September 21, 2004
Putting tyrants on noticeBy Olivier Guitta
Today at the opening of the General Assembly of the United Nations, President Bush pronounced one of his most important foreign policy speeches.
Here is, I think, the bomb in the speech:
'...for too long, many nations — including my own — tolerated, even excused oppression in the Middle East in the name of stability. Oppression became common, but stability never arrived. We must take a different approach. We must help the reformers of the Middle East as they work for freedom, and strive to build a community of peaceful, democratic nations.'
As far as I know*, this is the first time that this President, or any recent one, has recognized so forcefully the major failure of our foreign policy in the Arab world. By using the world 'stability' (which is the virtual motto of our State Department) in a condescending manner, President Bush acknowledged that the past fifty years of policy have been a waste of time and energy.
In fact, we supported regimes like Saudi Arabia for too long, and for the wrong reasons. Yes, oil was one important reason, but now this Administration realizes that there is a bigger issue at stake: the War on Terror.
Saudi Arabia, through its extremist Wahhabi version of Islam, has been supporting terror organizations such as al Qaeda, but we closed our eyes. John Loftus, terrorism expert and ex—prosecutor for the Defense Department, said that when in the 1980's he was investigating terrorism cases, Saudi Arabia would very often appear in the background but he was told never to follow the leads. Obviously, we did not want to make waves with the House of Saud.
On the contrary, this latest declaration from President Bush is sure to feel like an earthquake in the palaces of Riyadh.
In light of this, and with a fresh new start, Bush also addressed 'the Arab—Israeli conflict' and not the 'Palestinian—Israeli' conflict, as so many people love to describe it. He hammered again, as in his June 24, 2002 speech, the need for a Palestinian leadership not corrupted and tangled with terrorist ties. Only with a more democratic, real peace—seeking government, would the Palestinians achieve statehood. But in his speech today, Bush went one step further when he said:
'World leaders should withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause.'
This is a clear rebuttal to European leaders who insist on meeting with Arafat and supporting him. For instance, new French Foreign Minister Barnier, in one of his first trips abroad, went to Ramallah to pay a visit to Arafat, rather than visiting Israeli Prime Minister Sharon.
Lastly, he also fustigated Arab states' hate—propaganda against Israel, found in their own media, asking them to stop funding terror and start making peace with Israel.
President Bush's speech is particularly striking, especially compared to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's speech delivered right before Bush took the podium. In a typical pro—stability, appeaser speech that French President Chirac could have written, Annan denounced once again two big evils: the USA and Israel. Everybody understood that when he referred all along his speech to the rule of law, he was hinting at his remark last week to the BBC that the Iraq war was illegal. The only nation that he criticized by name is Israel, the Little Satan, as the Iranians and the Arab world call her.
Obviously when it comes to picking between the free world and the Arab tyrannies, Annan likes the dictators far better.
In such a short speech, President Bush used one of his strengths: to tell the truth like it is, in order to forge a revolutionary new foreign policy. It should be a wake up call for all tyrannies in the Middle East, and a big morale booster for the people of the region.
We are very fortunate to have a leader such as President Bush, who does not flinch in adversity and tackles the problems head— and hands— on, even if it does not please his family'a Saudi friends. Moral clarity and forceful determination is the recipe for victory in this war and I do not think hopeful Democrat candidate John Kerry has much of either.
Think about it when voting on November 2
UPDATE: Kind and knowledgeable readers have pointed out that President Bush had previously made similar statements. Fred Butzen of Chicago provided us with a link to his speech at Whitehall Palace last November, in which he said:
"We [Britain and the United States] must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East. Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Longstanding ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold.
"As recent history has shown, we cannot turn a blind eye to oppression just because the oppression is not in our own backyard. No longer should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient. Tyranny is never benign to its victims, and our great democracies should oppose tyranny wherever it is found."