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.