Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Scots and Scottish-Americans

I can't track it down now, but I distinctly remember reading a few months ago that Americans descended from Scots settlers are the backbone of America, providing its fundamental stability. It was therefore little surprise to read in The Scotsman this lengthy, and non-hostile, analysis about how the neo-cons and Bush are the primary contributors to the freedom wave sweeping across the Middle East. Choice quotations:

People power is likely to do more than that [depose the Lebanese prime minister], however. It is sending a shudder through brutal autocracies and dictatorships across the Middle East. As the dominoes begin to topple, it may just be that the wildest dreams of Washington’s much-maligned neo-conservatives - the hardliners who talked George W Bush into invading Iraq - are about to come true. First, eight million Iraqis defied the terrorists and turned out to vote in the post-war elections. Now the Syrian-backed Lebanese government has fallen, Libya has given up its ambition to develop nuclear weapons, Egypt’s ruler Hosni Mubarak is allowing opposition candidates to challenge him for the first time ever in a presidential ballot and Saudi Arabia held its first-ever election last month, when men-only voters chose municipal representatives. Slowly but surely the Middle East is changing in just the way George Bush and Tony Blair intended. *** But underpinning the self-confidence of ordinary Lebanese people to confront the Syrians lay the knowledge that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was virtually paralysed by the US-led international pressure on Syria and would not dare to order Syrian troops to put down the unarmed insurrection. The US blames Syria for Hariri’s murder, and also for the suicide bombing that killed five Israelis nine days ago, and is demanding that Syria withdraw its 14,000 troops from Lebanon and end its support for terrorist organisations. But the US campaign goes further. Washington is spearheading a campaign to spread democracy throughout the Middle East, which would spell the end for repressive regimes such as Bashar’s. The neo-conservative creed, preoccupied by the Axis of Evil and the threat of international terrorism, foreseeing the positive use of American power to effect change in all corners of the world, has attracted a mixture of abhorrence and ridicule from opponents since George Bush first began to put its theories into practice. Now, after the gruelling military campaigns and the morass of Iraq, and the international schisms they provoked, the knock-on effects of finally flexing America’s military muscle are emerging. *** Any concessions made by al-Assad will have more to do with the will of Bush, and the might he represents, than the diplomacy of Blair. "The Syrians should recognise that they are a destabilising factor right now in the Middle East, and they’re isolated," observed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in an uncompromising assessment of al-Assad’s predicament. At the Foreign Office there is a grudging recognition that the Bush approach is beginning to reap dividends: the "domino effect" that could see a series of rogue states being spooked into falling into line. *** The US-inspired sea change in the Middle East began in January when the region’s citizens watched with fascination as Iraqis braved threats from the insurgents and went to the polls in a free election. No sooner had it become clear that the election was a success than the Bush administration made it clear that what had happened in Iraq should be the beginning, not the end, of change in the Middle East. Nothing demonstrates the startling impact of the Iraqi elections more than a statement last week by Walid Jumblatt, veteran leader of Lebanon’s Muslim Druze community and notorious for his anti-American and anti-Israeli outbursts. In an interview, Jumblatt admitted to a remarkable U-turn in his thinking. He said: "It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago it was the start of a new Arab world. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it." If autocratic governments in the Middle East start to lose control, a "domino effect" similar to that which destroyed communism will be on the cards. No dictator has better grounds for fearing that his days in power may be numbered than Bashar.
As I said, it's a long article, so there's more if you're interested. Here is the article's wrap-up:
IRAQ May have jump-started a charge towards democracy in the Middle East when more than eight million people (58% of the electorate) braved the insurgents and went to the polls in a relatively free election on January 30. LEBANON Elections are to be held in May following mass demonstrations against Syrian domination sparked by the murder of anti-Syrian Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri. PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY Held free presidential elections in January, which are to be followed by a parliamentary vote in July. This follows the death of Yasser Arafat in December. EGYPT President Hosni Mubarak has ordered the constitution be changed to allow opposition candidates to challenge him in elections in the autumn. ALGERIA President Bouteflika was re-elected last year in an election categorised as free and fair by international observers. Since then he has released opposition leaders. JORDAN A constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament that has for long been considered one of the most progressive governments in the Arab world. Further reforms are planned. SAUDI ARABIA Bowed to American pressure and held its first-ever election in February, when men-only voters chose municipal representatives. Women have been promised the vote in future. YEMEN Elections are due this year, although the opposition was banned in the last poll. One of the top prospects for democratic development. OMAN In the most recent Majlis (parliamentary) elections in 2003, suffrage was universal for all Omanis over the age of 21. LIBYA Col Gadaffi finally gave into Western arm-twisting and agreed to give up his weapons of mass destruction. But there is no sign of any move towards open democracy. SYRIA Under president Bashar al-Assad has introduced minor political and economic reforms.