The Tyranny Doctrine|
The Los Angeles Times
May 26, 2006
"The tyranny doctrine:
From Tripoli to Beijing, President Bush has abandoned
his bold pledge to support democracy."
By: Danielle Pletka and Michael Rubin
LAST WEEK, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced resumption of full
U.S. diplomatic relations with Libya, citing Tripoli's renunciation of
terrorism and intelligence cooperation. This ends a quarter-century
diplomatic freeze. It also marks an effective end to the Bush doctrine.
At his second inauguration, President Bush declared: "The survival of
liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other
lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in
all the world."
Since that soaring pronouncement, the Bush administration has watched Egypt
abrogate elections, ignored the collapse of the so-called Cedar Revolution
in Lebanon and abandoned imprisoned Chinese dissidents; now Washington is
mulling a peace treaty with Stalinist North Korea.
The rhetoric of democracy, it turns out, comes more easily than its
implementation. Washington worries that Egypt will bow out of the fight
against Al Qaeda if the U.S. presses for reform. It worries that China will
bar investment if Bush presses for the release of political prisoners. Are
these fears realistic? No. These countries still have interests that
parallel ours. But that won't be clear unless the president forces the
tyrants to make a choice: reform or face isolation.
The case of Fathi El Jahmi, Libya's foremost democracy activist, is among
the most poignant. When El Jahmi was briefly furloughed from prison in 2004,
Bush hailed his release as a sign of change in Libyan strongman Moammar
Kadafi. But El Jahmi's freedom lasted just two weeks, and his name hasn't
passed the president's lips again. Rice's announcement welcoming Libya back
into the fold of civilized nations mentioned neither democracy nor El Jahmi.
In Egypt, where only last year Rice made herself a heroine to reformers by
demanding competitive elections, the government has accelerated repression.
It has imprisoned Ayman Nour, the leading opposition leader, on spurious
charges. Where once the Bush administration threatened to withhold aid and
won the release of a prominent democracy advocate, it is now silent. In
early May, Egyptian police rounded up hundreds of demonstrators rallying in
support of two judges who said that parliamentary elections were rigged. Yet
Washington does not seek to reduce Egypt's $1.8 billion in annual aid.
Instead, this month it hosted President Hosni Mubarak's son (and anointed
Pressure for changes also has lessened in Syria and Lebanon. In March 2005,
in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the
Lebanese people rose up to demand democracy and reform. The Bush
administration cheered, but it soon lost interest. A July visit to Beirut by
Rice, replete with the "obligatory" meeting with the puppet president
installed by Syria, sowed doubt about the U.S. commitment to Lebanese
independence. Washington's blunders have ensured that a Syrian stooge will
likely govern Lebanon for another year.
The same devotion to form over substance has been apparent in our China
policy. Before his 2005 visit, Bush asked for the release of several
political prisoners, including a New York Times researcher, Zhao Yan. The
Chinese government ignored the request. The same polite query went to
Beijing before President Hu Jintao's April visit to Washington. This time,
Zhao was released, only to be indicted again once Hu's world tour was
complete. Signs of White House displeasure? Not one.
Is it possible that the administration is questioning the wisdom of
promoting democracy as a long-term solution to U.S. national security woes?
"Realists" suggest that the president has finally woken up and smelled the
coffee. They say democracy gave us an Islamist government in Iraq and Hamas
in Palestine. It could give us the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Heaven knows
what it would spawn in China or Libya. Better the devil you know.
But there is no sign the White House has done any strategic rethinking. The
president continues to believe his own preaching, but his administration has
become incapable of making the hard choices those beliefs require. Instead,
it has been quick to embrace the showy, if transitory, political advantages
that come from welcoming Kadafi into the family of nations and China's
president on a tour of Boeing.
The many foreign dissidents and reformers who took Bush at his word are the
first to pay the price for Washington's lack of backbone. They were told
that if they took risks for freedom, the U.S. would stand with them. Letting
them down will make it all the more difficult to find democratic allies.
Brave individuals are the real building blocks for transitions to democracy.
Without them, as we have learned in Iraq, there are few alternatives to the
tyranny that threatens us all.
DANIELLE PLETKA and MICHAEL RUBIN are, respectively, vice president for
defense and foreign policy and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.