The NYT Finally Wakes Up

The New York Times is finally realizing that this whole Middle East/democracy thing isn’t so bad afterall:

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.

This was a New York Times editorial.

At this point I fully expect for cats and dogs to sleep together, for pigs to suddenly take flight, and to see an evil version of Mr. Spock walking around. The laws of the universe have just been irrevokably shattered here.

What this also indicates is that those dreaded “imperalist” neocons just so happened to be right afterall. The events transpiring in Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, and elsewhere would not have happened had Sadddam Hussein been in power. Bush’s Middle East policies are routinely accused of being abject failures — but would the Lebanese people have stood united against Syria if they thought Syria would once again play by the Hama rules? Would Mahmoud Abbas be willing to rid Palestine of Arafat’s cronies had Bush played by his predecessors rules and treated Arafat like an honored statement rather than a terrorist? Would the latest movement towards Middle East peace have happened when Saddam Hussein was still using his blood money to fuel the fires of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Granted, Bush doesn’t deserve all the credit — if anything all he did was initiate the process. The people of the Middle East did the rest. Had the Iraqi gamble not paid off and the terrorists been able to keep the Iraqi people cowering in fear rather than going to the polls, the world would likely not be in the same position it is now. However, the Iraqi people seized the opportunity given to them, and like the fall of the Berlin Wall, began a process of transformation that will have profound effects on the region and the world.

President Bush has challenged our nation and the rest of the world to join him on an ambitious effort to instill democratic values worldwide. This effort will take a great deal of time and effort, and the process will not always be smooth. Like any time of transition, there will be setbacks and opposition from those who oppose the values of democracy and tolerance. The horrifying car bomb attack in Hilla, Iraq serves as a reminder that the price of democracy is often high.

However, when even the editorial board of The New York Times is celebrating a newfound sense of hope in the Middle East, one can be sure that the events in the Middle East are nothing less than revolutionary. There is much work to be done to ensure that the Middle East doesn’t lapse back into a state of illiberal democracy in which elections serve as a cover for the same old autocracy and fundamentalism. However, we have already seen what the President calls the “transformational power of liberty” bring down an Iron Curtain — human nature tells us that once the concept of freedom takes root, the effects it has can be nothing less than extraordinary.

8 thoughts on “The NYT Finally Wakes Up

  1. Jay, another outstanding analysis. Thanks and bravo, and one suggested addition. Along with George W. Bush and the brave voters of Iraq and Afghanistan (and hopefully soon of Lebanon, Syria and Iran!), I would credit to the men and women of the United States armed forces for the unfolding democratic revolution in the Middle East. It was they after all who gave their blood and their lives to drive out the Taliban and the Bathist and to give the people of that suffering region the chance to govern themselves. Much the same can be said of those generations of Americans who fought and died in Korea, Vietnam and Latin America. By opposing and exhausting communism across the globe, and despite temporary defeats and the opprobrium of those in the “reality based” community, the U.S. military made possible those later “bloodless” democratic revolutions. In a truly just world, the next dozen or so Nobel Peace Prizes would go to the United States Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy, SAC, etc., etc. Thanks again for your wonderful contributions.

  2. The events transpiring in Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, and elsewhere would not have happened had Sadddam Hussein been in power.

    What’s the basis for this statement?

  3. I have to agree with Chet’s question. The Lebanese response was directly against what happened to Rafik Hariri. Keep in mind that some of the fierciest anti-Syrian forces from the Maronite Catholic divide were very close to the Saddam Hussein regime in the 80’s. The reason for this being that Saddam did not get along at all with Assad during this time period as the two nations Baath Parties had clashing visions. A good deal of that was due to the fact that Syria’s Baath Party has elevated Alawites, whereas Saddam’s elevated Sunni’s. Anyway, I don’t agree that Lebanon took its cues from Iraq. The Druze and Walid Jumbalatt have always done their own thing, and many of the Maronites and Greek Orthodox in Lebanon will tell you they are phonecian and not Arab. Egypt I can perhaps see a closer link, since Egyptians pride themselves on being the cultural center of the Arab world, and wouldn’t want to be behind a provincial backwater like Iraq in anything. Palestine has yet to deliver reforms that I would be willing to bank on, but since Saddam was a key Arafat ally, I am sure Abbas wants to go in a new direction now that Saddam is no more.

  4. I think the reason why is more psychological than anyone else. Had Hussein remained in power, Syria wouldn’t have 150,000 US troops to their east. The only reason we’re not seeing another Hama is because the Syrians know that they can’t get away with it anymore. The Lebanese are certainly being influenced by the events in Iraq – even Jumbalatt admits as such (which for him is quite a turn).

    Granted, the removal of Saddam isn’t the only factor at play here, but it’s an important psychological milestone. It’s the first time an Arab country has so strongly embraced real democracy, and that is having a spillover effect with other countries – it’s the classic human yearning – “my neighbors have free elections, why can’t I have them too?”

  5. What’s the basis for this statement?

    What’s wrong with the quick and simple answer:

    If it were to have happened anyway, why didn’t it happen sooner?

    Yes, you can make all sorts of arguments for “growing miscontent” and trends towards an organic bloodless liberation, but history suggests any attempt at internal revolution sans the backing of a pro-active U.S. would be a massacre of those seeking liberty.

    Is it really so difficult to recognize any positive development as a result of Bush’s policies?

  6. Is it really so difficult to recognize any positive development as a result of Bush’s policies?

    Given the Bush Administration’s tendancy to seek credit for literally everything good that happens during their term, I take any assertion that “Bush’s policies are a success” with a sizeable grain of salt. Otherwise you simply commit the fallacy of “ad hoc, ergo propter hoc”.

    I mean, I found 5 dollars in an old coat yesterday. Am I supposed to credit the Bush Administration’s economic policies for this good fortune? I dunno. Maybe the Bush policies are responsible. But I’d like to see that causality substantiated beyond Jay’s musings about a “psycological effect”, as though he’s imbued with the power to peer into the minds of the Arab Street from thousands of miles away.

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