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.