February 29, 2004

A DEMOCRATIC WORLD: Can liberals take foreign policy back from the Republicans? (GEORGE PACKER, 2004-02-09, The New Yorker)

The Democratic Party hasn’t always been stymied by foreign policy. A half century ago, the Party’s ideas were ascendant, transforming America’s international role in the postwar years as dramatically as President Bush has since September 11th. In 1945, the United States had more relative power and prestige than it has today. Instead of seizing the occasion to strip the country of constraints and dominate the world, the ruling Democrats, most of whom were New Dealers, realized that the global fight against Communism required partners. The postwar Democratic leadership under President Truman helped bring into being institutions and alliances—the United Nations, nato, the World Bank—through which the country’s goals could be met. These goals were as much economic and political as military. The thinking behind Truman’s speech in March, 1947, asking Congress for economic as well as military aid to Greece and Turkey against Communist insurgents, and the speech by his Secretary of State, George C. Marshall, a few months later, calling for a massive reconstruction package for a devastated Europe was the same: containing and ultimately defeating totalitarianism required an investment in countries where conditions made Communism a threat. It also required the participation of Americans at every level of society. Anti-Communist liberals in the labor movement and the Democratic Party funded social-democratic parties in Western Europe as alternatives to Communism; politicians and intellectuals organized themselves in associations like Americans for Democratic Action and around magazines like Encounter to fight the war of ideas. These liberals understood that the new war could not afford to be rigidly doctrinaire; it required a practical effort to understand realities in Europe and elsewhere, in order to know what would be necessary to prevent Communism from winning over individuals and countries. It had to be wise as well as tough. Above all, it needed the help of other democracies—there had to be alliances, reciprocity. This is what was meant by liberal internationalism.

Vietnam, of course, badly divided Democrats, turning some into Republicans and others into pacifists. And here is a remarkable fact: since the nineteen-sixties, the Democratic Party has had no foreign policy. […]

In treating the war on terrorism as a mere military struggle, the Administration’s mistake begins with the name itself. “Terrorism” is a method; the terror used by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka is not the enemy in this war. The enemy is an ideology—in the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer’s phrase, “Islamist totalitarianism”—that reaches from Karachi to London, from Riyadh to Brooklyn, and that uses terror to advance its ends. The Administration’s failure to grasp the political nature of the war has led to many crucial mistakes, most notably the Pentagon’s attitude that postwar problems in Afghanistan and Iraq would essentially take care of themselves, that we could have democracy on the cheap: once the dictators and terrorists were rooted out, the logic went, freedom would spontaneously grow in their place. As Lakhdar Brahimi, the former United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, recently told the Times, “There is now a very well-meaning and welcome Western interest in supporting democracy everywhere, but they want to do it like instant coffee.” Instead, in both countries the real struggle has just begun, and it will last a generation or more, with little international help in sight and victory not at all assured.

“They don’t get it, because they don’t believe this is an ideology,” Ivo H. Daalder, a political scientist at the Brookings Institution, said of the Administration. “They believe that this is a state-based threat—that if you get rid of evil people, who are in finite supply, you will have resolved the problem. And the proof of the pudding is a very simple statement that the President keeps repeating: ‘It’s better to kill them there than to have them kill us here.’ Which assumes there are a finite number.”

Remarkably, this narrow approach has met with no systematic criticism from the Democratic Party. Democratic leaders attack the Administration for its unilateralism, but, with a few exceptions, they have been unprepared to reckon with the nature and scale of the conflict; and this has to do with the Party’s own intellectual shortcomings. Certain mental traits that have spread among Democrats since the Vietnam War get in the way—not just the tendency toward isolationism and pacifism but a cultural relativism (going by the name of “multiculturalism”) that makes it difficult for them to mount a wholehearted defense of one political system against another, especially when the other has taken root among poorer and darker-skinned peoples. Like the Bush Administration, the Democrats have failed to grasp the political dimensions of the struggle. They, too, have cast it narrowly, as a matter of security (preferring the notion of police action to that of war). They’ve pushed the Administration only for greater effort on the margins, such as upgrading communications equipment for firemen and federalizing airport security. And the Iraq war let Democrats off the hook, allowing them to say what they wouldn’t do rather than what they would do.

Another approach remains available to the Democrats—one that draws on the Party’s own not so distant history. The parallels between the early years of the Cold War and our situation are inexact. The Islamist movement doesn’t have the same hold on Westerners that Communism had. It draws on cultures that remain alien to us; the history of colonialism and the fact of religious difference make it all the harder for the liberal democracies of the West to effect change in the Muslim world. Waving the banner of freedom and mustering the will to act aren’t enough. Anyone who believes that September 11th thrust us into a Manichaean conflict between good and evil should visit Iraq, where the simplicity of that formula lies half buried under all the crosscurrents of foreign occupation and social chaos and ethnic strife. Simply negotiating the transfer of sovereignty back to Iraqis has proved so vexing that an Administration that jealously guarded the occupation against any international control has turned to the battered and despised United Nations for help in dealing with Iraq’s unleashed political forces. Iraq and other battlegrounds require patience, self-criticism, and local knowledge, not just an apocalyptic moral summons.

Nonetheless, for Democrats and for Americans, the first step is to realize that the war on terrorism is actually a war for liberalism—a struggle to bring populations now living under tyrannies and failed states into the orbit of liberal democracy. In this light, it makes sense to think about the strategy and mind-set that the postwar generation brought to their task: the marriage of power and coöperation. Daalder said, “The fundamental challenge—just as the fundamental challenge in ’46 and ’47 and ’48 in France and Italy was to provide Italians and Frenchmen with a real constructive alternative to Communism, to defeat it politically—is to provide people in the Islamic world with an alternative that gives them hope in a period where they have only despair.” He pointed out that America now spends forty times more on defense than it does on foreign aid, and that half of this aid goes to Israel and Egypt. “This is like the new Cold War, and we’ve got to fight it as a generational fight in which we need to invest,” he said. […]

“Why does not democracy believe in itself with passion?” Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., asked in “The Vital Center,” his 1949 book about totalitarianism and America’s anxious postwar mood. “Why is freedom not a fighting faith?” The only hope (Schlesinger turned to Walt Whitman for the words—who else?) lay in “the exercise of Democracy.” The process of struggling for freedom, accepting conflict, tolerating uncertainty, joining community—this would allow democracy to survive and not die. What if we now find ourselves, at this stage of thickening maturity, in the middle of a new crisis that requires us to act like citizens of a democracy? It’s impossible to know how the public would respond to a political party that spoke about these things—because, so far, no party has.

You have to feel sorry for the folk of the Decent LeftMichael Walzer, Paul Berman, Mr. Packer, and a very few others–who find themselves in a state of denial over the fact that George W. Bush is pursuing the global democratic vision that they wish the Democrats would. And, bad enough that it’s Mr. Bush, even worse is that he’s so obviously succeeding.



February 10, 2004

The war in Iraq was the right mistake to make (Jonathan Rauch, Feb. 10, 2004, Jewish World Review)

Yes, Saddam’s missile program was a violation — one of many — of his commitments to the United Nations. Yes, he retained scientists who knew how to kill thousands. Yes, he is a very bad man whom everyone is well rid of. But it is useless to maintain that the apparent absence of any major stocks of biological or chemical weapons, and of a viable nuclear bomb program, is anything less than a severe embarrassment for advocates of the war. Me included.

Like many Americans, I was a gradual, and never altogether enthusiastic, convert to the war. I wondered if it would divert attention and resources from other fronts. I worried about the bloodshed and the occupation. Above all, I thought containment seemed to have worked.

In the end, I was swayed by two factors. One was France. When the issue became one of American credibility in the face of a concerted foreign campaign to take the United States down a peg or two, it became important to show that America means business where its security is concerned.

Even that, however, would not have tipped me but for the other factor. People whom I trusted — the president, the secretary of State, the British prime minister, many others — said that containment had already failed as far as chemical and biological weapons were concerned. Nukes, they said, might not be far down the road. Better to react too soon than too late.

Mr. Rauch is a perceptive critic of American democracy and wrote one of the best profiles of George W. Bush we’ve read. But in the latter he did underestimate the meaning of even his own analysis of Mr. Bush. Although, 0on the one hand, he says that :

Bush’s mentality seems more like that of an entrepreneurial CEO than of a conventional politician: He tends to look for strategies that cut to the heart of the problem at hand, rather than strategies that minimize conflict. “He doesn’t like ‘small ball’ — that’s his term,” one of his aides says.

“My faith frees me,” Bush writes, early in his book. “Frees me to make the decisions that others might not like. Frees me to try to do the right thing, even though it may not poll well. Frees me to enjoy life and not worry about what comes next.” He clearly is not a man who fears failure.

He, on the other hand, terms him the “Accidental Radical”, seemingly unable to draw the connection between playing big ball and being a radical.

So it’s predictable, though not necessarily forgivable, that he was fooled as badly as he states above by the WMD argument. No literate person can have been unaware that WMD was a mere pretext for war, added rather late in the game, as a means of trying to get the UN on board and to assuage the more moderate tendencies of folks like Tony Blair, Colin Powell, and, yes, the Jonathan Rauch’s of the world.

Thankfully, the Web often provides us the opportunity to resurrect the past before it disappears down the memory hole. Here is a crystal clear example of the kind of story that was being written even in the major media in the months before WMD became the plotline. Reading it no is a helpful reintroduction to reality, “We’re Taking Him Out”: His war on Iraq may be delayed, but Bush still vows to remove Saddam. Here’s a look at White House plans (DANIEL EISENBERG, May. 05, 2002, TIME)

Two months ago, a group of Republican and Democratic Senators went to the White House to meet with Condoleezza Rice, the President’s National Security Adviser. Bush was not scheduled to attend but poked his head in anyway — and soon turned the discussion to Iraq. The President has strong feelings about Saddam Hussein (you might too if the man had tried to assassinate your father, which Saddam attempted to do when former President George Bush visited Kuwait in 1993) and did not try to hide them. He showed little interest in debating what to do about Saddam. Instead, he became notably animated, according to one person in the room, used a vulgar epithet to refer to Saddam and concluded with four words that left no one in doubt about Bush’s intentions: “We’re taking him out.”

Dick Cheney carried the same message to Capitol Hill in late March. The Vice President dropped by a Senate Republican policy lunch soon after his 10-day tour of the Middle East — the one meant to drum up support for a U.S. military strike against Iraq. As everyone in the room well knew, his mission had been thrown off course by the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. But Cheney hadn’t lost focus. Before he spoke, he said no one should repeat what he said, and Senators and staff members promptly put down their pens and pencils. Then he gave them some surprising news. The question was no longer if the U.S. would attack Iraq, he said. The only question was when.

The U.S. appears ready to do whatever it takes to get rid of the Iraqi dictator once and for all. But while there is plenty of will, there still is no clearly effective way to move against Saddam. Senior Administration officials at the highest levels of planning say there are few good options. Saddam’s internal security makes a successful coup unlikely. The Iraqi opposition is weak and scattered. And this is a war that the rest of the world, with the possible exception of Britain, is not eager for America to wage. While key allies in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, would be more than happy to see Saddam go, they are too busy worrying about their own angry citizens — and quietly profiting from trade with Iraq — to help. A senior Arab official needed only one word to sum up the region’s view of any possible military action: “Ridiculous.” Yet Cheney gave the Senate policy lunch a very different view. He said the same European and Middle Eastern allies who publicly denounce a possible military strike had privately supported the idea.

Maybe so, but even the Administration has conceded that the Middle East crisis has shoved action against Iraq onto the back burner. When the White House announced a Middle East peace conference last week, a senior Administration official said, “This is a detour, and we have to get around it.” Hard-liners, however, think delaying an attack against Saddam because of the Middle East conflict simply means giving him breathing space to perfect his weapons of mass destruction. “Time is not on our side, and Saddam is running out the clock,” says Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, a conservative think tank.

Though there is a near consensus in Washington that the U.S. can no longer afford the failed containment policy of the past decade, which consisted of sanctions, no-fly zones in the north and south and periodic bombings, there is no real agreement on how or how quickly to achieve “regime change” in Iraq. For all the tough talk along the Potomac, the only war now being waged is the one involving the White House, State Department and Pentagon over how and when to move against Saddam.

A front-page story in the New York Times on April 28 claimed that Bush had all but settled on a full-scale ground invasion of Iraq early next year with between 70,000 and 250,000 U.S. troops. But military and civilian officials insist that there is no finalized battle plan or timetable — and that Bush has not even been presented with a formal list of options. Instead, the Times story, with its vision of a large-scale troop deployment, seems to have been the latest volley in the bureaucratic war at home, leaked by uniformed officers who think some of their civilian overseers have been downplaying the size and difficulty of an attack.

Still, planning for some kind of military action is clearly under way. Earlier this year, Bush signed a supersecret intelligence “finding” that authorized further action to prepare for Saddam’s ouster. Mindful of widespread concern that a post-Saddam Iraq could quickly be torn apart by ethnic violence and regional meddling, the White House is increasing its efforts to devise a workable replacement government.

Over the past month, CIA and State Department officials have met with long-feuding Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani to help them bury the hatchet. At a top-secret gathering in Berlin in April, the CIA discussed with them how the U.S. could protect the Kurds if Saddam retaliated against them after a U.S. attack. Also on the U.S. agenda are critical logistical issues, from the condition of roads and airports in the area to how soon Iraqi exiles could be sent into training. (Late last week Barzani confirmed to Time that there was a meeting of Kurdish leaders in Berlin, but denied that the CIA was involved.) While the Kurds, whose forces number about 85,000, could act as a proxy army in the north, they are wary of sacrificing their newfound autonomy (their land is protected by the northern no-fly zone, which is patrolled by U.S. and British planes) for vague promises of a better future. But after watching how the minority Northern Alliance grabbed a major share of power in post-Taliban Afghanistan, they are now asking for a major role in any future Iraqi government, rather than just regional rights, as a price for their cooperation.

Invasion is not the only alternative being considered, but it is the most likely. Taking the Afghanistan campaign as their model, many proponents of action, including Senator John McCain, still believe that before the U.S. commits to a full-scale invasion, it’s worth trying to overthrow Saddam in a proxy war with the help of a local opposition force much like the Northern Alliance, aided by American special forces and air power. But the Iraqi opposition, made up of Kurds in the north and Shi’ite Muslims in the south, is fragmented, largely untested and faced with an Iraqi army much larger and more sophisticated than the one the Northern Alliance helped vanquish in Afghanistan. Given Saddam’s brutal record of using chemical weapons against the Kurds and the U.S.’s past failure to help rebelling Kurds as well as Shi’ites in the south, Iraqis would be understandably wary of heeding an American call to rise up. […]

Hawks like Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Defense Policy Board chief Richard Perle strongly believe that after years of American sanctions and periodic air assaults, the Iraqi leader is weaker than most people believe. Rumsfeld has been so determined to find a rationale for an attack that on 10 separate occasions he asked the CIA to find evidence linking Iraq to the terror attacks of Sept. 11. The intelligence agency repeatedly came back empty-handed. The best hope for Iraqi ties to the attack — a report that lead hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official in the Czech Republic — was discredited last week.

If links between Iraq and the Sept. 11 conspirators are elusive, links to al-Qaeda may not be. In the past three years, an armed group of Islamic extremists now known as Ansar al-Islam, led in part by a suspected Iraqi intelligence agent, Abu Wa’el, has waged a terror campaign in Kurdistan. Most recently, in April, three militants tried to kill the Prime Minister of eastern Kurdistan just as a State Department official was visiting the region. “It was a message to the U.S.,” says a Kurdish investigator. Many of the 700 to 800 members of the group were trained by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and have returned to Kurdistan since the fighting last year at Tora Bora, according to Kurdish officials.

With hard-liners seizing on such testimony as reason to attack, it falls to Secretary of State Colin Powell — whom many Administration hawks blame for preventing a march on Baghdad at the end of the Gulf War — to play the lonely diplomat. While batting down rumors that he is fed up and quitting, Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, are close to getting a new set of Iraqi sanctions at the U.N. But other Administration principals fear that Saddam is working his own U.N. angle for the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq, whose presence could make the U.S. look like a bully if it invades. “The White House’s biggest fear is that U.N. weapons inspectors will be allowed to go in,” says a top Senate foreign policy aide.

From the moment he took office, Bush has made noises about finishing the job his father started. Sept. 11 may have diverted his attention, but Iraq has never been far from his mind. By the end of 2001, diplomats were discussing how to enlist the support of Arab allies, the military was sharpening its troop estimates, and the communications team was plotting how to sell an attack to the American public. The whole purpose of putting Iraq into Bush’s State of the Union address, as part of the “axis of evil,” was to begin the debate about a possible invasion.

Note particularly that you have a President who has long before made his decision and also just how minimal is the specter of WMD to the entire drama.

Did Bush, Cheney, And Powell Deliberately Mislead Us? (Stuart Taylor Jr., Feb. 9, 2004, National Journal)

Some degree of selective disclosure and one-sided advocacy is to be expected — indeed, unavoidable — when any president uses enormously complex intelligence findings to rally support for a war. But this administration’s outward certitude amid undisclosed intelligence-community doubts was more selective, and thus more misleading, than it needed to be. By airbrushing out the uncertainties, Bush, Cheney, and Powell denied us the opportunity to reach fully informed judgments about a matter of incalculably grave consequence.

Would many supporters of the war have been opposed had Bush, Cheney, and Powell been more candid? Not in my case. In a post-9/11 world, Saddam’s defiant behavior and the risk of Iraq’s acquiring nuclear weapons would have provided a casus belli even had I known everything Bush knew. (I might well have had a different view, however, had I also known that Saddam’s WMD were mostly a mirage.)

Nor was the administration’s intelligence-spinning deceptive in the same sense as, say, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secret, illegal (although noble) transfers of arms to Great Britain early in World War II. But a president who seeks to lead us into a war of choice owes us a more balanced assessment than Bush provided.

How far Bush and Cheney have fallen short of reasonably full disclosure is a question on which the independent commission now being formed should provide timely guidance for voters. Whether Bush and Cheney were candid enough to be entrusted with another term is a question that voters must answer for themselves.


February 1, 2004

A Friendly Drink in a Time of War (Paul Berman, Winter 2004, Dissent)

A friend leaned across a bar and said, “You call the war in Iraq an antifascist war. You even call it a left-wing war-a war of liberation. That language of yours! And yet, on the left, not too many people agree with you.”

“Not true!” I said. “Apart from X, Y, and Z, whose left-wing names you know very well, what do you think of Adam Michnik in Poland? And doesn’t Vaclav Havel count for something in your eyes? These are among the heroes of our time. Anyway, who is fighting in Iraq right now? The coalition is led by a Texas right-winger, which is a pity; but, in the second rank, by the prime minister of Britain, who is a socialist, sort of; and, in the third rank, by the president of Poland-a Communist! An ex-Communist, anyway. One Texas right-winger and two Europeans who are more or less on the left. Anyway, these categories, right and left, are disintegrating by the minute. And who do you regard as the leader of the worldwide left? Jacques Chirac?-a conservative, I hate to tell you.”

My friend persisted.

“Still, most people don’t seem to agree with you. You do have to see that. And why do you suppose that is?”

That was an aggressive question. And I answered in kind.

“Why don’t people on the left see it my way? Except for the ones who do? I’ll give you six reasons. People on the left have been unable to see the antifascist nature of the war because . . . “-and my hand hovered over the bar, ready to thump six times, demonstrating the powerful force of my argument.

“The left doesn’t see because -” thump!-“George W. Bush is an unusually repulsive politician, except to his own followers, and people are blinded by the revulsion they feel. And, in their blindness, they cannot identify the main contours of reality right now. They peer at Iraq and see the smirking face of George W. Bush. They even feel a kind of schadenfreude or satisfaction at his errors and failures. This is a modern, television-age example of what used to be called ‘false consciousness.'” […]

Thump! “The left doesn’t see because a lot of people, in their good-hearted effort to respect cultural differences, have concluded that Arabs must for inscrutable reasons of their own like to live under grotesque dictatorships and are not really capable of anything else, or won’t be ready to do so for another five hundred years, and Arab liberals should be regarded as somehow inauthentic. Which is to say, a lot of people, swept along by their own high-minded principles of cultural tolerance, have ended up clinging to attitudes that can only be regarded as racist against Arabs.

“The old-fashioned left used to be universalist-used to think that everyone, all over the world, would some day want to live according to the same fundamental values, and ought to be helped to do so. They thought this was especially true for people in reasonably modern societies with universities, industries, and a sophisticated bureaucracy-societies like the one in Iraq. But no more! Today, people say, out of a spirit of egalitarian tolerance: Social democracy for Swedes! Tyranny for Arabs! And this is supposed to be a left-wing attitude? By the way, you don’t hear much from the left about the non-Arabs in countries like Iraq, do you? The left, the real left, used to be the champion of minority populations-of people like the Kurds. No more! The left, my friend, has abandoned the values of the left-except for a few of us, of course.”

Thump! “Another reason: A lot of people honestly believe that Israel’s problems with the Palestinians represent something more than a miserable dispute over borders and recognition-that Israel’s problems represent something huger, a uniquely diabolical aspect of Zionism, which explains the rage and humiliation felt by Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia. Which is to say, a lot of people have succumbed to anti-Semitic fantasies about the cosmic quality of Jewish crime and cannot get their minds to think about anything else.

“I mean, look at the discussions that go on even among people who call themselves the democratic left, the good left-a relentless harping on the sins of Israel, an obsessive harping, with very little said about the fascist-influenced movements that have caused hundreds of thousands and even millions of deaths in other parts of the Muslim world. The distortions are wild, if you stop to think about them. Look at some of our big, influential liberal magazines-one article after another about Israeli crimes and stupidities, and even a few statements in favor of abolishing Israel, and hardly anything about the sufferings of the Arabs in the rest of the world. And even less is said about the Arab liberals-our own comrades, who have been pretty much abandoned. What do you make of that, my friend? There’s a name for that, a systematic distortion-what we Marxists, when we were Marxists, used to call ideology.”

What’s most entertaining about all this is that, despite his protestations to the contrary, Mr. Berman shares the universalist democratic world view of which George W. Bush is the main proponent in the world today, and which is the very source of the repulsion that so many feel towards him (we’ll ignore his Zionism for now). Mr. Berman, like Michael Walzer, has spent an awful lot of effort since 9-11 arguing with the Left that the war on terror is their war too–apparently futilely.

Here, in an eloquent nutshell, is everything Mr. Berman is trying to convince his drinking buddy of, President Bush Discusses Freedom in Iraq and Middle East (Remarks by the President at the 20th Anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy, 11/06/2003, United States Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C.)

Historians in the future will reflect on an extraordinary, undeniable fact: Over time, free nations grow stronger and dictatorships grow weaker. In the middle of the 20th century, some imagined that the central planning and social regimentation were a shortcut to national strength. In fact, the prosperity, and social vitality and technological progress of a people are directly determined by extent of their liberty. Freedom honors and unleashes human creativity — and creativity determines the strength and wealth of nations. Liberty is both the plan of Heaven for humanity, and the best hope for progress here on Earth.

The progress of liberty is a powerful trend. Yet, we also know that liberty, if not defended, can be lost. The success of freedom is not determined by some dialectic of history. By definition, the success of freedom rests upon the choices and the courage of free peoples, and upon their willingness to sacrifice. In the trenches of World War I, through a two-front war in the 1940s, the difficult battles of Korea and Vietnam, and in missions of rescue and liberation on nearly every continent, Americans have amply displayed our willingness to sacrifice for liberty.

The sacrifices of Americans have not always been recognized or appreciated, yet they have been worthwhile. Because we and our allies were steadfast, Germany and Japan are democratic nations that no longer threaten the world. A global nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union ended peacefully — as did the Soviet Union. The nations of Europe are moving towards unity, not dividing into armed camps and descending into genocide. Every nation has learned, or should have learned, an important lesson: Freedom is worth fighting for, dying for, and standing for — and the advance of freedom leads to peace. (Applause.)

And now we must apply that lesson in our own time. We’ve reached another great turning point — and the resolve we show will shape the next stage of the world democratic movement.

Our commitment to democracy is tested in countries like Cuba and Burma and North Korea and Zimbabwe — outposts of oppression in our world. The people in these nations live in captivity, and fear and silence. Yet, these regimes cannot hold back freedom forever — and, one day, from prison camps and prison cells, and from exile, the leaders of new democracies will arrive. (Applause.) Communism, and militarism and rule by the capricious and corrupt are the relics of a passing era. And we will stand with these oppressed peoples until the day of their freedom finally arrives. (Applause.)

Our commitment to democracy is tested in China. That nation now has a sliver, a fragment of liberty. Yet, China’s people will eventually want their liberty pure and whole. China has discovered that economic freedom leads to national wealth. China’s leaders will also discover that freedom is indivisible — that social and religious freedom is also essential to national greatness and national dignity. Eventually, men and women who are allowed to control their own wealth will insist on controlling their own lives and their own country.

Our commitment to democracy is also tested in the Middle East, which is my focus today, and must be a focus of American policy for decades to come. In many nations of the Middle East — countries of great strategic importance — democracy has not yet taken root. And the questions arise: Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom, and never even to have a choice in the matter? I, for one, do not believe it. I believe every person has the ability and the right to be free. (Applause.)

Some skeptics of democracy assert that the traditions of Islam are inhospitable to the representative government. This “cultural condescension,” as Ronald Reagan termed it, has a long history. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, a so-called Japan expert asserted that democracy in that former empire would “never work.” Another observer declared the prospects for democracy in post-Hitler Germany are, and I quote, “most uncertain at best” — he made that claim in 1957. Seventy-four years ago, The Sunday London Times declared nine-tenths of the population of India to be “illiterates not caring a fig for politics.” Yet when Indian democracy was imperiled in the 1970s, the Indian people showed their commitment to liberty in a national referendum that saved their form of government.

Time after time, observers have questioned whether this country, or that people, or this group, are “ready” for democracy — as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own Western standards of progress. In fact, the daily work of democracy itself is the path of progress. It teaches cooperation, the free exchange of ideas, and the peaceful resolution of differences. As men and women are showing, from Bangladesh to Botswana, to Mongolia, it is the practice of democracy that makes a nation ready for democracy, and every nation can start on this path.

It should be clear to all that Islam — the faith of one-fifth of humanity — is consistent with democratic rule. Democratic progress is found in many predominantly Muslim countries — in Turkey and Indonesia, and Senegal and Albania, Niger and Sierra Leone. Muslim men and women are good citizens of India and South Africa, of the nations of Western Europe, and of the United States of America.

More than half of all the Muslims in the world live in freedom under democratically constituted governments. They succeed in democratic societies, not in spite of their faith, but because of it. A religion that demands individual moral accountability, and encourages the encounter of the individual with God, is fully compatible with the rights and responsibilities of self-government.

Yet there’s a great challenge today in the Middle East. In the words of a recent report by Arab scholars, the global wave of democracy has — and I quote — “barely reached the Arab states.” They continue: “This freedom deficit undermines human development and is one of the most painful manifestations of lagging political development.” The freedom deficit they describe has terrible consequences, of the people of the Middle East and for the world. In many Middle Eastern countries, poverty is deep and it is spreading, women lack rights and are denied schooling. Whole societies remain stagnant while the world moves ahead. These are not the failures of a culture or a religion. These are the failures of political and economic doctrines.

As the colonial era passed away, the Middle East saw the establishment of many military dictatorships. Some rulers adopted the dogmas of socialism, seized total control of political parties and the media and universities. They allied themselves with the Soviet bloc and with international terrorism. Dictators in Iraq and Syria promised the restoration of national honor, a return to ancient glories. They’ve left instead a legacy of torture, oppression, misery, and ruin.

Other men, and groups of men, have gained influence in the Middle East and beyond through an ideology of theocratic terror. Behind their language of religion is the ambition for absolute political power. Ruling cabals like the Taliban show their version of religious piety in public whippings of women, ruthless suppression of any difference or dissent, and support for terrorists who arm and train to murder the innocent. The Taliban promised religious purity and national pride. Instead, by systematically destroying a proud and working society, they left behind suffering and starvation.

Many Middle Eastern governments now understand that military dictatorship and theocratic rule are a straight, smooth highway to nowhere. But some governments still cling to the old habits of central control. There are governments that still fear and repress independent thought and creativity, and private enterprise — the human qualities that make for a — strong and successful societies. Even when these nations have vast natural resources, they do not respect or develop their greatest resources — the talent and energy of men and women working and living in freedom.

Instead of dwelling on past wrongs and blaming others, governments in the Middle East need to confront real problems, and serve the true interests of their nations. The good and capable people of the Middle East all deserve responsible leadership. For too long, many people in that region have been victims and subjects — they deserve to be active citizens.

Governments across the Middle East and North Africa are beginning to see the need for change. Morocco has a diverse new parliament; King Mohammed has urged it to extend the rights to women. Here is how His Majesty explained his reforms to parliament: “How can society achieve progress while women, who represent half the nation, see their rights violated and suffer as a result of injustice, violence, and marginalization, notwithstanding the dignity and justice granted to them by our glorious religion?” The King of Morocco is correct: The future of Muslim nations will be better for all with the full participation of women. (Applause.)

In Bahrain last year, citizens elected their own parliament for the first time in nearly three decades. Oman has extended the vote to all adult citizens; Qatar has a new constitution; Yemen has a multiparty political system; Kuwait has a directly elected national assembly; and Jordan held historic elections this summer. Recent surveys in Arab nations reveal broad support for political pluralism, the rule of law, and free speech. These are the stirrings of Middle Eastern democracy, and they carry the promise of greater change to come.

As changes come to the Middle Eastern region, those with power should ask themselves: Will they be remembered for resisting reform, or for leading it? In Iran, the demand for democracy is strong and broad, as we saw last month when thousands gathered to welcome home Shirin Ebadi, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The regime in Teheran must heed the democratic demands of the Iranian people, or lose its last claim to legitimacy. (Applause.)

For the Palestinian people, the only path to independence and dignity and progress is the path of democracy. (Applause.) And the Palestinian leaders who block and undermine democratic reform, and feed hatred and encourage violence are not leaders at all. They’re the main obstacles to peace, and to the success of the Palestinian people.

The Saudi government is taking first steps toward reform, including a plan for gradual introduction of elections. By giving the Saudi people a greater role in their own society, the Saudi government can demonstrate true leadership in the region.

The great and proud nation of Egypt has shown the way toward peace in the Middle East, and now should show the way toward democracy in the Middle East. (Applause.) Champions of democracy in the region understand that democracy is not perfect, it is not the path to utopia, but it’s the only path to national success and dignity.

As we watch and encourage reforms in the region, we are mindful that modernization is not the same as Westernization. Representative governments in the Middle East will reflect their own cultures. They will not, and should not, look like us. Democratic nations may be constitutional monarchies, federal republics, or parliamentary systems. And working democracies always need time to develop — as did our own. We’ve taken a 200-year journey toward inclusion and justice — and this makes us patient and understanding as other nations are at different stages of this journey.

There are, however, essential principles common to every successful society, in every culture. Successful societies limit the power of the state and the power of the military — so that governments respond to the will of the people, and not the will of an elite. Successful societies protect freedom with the consistent and impartial rule of law, instead of selecting applying — selectively applying the law to punish political opponents. Successful societies allow room for healthy civic institutions — for political parties and labor unions and independent newspapers and broadcast media. Successful societies guarantee religious liberty — the right to serve and honor God without fear of persecution. Successful societies privatize their economies, and secure the rights of property. They prohibit and punish official corruption, and invest in the health and education of their people. They recognize the rights of women. And instead of directing hatred and resentment against others, successful societies appeal to the hopes of their own people. (Applause.)

These vital principles are being applies in the nations of Afghanistan and Iraq. With the steady leadership of President Karzai, the people of Afghanistan are building a modern and peaceful government. Next month, 500 delegates will convene a national assembly in Kabul to approve a new Afghan constitution. The proposed draft would establish a bicameral parliament, set national elections next year, and recognize Afghanistan’s Muslim identity, while protecting the rights of all citizens. Afghanistan faces continuing economic and security challenges — it will face those challenges as a free and stable democracy. (Applause.)

In Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council are also working together to build a democracy — and after three decades of tyranny, this work is not easy. The former dictator ruled by terror and treachery, and left deeply ingrained habits of fear and distrust. Remnants of his regime, joined by foreign terrorists, continue their battle against order and against civilization. Our coalition is responding to recent attacks with precision raids, guided by intelligence provided by the Iraqis, themselves. And we’re working closely with Iraqi citizens as they prepare a constitution, as they move toward free elections and take increasing responsibility for their own affairs. As in the defense of Greece in 1947, and later in the Berlin Airlift, the strength and will of free peoples are now being tested before a watching world. And we will meet this test. (Applause.)

Securing democracy in Iraq is the work of many hands. American and coalition forces are sacrificing for the peace of Iraq and for the security of free nations. Aid workers from many countries are facing danger to help the Iraqi people. The National Endowment for Democracy is promoting women’s rights, and training Iraqi journalists, and teaching the skills of political participation. Iraqis, themselves — police and borders guards and local officials — are joining in the work and they are sharing in the sacrifice.

This is a massive and difficult undertaking — it is worth our effort, it is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes. The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region. Iraqi democracy will succeed — and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran — that freedom can be the future of every nation. (Applause.) The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution. (Applause.)

Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe — because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo. (Applause.)

Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before. And it will yield the same results. As in Europe, as in Asia, as in every region of the world, the advance of freedom leads to peace. (Applause.)

The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it is the calling of our country. From the Fourteen Points to the Four Freedoms, to the Speech at Westminster, America has put our power at the service of principle. We believe that liberty is the design of nature; we believe that liberty is the direction of history. We believe that human fulfillment and excellence come in the responsible exercise of liberty. And we believe that freedom — the freedom we prize — is not for us alone, it is the right and the capacity of all mankind. (Applause.)

Working for the spread of freedom can be hard. Yet, America has accomplished hard tasks before. Our nation is strong; we’re strong of heart. And we’re not alone. Freedom is finding allies in every country; freedom finds allies in every culture. And as we meet the terror and violence of the world, we can be certain the author of freedom is not indifferent to the fate of freedom.

With all the tests and all the challenges of our age, this is, above all, the age of liberty. Each of you at this Endowment is fully engaged in the great cause of liberty. And I thank you. May God bless your work. And may God continue to bless America.