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Return of the Bush Doctrine

Posted by Richard on March 6, 2011

Charles Krauthammer nailed it on Friday, pointing out that some of the same people who denounced the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime are now clamoring for the West to do something about Moammar Gaddafi, a far less murderous and dangerous tyrant:

A strange moral inversion, considering that Hussein's evil was an order of magnitude beyond Gaddafi's. Gaddafi is a capricious killer; Hussein was systematic. Gaddafi was too unstable and crazy to begin to match the Baathist apparatus: a comprehensive national system of terror, torture and mass murder, gassing entire villages to create what author Kanan Makiya called a "Republic of Fear."

No matter the hypocritical double standard. Now that revolutions are sweeping the Middle East and everyone is a convert to George W. Bush's freedom agenda, it's not just Iraq that has slid into the memory hole. Also forgotten is the once proudly proclaimed "realism" of Years One and Two of President Obama's foreign policy – the "smart power" antidote to Bush's alleged misty-eyed idealism.

It began on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first Asia trip, when she publicly played down human rights concerns in China. The administration also cut aid for democracy promotion in Egypt by 50 percent. And cut civil society funds – money for precisely the organizations we now need to help Egyptian democracy – by 70 percent.

This new realism reached its apogee [I'd say its nadir] with Obama's reticence and tardiness in saying anything in support of the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran. On the contrary, Obama made clear that nuclear negotiations with the discredited and murderous regime (talks that a child could see would go nowhere) took precedence over the democratic revolutionaries in the street – to the point where demonstrators in Tehran chanted, "Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them."

There was a telling moment in Libya the other day, when rebels begged for Bush

Now that revolution has spread from Tunisia to Oman, however, the administration is rushing to keep up with the new dispensation, repeating the fundamental tenet of the Bush Doctrine that Arabs are no exception to the universal thirst for dignity and freedom.

Now, it can be argued that the price in blood and treasure that America paid to establish Iraq's democracy was too high. But whatever side you take on that question, what's unmistakable is that to the Middle Easterner, Iraq today is the only functioning Arab democracy, with multiparty elections and the freest press. Its democracy is fragile and imperfect – last week, security forces cracked down on demonstrators demanding better services – but were Egypt to be as politically developed in, say, a year as is Iraq today, we would think it a great success.

For Libyans, the effect of the Iraq war is even more concrete. However much bloodshed they face, they have been spared the threat of genocide. Gaddafi was so terrified by what we did to Saddam & Sons that he plea-bargained away his weapons of mass destruction. For a rebel in Benghazi, that is no small matter.

Yet we have been told incessantly how Iraq poisoned the Arab mind against America. Really? Where is the rampant anti-Americanism in any of these revolutions? …

It's Yemen's president and the delusional Gaddafi who are railing against American conspiracies to rule and enslave. The demonstrators in the streets of Egypt, Iran and Libya have been straining their eyes for America to help. …

Facebook and Twitter have surely mediated this pan-Arab (and Iranian) reach for dignity and freedom. But the Bush Doctrine set the premise.

While his critics were making sneering jokes about My Pet Goat, George W. Bush was reading Natan Sharansky's The Case for Democracy and embracing the transformational power of liberty. How many bloody Middle East dictatorships must fall before he's awarded a Nobel Peace Prize?

Who am I kidding? There aren't enough murderous dictatorships in the world for that to happen.

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