Saturday, July 22, 2006

What is really happening in the Middle East?

My reply to an article, published in the International Herald Tribune on July 19, 2006.

I find this article extremely short-sighted. The writer does include some facts but his bias completely misses the point.
The toppling of Saddam Hussein was intended to send shock waves across the Arab world, intimidating the region's brittle tyrannies while encouraging the spontaneous civic movements that have brought democracy to much of post-Communist Europe. In Iraq itself, democrats were to replace a brutal autocrat, providing a model for the region.

Precisely the opposite has happened. The war has not only engulfed Iraq in violence and made the country a magnet for jihadists, but it has also awakened sectarian tensions that are spreading beyond Iraq's borders. From Saudi Arabia to Lebanon, Shiites and Sunnis are cautiously eyeing each other, heading for a mounting rivalry that has already helped plunge Lebanon into chaos.

Any look at history will show that freedom has always required time and blood. Iran and Syria are trying to make a mess of the region because they feel threatened by democracy. These types of things were common throughout the Soviet empire. "Autocrats" (I call them tyrants) are always fearful of their subjugated population and any threat to their power and control. They also always create enemies of the state in order to unite their people against a common foe and to portray themselves as their saviors.

What we need to do is to place agents within Iran and Syria to encourage dissent and fully support them when they do dissent. The common diplomatic assumption that a standing despot is better than an unknown replacement is cowardly pessimism; it's like saying, "I won't get out of bed today because I might have a bad day."

We cannot let some tyrants’ acts of desperation discourage us from our goals. Let them throw their fits and let's show the world exactly what they are then, when their bankrupt, we can continue to encourage democracy throughout the region. This is the only way we will ever see peace in the region.

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