Monday, June 15, 2009

Carry a big stick...and then speak softly

I remember my high school days watching President Bush saying: "Freedom is the Almighty's gift to the world." While I believed in that general principle then, after growing up, going on a mission and studying world cultures, I began to think that Bush was stretching the principle a bit too far in order to justify the Iraq War's imposition of democracy. This is what most smart people thought. The sophisticated world of the past five years criticized Bush for his unyielding conviction--which yes, sometimes seemed nothing more than his "gut" feeling--of believing that all people would embrace democracy if they had the chance.

"Yeah, right," the academics said, arguing that democracy is virtually insoluble with some cultures. In 2004, Fareed Zakaria wrote a prominent work about the massive cultural and political roadblocks that would have to be removed in order for democracy to take root in the Islamic world: Surely, much more than just tearing down the statue of Sadam Hussein.

Five years later, everything has changed. Zakaria is whistling a different tune. Democracy is all of the sudden within reach not only in Iraq but also Lebanon and Iran.

Of Iraqi and Lebanese democracy, Tom Friedman writes:

"For real politics to happen you need space. There are a million things to hate about President Bush’s costly and wrenching wars. But the fact is, in ousting Saddam in Iraq in 2003 and mobilizing the U.N. to push Syria out of Lebanon in 2005, he opened space for real democratic politics that had not existed in Iraq or Lebanon for decades. “Bush had a simple idea, that the Arabs could be democratic, and at that particular moment simple ideas were what was needed, even if he was disingenuous,” said Michael Young, the opinion editor of The Beirut Daily Star. “It was bolstered by the presence of a U.S. Army in the center of the Middle East. It created a sense that change was possible, that things did not always have to be as they were.”

I almost cheered when I read this, not because I worship Bush or loved the Iraq war, however. It was simply refreshing to hear from the NY Times that Iraq War does not equal Vietnam 2.0 and, even more than that, that Bush's idea, as unsophisticated as it was, is maybe true. Love him or hate him, there is something hopeful about believing in people's desire for democracy.

Bush, undoubetly, lacked tact. However, his successor has picked up where Bush left off. Make no mistake about it, Obama is thanking GW Bush right now. Bush created the opportunity for democracy and Obama is making the opportunity for democracy attractive with such overtures as his speech in Cairo. Had Barack Hussein Obama not been elected, the opporunity would have likely collasped. His image has helped make democracy seem more Muslim friendly.

So Bush and Obama have done some sort of reversal of a "good cop, bad cop" routine. Between the two of them, America has followed the policy of "carry a big stick... and then speak softly."

And suddenly, the combo is working...


Fancy Nancy said...

Great piece. Wouldn't it be something if the Iranians actually opted for democracy? PC or not, Bush's contribution was real.

jPate said...

Fabulous post, and excellent title choice. It is encouraging to see good things happening democracy wise. Glad others are appreciating it!

Michelle said...

Reminds me of D&C 121:43. Our government has a long way to go but it's nice to see that we're headed in the right direction.

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