no other reason.

Sharansky’s case is powerful, in part because he was a friend and supporter of Andrei Sakharov and because he was imprisoned for 8 years in the Siberian Gulag as a political prisoner of the Soviet Union.

His experiences bring more than a little credibility to what happens inside a “fear-state” as contrasted with a “free-state.” Sharansky’s “crimes” were treason and espionage – treason; for teaching a handful of other Russian dissidents English, and espionage; for meeting with Western human rights activists.

Even Jimmy Carter summoned the backbone to deny that Sharansky was a CIA spy.

Sharansky was nonetheless convicted and sentenced in 1978 to 13 years imprisonment. He was released on February 11, 1986 as part of an East-West spy exchange.

In The Case for Democracy he relates a time when his Gulag guards gave him a copy of Pravda wherein the Kremlin called President Reagan a stupid, warmongering cowboy (“running-dog capitalist” being passé) because Reagan had said that the Soviet Union was an evil empire:

Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan’s ‘provocation’ quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth – a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.

That turned out well.

And it reinforced Sharansky’s conviction that the Soviet Union was rotting from the inside because it was a society based on fear and repression.

George Bush has taken a Reagan tack with terrorism and those who harbor terrorists. He continues to be vilified even more than was Reagan.

Here is a list of things that arguably, in most cases incontrovertibly, would not have happened but for George Bush’s mettle:

  • The Taliban are overthrown.
  • Muhammed Atef, Al-Qaeda military chief, is killed in a U.S. bombing raid.
  • Abu Zubaydah, bin Laden’s chief of operations, is captured.
  • Saddam is deposed.
  • Elections are held in Afghanistan.
  • Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, planner of 9/11, is captured.
  • The U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1559 which called on all “foreign forces” to withdraw their troops from Lebanon.
  • Muhammar Ghaddafi abandons his nuclear program.
  • US troops leave Saudi Arabia.
  • The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded for the first time to an Iranian Muslim woman, Shirin Ebadi, who champions human rights, democracy and peace.
  • The Ukraine holds a second election, in part due to pressure from the United States, because of fraud in the first.
  • 8.5 million Iraqis vote despite death threats from:
    • Osama Bin Laden, who is hiding out somewhere making obtuse videos quoting Michael Moore.
  • UN complicity in oil-for-food bribery and UN aid delivery by “peacekeepers” perpetrating food-for-sex with 10 year-olds, has been exposed; showing the UN for the venal and corrupt organization that it is.
  • Palestinians vote.
  • Hillary Clinton declares the Iraqi insurgency is failing.
  • The Israeli parliament votes to leave Gaza.
  • France, that bears repeating -France- and the US announce a co-operative effort to persuade Syria to end its occupation of Lebanon.
  • Now, when the “Arab street” erupts it is:
    • In Lebanon, where Druze, Shiites and Christians all turn out to call for Syria to end its occupation;
    • And in Cairo, where hundreds take to the streets to oppose their current despotic leader.
  • Vladimir Putin acknowledges that Ukraine and Georgia are no longer part of the Russian orbit.
  • Saudis hold municipal elections.
  • Japan and the US agree that Taiwan’s security is a common interest.
  • Qatar is reforming education to give more choices to parents.
  • Jordan is accelerating market economic reforms.
  • Saddam is about to go on trial.

Sharansky tells us these events are all predictable when Western democracies summon the will to put pressure on the governments of “fear-societies” to improve the treatment of their people.

Finally, in today’s Washington Post, David Ignatius reports from Lebanon:

…”It is the beginning of a new Arab revolution,” argues Samir Franjieh, one of the organizers of the opposition. “It’s the first time a whole Arab society is seeking change — Christians and Muslims, men and women, rich and poor.”

…”It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq,” explains Jumblatt [Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community]. “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.”

Sharansky has a point, it seems. As does the President.

Update: 26-Feb, 10:25AM

  • Talib Mikhlif Arsan Walman al-Dulaymi, key aid to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is captured by Iraqi forces.

Update: 27-Feb, 9:33AM

  • Sunni Arab politicians admit they made a big boo-boo in boycotting the Jan. 30 election, and plead to be included in the political process.
  • Nearly 10,000 men show up at a southern Iraqi military base Feb. 14 to volunteer for 5,000 openings. Only 6,000 had been expected.
  • Iraqi security forces capture Saddam Hussein’s half brother, No. 36 on the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis.
  • Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak proposes direct, multiparty presidential elections in a country with a 50-year history of autocratic governments.

Update: 1-Mar, 6:39AM

  • The Lebanese Syrian-puppet government resigns.
  • It turns out that Syria turned in Saddam’s half-brother and 3-odd dozen other Iraqi Baathist thugs. Syria previously has denied such “persons of interest” were even in Syia.
  • The New York Times (registration required) gives credit to George Bush. An excerpt:
    • “Still, this has so far been a year of heartening surprises – each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing. The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance. And for all the negative consequences that flowed from the American invasion of Iraq, there could have been no democratic elections there this January if Saddam Hussein had still been in power. Washington’s challenge now lies in finding ways to nurture and encourage these still fragile trends without smothering them in a triumphalist embrace.”
  • Thousands of Iraqis demonstrate shouting “No to terrorism!”
  • From his cave, bin-Laden phones Al-Zarqawi pleading for an attack on the US in preference to targeting Shiia in Iraq. Using known compromised communication methods to ask your commander in Iraq, most of whose top lieutenants have been captured in the last 2 weeks, to do your job for you seems a sign of weakness to me.
  • Condi postpones trip to Canada after Prime Minister Martin refuses anti-missile protection (I know this is only tenuously related, but it is good news.)

Update: 4-Mar, 7:42PM

  • Saudi Arabia demands end to Syrian occupation of Lebanon.