Monday, June 20, 2005
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a forceful case for democracy in the Muslim world Monday, telling Egypt's conservative government leaders "the fear of free choices can no longer justify the denial of liberty."
Rice's remarks were to some 700 invited government officials, academics and other guests at the American University in Cairo. The setting is notable, both because Egypt plans multiparty elections in the fall and because the Bush administration has made no secret of its dissatisfaction with political progress and the treatment of opposition figures by the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
"For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither," Rice said. "Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."
Rice's substantive point is exactly correct. Rightly or wrongly, we are explicitly willing to sacrifice stability for change in Muslim political society. Disorder in a fascist society is often (although not necessarily) the friend of the true democrat. The next time, therefore, you hear somebody complain that American policy has made the Middle East less stable, remember that instability is the understood consequence of our policy, not evidence that the policy has failed. It is highly unlikely that most of the people in that part of the world will free themselves from the kings and dictators who keep them down without massive instability and probably violence. It is a journey that these societies will have to take, though, in order that they may emerge with representative and legitimate governments. It is high time that we got started. Now, faster. Please.
UPDATE: Watching CNN Europe late Monday night in my hotel room in Paris. They are giving Rice's visit a huge amount of coverage, and they showed a large part of her very strong speech. Of course, they then interviewed a bunch of Arabs who were upset by it, including an "Egyptian democracy activist" who said that "democracy should be our dream, not America's." Bush may well have the impact on the world's aspirations that Woodrow Wilson had, but will get no credit for it from his own generation.