Thursday, May 05, 2005

Credit Bush's Rhetoric, Not His Actions

By Sen. Joseph Biden

Sen. Biden (D-Del.) is now serving in his 6th term and is on the Foreign Relations Committee.

In speaking about the Middle East, President Bush recently said “a critical mass of events is taking that region in a hopeful new direction.” For the Middle East, historically bereft of democracy and clotted with autocrats and despots, the promise of a better life is raising expectations across the region.

Some Democrats, after nearly a century of efforts to inject the ennobling quality of universal freedom and human rights into the heart of our foreign policy agenda, seem uneasy about this president's recent focus on the idea. President Bush spoke with great eloquence in his second inaugural address about expanding freedom, and I was a little frustrated by the reception it received from some of my Democratic colleagues and friends around the world. The headline from the leading Green newspaper in Germany was “Bush Threatens More Freedom.” Democrats at home were more circumspect, but for many, it seems that distaste for the messenger obscured the truth of the message.

If ever there was a time that proved that “good policy makes good politics”—and that politics makes strange bedfellows—today's global program to advance the cause of liberal democracy surely must be it.

What events are creating this critical mass the president is talking about? There's January's free elections in Iraq and Palestine, March's free municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, Egyptian President Mubarak's commitment to allow competitive elections for president, and the Lebanese people's demands for Syrian withdrawal and for free parliamentary elections.

I believe an enlightened American foreign policy, along with a little luck and a lot of perseverance, can help ensure that these developments will be remembered as seminal moments in a historic chain of events leading to a new era in the region. But it's important not just politically, but also for the sake of sound policy, for us to remember accurately and honestly what happened and why.

If we have reached a true tipping point, it seems to have been generated by recent events that had little or nothing to do with the Iraqi invasion: Arafat's death, the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, terror attacks in Saudi Arabia, and the increasingly vocal protests in Egypt. And in Iraq, while it cannot be denied that the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein was a necessary precondition, it was Ayatollah Sistani who insisted on early elections against the wishes of the White House. President Bush decided to accede to Sistani's wishes and deserves kudos for showing firmness in sticking to the schedule.

Pro-democracy movements were underway throughout the Middle East before the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon directed America's attention to the region's political developments. Bahrain, Turkey, Iran, and Jordan all saw different forms of democratic progress. No doubt, the elections in Afghanistan and Iraq have contributed enormously to the increasingly optimistic pro-democratic mood.

At the same time, other repercussions of our unilateral invasion and occupation may have had the opposite effect. The level of anti-American sentiment in the Middle East has skyrocketed, and a new generation of terrorists has been trained in the art of guerrilla warfare on the streets of Iraq. We may still succeed in Iraq; indeed, I believe we must. But our mishandling of the Iraq occupation has also allowed autocrats in the region to use the post-Saddam chaos as justification for denying their people more freedom. They say, “With us, life is stable and predictable. Without us, we will reap the whirlwind. Without us, radical fundamentalists will take our place.”

The president's focus on expanding freedom and his clear rhetoric do make a difference. They help embolden moderates and modernizers and lift the fear of reprisals. Providing that kind of space is critical to progress. Still, there is a significant gap between the president's rhetoric and his policies. This dichotomy risks undermining the credibility we're trying to restore with modernizers throughout the Middle East. While the administration talks tough to dictatorial adversaries like Iran and North Korea, it rarely sustains the heat on illiberal partners like China, Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. After all, we need China to help roll back North Korea's nuclear program. We need Russia's help to assure the destruction of those loose nuclear weapons that could fall into the hands of the wrong people, and to prevent Iran from going fully nuclear. We need Pakistan's help to root out al Qaeda and the remainder of the Taliban. We need Egypt's help on the Mideast peace process and in Iraq.

So, here's the problem: The president's very strength—the absolutism of his rhetoric—creates a very mixed message when it runs into the reality of our short-term security interests. It would help if the president acknowledged and explained that tension to the American people and others around the world. Promoting democracy is tough sledding. We must go beyond rhetorical support and the passion of a single speech. It's one thing to topple a tyrant; it's another to put something better in his place.

The most effective, sustainable way to advocate democracy is to help those moderates and modernizers on the inside build democratic institutions such as political parties, an independent judiciary, a free media, a modern education system, a civil society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and a private sector.

When elections are held without mature institutions of this kind, they tend to favor the most organized groups in those societies, which also tend to be the most radical. To put it another way, freedom and liberal democracy are not synonymous. The former without the latter is a recipe for chaos and the return to autocratic rule.

The Bush administration does not appear to get the distinction. And if it does, it's not acting on it yet. Just follow the money. In next year's budget, the administration has requested $120 million for the Middle East Partnership Initiative—the signature democratic promotional front for the region—$30 million less than last year. It makes the same request it did last year for the National Endowment for Democracy, which has had great success in building political parties and NGOs, and in monitoring elections. It zeroes out regional democratic funds for North Africa and Asia. And the administration continues to channel most of its economic funds to our illiberal friends through their central governments instead of directly to independent actors.

We should be providing more of our money directly to NGOs to help train the journalists, judges, and political organizations that form the building blocks of a democratic society, rather than merely funding the autocratic governments that feel threatened by them. We should be building schools to compete with the madrassas, not giving open-ended assistance to the governments that use it to pay their bureaucrats' salaries. Two years ago, I proposed the establishment of a private, non-profit Middle East Foundation. It would provide grants to those in the region working to promote a vibrant civil society, an independent media, political parties, the rule of law, modern education systems, human rights including women's rights, and the private sector. The administration has embraced the idea and, with a little luck, it will become law this spring. But will we fund it?

Finally, combating poverty in failed states is as important as anything else in the quest to expand political freedom and change the conditions that breed extremism. Developmental assistance, debt relief, and education reform all must be part of our arsenal. Freedom from fear and freedom from want are flip sides of the democratic coin.

History is on democracy's side. In 1775, there was not a single democracy in the world. After our revolution there was one. Now, there are 119 electoral democracies; 62 percent of the world's governments. And, as the number of democracies increases still further, pressure will mount on the tyrannical outliers. We may be witnessing this very phenomenon as we speak today. Whatever obstacles lie ahead—and they are considerable—surely this historic shift should be enough to lift the hopes of Americans across the political spectrum, regardless of which party holds the White House.

31 comments:

  1. This by a man who seems to be one of the leading thinkers in the Senate. His proposal for developing democratic noons and bastions brings to mind the work Soros has done in promoting the Open Society. Soros also argues that democracy needs a fertile soil from which to grow. It can't just pop up because Washington says the magic words.
    Good luck with your campaign Ssenator Biden. It is worth funding!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello, I am a korean visitor, good to see you.
    I am sure that your blog page looks great to me which mean looking crowded so, I would like to let everybodies know korea information official site korea.net same as Dynamic korea - contains all about korea news and informations, please let me introducel this cool site. Dynamic korea offer korea travel, culture, food, arts and government info exactly what you want to knowkorean music. You better check it out some time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey! I found a great new site for loans and credit card information, Please visit it when you can, You will be glad you did!! Go here now! http://www.loanofficial.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

    I have a credit card site/blog. It pretty much covers ##KEYWORD## related stuff.

    Come and check it ou twhen youhave time :-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I enjoyed your president bush and iraq blog. You might enjoy this news discussion forum also. **News Discussion Forum**

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi, your blog is fantastic! Well done!

    I have a family travel site/blog. It pretty much covers family travel related stuff.

    Come and check it out if you get time :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Get money for business and personal use. The government gives small business grants and government loans to individual's for many purposes, start now and get small business grants from the government for your business or venture.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Dear fellow blogger,

    I perused your post with much interest, while looking for info about celtic jewelry. Unfortunately your post was not the exact kind of info on celtic jewelry that I had in mind. But I thought I should drop a note to thank you for the great job that you are doing. You might wonder what all these links are that I am typing in to my comment; well the link leads to a company's website that allows you to buy and sell almost anything like things related to celtic jewelry on interest free credit, and you may pay back whenever you like for your things related to celtic jewelry. You can get up to 100,000,000.00 CBD of credit line just for signing up as your initial credit line, and as you earn credit at the same time you increase your line of credit too by twice as much as what you earned. Here again one last time is the link: celtic jewelry.

    Cheers and happy trading.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dear fellow blogger,

    I perused your post with much interest, while looking for info about houston texas web design. Unfortunately your post was not the exact kind of info on houston texas web design that I had in mind. But I thought I should drop a note to thank you for the great job that you are doing. You might wonder what all these links are that I am typing in to my comment; well the link leads to a company's website that allows you to buy and sell almost anything like things related to houston texas web design on interest free credit, and you may pay back whenever you like for your things related to houston texas web design. You can get up to 100,000,000.00 CBD of credit line just for signing up as your initial credit line, and as you earn credit at the same time you increase your line of credit too by twice as much as what you earned. Here again one last time is the link: houston texas web design.

    Cheers and happy trading.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Dear fellow blogger,

    I perused your post with much interest, while looking for info about volleyball. Unfortunately your post was not the exact kind of info on volleyball that I had in mind. But I thought I should drop a note to thank you for the great job that you are doing. You might wonder what all these links are that I am typing in to my comment; well the link leads to a company's website that allows you to buy and sell almost anything like things related to volleyball on interest free credit, and you may pay back whenever you like for your things related to volleyball. You can get up to 100,000,000.00 CBD of credit line just for signing up as your initial credit line, and as you earn credit at the same time you increase your line of credit too by twice as much as what you earned. Here again one last time is the link: volleyball.

    Cheers and happy trading.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Dear fellow blogger,

    I perused your post with much interest, while looking for info about dal tile. Unfortunately your post was not the exact kind of info on dal tile that I had in mind. But I thought I should drop a note to thank you for the great job that you are doing. You might wonder what all these links are that I am typing in to my comment; well the link leads to a company's website that allows you to buy and sell almost anything like things related to dal tile on interest free credit, and you may pay back whenever you like for your things related to dal tile. You can get up to 100,000,000.00 CBD of credit line just for signing up as your initial credit line, and as you earn credit at the same time you increase your line of credit too by twice as much as what you earned. Here again one last time is the link: dal tile.

    Cheers and happy trading.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi there. Nice blog. Interesting posts. Looking for updated information about currency exchange trading. Not quite what I had in mind, but very nice read none the less. I have a currency exchange tradingrelated site. Maybe visit if you have time Free-Cash-Site.com. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi thanks for your blog, I liked it! I also have a blog/site about credit cards for bad credit that covers credit cards for bad credit related stuff. Please feel free to visit.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Very interesting blog.

    Regards,
    Emini Futures Day Trader
    daytrading course

    ReplyDelete
  15. Good info. Thanks.

    Regards,

    Emini Futures Daytrader
    online day trading

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi, Thanks for your interesting blog. Keep up the great work! I also have a site & blog about car loan minneapolis
    , please feel free to visit.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Have you seen any information on fleet credit card ? I just have not had the best results when blog surfing today. Anywho back to my endless search for fleet credit card .

    ReplyDelete
  18. I just came across your blog and wanted to
    drop you, Blogger, a note telling you how impressed I was with
    the information you have posted here.
    If you have a moment, please visit my site:
    Business Ideas
    It covers Business Ideas related contents.
    I send you warm regards and wish you continued success.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I end up going with what feels best.Adios, Aurelio pro and cons of credit counseling

    ReplyDelete
  20. Fantastic blog you've got here ##NAME##, I was looking for hunting supplies related information and found your site. I have a hunting supplies site. You can find everything about hunting rifles, scopes, bows, feeders, stands, guides for trips and more. Stop by and check it out. Enjoy! : )

    ReplyDelete
  21. good to see a blog dealing with credit card issues. Credit cards are a necessity in Western Life. Sadly they can be one of our biggest liabilities. I have a site dealing with clever credit card use. You might like to take a look

    ReplyDelete
  22. I think you'll be interested in this related article at: free credit card It pretty much covers free credit card related stuff. Check it out if you get time.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Shop online today. Forget driving to the mall when you can just click the mouse and order from your favorite store. No traffic to deal with

    ReplyDelete
  24. If you struggle with bad credit, credit card debt, or are facing bankruptcy, our bankruptcy/dect counselling resources can help you understand your finances better and help you improve your financial standing. If your site is of simmilar interest contact me and link sites.
    Debt Resources Services.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Many reputable debt management companies can help you deal with your debt problems. You can work with a credit counsellor to create your own plan to pay off bills.
    business debt help
    Debt Resources Services.

    ReplyDelete
  26. If you struggle with bad credit, credit card debt, or are facing bankruptcy, our bankruptcy/dect counselling resources can help you understand your finances better and help you improve your financial standing.
    christian debt help
    Debt Resources Services.

    ReplyDelete
  27. good information

    ReplyDelete
  28. Online debt consolidation information is availiable through many internet sources that specialize in assisting many American households in managing or eliminating their outstanding debt.
    If your site is of similar interest contact me and link sites.
    Debt Resources Services.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Many reputable debt management companies can help you deal with your debt problems. You can work with a credit counsellor to create your own plan to pay off bills.
    irs tax debt settlement help settlement
    Debt Resources Services.

    ReplyDelete
  30. If you struggle with bad credit, credit card debt, or are facing bankruptcy, our bankruptcy/dect counselling resources can help you understand your finances better and help you improve your financial standing.
    counselors
    Debt Resources Services.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I think you'll be interested in this related article at: free credit card It pretty much covers free credit card related stuff. Check it out if you get time.

    ReplyDelete