Championing Democracy; Iraq's Elections Were 'First Move,' Sharansky Says

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 10, 2005 | Go to article overview

Championing Democracy; Iraq's Elections Were 'First Move,' Sharansky Says


Byline: Amy Doolittle, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Natan Sharansky's "The Case for Democracy" is more than a book on political theory; President Bush says it is a primer on U.S. foreign policy. Mr. Bush recommends the book to reporters, leaders and the American people and mentioned it in his inaugural and State of the Union addresses.

The first political prisoner released by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Mr. Sharansky is now an Israeli politician, writer and democracy activist. He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Freedom for his fight against tyranny as a Soviet dissident. In "The Case for Democracy," Mr. Sharansky gives reasons why he thinks every society deserves to live in freedom.

The following are excerpts from a recent phone interview with Mr. Sharansky, who lives in Jerusalem:

Q. What is the "The Case for Democracy" about?

A. "The Case for Democracy" deals with the power of freedom to change and to overcome dictatorships. There are three sources of skepticism with this. The first says, "Who says that democracy is for everyone?" The second reservation is from everyone who says, "It's better for those nations, but is it better for our security?" The third is that "Even if democracy is universally desired and universally desirable, who can say it's for us to impose?"

We have fear societies and free societies. What decides between the two is called the "town square test." If you can go into the square of a town and say what you want and not get punished, you are in a free society.

In a fear society, all the people are divided in three categories: believers, dissidents and double-thinkers. The life of a double-thinker is very, very uncomfortable. They live in self-censorship or being afraid that if they say something wrong, they can be punished. Movement from the life of double-think to freedom is very revealing to society.

Q. President Bush highly recommends your book. What is your relationship with him like?

A. I can't say that I've had too many meetings with him. We met once before he was elected, but now that he has read my book, he invited me to the White House to discuss the ideas in the book with him. I can tell that this hour with him was very inspiring, because for many years I was expressing my views and ideas in speeches, in articles and felt myself a dissident, not only in the world of double-think, but in the free world, where people doubted my ideas.

But here you can see a strong believer in these ideas in a president who said to me, "You are summarizing my own views. I always felt that democracy was not an American idea alone." You find that you are not a dissident anymore. You have another dissident, and he happens to be the leader of the free world.

Q. In an interview with top editors and reporters of The Washington Times. …

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