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Some thoughts on Natan Sharansky’s interview
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, April 02, 2008

If you're not familiar with Natan Sharansky, read the short bio at Middle East Quarterly. Sharansky talks about what is going on in the ME as it relates to freedom and democracy there. Sharansky immigrated from the USSR to Israel:
Middle East Quarterly: At the Republican National Convention, on September 2, 2004, President Bush said "freedom is on the march" in the Middle East. Do you agree?

Natan Sharansky: Freedom definitely has a much better chance to succeed today than some years or even some months ago. For freedom to succeed, not only must people throughout the Middle East desire freedom, but there needs to be solidarity from the outer world and, also, a readiness to link foreign policy to human rights and support for dissent.
An obvious missing key ingredient is that solidarity. Certainly you can argue the major cause for its absence right now is the resistance to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. And that's a fair argument. But the history of the region didn't begin in 2003 and there certainly hasn't been a record of solidarity among Western powers as concerns the ME that I can remember, ever. While war should be the last resort, solidarity on the wielding of soft power and diplomacy should be something we could and should achieve.

What's going on right now, and I think what Sharansky sees is, for the lack of a better phrase, a shaping of the battlefield, where we, meaning the West, will have opportunities to do what Sharansky suggests - in solidarity, if we can manage it.
MEQ: What can the United States do to support dissidents in the Middle East and elsewhere?

Sharansky: Washington should replicate the success of its policy toward the Soviet Union. The first nail in the coffin of the Soviet dictatorship was the Jackson-Vanek amendment [of 1973], which linked trade to emigration rights. The Helsinki agreement [of 1975] further enshrined human rights in international relations. In the 1980s, President Reagan stood firm on human rights, emboldening myself and other dissidents in our fight against dictatorship. Washington should adopt similar policies to aid dissidents in Arab countries.
Of course we've always talked the talk, but rarely walked the walk, with the USSR being the obvious exception. And the exception helped prove the strategy, even, as now, we again tend to ignore it. Pragmatism meets idealism, and most say we shouldn't jeopardize our access to oil by trying to push a human rights agenda. Sharansky's point about solidarity is the key. If Western nations are committed to human rights and hold them as an important criteria upon which to base relations, then their commitment as a whole to such requirements should be enough to begin to force change.

Unfortunately, being the realist I am (or perhaps cynic), I find very little evidence that such a solid front could ever be realized among Western nations. And, especially in the case of oil, finding buyers isn't something which ME sellers are particularly concerned with.

On the other hand, if Iraq becomes a democratic success and if the cultural bounds its democracy sets are acceptable to most of the rest of the ME's population, it could be the single most important means of seeing freedom continue to advance in the region.
MEQ: Pundits and European governments criticized President Bush for the crudeness of his "Axis of Evil" reference.[5] How important is rhetoric?

Sharansky: The world is full of doublethink. What it most lacks is moral clarity. It is extremely important to call a spade a spade. It is necessary to understand the nature of the war that we are in the midst of. The battle is not between Israel and the Palestinians or between the United States and Iraq. Rather, the current fight pits the world of freedom against the world of terror. I have told President Bush that the two greatest speeches of my lifetime were Ronald Reagan's speech casting the Soviet Union as an evil empire and the president's own speech on June 24, 2002, when he said that Palestinians deserve to live in freedom and that only with freedom would the Middle East enjoy security.[6]
I've often wondered why the shrinking violets of this world were so aghast at the "axis of evil" remark. Those Bush named certainly have lived up to their billing in my opinion.

And Sharnsky is right - the world is full of doublethink and few have the courage or foresight to lay it all out in the stark terms of language which it all requires. There are and always have been "evil regimes" in this world and that's inarguable. There is, at this time, indeed a lack of moral clarity and it is effecting us all. Right and wrong have become malleable concepts and all but meaningless as applied by some. Tolerance has somehow become more important than morality (right and wrong), to the point that dictators are left to not only survive, but flourish.

I'm not suggesting we should confront every dictator militarily. The US can't be the world's policeman and the EU seems to have decided it will not carry the financial burden of a viable military. But we, meaning the West, have so many levers other than military pressure that we can pull and for whatever reason, simply can't find it in ourselves to use them. It makes little sense to me. While we seem to be able to clearly recognize wrong or evil, we seem unable to then figure out a practical way to confront it in solidarity. In fact, in most cases, we find ways of rationalizing reasons not to do so. That's moral cowardice.

Sharansky survived a brutal regime with the help and intervention of the US. None of today's existing authoritarian regimes is going to willingly change. It's the nature of the beast. But solidarity which brings consistent and concerted pressure on such regimes, other than military, has a very real effect. We've seen it. We've watched it work. It seems high time we put those lessons back to work - in the ME and the rest of the world.

I'm not offering the "how" of that particular strategy since each authoritarian regime will require its own unique plan. But I am offering a "why" ... because as freedom and democracy do expand, and do take hold, countries become peaceful and human rights take center stage. And that is and always has been in ours and any other democratic country's national interest.

(HT: Villainous Company)
 
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sarcasm on
But you see these folks are ready for anything better.
There too stupid and .. and .. they don’t look like us.
.. and .. and .. they like it that way.
/sarcasm off

The was the evil Captain Kirk from episode #33.

Ask yourself .. which candidate for President, Senate, House .. garbage collector will stand by the Inaugural Address of President John F. Kennedy ?

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge—and more.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
sarcasm on
But you see these folks aren’t ready for anything better.
There too stupid and .. and .. they don’t look like us.
.. and .. and .. they like it that way.
.. and .. and .. it’s just too hard to help
.. and .. and .. I have to get my nails done.
/sarcasm off

That was the evil Captain Kirk from episode #33.

Ask yourself .. which candidate for President, Senate, House .. garbage collector will stand by the Inaugural Address of President John F. Kennedy ?

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge—and more.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
You know, people have been in bondage in one form or another since the dawn of written history. Now, with the emergence of the modern state, the capacity to control humans has reached an extreme, with totalitarian and authoritarian states being among the most evil human creations in history, capable of unbelievable carnage. Finding a way to reign in the beast and expand freedom requires both: a) patience; and b) recognition that freedom itself is an evolving concept with cultures. We can’t expect all states to adopt the 21st century American notion of individual liberty — it took us a long time to reach this point. Finally, we might look back to Kant’s argument on "Perpetual Peace." Rather than try to force others to change, let’s work within the West and with allies of the West who embrace freedom to create a good example and work positively towards slow change. Because ultimately the change has to be cultural, not just in terms of laws or governments if it is to take root. (Note for instance that Putin’s Russia is better than the USSR, but it’s moving slowly and by our standards has a long way t go).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"We can’t expect all states to adopt the 21st century American notion of individual liberty — it took us a long time to reach this point."
I’ll say. For instance: it wasn’t until flubber-spines like you came along that was said to be a "notion".

"Rome wasn’t burned in a day."

It took a lot of anti-intellectualism to wreck what America once was.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
It took a lot of anti-intellectualism to wreck what America once was.
What was America? Slavery? Women not voting or having equal rights? Jim Crow laws? Massive rural poverty? Conquest of native Indian tribes?

America never was some romantic ideal. It was, and continues to be, an experiment in a new kind of state - multi-ethnic, based on individual rights and limited government, and democratic.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
You know, people have been in bondage in one form or another since the dawn of written history.
There are some people who believe that slavery and trading of humans is a bigger problem today than it was .. say 150 years ago .. or ever.

And some four and a half decades ago, a major political leader of a party that seems now to have all but disappeared said that America was bigger than these problems.

Let me quote ..
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge—and more.
.. but nobody thought he really meant it, except me perhaps.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
"What was America? Slavery? Women not voting or having equal rights? Jim Crow laws? Massive rural poverty? Conquest of native Indian tribes?"
"Howard Zinn: phone your operatives."
"America never was some romantic ideal. It was, and continues to be, an experiment in a new kind of state..."
Oh, yeah? Tell me something, Mr. Scientist: when are assh*les like you going to have enough data to conclude upon your so-called "experiment"?
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
So, Billy, you can’t answer the question about what America was that was so much better than now. Didn’t think you could. Your lack of a defense concedes the point to me, thank you.

I’m not running an experiment. It’s not mine to conclude. You are just as much a part of it as I am, whether you want to acknowledge it or not.

Neo, notice that slavery disappeared after a long time due to internal developments. What if, say, there was a country called Sathica in the South Pacific which had eliminated slavery. They were a great power, and saw the US in 1830 and said "The US is enslaving people, we must liberate them." Then what if Sathica had launched a full scale invasion of the US, full of good intentions to liberate the slaves and give us a government that truly honored rights. They would re-write our constitution for us, tell us what a good system is, and design something more like what we have now. What would the response have been from 1830 Americans?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"So, Billy, you can’t answer the question about what America was that was so much better than now."
Yes, Doktor, now that you’re sliding around in your own oil, I can. I could go to comprehensive length about the political principles first founded in this country — to the degrees that they were and not to the degrees that there weren’t — and how they made it the light of the world just so creeps like you could feed on it all these years later. None of it has anything to do with your fruit-basket of rotten herrings, which every real lover of freedom (like me; not you) must reject. And you know it, but that never stops your lying ass from trotting it all out all over again and never attributing it to what it really is. Everything but that. Especially freedom.

So, no; there won’t be any stipulating to the all wrong premises of your snidery. You’re not here for answers to your smelly little questions, but — honest — I do want to know more about this "experiment" jazz. However...
"I’m not running an experiment. It’s not mine to conclude. You are just as much a part of it as I am, whether you want to acknowledge it or not."
...I see you sliding around like that and frothing all that oil and, of course, there is always no point in standing that near an insane person.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Billy, you’re the one sliding in oil, alluding to "principles" that you don’t talk about or defend, claiming you love freedom more, posturing, but not actually taking a specific stance. You’re greasy, Billy. You can posture, try to say you love freedom and I don’t, talk about insanity, make innuendo, but unless you act like a man and actually take a stand, defend it, ask questions, respond, expect responses and engage, then you’re just slip sliding away.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
You sh!tty little freak.

This April will mark the thirty-first year that I’ve refused to pay your hired goons.

Take your "stand" and swallow it.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php

This April will mark the thirty-first year that I’ve refused to pay your hired goons.
Good for you! I’m not sure what relevance that has to any issue at hand, nor do I see why you think they are ’my’ goons. But if you think paying taxes is wrong, then by all means, refuse to do so, act in accord with your beliefs.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge — and more.
And if todays Democratic Party still lived up to the challenge JFK voiced back in 1961, I would still be a Democrat today.
What was America? Slavery? Women not voting or having equal rights? Jim Crow laws? Massive rural poverty? Conquest of native Indian tribes?

America never was some romantic ideal. It was, and continues to be, an experiment in a new kind of state - multi-ethnic, based on individual rights and limited government, and democratic.
And that is why I continue to emphasize the importance of the small steps being taken by Iraq today. Democracy is still a grand experiment. It still is developing. We are still seaching for that more perfect union. When we get there, let me know so I can get off the bus and enjoy it.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
But McQ, isn’t that what Stephen Bainbridge (as referenced today on this site) and Erb refer to as "imperialism?" Apparently the worst social failing since necrophilia.
 
Written By: SDN
URL: http://

 
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