Day By Day

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Democracy and Security -- Giuliani, Bush, and Kramer

Mayor Giuliani has named Martin Kramer to head his team of Middle East advisers. So I visited Kramer's website to see just what it is he stands for.

Here he presents a comparison of his vision with that of President Bush.

Both men were participants at a conference in Prague last month on the subject of "Democracy and Security." It should be noted that President Bush's speech, to which Kramer is responding, was greeted with wild approval by other major participants, many of whom were heroes of the long fight against Soviet oppression. Natan Sharansky, one of the organizers of the conference, was moved to tears by Bush's presentation. Gary Kasparov, a leading figure in the opposition to Vladimir Putin's authoritarianism in Russia, was also impressed. So was Vaclav Havel, former Czech premier and hero of the long fight against Soviet domination of his people. It was a great moment for Bush.

What's that you say? Never heard of it?

Of course you didn't. It wasn't covered in any detail in the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Los Angeles Times.

Here's the New York Sun report on the meeting:

He came, he saw, he humbled himself. Never before has the president of America gone out of his way to pay tribute to a gathering of dissidents. The most powerful man on earth acknowledged that these otherwise powerless individuals from five continents possess what he rightly called "an even greater power — the power of conscience."

What had brought President Bush to make this pilgrimage to Prague, en route to the G-8 summit? The answer echoed through the noble vision outlined in his speech — a speech that several seasoned observers of presidential oratory who attended the conference judged to be among the best that Mr. Bush has ever given.

This man, beset by his foes and abandoned by friends, still cares passionately about the love of liberty that inspires men and women to extraordinary self-sacrifice, even if the vision he set out in his second inaugural speech is as far from reality as ever. At one point, he made a wry reference to his own isolation, both among the leaders of the free world, and even within his own administration. Former chairman of the defense policy board advisory committee to George W. Bush, Richard Perle, had earlier reminded us that the president was "coming here to meet with his fellow dissidents." "If standing up for liberty makes me a dissident," Mr. Bush said, "I wear that title with pride."

Read the whole article here.

The Weekly Standard's account is here.

Gateway Pundit has a wrapup here.

A few excerpts from Bush's speech:

Regarding the fall of the Soviet empire he said:

Behind these astonishing achievements was the triumph of freedom in the battle of ideas. The communists had an imperial ideology that claimed to know the directions of history. But in the end, it was overpowered by ordinary people who wanted to live their lives, and worship their God, and speak the truth to their children. The communists had the harsh rule of Brezhnev, and Honecker, and Ceausescu. But in the end, it was no match for the vision of Walesa and Havel, the defiance of Sakharov and Sharansky, the resolve of Reagan and Thatcher, and fearless witness of John Paul. From this experience, a clear lesson has emerged: Freedom can be resisted, and freedom can be delayed, but freedom cannot be denied.
And he made the obvious comparison between the Cold War struggle and the Global War on Terrorism:

Like the Cold War, it's an ideological struggle between two fundamentally different visions of humanity. On one side are the extremists, who promise paradise, but deliver a life of public beatings and repression of women and suicide bombings. On the other side are huge numbers of moderate men and women -- including millions in the Muslim world -- who believe that every human life has dignity and value that no power on Earth can take away.

The most powerful weapon in the struggle against extremism is not bullets or bombs -- it is the universal appeal of freedom. Freedom is the design of our Maker, and the longing of every soul. Freedom is the best way to unleash the creativity and economic potential of a nation. Freedom is the only ordering of a society that leads to justice. And human freedom is the only way to achieve human rights.

And his commitment for the future:

[T]he United States is committed to the advance of freedom and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism. (Applause.) And we have a historic objective in view. In my second inaugural address, I pledged America to the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. Some have said that qualifies me as a "dissident president." If standing for liberty in the world makes me a dissident, I wear that title with pride. (Applause.)

America pursues our freedom agenda in many ways -- some vocal and visible, others quiet and hidden from view. Ending tyranny requires support for the forces of conscience that undermine repressive societies from within. The Soviet dissident Andrei Amalrik compared a tyrannical state to a soldier who constantly points a gun at his enemy -- until his arms finally tire and the prisoner escapes. The role of the free world is to put pressure on the arms of the world's tyrants -- and strengthen the prisoners who are trying to speed their collapse.

Regarding his critics he made the following points:

Some say that ending tyranny means "imposing our values" on people who do not share them, or that people live in parts of the world where freedom cannot take hold. That is refuted by the fact that every time people are given a choice, they choose freedom.


Another... objection is that ending tyranny will unleash chaos. Critics point to the violence in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Lebanon as evidence that freedom leaves people less safe. But look who's causing the violence. It's the terrorists, it's the extremists. It is no coincidence that they are targeting young democracies in the Middle East. They know that the success of free societies there is a mortal threat to their ambitions -- and to their very survival. The fact that our enemies are fighting back is not a reason to doubt democracy. It is evidence that they recognize democracy's power.

Still, some argue that a safer goal would be stability, especially in the Middle East. The problem is that pursuing stability at the expense of liberty does not lead to peace -- it leads to September the 11th, 2001.


Others fear that democracy will bring dangerous forces to power, such as Hamas in the Palestinian Territories. Elections will not always turn out the way we hope. Yet democracy consists of more than a single trip to the ballot box. Democracy requires meaningful opposition parties, a vibrant civil society, a government that enforces the law and responds to the needs of its people. Elections can accelerate the creation of such institutions.


Finally, there's the contention that ending tyranny is unrealistic. Well, some argue that extending democracy around the world is simply too difficult to achieve. That's nothing new. We've heard that criticism before throughout history. At every stage of the Cold War, there were those who argued that the Berlin Wall was permanent, and that people behind the Iron Curtain would never overcome their oppressors. History has sent a different message.

The full text of President Bush's speech is here.

It's a powerful and moving statement, but does it reflect reality?

Prof. Kramer's response to it is instructive.

Kramer argues that the dichotomy between democratic and dictatorial regimes is too simple. He points out that not all authoritarian regimes are problematic.

Some are. Kramer points to the former regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq as two of the most dangerous in the world. Both could be accurately described as "republics of fear", inflicting horrible pain upon their people, and posing a constant threat to their neighbors and to the whole region. Overthrowing such regimes is not only a moral, but a practical imperative. He therefore supports American intervention in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He also notes similar situations in Sudan and possibly Iran and would probably support intervention in those states.

But he points out that not all authoritarian states represent dangers to their citizens and the region. He writes:
[T]he Middle East is also home to another kind of authoritarian rule. In this kind of system, the regime doesn't rely only on fear, or even primarily on fear. Such regimes don't require an external enemy or perpetual war. To the contrary: the ruler builds a consensus around the status quo, by sharing a bit of power, balancing interests, upholding law, and averting war. These aren't free societies--you can't stand in the town square and say what you want without fear of being arrested. But these aren't "fear societies" and they aren't "republics of fear."


[T]hese regimes cooperate with the world in combatting terrorism and containing an aggressive Iran, they have peace treaties with Israel or float peace initiatives, they don't threaten or intervene in the internal affairs of other countries, and they don't seek weapons of mass destruction. None of them has gone to war in the last thirty-plus years.

Moreover, many of the most troublesome states in the Middle East have made major strides on the road toward democracy.

And who are the net exporters of insecurity? These are states that have multi-polar or pluralistic systems: Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and what some call Palestine. These systems aren't democracies, but in terms of formal practices like elections, they've actually gone the longer distance. Yet they don't provide security for their peoples, and they export insecurity, in the form of terrorism, refugees, radical Islam, and nuclear threats. What's discouraging is that this isn't true in only some of the cases, or only half of them. It's true, for now, in all if them.
The key, he argues is security. In the long run the democracy imperative will benefit the region and the world, but that is the long run and we live in the here and now.

Don't just offer lofty rhetoric. People are skeptical of it. Don't say that America will provide the security: it won't. And don't say that we have to think long-term: too much can go wrong in the short-term. The pro-democracy forces need to show how they'll make their peoples not only freer, but more secure--and how they'll make the rest of us safer.


It's a fact of life that the world's support for freedom isn't unconditional-- even for this US administration--and security is the condition. Meet that condition, even part way, and good people in the world won't just admire your courage. They might even take a chance and support you.
Read the whole thing here.

So there you have it. Two contrasting views on the Middle East, one emphasizing democratic reform, the other security. Sounds like a clear confrontation of principles. But in a practical sense the two visions aren't that different.

Whatever the rhetorical flourishes, the Bush administration is following a policy very close to what Kramer recommends. We have toppled dangerous regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, have intervened in Sudan and are putting strong pressures on Iran, all of which he would approve. And, we are working closely with authoritarian regimes in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere to promote regional security. Of this he would also approve. What Kramer seems to object to most of all is the rhetoric, which emphasizes democratic reform over security considerations. Rhetoric is not inconsequential, but it is not what is most important.

Keep your eye on the ball. Watch what people do, not what they say. Commentators have often noted that the actual policies implemented by inspirational presidents like Lincoln, Wilson, FDR, Kennedy and Reagan, seldom matched their high-flown rhetoric. This is not hypocrisy, simply a recognition that however utopian our goals, we must work toward them in the real world. Bush has made significant compromises with realists in a number of ways. This is not to be seen as blatant hypocrisy. Bush's rhetoric in Prague, his inspirational freedom agenda, are not just words. They are necessary to remind us, as we make our inevitable compromises with the world as it is, that we should not lose sight of our long-term goal -- to bring freedom to the peoples of the Middle East.

So would a Giuliani presidency mark a radical departure from that of Dubya? There would be a marked shift in rhetoric, placing a stronger emphasis on security and less on reform, but in practical terms it is hard to see the difference.