Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bush's "Forward Strategy" for Freedom in the Middle East

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bush's "Forward Strategy" for Freedom in the Middle East

Article excerpt

President George W. Bush and his administration have embarked on a concerted effort to staunch the slipping support at home and abroad for the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Previously, the president had mentioned the spread of Middle Eastern democracy as one of several justifications for the invasion of Iraq. Now, however, Bush has made that rationale his primary one, no longer mentioning weapons of mass destruction, and making only passing reference to national security and terrorism.

Speaking Nov. 7 before the National Endowment for Democracy, Bush presented his vision for "a forward strategy for freedom in the Middle East." Former Congressman Vin Weber of Minnesota, now chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy, introduced Bush at the occasion, which marked the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the organization, launched in 1982 by former President Ronald Reagan.

"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 president said. "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...

"Because we and our allies were steadfast," he explained, "Germany and Japan are democratic nations that no longer threaten the world. A global nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union ended peacefully, as did the Soviet Union. The nations of Europe are moving toward unity..."

Bush continued: "Some skeptics of democracy assert that the traditions of Islam are inhospitable to representative government...It should be clear to all that Islam, the faith of one-fifth of humanity, is consistent with democratic rule.. .More than half of all Muslims live in freedom under democratically constituted governments.

"They succeed in democratic societies, not in spite of their faith," he emphasized, "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...

"Instead of dwelling on past wrongs and blaming others," Bush went on, "governments in the Middle East need to confront real problems and serve the true interests of their nations...For the Palestinian people, the path to independence and dignity and progress is the path to democracy...The Saudi government is taking first steps toward reform, including a plan for gradual introduction of elections... The great and proud nation of Egypt has shown the way toward peace in the Middle Bast, and now should show the way toward democracy in the Middle East..."

He continued: "Morocco has a diverse new parliament. King Mohammed has urged it to extend rights to women...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 multi-party political system. Kuwait has a directly elected national assembly. And Jordan held historic elections this summer...

"We are mindful that Modernization is not the same thing as Westernization," the president noted. "Representative governments in the Middle East will reflect their own cultures. They will not, and should not, look like us. …

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