We on the Side of Freedom and Democracy Anymore?
By Ted Westervelt
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has compared the current struggle
we are waging against terrorists to the Cold War, and I agree
with his characterization Sadly, it appears to many people
in the Middle East that this time the United States is on
the other side.
In sharp contrast to Cold War rhetoric, scant few American
politicians have even suggested that we are engaged in a righteous
struggle to replace tyranny with freedom. Nobody in the Bush
Administration has evoked the holy war for democracy that
we waged in the minds of eastern Europeans and continue to
wage in the hearts of a billion Chinese.
Indeed, the United States continues to support undemocratic
regimes that rule with iron fists over vast tracts of land
and millions of people in the Middle East. By continuing to
support these regimes we continue to set ourselves up as a
glaring target for the frustration, anger, and terror from
those who have no voice in their own countries.
Anyone exposed to American Cold War political rhetoric from
either side of the aisle heard one message repeated continuously:
free peoples deciding their own destiny through democratic
mechanisms offered the best hope for peace and stability throughout
the world. If we could only accelerate the export of democracy
to those parts of the world that were hostile to us, we would
surely achieve victory. And the American-led free world accomplished
so much of this vision.
Today, Russia (at the most democratic she has been in her
bitter history) is our ally in this struggle. Former Soviet
republics with varying degrees of newly established free expression
and democratic institutions are lining up behind a coalition
composed of many traditional democratic countries. There is
a bright light shining through the slowly dissipating tensions
between east and west.
This light has not reached the vast majority of the Middle
East. Western struggles against tyranny that marked the 20th
Century dissipated as soon as they reached the Jordan River
in the west and the Hindu-Kush Mountains in the East. We assume
that the people of the region didn't notice that instead of
waging a high profile struggle against tyranny in their part
of the world, the United States and other western democracies
have indeed done the opposite.
They watched the United States fight wars both hot and cold
in the name of democracy and freedom in almost every other
part of the world.. At the same time they watched as the American
led free world supported a long line of generals, kings and
other various undemocratic tyrants in their part of the world.
It is no wonder that only a very few average citizens in
the region argue when Americans are portrayed as racist hypocrites
whose initiatives in their land have more to do with our gasoline
pumps than with their freedom and democracy.
In the absence of any strong policies to export democracy
to the region, and the inclusion of many policies designed
to legitimize undemocratic regimes, opportunities are continually
created for people to miscast Americans for their own ends.
In the absence of any forum for free political expression
in the majority of the Arab world, expressions are left to
those who will do so by any means necessary against the foreign
powers that lend them legitimacy - no matter how extreme their
views and monstrous their methods.
Murderous megalomaniac fringe politicians cloaked in religion
have exploited this situation throughout history, regardless
of race, color or creed. It is from the voiceless masses that
these people draw not only terrorist trainees, but the tacit
support of average moms, dads and kids throughout the region.
It is this support on which their very existence ultimately
Nobody in the Middle East has ever accused the United States
of attempting to bring freedom and democracy to the region.
We as Americans need to give them a reason to start.