RIGHTING AMERICA - Illuminating works of the Praiseworthy and Uncelebrated ~ while exposing those Miscreants, whether Treacherous or Unwitting, that are plaguing our otherwise Brave Nation...
_______________________________"It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it." ~ General Douglas MacArthur ___________________________________________________________________"As long as I'm the President, we will stay, we will fight and we will win the war on terror." ~ President George W. Bush ___________________________________________________________________"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." ~ Martin Luther King Jr. ___________________________________________________________________"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." ~ Albert Einstein ___________________________________________________________________"He that would live in peace and at ease, must not speak all he knows nor judge all he sees." ~ Benjamin Franklin ___________________________________________________________________"To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage or of principle." ~ Confucius ___________________________________________________________________"We will confront emerging threats before they fully materialize. And if you harbor a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorist." ~ President George W. Bush ___________________________________________________________________"We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle." ~ Winston Churchill ___________________________________________________________________"And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." ~ John F. Kennedy ___________________________________________________________________"We have room for but one flag, the American flag ...We have room for but one language here and that is the English language ...and we have room for but one sole loyalty, and that is a loyalty to the American people." ~ Theodore Roosevelt ___________________________________________________________________"Righting America - One Reader at a Time." ~ Timmer

Monday, April 25, 2005

Iraqi Citizens Finger the Bad Guys

Insurgents in Iraq, while apparently stepping up attacks against civilian, political, law-enforcement and military targets, have a new and formidable enemy to deal with: The Iraqi Civilian.

Most recently, after witnessing the downing of the Russian-made MI-8 helicopter last week, in which six American contractors, three Bulgarian crewmembers and two guards from Fiji were killed, a local Iraqi resident drove an hour from the crash site to a U.S. base to report the incident.

According to a USA Today article posted yesterday by reporter Jim Michaels, the American soldiers were not even aware of a crash having occurred and were somewhat skeptical of the witness' story. "The Iraqi, whose name is being withheld for his protection, finally convinced American soldiers of the truth of his story."

"Soldiers from the brigade located the wreckage and found two other witnesses who verified the story about a pickup leaving the wreckage scene. The Iraqis brought soldiers to a small compound of two homes. The pickup was in the driveway, and U.S. soldiers detained 10 men living there."

Upon searching the homes, U.S. forces seized large-caliber anti-aircraft ammunition, along with a crude diagram showing how to shoot down an aircraft."

"Col. David Bishop, commander of the U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade Combat Team conducting the sweeps, said U.S. forces detained the 10 suspects based on information from Iraqi witnesses."

Increasingly, Iraqi civilians are stepping forward to identify insurgent activity throughout Iraq, which can only be seen as a very positive development. It would seem that these once terrified people, so long under the ruthless thumb of Saddam Hussein, are beginning to stand up and take action for their beloved homeland.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

G.I. Jane Gets Spat On In Kansas City

Okay, so it wasn't eggs (see my last article, below). In case you hadn't heard the story, on Tuesday while at a book signing for her work of fiction "My Life So Far," a Vietnam veteran who had waited in line for 90 minutes, spat tobacco juice into the face of Ms. Fonda.

Let me just say that, my aforementioned egg-tossing fantasy notwithstanding, I would not have allowed myself the luxury of acting upon it. But, since honesty is my absolute policy regarding my writings in this blog, I really must confess that my first reaction to this news could be accurately described as "mirthful."

Michael Smith was arrested for disorderly conduct after the infamous celebrity refused to file other charges. In fairness, Ms. Fonda handled the incident with restraint - but I have to ask myself "If I were in her position, would I not expect something like this to happen?"

"She's a traitor and she cost the lives of a lot of good men," Smith, who was 19 when he got shipped over to fight in Vietnam, told Kansas City's KMBC-TV. "She didn't do anything to the government, she slapped US in the face."

"I expressed my opinion of her...TO her," stated Smith. "I had the opportunity; a lot of guys won't have it and I did it for them."

Contrary to the disillusioned activist, many still hold Fonda responsible for her actions during the unpopular war (myself included). An online survey that I came across reflected that - showing that 69% of those surveyed (over 12,000 people) still feel that she "betrayed U.S. Troops."

Two articles on Jane in a row - never to be a third, I promise. But let me close with this thought: As the tobacco-laced spittle trickled down her surprised face, did Ms. Fonda so much as question, if only for a fleeting moment, her ill-conceived actions and statements - and their subsequently acute damage to our frightened, beaten and all but abandoned young military men in Vietnamese mud prisons? I hope so...I hope so.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Jane Fonda - Actress, Feminist, Author and Traitor

I came across C-SPAN a few hours ago, and there was a National Press Club event, at which Jane Fonda was the "guest of honor" addressing the success of her new book, entitled My Life So Far. She gave a speech, launching into the usual I-know-better-than-YOU nonsense in her trademark scattered, elitist and pseudo-intellectual fashion. The only difference this time - she has developed into a cantankerous old lady, equipped with an old lady's stubborn certainty that defies logic or factual backing.

Of course, there is a wealth of spouted nonsense to criticize, but I will pick and choose some points. But before I do, let me just admit that I couldn't help fantasizing about a table of veterans (myself included) in front of the podium, at a poignant moment (perhaps following another G.I. Jane-ism on Vietnam or Iraq) suddenly standing up and pelting this self-righteous "lady" with dozens of eggs. My Vietnam Vet buddies and millions of others (upon reading the news) would really have appreciated that.

Here are some highlights (low-lights?) of Jane on the microphone, and my comments in red:

  • (On why we stayed in Vietnam and Iraq): Calling it "Gender Politics," she laments that "Men (leaders) are afraid of looking weak....afraid of 'premature evacuation'" Could this be why she had so many problems with her wonderful PATRIOTIC father, Henry Fonda?

  • (On losing the VN war): "(The argument that) we lost the war in Vietnam because of the Liberal Movement is a LIE!" A mass of Vietnamese documentation has emerged in the last few years indicating that the North Vietnamese would have surrendered had it not been for the American anti-war movement and liberal media. Hanoi held out, and we collapsed. Jane doesn't mention this.

  • (On her "apology"): "I have apologized for one thing - I sat on an anti-aircraft gun and was photographed." Aren't you forgetting about how your other imagery and sound-bites were used against prisoners, Jane? You were paraded around like a mindless bimbo (truth hurts?) and were used to inflict massive pain and suffering on brave hearts, minds and bodies so unlike your own.

  • (On Female Empowerment): "Women just need to speak out...needing a relationship (with a man) means you need validation...yes, we need a woman President this time" I don't necessarily disagree with the last comment, but women enjoy HUGE advantages in America over men in some areas - namely, child custody and subsequent support claims. There are advantages on BOTH sides, and nowhere in the world do women excel better than here in the U.S.

  • (On the "Swift Vets" ads against John Kerry): "Any campaign based on lies, as the Swift Boat campaign against Kerry was, is despicable. Despicable (repeated this word several times)". I would venture to guess that there is no organization in the world that has more reason to hate Jane Fonda than the Swiftboats/POWs For Truth - I suppose it's natural for Jane to hate them. She had better pray that they don't turn their attention to her...I wouldn't run for any office, girlfriend!
  • (On President Bush and what she might say to him): "I would like to be at a barbeque with him, sit down in a corner and just talk. I want to know what he reads. Why doesn't he read more?" Jane, you are talking about a man who is briefed on international events and domestic matters several times DAILY, reads sheaves of intelligence reports each morning, afternoon and night. He works almost every waking hour - regardless of his physical location. He has a Masters Degree, has remained married to (and in love with) the same woman for decades, and is liked and supported by most Americans and an overwhelming number of Active Military and Veterans. To say that you pale in comparison with our Commander-in-Chief is like saying your mentor Gloria Steinam is a little psychotic.
  • (On today's young girls striving for impossible perfection): "Young girls feel that they need to be perfect to be loved...we send a wrong message....images in magazines are digitally enhanced." Wait a minute Jane, weren't YOU one of the self-made sex-objects of the late 60's? Didn't you make MILLIONS with your workout videos feeding off of this national psychosis - telling young women that they CAN AND SHOULD look better?
Here's my take on HER LIFE SO FAR: Jane Fonda was a spoiled, silver-spooned Hollywood child of the 50's; a rebellious sex-kitten drugged-out slut in the 60's; a counter-cultural political activist and Traitor of the early 70's who cared little for anything other than getting noticed; a forgettable (at best) actress through the late 70's and 80's who always sought attention and approval from a Patriotic and talented father (who himself had enlisted in WWII, his celebrity notwithstanding). A greedy entrepreneur who used her fame to sell exercise videos to a country that had entered an era of impossible physical ideals and burgeoning eating disorders among women.

Now, in the third millennium, Jane is a product of her past. She is still rich, spoiled, mouthy, hypocritical, self-important, pathetic and suddenly VERY old.

Jane Fonda is very fond of touting the empowerment of women, and yet she has failed in several decades of patchy activism to achieve what her nemesis George Bush has done in a short four years - the freedom of TENS OF MILLIONS of women to vote, attend school and enjoy expanded legal and religious rights they never had.

All I needed to know about who to NOT vote for in the last election was the profile of those standing behind the respective candidates. Jane Fonda stood with the likes of Ted Kennedy (murderer and alcoholic lunatic), Michael Moore (disingenuous and ruthless propagandist multimillionaire), George Soros (foreign billionaire who invests against American currency) and other miscreants behind the candidate (and fellow Traitor who aided the enemy) - John Kerry.

To sum up this waste of fame and air-time, who has hurt so many people (and probably still doesn't know it) - when asked about her news sources Jane Fonda gave three - can you guess which ones? "CNN, New York Times and NPR." NOW who needs to read more, Jane? The final irony is that her silly little self-serving book, which she proudly claims is outselling The De Vinci Code, is listed under "Non-Fiction."

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Laying Into Delay - Dems Out for Blood

So it seems the Democrats, in their ongoing quest to nip at the heels of the Bush administration, the congressional Majority Party and all things republican, can smell blood. Tom Delay, the headstrong House Majority Leader who is only guilty of letting down his guard and doing the kind of things his congressional peers have done for centuries, is on the defensive.

Democrats are practically salivating after the Congressman for a slightly ill-considered remark he made upon the death of Terri Schiavo. Taking aim at judges who refused to order that her feeding tube be reinserted, he stated "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." Okay, so how is this a threat of violence from a conservative, God-fearing politician?

Of course, the penultimate BUFFOON of congressional minority (Edward Kennedy, of course) ranted that DeLay "has threatened the judges." Claiming that federal judges are asking for $12 million to install new security measures, Kennedy adds, "as leaders in Congress incite violence." (Of course, Kennedy of all people should hesitate to bring up ANYONE’S bygone improprieties, lest his own murderous past be mentioned).

It is a tactic that the democrats are using in unconcealed frustration, as the threatened Republican "nuclear option" looms with the democratic counter-threat of stonewalling. They screamed for the ouster of Rumsfeld, Tenet, Cheney, Wolfowitz and other major players, and now have moved on to what they obviously consider to be lower-hanging fruit in Congress.

Hence, "The Party of NO" has earned another moniker..."The Party of LOW."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Purple vs Red Pen Corrections for Teachers

Okay, this definitely falls under "gratuitous liberalism and political correctness," not to mention B.S. Since when does the color of a teacher's inked-in corrections to student assignments need to be psycho-analyzed? Since NOW, in a certain Connecticut school.

Daniels Farm Elementary School, located in Trumbull, Conn., is a school where teachers have been required to switch from red to (virtually any) other colors. Red, it would seem, denotes negativity to children, according to many parents of this community. In an Associated Press op-ed piece from April 3rd, the author writes "Of all the things that can make a person see red, school principal Gail Karwoski was not expecting parents to get huffy about, well, seeing red."

It seems to me that teachers might need to be left alone (unless of course they are dating their students ;-)

“You could hold up a paper that says ’Great work!’ and it won’t even matter if it’s written in red,” said Joseph Foriska, principal of Thaddeus Stevens Elementary in Pittsburgh.

How about we forget the petty stuff and concentrate on, oh I don't know...education? Just a thought.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Liberals Trapped in "The Politics of Churlishness"

While driving my usual 42 miles to work today, as is my custom these days, I dialed up some AM "Talk Radio" to catch up on news. Unfortunately, both stations in the D.C./Baltimore area that are (usually) worth a listen were still milking the Terri Schiavo case, so with the quick reflexes of mortal desperation I launched my finger at the FM band button and (while deftly avoiding NPR) found C-SPAN.

The topic for discussion was an article in The New Republic by Martin Peretz (Editor-in-Chief), entitled “The Politics of Churlishness.” As the parade of callers made their commentary for and against this article, I became intrigued. I decided to pull it up for a quick read when I got to work. Less than an hour later, I found myself to be very impressed by Mr. Peretz and this piece, which fits nicely with my own stated pursuit of exposing "gratuitous liberalism." (He also appeals to my own dark sarcasm ;-)

churl·ish - adj.

1. Of, like, or befitting a churl; boorish or vulgar.
2. Having a bad disposition; surly: “as valiant as the lion, churlish as the bear” (Shakespeare).
3. Difficult to work with, such as soil; intractable.

Peretz makes an impressive case in this article for the credit that is due President Bush for sweeping democratic reforms taking place in the Middle-East, and he points to several reasons why many Democrats (especially Liberals) are denying the president his rightful recognition as the primary catalyst for these encouraging developments. I fully agree with this assessment of the democratic left – and the sheer vitriol of some left-of-center C-SPAN callers (on the Democrat line) this morning simply confirmed for me what Peretz so eloquently writes of liberals - “They deny and resent and begrudge and snipe. They are trapped in the politics of churlishness.”

I have pasted his article below, or you can find it on The New Republic.
The Politics of Churlishness
by Martin Peretz
Post date: 03.31.05Issue date: 04.11.05

If George W. Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his critics would denounce him for having done it unilaterally, without adequate consultation, with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others. He pursued his goal obstinately, they would say, without filtering his thoughts through the medical research establishment. And he didn't share his research with competing labs and thus caused resentment among other scientists who didn't have the resources or the bold--perhaps even somewhat reckless--instincts to pursue the task as he did. And he completely ignored the World Health Organization, showing his contempt for international institutions. Anyway, a cure for cancer is all fine and nice, but what about aids?

No, the president has not discovered a cure for cancer. But there is a pathology, a historical pathology, that he has attacked with unprecedented vigor and with unprecedented success. I refer, of course, to the political culture of the Middle East, which the president may actually have changed. And he has accomplished this genuinely momentous transformation in ways that virtually the entire foreign affairs clerisy--the cold-blooded Brent Scowcroft realist Republicans and almost all the Democrats--never thought possible. Or, perhaps, in ways some of them thought positively undesirable. Bush, it now seems safe to say, is one of the great surprises in modern U.S. history. Nothing about his past suggested that he harbored these ideals nor the qualities of character required for their realization. Right up to the moment Bush became president, I was convinced that his mind, at least on matters Levantine, belonged to his father and to James Baker III, whose worldview seemed to be defined by the pecuniary prejudice of oil and Texas: Keep the ruling Arabs happy. But I was wrong, and, in light of what has already been achieved in the Middle East, I am glad to say so. Most American liberals, alas, enjoy no similar gladness. They are not exactly pleased by the positive results of Bush's campaign in the Middle East. They deny and resent and begrudge and snipe. They are trapped in the politics of churlishness.

The achievements of Bush's foreign policy abroad represent a revolution in the foreign policy culture at home. The traditional Republican mentality that was so perfectly and meanly represented by Bush père and Baker precluded the United States from pressing the Arabs about reform--about anything--for decades. Not Iraq about its tyranny and its record of genocide, not Syria about its military occupation of Lebanon and its own brutal Baathist dictatorship, not Egypt about loosening the crippling bonds of a statist economy and an authoritarian political system, not Saudi Arabia about its championing of the Wahhabi extremism that made its own country so desiccated and the world so dangerous, and certainly not the Palestinians about the fantasy that they had won all the wars that they had actually lost and were therefore entitled to the full rewards due them from their victories. This was the state of U.S.-Arab relations in 2001: The United States was actually more frightened of the Arabs than they were of us. The extraordinary report of the 9/11 Commission about the delinquent reactions to the decade-long lead-up to the catastrophe of September 11 only confirms this impression of official U.S. pusillanimity.

The Clinton administration seized on every possible excuse--from the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, right through the atrocities in Kenya and Tanzania, to the attack on the USS Cole--not to respond meaningfully to Osama bin Laden. This aggressively dilatory approach was set early on, when Bill Clinton's first secretary of state, dead-man-walking Warren Christopher, proposed that a special bureau be set up to deal with drugs, crime, and terrorism in a single office, as if terrorism is a problem for policemen and not for strategists. The 9/11 Commission Report records that only congressional opposition aborted Christopher's concoction. Attorney General Janet Reno always worried about retaliation against any moves by the United States; Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, preoccupied with her "push for a peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis," was concerned that military strikes against the bin Laden operations in Afghanistan would strengthen the Taliban; National Security Adviser Sandy Berger fretted that a shoot-out might be seen as an assassination, and, always the trade lawyer, he consistently held out hope that some sort of carrot would turn the Taliban against bin Laden; General Anthony Zinni was more concerned about human rights abuses by the Taliban than by its hospitality to Al Qaeda and worried also that a mosque might be damaged in the course of bombing operations; Pentagon officials warned that a missile aimed at bin Laden might kill a visiting Emirati prince instead (but why was a UAE prince hanging out with bin Laden anyway?); and CIA Director George Tenet had so many objections to decisive action that it would be nearly impossible to enumerate them.

Clinton, it is true, resolved to eliminate bin Laden, but soon he eliminated his desire to eliminate him. The Clinton administration's true desire was to arrest bin Laden, to indict him, and to put him on trial--to "bring him to justice," as these men and women pompously exhorted each other. Except Berger also feared that bin Laden would be acquitted in a U.S. court of law. CIA personnel trying to cut a deal with the Northern Alliance to capture bin Laden warned that, if the Afghan "tribals"--that's the orientalism of liberals--did not bring him in alive but, heaven forbid, actually killed him, they would not be paid for their labors. The charismatic leader of the Afghan opposition and our best contact with it, Ahmed Shah Massoud, who was assassinated two days before September 11, thought he was dealing with madmen.

The new Bush presidency also found it hard to wrap its hands around the Al Qaeda phenomenon and preferred to focus instead on Star Wars redivivus--until, of course, a catastrophe in Lower Manhattan concentrated its mind. What the Bush administration gradually came to realize was that fighting the Muslim terrorist international could not be done in a vacuum. If the Islamic and Arab orbits were to continue to revolve around sanguinary tyrannies, there would be no popular basis in civil society to rob the cult of suicidal murder of its prestige. So, rather than being a distraction from the struggle against the armed rage suffusing these at once taut and eruptive polities, confronting their governments was actually intrinsic to that struggle. The Bush administration recognized that removing the effect means removing the cause. The 9/11 Commission seems to have grasped this, too, at least in its citations of Richard Clarke's assertion that bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda and the Iraqi Baath could be natural allies.

History has never traveled in the Middle East as fast as it has during the last two years. In this place where time seems to have stopped, time has suddenly accelerated. It may be true (more likely, it is not) that a deep yearning for democracy has been latent throughout the region for a long time. There certainly was a basis in reality for skepticism about the Arabs' hospitability to the opening of their societies. Whatever the proper historical and cultural analysis of the past, however, the fact is that democracy did not begin even to breathe until the small coalition of Western nations led by the United States destroyed the most ruthless dictatorship in the area.

Democracy in Mesopotamia? A fantasy, surely. But not quite. Iraq was, despite its unbelievably bloody history, a rather sophisticated place. During the nineteenth century, many Baghdadis went abroad to study. Modern nationalism sank some roots. Baghdad itself had a plurality of Jews, learned and mercantile, until they fled to the new state of Israel. An ancient minority of Christians survived into the age of Sunni pogroms and survives--though in lesser numbers--still. The Kurds grew relatively tolerant in the areas they dominated. And the majority Shia, though viciously persecuted from the founding of the Iraqi state after World War I--with the not-so-passive consent of the British colonials--and condemned to near-genocide by Saddam's revolutionary republic, have generally maintained the restraint that piety sometimes allows. After a year and a half of nearly daily Sunni bloodletting among them, the Shia have not wreaked the vengeance they surely could and, equally as surely, some of them long to take.

The U.S. liberation-occupation has now tried to cobble together these diverging Iraqis into the beginnings of a democratic regime. Wonder of wonders, these estranged cousins have shown some talent in the art of compromise; and trying to make this polity work is hardly an effort undertaken without courage. The judge who was killed with his son outside his home on his way to work at the tribunal that will try Saddam knew that danger stalked him, and so did the rest of the victims of Sunni bloodlust. This bloodlust evokes an unmistakable but macabre schadenfreude among many critics of the war, who want nothing of history except to be proved right. It is as if suicide bombings and other sorts of helter-skelter murder were a just judgment on the wrongdoings--yes, there have been wrongdoings, some of them really disgusting--of the Bush administration. And, even if ridding western Asia of Saddam is reluctantly accepted as justified, what blogger couldn't have accomplished what came after more deftly?

In any case, this churlish orthodoxy tells us that the Sunnis need to be enticed into the political game lest it be deemed illegitimate. In this scenario, it is the murderers who withhold or bestow moral authority. John F. Burns, the defiantly honest New York Times journalist in Baghdad, who has consistently reported the ambiguous and truly tangled realities of the war, now sees the Baathist and Sunni warriors in retreat, if not actually beaten. What will probably happen in Iraq is a version of what endured for decades in Lebanon: a representative government rooted in sect--argumentative, perhaps even corrupt, but functioning. Lebanon was never perfect, but it worked reasonably well, until the aggressive Palestinian guests took to commanding Shia turf to establish a "state within a state." (This was a phenomenon that the nimble Thomas L. Friedman did not much report on in the first leg of his journey From Beirut to Jerusalem, confiding that fear for his life and livelihood kept him from deviating too far from the Palestinian story as they wanted it told. Eason Jordan avant la lettre.)

The fine fruits of the Bush administration's indifference to international opinion may be seen now in Lebanon, too. What is happening there is the most concrete intra-Arab consequence of the Iraq war. Nothing could be done in Lebanon without Syria's sanction, no government decision without the approval of Damascus, no business without a hefty Damascene percentage. Syrian troops and spies were everywhere. Lebanese of all sects and clans have been restive for years. But they lived in the fearful memory of their mad civil war, the civil war of the daily car bombs in the marketplace. Suddenly, the elections in Iraq, Bush's main achievement there, exhilarating and inspiring, sprung loose the psychological impediments that shackled the Lebanese to Syria. Even if the outcomes will not be exactly the same, this was Prague and Berlin at the end of the long subjugation to their neighbor to the east. More immediately, this was Kiev only a few months ago. The first mass protest against the Syrians and their satrap prime minister drew tens of thousands. Then there was the much larger crowd of pro-Syria Shia from the south, a disconcerting moment. But, after that, a multitude so huge that it defied counting, and so diverse. This was the true cedar revolution, a revolution of the young, for independence, for freedom from the failing but always brutal Damascus regime next door. Will Vladimir Putin be so stupid as to invest credit and arms in the stiff and callow son of Hafez Al Assad?

None of this happened by spontaneous generation. Yes, there were lucky breaks: Yasir Arafat died, Syria conspired somehow to have former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri assassinated. And yes, the new directions are young, and the autocratic-theocratic political culture of the Middle East is old, and it is once again too early to proclaim that the mission has been accomplished. As the ancient Israelite king observed, let he who girds his harness not boast as he who takes it off. But the mission is nonetheless real, and far along, and it is showing thrilling accomplishments. It is simply stupid, empirically and philosophically, to deny that all or any of this would have happened without the deeply unpopular but historically grand initiative of Bush. The hundreds of thousands of young people in Martyrs' Square knew that they had Bush's backing. The president seems even to have enticed Jacques Chirac into a more active policy toward Lebanon: For him, too, Syria had to go. If this satisfies Chirac's yearning for la gloire, so be it. (But it will not be so easy to maintain such alliances: Already, Security Council members are said to be working up plans to put the future of Lebanon under the protective care of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, when nothing in unifil's past--nothing--should provide confidence that it is able, or even disposed, to act decisively against Arab brutality.)

What is occurring in Saudi Arabia and Egypt is also heartening, if more than a bit tentative. Under pressure from the Bush administration, the Saudis have allowed the first local elections in the country's history: an election to bodies that cannot make big decisions, and an election limited to male voters, naturally. But infidels (that is, Shia) may also vote. By Saudi standards, this is the revolution of 1848. In Egypt, responding to the insistence of the Bush people, President Hosni Mubarak has allowed that he will permit opponents to run in the presidential elections against him. Mubarak has no chance of losing ... this time. Maybe, however, the son will not be the father's inevitable successor, and maybe the Arab custom of turning dictatorships into dynasties will also come to an end, at least in Cairo. And, in the brave figure of Ayman Nour, the world now has a hero of the anti-Mubarak forces to celebrate and to support. In both countries, to be sure, what we are seeing are the bare beginnings of a democratic process, the very bare beginnings. It will be years, maybe decades, before these become democratic polities. And there is always the chance--as was the case in Algeria, once the jewel in the shabby crown of the "nonaligned"--that the vox populi will vote wrong. In the Algerian instance, it had to vote wrong: The choice was between national fascists and pious fascists. Take your pick.

So the situation is certainly complex. But complexity is not a warrant for despair. The significant fact is that Bush's obsession with the democratization of the region is working. Have Democrats begun to wonder how it came to pass that this noble cause became the work of Republicans? They should wonder if they care to regain power. They should recall that Clinton (and the sanctimonious Jimmy Carter even more so) had absolutely no interest in trying to modify the harsh political character of the Arab world. What they aspired to do was to mollify the dictators--to prefer the furthering of the peace process to the furthering of the conditions that make peace possible. The Democrats were the ones who were always elevating Arafat. He was at the very center of their road map. After he stalked out of a meeting room in Paris during cease-fire talks in late 2000, Albright actually ran in breathless pursuit to lure him back. It was the Democrats who perpetuated Arafat's demonic sway over the Palestinians, and it was the Democrats who sustained him among the other Arabs. And so the cause of Arab democracy was left for the Republicans to pursue. After September 11, the cause became a matter also of U.S. national security.

The great diversion from the real politics of the Arab countries, and from the prospect of political reform, was the Palestinian grievance against Israel. In the early years of their conflict with the Zionists, the Palestinians thought that these countries would fight their battles for them, at the negotiating table and on the battlefield, which they did. But what happened in reality was that the various Arabs exploited the Palestinians as pawns in their own ambitions to pick off pieces of Palestine for themselves. That is why there was no Palestinian state in the West Bank or Gaza after the armistice of 1949, as one might have expected from the Partition Plan of 1947. The West Bank was annexed to Jordan. Gaza was not annexed but administratively attached to Egypt. Syria's armies won no decisive battles against the Jews; otherwise, they also would have taken a piece of Palestine. In any event, until the Six Days War, the Palestinian groan against the Jews was focused on the very existence of Israel within narrow and perilous borders, without strategic depth, without old Jerusalem, without the West Bank, without Gaza.

And Arab governments deflected the ample internal plaints of their own peoples with mobilized hysteria against the Jews. Every domestic grievance was dispersed with rousing rhetoric against Israel. The sun of Gamal Abdel Nasser rose and set with Cairo's failures in its wars with Israel. Hatred of the Zionists levitated the Baath dictatorships of both Iraq and Syria. In the end, after five wars and two intifadas, the Palestinians still seethed. But it had all come to nothing. And, finally, the angel of death unilaterally attacked Arafat. Bush had had the good sense to pay no attention to him, despite the urgent imprecations of the usual apologists: the European Union, the United Nations, France, Russia, and the editorial page of the Times. Had Bush made even a single accommodation to Arafat, Arafat's way in the world would have been enshrined in Palestinian lore for yet another generation as the only way.

But Bush didn't, and Ariel Sharon didn't, either. Now that there is some real hope among both Israelis and Palestinians about the future, let us examine the reasons for it. The first is that Bush made no gestures to the hyperbolic fantasies of Palestinian politics. He gave them one dose of reality after another. The second is that he gave Israel the confidence that he would not trade its security for anything--which means that Israel is now willing to cede much on its own. (Israeli dovishness for American hawkishness: This was always the only way.) The third is that Bush is holding Sharon to his commitments, and everyone who is at all rational on these issues now sees the Israeli prime minister as a man of his word and a man of history. After all, Sharon has broken with much of his own political party. Not for nothing is he now the designated assassination target of the Israeli hard right. Still, holding Sharon to his word also means holding Mahmoud Abbas to his. So far, the record is mixed. The serious shutting down of the terrorist militias has not yet begun, but the Palestinian Authority did run reasonably free local elections, and they were not accompanied by killing. It is true that Hamas won more of these races than makes either Sharon or Abbas comfortable, and its strength may even increase in the coming parliamentary voting. But this, too, is a part of the gamble of democracy; and, to the extent that the Palestinians are taking this gamble and following the newest fashion among the other Arabs, it is a tribute to the inked purple fingers of Iraq, which is to say, a tribute to Bush and his simplistic but effective trust in the polling place.

It has been heartening, in recent months, to watch some Democratic senators searching for ways out of the politics of churlishness. Some liberals appear to have understood that history is moving swiftly and in a good direction, and that history has no time for their old and mistaken suspicion of American power in the service of American values. One does not have to admire a lot about George W. Bush to admire what he has so far wrought. One need only be a thoughtful American with an interest in proliferating liberalism around the world. And, if liberals are unwilling to proliferate liberalism, then conservatives will. Rarely has there been a sweeter irony.

-Martin Perez

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Retired Navy and Cold War/Gulf War Veteran. Senior Analyst for a large defense contractor, Bachelor of Science, Father, moonlighting Graphic Designer (T-shirts etc) and Blogger.

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