The Bush Bandwagon
Mark Steyn, SteynOnline:
Come on, lads. You don’t want to be the last to leap aboard the bandwagon. The New York Times are running front page stories with headlines like “Unexpected Whiff Of Freedom Proves Bracing For The Middle East”. Daniel Schorr, the dean of conventional wisdom at National Public Radio, was for once almost ahead of the game, concluding his most recent editorial with a strange combination of words that had never before passed his lips in that particular order: “Bush may have had it right. ” read more
Did he simply muff the reading? Did he mean to say: “Bush may have had it - right?” But apparently not. Ever since, the same form of words has mysteriously flowered from Toronto to London to Sydney. It’s the catchphrase du jour - like “Show me the money” or “You are the weakest link. Goodbye.” Now it’s “Could Bush be right?” Even America’s media naysayers have suddenly noticed that they can hardly hear their own generic boilerplate about what a Vietnam quagmire the new Iraq is over the sound of raven-tressed Beirut hotties noisily demanding Lebanon’s freedom in the streets of Beirut.
Over at Britain’s Guardian, meanwhile, the poor chaps are desperately trying to give credit to anyone but the reviled Bushitler. Here’s how Timothy Garton Ash opened his disquisition: “Has Osama bin Laden started a revolution in the Middle East?” Well, that’s one way to look at it. Maybe he could share the Nobel Peace Prize with Michael Moore and MoveOn.org.
Now the torrents of Arabia cascade on, from Baghdad to Beirut, Cairo, Riyadh and beyond. Those of us who argued three years ago that Iraq was the place to start the dominoes falling and that the Middle East was ripe for liberty, for democracy, for one man, one gloat – whoops, sorry, vote… Anyway, those of us who told you so way back when long ago gave up trying to figure out why the media, the Dems, the Europeans and Canadians were so wedded to “stability” uber alles. But we had a feeling that their enthusiasm was unlikely to be shared by the actual subjects of Assad and co. And we were right: it turns out America’s Zionists know the Arab people better than Europe’s Arabists do – better than all those ex-ambassadors to the Middle East now shilling for Saudi-funded think-tanks who pop up on TV discussions to recycle Arab League talking points.
That’s not to say we’re in the final reel with happy endings all round. The nations of Eastern Europe weren’t all liberated on the same template. Syria could be the Middle East’s Romania – where the opportunist second rank decides to whack a dictator who’s outlived his usefulness and pass themselves off as the forces of freedom. Or Syria could be the Czech Republic – where the head thug’s heart is no longer in it and he negotiates a graceful retreat. But, either way, I doubt if Boy Assad’s presidency will be with us for much longer.
What’s happened in the last couple of weeks is that Bush has persuaded the French and the Saudis that Assad is a loser, and there’s no downside to putting the skids under him. And the way things are going most Middle East regimes would rather pile on Damascus lest Bush turn his attention elsewhere. Last week’s Arabic News reported that Colonel Gaddafy has “underscored the need to launch full freedom in Libya”. And to show he’s serious he’s introduced yet another spelling of his name: as the headline put it, “Qathafi Wants Freedom To Prosper In Libya”. Qathafi: that’s a new one on me. I’ve seen him spelled Khadafi, Qaddafi, Gadhafi, Qudhafi, Kadafi, Gheddafi, Kaddafi, Qadhdhafi and a couple dozen others, but clearly this latest one is an indication that, like Mubarak in Egypt, he’s under pressure to move to a multi-candidate electoral system and is planning to run as all of them: Gadafi (Sclerotic Dictatorship Party), Qadafi (Sword Of The Infidel Slayer-Liberal Democratic Alliance), Gaddhafi (New Sclerotic Dictatorship Party), Khaddaffy (Khonservative Phartty)…
Whether Qathafi really “wants freedom to prosper in Libya” is doubtful. But the fact that in the month since the Iraqi election he and President Mubarak and Prince Saud, the Saudi Foreign Minister, and King Abdullah of Jordan all feel obliged to sign on rhetorically is a big step. It may even ensure the survival of at least a few of them. For three decades, radical Islamism prospered because there was no other big idea to counter it. And the more the EU and UN and Arab League fetishized “stability” – the stability of the Assads and Arafats - the less chance there was that any alternative concept would ever arise. Bush and the Iraqi people changed all that.
In January I wrote that 2005 would be “the most important year in the region since Churchill drew the map of the modern Middle East in 1922”. The melancholy fact is that many of the changes underway today could have been with us a lot earlier if the Great War’s peacemakers hadn’t botched the job 80 years ago. The stagnant Middle East of Assad, Arafat and the House of Saud is the malign legacy of the prototype progressive transnationalism – the League of Nations mandates that helped deliver the peoples of the region into the hands of a uniquely disastrous bunch of unreliable western client rulers.
The new political settlements that emerge in the Middle East will be messy and flawed and problematic, but they will still be an improvement. Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese Druze leader who says that in Iraq the Arabs’ Berlin Wall has fallen, is also the guy who not so long ago was saying “We are all happy when an American soldier is killed.” He will never be an ideological soulmate of Dick Cheney.
But so what? The Swedes and Irish aren’t soulmates of Cheney either, but a free society with a representative government is in America’s long-term interest, just as a nominally pro-American dictator holding his people back is not in America’s long-term interest. To firm up Daniel Schorr’s tentative endorsement, Bush got that right, and one day, if he’s not already, Walid Jumblatt will be grateful he did.