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Friday, March 25, 2005

Syria's nightmare and Iraqi heroism

Chicago Tribune:

His new Middle East neighborhood cannot make Syria's dictator Bashar Assad very happy. Turkey is democratic to his north. A million Arabs vote in Israel to the south. Palestinians are near civil war to establish democratic rule--their own terrorists more a threat to the newly elected Abu Abbas than are Israeli tanks. Iraq to the east is settling down under its new autonomy, forging through blood and fire the Arab world's first true democracy. Lebanon is now afire with anti-Syrian sentiment, equating its occupation with the last obstacle to a democratic renaissance. Beyond Syria's borders, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's announcement that he may be forced to act as if he will hold real elections is not welcome to Assad. Nor is the strange behavior of once-kindred Col. Moammar Gadhafi and all his unexpected talk of giving up forbidden weapons and letting Westerners back into Libya. When Wahhabist Saudi Arabia promises municipal elections, or Afghan women line up at the polls for hours, then the world has been turned upside down. Syria's worst nightmare is not an American invasion, but an Arab League that is dominated by nascent democracies.
Iran isn't too happy about that outcome either. I have been advocating for a need to fundamentally alter the middle east since the evening of 9/11. First with my friends in conversation and later on this blog. I expected it would be at least a decade before our efforts in Afghanistan had a positive influence elsewhere and that it would be about five years for Iraq to recover and grow enough to make any sort of a difference. Apparently, I was wrong. Numerous 'external' events have helped shape the fact that this has been a quicker process than expected. The Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, although not an Islamic revolution, had a powerful impact. Other events beyond Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed as well. Ironically though, one of the reasons that Iraq and the Iraqi elections have had a quicker impact than I expected was the fact that the insurgency has been more prolonged and worse than I counted on. Yes, thats right. The insurgency in Iraq has made Iraq more of a positive influence on the region quicker than I expected. Originally I was counting on the success that democracy brings. Some of that would have been the rights of the people and having the ability to vote for your government, but a lot of what I was counting on was economic freedom and success. That takes time to manifest. Michael Moore's minutemen in Iraq though have been forced to target Iraqi's in an attempt to stop the progress of democracy. They have also forced the Iraqi's to make a choice and to fight for their freedoms. In the process the insurgents have been striped of their legitmacy and, perhaps even more signifigantly, the people of Iraq have shown that they don't have to accept that sort of thuggery. They have fought for their freedom, many directly and others by the bravery of going to the polls on Jan. 30th. Rather than just being given a democracy and then showing how good a democracy can be, they have earned a democracy in their own right. They have destroyed the notion that Arab people's do not want to govern themselves and exposed the rulers of other Arab nations as the self-centered thugs that they are. This doesn't mean I am glad that the insurgency has been so protracted. It does however give a silver lining to an otherwise dark cloud. I predict that for years people throughout the Arab world will look on the true martyrs in Iraq as heroes.


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