Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The NY Times acknowledges that maybe Pres. Bush got it right

The Times has been inching its way towards less and less grudging acknowledgments that maybe President Bush did the right thing when he refused to continue the tyranny-making status quo in the Middle East. Ex-Pres. Clinton, a status quo master, also gets kudos for being gracious about the changes in the Middle East under his successor:

He has gone out of his way not to crow, or even to take direct credit. But not quite two years after he began the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and not quite two months after a second inaugural address in which he spoke of 'ending tyranny,' President Bush seems entitled to claim as he did on Tuesday that a 'thaw has begun' in the broader Middle East. At the very least, Mr. Bush is feeling the glow of the recent flurry of impulses toward democracy in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and even Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where events have put him on a bit of a roll and some of his sharpest critics on the defensive. It now seems just possible that Mr. Bush and aides like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz were not wrong to argue that the 'status quo of despotism cannot be ignored or appeased, kept in a box or cut off,' as the president put it in a speech at the National Defense University here. *** By now it should be clear that decades of excusing and accommodating tyranny in the pursuit of stability have only led to injustice and instability and tragedy," Mr. Bush said on Tuesday. "It should be clear that the advance of democracy leads to peace, because governments that respect the rights of their people also respect the rights of their neighbors." His two predecessors in the Oval Office, his father and Bill Clinton, both spoke of the latest signs of progress in an appearance at the White House. The first President Bush was restrained, pronouncing himself "very pleased," but cautioning that much work remained to be done. Mr. Clinton was more ebullient, noting that the Iraqi elections "went better than anyone could have imagined." In Lebanon, he said, "the Syrians are going to have to get out of there and give the Lebanese their country back, and I think the fact that the Lebanese are in the street demanding it is wonderful." Asked about huge demonstrations on Tuesday, sponsored by Hezbollah, that demanded just the opposite, Mr. Clinton said: "I find it inconceivable that most Lebanese wouldn't like it if they had their country back. You know, they want their country back and they ought to get it." *** Still, even as sharp and consistent a critic of Mr. Bush's foreign policy as Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat, gives Mr. Bush some credit for the latest stirrings of liberty along the eastern Mediterranean. "What's taken place in a number of those countries is enormously constructive," Mr. Kennedy said on Sunday on the ABC News program "This Week." "It's a reflection the president has been involved." Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut and a frequent ally of Mr. Bush on national security affairs, was in the audience for his speech on Tuesday and was more effusive. "Look, this moment in the Middle East has the feel of Central and Eastern Europe around the collapse of the Berlin Wall," he said in a telephone interview. "It's a very different historical and political context, and we all understand that democracy in the Middle East is in its infancy. But something is happening." Mr. Lieberman said Mr. Bush deserved credit for at least two things: the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the continued American military presence in Iraq, which he said showed "the proven willingness of the United States to put its power behind its principles." Indeed, Mr. Bush cast the United States' current posture in a long, bipartisan tradition of American foreign policy, from Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points to Franklin D. Roosevelt's Four Freedoms, Harry S. Truman's Marshall Plan and Ronald Reagan's unwillingness to accept Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe.
Perhaps typical for the NY Times, the article can't sustain this generosity towards the Presidents, and suddenly collapses into three unsupported paragraphs (indeed, it looks as if the article was meant to be longer, and the editor just arbitrarily chopped it):
Still, there are real and practical dangers in the passions recently unleashed in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia's recent limited municipal elections and President Hosni Mubarak's announcement that he will permit multiparty presidential elections in Egypt this fall are indisputably encouraging to would-be reformers here and there. But full and genuine democratic elections in either country might well result in strongly anti-American regimes.