March 21, 2005

Europe’s Problem–and Ours: Will the EU choose collectivism over individualism? Will we? (PETE DU PONT, 3/21/05, Opinion Journal)

Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, was recently in Washington to meet with President Bush and release his new book, “On the Road to Democracy.” When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Velvet Revolution came to Czechoslovakia, Mr. Klaus became finance minister in the new democracy. He became prime minister in 1992, and later president. His market principles replaced communism with freedom and choice; he liberated prices and foreign trade, deregulated markets and privatized state ownership of assets. Communism was dismantled and prosperity came to his country.

But now President Klaus sees an unsettling new challenge: the zeal of Old Europe–France, Germany, Brussels–to impose collective choices on New Europe–Poland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Ireland. “Ten years ago,” Mr. Klaus writes, “the dominant slogan was: ‘deregulate, liberalize, privatize.’ Now the slogan is different; ‘regulate . . . get rid of your sovereignty and put it in the hands of international institutions and organizations.’ ”

“The current European unification process is not predominantly about opening up,” he continues, “It is about introducing massive regulation and protection, about imposing uniform rules, laws, and policies.” It is about a “rush into the European Union which is currently the most visible and the most powerful embodiment of ambition to create something else–supposedly better–than a free society.”

As Vaclav Havel symbolizes the defeat of communism, so too might Vaclav Klaus one day symbolize the defeat of transnationalism, a far more important fight since it affects us directly and has a domestic appeal the other isms never did.



March 13, 2005

Address by Vaclav Havel President of the Czech Republic to the Senate and the House of Commons of the Parliament of Canada (Parliament Hill, Ottawa, 29 April 1999)

[T]here is a value which ranks higher than the State. This value is humanity. The State, as is well known, is here to serve the people, not the other way round. If a person serves his or her state such service should go only as far as is necessary for the state to do a good service to all its citizens. Human rights rank above the rights of states. Human liberties constitute a higher value than State sovereignty. In terms of international law, the provisions that protect the unique human being should take precedence over the provisions that protect the State.

If, in the world of today, our fates are merged into one single destiny, and if every one of us is responsible for the future of all, nobody – not even the State – should be allowed to restrict the right of the people to exercise this responsibility. I think that the foreign policies of individual states should gradually sever the category that has, until now, most often constituted their axis, that is, the category of “interests”, “our national interests” or “the foreign policy interests of our state”. The category of “interests” tends to divide rather than to bring us together. It is true that each of us has some specific interests. This is entirely natural and there is no reason why we should abandon our legitimate concerns. But there is something that ranks higher than our interests: it is the principles that we espouse. Principles unite us rather than divide us. Moreover, they are the yardstick for measuring the legitimacy or illegitimacy of our interests. I do not think it is valid when various state doctrines say that it is in the interest of the state to uphold such and such a principle. Principles must be respected and upheld for their own sake – so to speak, as a matter of principle – and interests should be derived from them. […]

Dear friends,

Many times in the past, I have pondered on the question of why humanity has the prerogative to any rights at all. Inevitably, I have always come to the conclusion that human rights, human liberties and human dignity have their deepest roots outside of this earthly world. They become what they are only because, under certain circumstances, they can mean to humanity a value that people place – without being forced to – higher than even their own lives. Thus, these notions have meaning only against the background of the infinite and of eternity. It is my profound conviction that the true worth of all our actions – whether or not they are in harmony with our conscience, the ambassador of eternity in our soul – is finally tested somewhere beyond our sight. If we did not sense this, or subconsciously surmise it, certain things could never get done.

Let me conclude my remarks on the State and on the role it will probably play in the future with the following statement: While the State is a human creation, humanity is a creation of God.

Yet the awkward fact we have to face is that for all the liberalization and democratization of the past century, only one state proceeds from the basis that Mr. Havel correctly outlines here:

You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe.
John Adams

and has preserved that principle without change:

Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity.
George W. Bush


March 13, 2005

Revisiting Iraq, and Rooting For Bush (Stuart Taylor Jr., 03-12-2005, National Journal)

I was guardedly in favor of invading Iraq, because I believed our president’s confident claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and his collaboration with Al Qaeda.

As time passed, I came to fear that the invasion had probably been a disastrous mistake — perhaps the worst by any president in my lifetime.

That was after the WMD and the supposed Qaeda alliance turned out to be intelligence-agency fantasies grossly exaggerated by President Bush and his aides. And after the occupation turned into a blood-soaked disaster. And after many Iraqis who had initially greeted us as liberators switched to wanting us out, or dead. And after the Abu Ghraib photos. And after anti-Americanism soared to unprecedented levels around the world. And after experts confidently assured me that Iraq was doomed to civil war and chaos and would become a haven for terrorists.

I descended into dismay about Bush and his top people. I was driven deeper into it by administration claims of war-on-terrorism presidential powers that can only be called tyrannical: to seize anyone in the world, anywhere in the world; to imprison and interrogate the suspect indefinitely, incommunicado, with no semblance of due process; even (if the president chooses) to torture him. Not to mention Bush’s feckless failure to prevent North Korea from going nuclear, the Guantanamo abuses, the disdain for diplomacy, the irresponsible approach to global warming, the fiscal recklessness, the shifting of tax burdens from the rich to future generations, the swaggering refusal to ever admit error, the smirk, and more.

Now, though, I am rooting for Bush to go down in history as a great president. […]

How can we not root for Bush to win this campaign for Arab democracy, even if his chances still seem no better than even? And while celebrations are premature, shouldn’t we sometime Bush-bashers — and even the full-time Bush-haters — be prepared to give great credit to him and his neocons, if and when it becomes clear that they have engineered a historic breakthrough?

Mr. Taylor is one of that sadly mere handful of folks who make up the Decent Left, those capable of looking past personalities and ideologies to what is best for the country and the world and, more imprtantly, recognizing that sometimes it’s the other side that knows best.

Who else could we add to this list (allowing considerable leeway)?:


Robert Samuelson

AS REGARDS THE EXTENSION OF LIBERTY GLOBALLY (in other words, not in domestic affairs):

Michael Walzer
Michael Ignatieff
Paul Berman
Christopher Hitchens

Who else?


March 13, 2005

Why democracy stirs in Mideast: The factors behind the political opening from Baghdad to Beirut, and beyond. (Howard LaFranchi, 3/14/05, CS Monitor)

The letters came from the Committee on the Present Danger – an international group established to support the war against terror – and carried the imprimatur of such figures as former Secretary of State George Shultz and “Velvet Revolutionary” Vaclav Havel.

One letter invited Egyptian prisoner Ayman Nour, leader of the political opposition party Al Ghad, to join the organization. The other asked President Hosni Mubarak for permission to meet with the jailed leader.

On Saturday, under the mounting international pressure, Mr. Nour was released on bail.

This case represents another small opening in a series of momentous stirrings sweeping a region that has long seemed stuck under entrenched authoritarian regimes.

Why all the ferment? As the Egyptian case suggests, outside influences – in particular Bush policies pairing Arab reform with global security – are at least part of the explanation for the abrupt rise of democracy activism. But so, in a circuitous way, is Osama Bin Laden himself. So is the ripple effect of elections in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, and Ukraine.

And so, as experts on the region emphasize, are the many home-grown democracy advocates who have long laid the groundwork for an Arab bloom.

In the long run they can’t hold back the End of History. In the short run we can make it happen faster.


March 1, 2005

Freedom, our most lethal weapon against tyranny.
(Michael Ledeen, 3/01/05, National Review)

We are living in a revolutionary age, that started more than a quarter century ago in Spain after the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. At that time, hardly anyone believed it possible to go from dictatorship to democracy without great violence, and most Spaniards feared that the terrible civil war of the 1930s — which ended when Franco seized power and installed a military dictatorship — would begin anew. Instead, thanks to a remarkable generation of political leaders, some savvy priests, and the grossly underrated King Juan Carlos, Spain passed smoothly and gracefully into democracy.

It was the beginning of the Age of the Second Democratic Revolution. Spain inspired Portugal, and the second Iberian dictatorship gave way to democracy. Spain and Portugal inspired all of Latin America, and by the time Ronald Reagan left office there were only two unelected governments south of the Rio Grande: Cuba and Surinam. These successful revolutions inspired the Soviet satellites, and then the Soviet Union itself, and the global democratic revolution reached into Africa and Asia, even threatening the tyrants in Beijing.

The United States played a largely positive role in almost all these revolutions, thanks to a visionary president — Ronald Reagan — and a generation of other revolutionary leaders in the West: Walesa, Havel, Thatcher, John Paul II, Bukovsky, Sharansky, among others.

There was then a pause for a dozen years, first during the presidency of Bush the Elder, who surrounded himself with short-sighted self-proclaimed “realists” and boasted of his lack of “the vision thing,” and then the reactionary Clinton years, featuring a female secretary of state who danced with dictators. Having led a global democratic revolution, and won the Cold War, the United States walked away from that revolution. We were shocked into resuming our unfinished mission by the Islamofascists, eight months into George W. Bush’s first term, and we have been pursuing that mission ever since.