On November 6, 2003, President Bush Discussed Freedom in Iraq and Middle East at the 20th Anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy, United States Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C.
His words resonate today, more than ever.
We’ve witnessed, in little over a generation, the swiftest advance of freedom in the 2,500 year story of democracy. Historians in the future will offer their own explanations for why this happened. Yet we already know some of the reasons they will cite. It is no accident that the rise of so many democracies took place in a time when the world’s most influential nation was itself a democracy.
The United States made military and moral commitments in Europe and Asia, which protected free nations from aggression, and created the conditions in which new democracies could flourish. As we provided security for whole nations, we also provided inspiration for oppressed peoples. In prison camps, in banned union meetings, in clandestine churches, men and women knew that the whole world was not sharing their own nightmare. They knew of at least one place — a bright and hopeful land — where freedom was valued and secure. And they prayed that America would not forget them, or forget the mission to promote liberty around the world.
Sadly, these days, promoting liberty is seen as “meddling”.
Historians in the future will reflect on an extraordinary, undeniable fact: Over time, free nations grow stronger and dictatorships grow weaker. In the middle of the 20th century, some imagined that the central planning and social regimentation were a shortcut to national strength. In fact, the prosperity, and social vitality and technological progress of a people are directly determined by extent of their liberty. Freedom honors and unleashes human creativity — and creativity determines the strength and wealth of nations. Liberty is both the plan of Heaven for humanity, and the best hope for progress here on Earth.
Some might say that the US took a giant step backward in the 2008 election, trading liberty for security…
The progress of liberty is a powerful trend. Yet, we also know that liberty, if not defended, can be lost. The success of freedom is not determined by some dialectic of history. By definition, the success of freedom rests upon the choices and the courage of free peoples, and upon their willingness to sacrifice. In the trenches of World War I, through a two-front war in the 1940s, the difficult battles of Korea and Vietnam, and in missions of rescue and liberation on nearly every continent, Americans have amply displayed our willingness to sacrifice for liberty.
I think we’re seeing this in the bravery and sacrifices of the Iranian protesters…I’m just not sure that their alternative to Ahmadinejad would be the radical change they’re looking for.
Our commitment to democracy is also tested in the Middle East, which is my focus today, and must be a focus of American policy for decades to come. In many nations of the Middle East — countries of great strategic importance — democracy has not yet taken root. And the questions arise: Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom, and never even to have a choice in the matter? I, for one, do not believe it. I believe every person has the ability and the right to be free. (Applause.)
Remember how he was scorned by the left for saying that?
It should be clear to all that Islam — the faith of one-fifth of humanity — is consistent with democratic rule. Democratic progress is found in many predominantly Muslim countries — in Turkey and Indonesia, and Senegal and Albania, Niger and Sierra Leone. Muslim men and women are good citizens of India and South Africa, of the nations of Western Europe, and of the United States of America.
More than half of all the Muslims in the world live in freedom under democratically constituted governments. They succeed in democratic societies, not in spite of their faith, but because of it. A religion that demands individual moral accountability, and encourages the encounter of the individual with God, is fully compatible with the rights and responsibilities of self-government.
Many Middle Eastern governments now understand that military dictatorship and theocratic rule are a straight, smooth highway to nowhere. But some governments still cling to the old habits of central control. There are governments that still fear and repress independent thought and creativity, and private enterprise — the human qualities that make for a — strong and successful societies. Even when these nations have vast natural resources, they do not respect or develop their greatest resources — the talent and energy of men and women working and living in freedom.
Instead of dwelling on past wrongs and blaming others, governments in the Middle East need to confront real problems, and serve the true interests of their nations. The good and capable people of the Middle East all deserve responsible leadership. For too long, many people in that region have been victims and subjects — they deserve to be active citizens.
Governments across the Middle East and North Africa are beginning to see the need for change. Morocco has a diverse new parliament; King Mohammed has urged it to extend the rights to women. Here is how His Majesty explained his reforms to parliament: “How can society achieve progress while women, who represent half the nation, see their rights violated and suffer as a result of injustice, violence, and marginalization, notwithstanding the dignity and justice granted to them by our glorious religion?” The King of Morocco is correct: The future of Muslim nations will be better for all with the full participation of women. (Applause.)
In Bahrain last year, citizens elected their own parliament for the first time in nearly three decades. Oman has extended the vote to all adult citizens; Qatar has a new constitution; Yemen has a multiparty political system; Kuwait has a directly elected national assembly; and Jordan held historic elections this summer. Recent surveys in Arab nations reveal broad support for political pluralism, the rule of law, and free speech. These are the stirrings of Middle Eastern democracy, and they carry the promise of greater change to come.
As changes come to the Middle Eastern region, those with power should ask themselves: Will they be remembered for resisting reform, or for leading it? In Iran, the demand for democracy is strong and broad, as we saw last month when thousands gathered to welcome home Shirin Ebadi, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The regime in Teheran must heed the democratic demands of the Iranian people, or lose its last claim to legitimacy. (Applause.)
Former President Bush sure called it.
As we watch and encourage reforms in the region, we are mindful that modernization is not the same as Westernization. Representative governments in the Middle East will reflect their own cultures. They will not, and should not, look like us. Democratic nations may be constitutional monarchies, federal republics, or parliamentary systems. And working democracies always need time to develop — as did our own. We’ve taken a 200-year journey toward inclusion and justice — and this makes us patient and understanding as other nations are at different stages of this journey.
This next part of his speech is directed toward the Middle East, but made me think of us under Obama’s leadership:
There are, however, essential principles common to every successful society, in every culture. Successful societies limit the power of the state and the power of the military — so that governments respond to the will of the people, and not the will of an elite.
Which is why under the current administration, we are doomed to become an unsuccessful society.
Successful societies protect freedom with the consistent and impartial rule of law, instead of selecting applying — selectively applying the law to punish political opponents.
Hmmm, like say, releasing CIA memos, or firing Inspector Generals?
Successful societies allow room for healthy civic institutions — for political parties and labor unions and independent newspapers and broadcast media.
Fairness Doctine/localism…whatever you want to call it…it’s meant to chill conservative speech. Not healthy in a free and open society.
Successful societies guarantee religious liberty — the right to serve and honor God without fear of persecution. Successful societies privatize their economies, and secure the rights of property.
We seem to be heading in the wrong direction, there…
They prohibit and punish official corruption, and invest in the health and education of their people.
Prohibit and punish corruption?…No no no, I think in Obamerica, we prohibit and punish those who uncover corruption.
They recognize the rights of women. And instead of directing hatred and resentment against others, successful societies appeal to the hopes of their own people. (Applause.)
Bush was clearly not a follower of Saul Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals: ‘Pick the Target, Freeze It, Personalize It and Polarize It.’
Securing democracy in Iraq is the work of many hands. American and coalition forces are sacrificing for the peace of Iraq and for the security of free nations. Aid workers from many countries are facing danger to help the Iraqi people. The National Endowment for Democracy is promoting women’s rights, and training Iraqi journalists, and teaching the skills of political participation. Iraqis, themselves — police and borders guards and local officials — are joining in the work and they are sharing in the sacrifice.
This is a massive and difficult undertaking — it is worth our effort, it is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes. The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region.
Please note how, with so much at stake, it was particularly contemptible for Democrats to be constantly undermining our efforts in Iraq, and declaring defeat before the job was finished.
Iraqi democracy will succeed — and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Tehran — that freedom can be the future of every nation. (Applause.) The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution. (Applause.)
He was right about our success, and he was right about the signal it would send to other nations in the Middle East.
Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before. And it will yield the same results. As in Europe, as in Asia, as in every region of the world, the advance of freedom leads to peace. (Applause.)
The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it is the calling of our country. From the Fourteen Points to the Four Freedoms, to the Speech at Westminster, America has put our power at the service of principle. We believe that liberty is the design of nature; we believe that liberty is the direction of history. We believe that human fulfillment and excellence come in the responsible exercise of liberty. And we believe that freedom — the freedom we prize — is not for us alone, it is the right and the capacity of all mankind. (Applause.)
Thanks to Jackstraw for digging up that speech for me.
John Bolton said this in an oped in The NYTs:
Despite these successful elections, the sectarian and communal violence will not necessarily end, and we may even see the ultimate fragmentation of Iraq. Nor will the elections put an end to Iran’s ambitions. Tehran appears to believe that its influence in the region is expanding, and that its neighbors and the United States have failed to respond effectively. This belief is unsurprising, given the Obama administration’s acquiescent attitude toward Tehran.
Still, the elections could make a deep impression on the citizens of Iran and its vassal, Syria. Young, educated, sophisticated Iranians, dissatisfied with their country’s religious orthodoxy and economic failures since the 1979 revolution, will draw their own conclusions from Iraq’s peaceful democratic process.
Uncomfortable though it may be for some on the American left to admit, the “surge” continues to work, politically and militarily. The moment has come for the Obama administration to acknowledge what those fingers dipped in purple ink truly represent — a triumph for democracy.
Thanks also to Jackstraw.