Peace through victory - the American way.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The devil you know is still a devil.

Whether you think things are going well or badly in the world now, read the linked official explanation from Wang Zhaugou, a Chinese government official, on China's proposed new anti-secession law. The proposed law is aimed at preventing Taiwan from using democratic means to declare its independence from China and to justify the use of force by China. Armed conflict is coming to East Asia in the not too distant future and it'll involve China and the US. The tragedy is that the regime we face in China could have been gone by now.

Many conservatives blame President Clinton for every difficulty we face. But on issues of freedom versus stability Clinton sits with Presidents George W. Bush and Reagan on the side of freedom. Clinton intervened in Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo on the side of freedom over stability. Our current president's father, George Herbert Walker Bush, too often sat on the side of stability. Bush 41's administration with its realist advisors, James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, helped to create the problems we face today with the decisions they made to preserve stability at the cost of freedom.

What's not widely known is how close the Chinese Communist government came to falling in 1989 when the Tiananmen Square uprising occurred. That uprising was not limited to the students who were demonstrating in Beijing's square. There were uprisings throughout the country involving millions of people. The government was split over whether to use force in order to save itself or to side with the demonstrators.

And what was the message of the 20th Century's guarantor of freedom, the United States of America, at the time? The US said it was not in its own interest to see major instability in either China or the Soviet Union. This, at a time when freedom was rising in Eastern Europe and was about to engulf the Soviet Union itself. Read James Baker's explanation and weep: "the United States supports democracy and the freedoms of speech and assembly, but that it was also very important, in the present situation, that the United States not be seen as in any way inciting political unrest." (See p. 243 of "Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025" by Ambassador Mark Palmer, for this description of events and quote's attribution. Indeed, Palmer's book is a must read for this era. It offers a specific plan of action for attacking the world's last dictators that does not necessarily require the use of military force.)

Baker's quote demonstrates the rule that in politics the most important word is "but." Anything before the word means nothing; it's only what follows the word that matters.

Palmer makes the further point in his book that dissidents and their oppressors both pay attention to what the United States says. When the US speaks up for dissidents it gives them courage and hope to fight on. When the US is silent or speaks against them, it emboldens their oppressors.

Reagan understood this. So throughout his administration he spoke truth to Soviet power by describing that regime as evil. Freed dissidents since have all spoken of how Reagan's words inspired and encouraged them. He also pushed that regime into defeat with his insistence on increasing our military budgets and on pressing back against the Soviets in Europe with his Zero Option, on arms control in general, and in Central America. As a result the Soviets were unable to maintain their empire and their regime changed.

What might instability in East Asia have brought the world if the US had spoken up for the Chinese dissidents in 1989 instead of cautiously supporting stability? We know for certain that the former Soviet bloc countries of Eastern Europe are some of America's strongest allies in our Global War on Terror. Imagine further the stability that might have come to East Asia by now if China had been democratic since 1989 or 1990. Taiwan might even have been reunited with a democratic mainland by now.

The Bush 41 administration was not just on the wrong side in Tiananmen but elsewhere. Baker's quote illustrates that point because he included stability in the Soviet Union as a US interest. Bush 41 is notorious among conservatives for his so-called Chicken Kiev speech. In that speech to the Ukrainian Parliament, Bush 41 warned the Ukrainians against "suicidal nationalism" that could come from seeking independence from Russia.

Bush 41 was also wrong about Iraq. When the administration had achieved its victory by ousting Iraq from Kuwait, the United States was perfectly situated to move on to Baghdad and remove Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime. Instead, the US retreated and did something even worse. Bush 41 encouraged the Shiites and the Kurds to revolt and when they did, rather than helping them, the US sat and watched them get slaughtered.

This is one danger that dissidents face when they begin to rise up against their oppressors and hear words of encouragement from the United States. The question they face is whether the US means what it says at that time and is willing to help. The Shiites and Kurds were led to believe they would be helped by the Americans. When they weren't they died. Indeed, those who advocate a quick withdrawal of American troops from Iraq are betraying the Iraqis again as much as Bush 41 did when he refused to help the uprising. How different might the Middle East be today if Bush 41 had put his faith in freedom over stability and acted differently?

The US made up for its fault to a degree when it patrolled no-fly zones in Iraq until the liberation. This benefited the Kurds more than the Shiites as the Kurds, under this protection and behind the protection of their own armed militias, enjoyed significant autonomy for much of the 1990s. The US has made serious payments on its debt to all Iraqis with the liberation in 2003. And the most important payment the US is making now is in our President's determination to stay in Iraq until we have achieved a full success.

That determination is bearing fruit as we have seen the elections in Iraq, in Palestine, in Saudi Arabia, and the uprising in Lebanon. Indeed, Walid Jumblatt, has famously given credit to Bush's liberation of Iraq and the subsequent vote there for Lebanon's Cedar Revolution.

Creating instability to promote freedom is a risky venture. Preserving stability at the cost of freedom is just as risky and has dangerous consequences itself. At this time, more instability is what this country should stand for because it's what this world needs.




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