March 7, 2005

Bold Claim: America Was Right

Krauthammer: "History has begun to speak, and it says that America made the right decision to invade Iraq"

    To what do we attribute this Arab spring? While American (and European) liberal and "realist" critics are seeking some explanation, those a bit closer to the scene don't flinch from the obvious. "It is strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt explained to David Ignatius of the Washington Post. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Bah! It's just Krauthammer. But then there's this...
    It is barely six weeks since the US President delivered his second inaugural address, a paean to liberty and democracy that espoused the goal of "ending tyranny in our world". Reactions around the world ranged from alarm to amused scorn, from fears of a new round of "regime changes" imposed by an all-powerful American military, to suspicions in the salons of Europe that this time Mr Bush, never celebrated for his grasp of world affairs, had finally lost it. No one imagined that events would so soon cause the President's opponents around the world to question whether he had got it right.

    That debate is now happening, in America and beyond, as the first waves of reform lap at the Arab world. Post-Saddam Iraq has held its first proper election. In their own elections, Palestinians have overwhelmingly chosen a moderate leader. Hosni Mubarak, who for 24 years has permitted no challenge to his rule in Egypt, has announced a multi-candidate presidential election this year. Even Saudi Arabia is not immune, having just held its first municipal elections. Next time around, Saudi spokesmen promise, women too will be permitted to vote.

    Most remarkably of all, perhaps, popular demonstrations in Beirut last week brought the downfall of one pro-Syrian government and - with the help of fierce pressure from Washington and the EU - the agreement by Syria to start withdrawing its troops in Lebanon.

    How much Mr Bush is responsible for these development is debatable. The peaceful uprising in Lebanon was provoked by outrage at the assassination of the former prime minister Rafik Hariri, in which a Syrian hand is suspected, although not proven. Then the man who insisted on elections in Iraq when the US wanted to postpone or dilute them was Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani, leader of Iraq's majority Shia community. And the death from old age of Yasser Arafat, not machinations in Washington, led to the election that might break the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock.

    Indubitably, however, even his most grudging domestic opponents and his harshest critics in the region admit that Mr Bush is also in part responsible. The 2003 invasion of Iraq may have been justified by a giant fraud, but that, and above all the January election to which it led, transfixing the Arab world, has proved a catalyst.

Robert Fisks paper? Nah... pinch me.

Posted by AlexC at March 7, 2005 9:27 PM