Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.
Monday, February 28, 2005
Here's some headlines/stories that I've seen over the last week or so that paint a rather encouraging picture of our world.
First we have some *ahem* allies that may be changing their tune a bit:
Canada will contribute up to 30 soldiers to a NATO-led force that will help train the new Iraqi army, senior federal officials confirmed Friday. The formal announcement will be made when Prime Minister Paul Martin gathers with other leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting Tuesday in Brussels.The EU
The European Union agreed Monday to open an office in Baghdad to coordinate the training of Iraqi judges, prosecutors and prison guards in a step hailed as a sign of unprecedented unity over Iraq within the 25-nation bloc. ... "We are for the first time really united on Iraq," said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. "That without any doubt is going to be very important to the meetings we are going to have ... with President Bush."I don't want to overhype this until we see some action, but it sure beats the obstructionism that's been served up over the last couple years.
Elsewhere Ed Morrissey links to this Telegraph report that says we may be seeing the end game in Afghanistan:
One of the Taliban's most senior and charismatic commanders has become a key negotiator as more and more members of the Islamic militia in Afghanistan give up the fight against the Americans.
The commander, Abdul Salam, earned the nickname Mullah Rockety because he was so accurate with rocket propelled grenades against Russian troops.
...Now he is a supporter of President Hamid Karzai and is tempting diehard Taliban fighters to accept an amnesty offer and reconcile themselves to Afghanistan's first directly elected leader.
"The Taliban has lost its morale," he said, speaking by satellite phone from the heartlands of Zabul province, a Taliban redoubt.
...After the Taliban's three-year struggle against a superior US force, there is growing optimism among the Americans and Afghan government that the end is close.
More than 1,000 people have died in violence in the past 18 months, but attacks have tailed off since the guerrillas failed to make good their vow to disrupt the presidential election in October, which saw a huge turnout and was won by Mr Karzai.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Afghanistan, said yesterday that a group of Taliban militia including senior officials will soon join the Afghan government's peace initiative.
Quagmire? If so, then more of these please.
On the diplomatic front Bush and Chirac are pretending to be friends again, and are in lock-step, at least when it comes to Lebanon. But the highlight of Bush's Euro trip had to be this:
Only months after he criticized countries "like France," President Bush was lavish in his praise of French President Jacques Chirac, one of the sharpest critics of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. "I'm looking for a good cowboy," Bush said Monday when a French reporter asked him whether relations had improved to the point where the U.S. president would be inviting Chirac to the U.S. president's ranch in Texas. And the Vodkapundit commenters make the following observation:
There's only one word for such a barbed, multilayer zinger:
Nuanced in Spades, with Bells, Whistles, tapdancing Elephants and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
"Bush has delivered a compliment, an insult, a sincere offer, an invitation combined with a challenge, and a really pointed zinger, all in five words."
As I said, Nuanced.
If you've been wondering about the "Arab Street" that we've been sternly warned about over the last several years, they are starting to make some noise, but not about what you think.
Protests in Egypt
About 500 protesters gathered outside Cairo University Monday to urge Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to abstain from seeking a fifth term. The protest was organized by the Egyptian Movement for Change, which warned Mubarak against grooming his son, Jamal, "to inherit him." The protesters shouted anti-Mubarak slogans and called for amending the constitution to allow the election of the president by universal suffrage instead of a referendum on a single candidate approved by Parliament.
BEIRUT -- Presidents and diplomats piled on the pressure for Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon yesterday, but for the hard-line Ba'athist leaders in Damascus, the most worrisome pressure may be coming from a scruffy tent camp near the Beirut waterfront. It seems that the Ukraine is not the only place the Lebanese are drawing their inspiration:
In a land where civil war is endemic but political protest is almost unknown, long-feuding Muslims, Christians and Druze are camping out just blocks from the parliament saying they will not leave until either Syrian troops leave their country or the government falls....
...But regional analysts say Mr. Assad is most likely to be unnerved, not by foreign political pressure but by the unprecedented protest movement sparked by the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The tent city rose up near the immense crater created by the blast that killed Mr. Hariri and 16 others, peopled by protesters who refused to go home after a demonstration Monday described as the largest anti-Syrian protest ever held.
Divided into small groups according to affiliation -- the Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) in one area, the followers of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt in another -- the camp has been growing daily since Monday.
Inspired by December's Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia a year earlier, the protesters have begun to call their action the "Cedar Revolt" in a tribute to the tree that adorns the Lebanese flag.
A member of the banned FPM, who identified himself only by the pseudonym "Pascal," said the protesters were considering another large demonstration tomorrow, "but the plan is to remain peaceful until Monday."
The leader of this Lebanese intifada [for independence from Syria] is Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria's occupation. But something snapped for Jumblatt last year, when the Syrians overruled the Lebanese constitution and forced the reelection of their front man in Lebanon, President Emile Lahoud. The old slogans about Arab nationalism turned to ashes in Jumblatt's mouth, and he and Hariri openly began to defy Damascus...
"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "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." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."
So, the Arab Street is out in full force. But they are protesting against their own tyrants, not American Imperialism.
Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq have seen successful elections recently and citizens of the region seem to be taking note. They want self-governance too. It's no longer just a dream, free and fair elections are actually happening in the Middle East. Four years ago, that was implausible.
War opponents warned that we can't invade everywhere and impose our vision by force. They were right, but their warnings were irrelevant as it was never in the plans. Iraq was invaded so we would not have to invade everywhere else, so it could become a 'beacon of freedom' and a source for hope. It's working, rather than striking back at the Syrian occupation with suicide bombs or the like, the Lebanese people are demonstrating. After decades long absence, people power is a force again in the Middle East. We do live in interesting times.