Wise words from then-President George W. Bush in 2003, explaining his “Freedom Agenda”:
Sixty years of western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence, ready for export.
Interesting, then, to see some leading Republicans going with fear over hope as they observe events in Egypt.
“Let’s be clear what the stakes are for the United States. We have an authoritarian regime in power that has been our ally. We don’t know at this point what the real alternatives are,” former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who is considering a White House run, told Fox News as ongoing protests in Cairo and across Egypt threatened to upend both Mubarak’s decades-long rule and geopolitics throughout the Middle East.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a likely 2012 contender, compared the situation to the 1979 revolution in Iran.
“We abandoned [the shah] and what we got in exchange was form the people if you will, notionally, was a radical Islamist regime. That happening in Egypt would have a profound effect on the Middle East,” he said in a Friday interview on Fox Business Channel.
Of course there’s room for concern, even fear, about what the outcome will be in Egypt. But at this point, supporting the Egyptians struggling for genuine democracy is both more practical and moral than throwing in one’s lot with the discredited and hated Mubarak.
Update: By contrast, some good sense from former Bush adviser Elliott Abrams:
We cannot deliver democracy to the Arab states, but we can make our principles and our policies clear. Now is the time to say that the peoples of the Middle East are not “beyond the reach of liberty” and that we will assist any peaceful effort to achieve it – and oppose and condemn efforts to suppress it.
Such a statement would not elevate our ideals at the expense of our interests. It turns out, as those demonstrators are telling us, that supporting freedom is the best policy of all.
UPDATE: [Neil] See also the comments by Wolfowitz in The Spectator:
With so much at stake, it is a mistake to be sitting on the sidelines. Western governments can be a positive force on behalf of genuine freedom and against attempts to impose a new kind of tyranny of the Islamist variety. But we can’t do that if we are seen as propping up a hated tyrant, or worse, encouraging the kind of bloody crackdown that could at best produce an artificial “stability” for a relatively short period of time. The possibility of a bad outcome is very real, particularly because we did nothing to encourage more evolutionary change earlier, but I believe we have a better chance of a good outcome if we support positive change than if we support the status quo.