Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In Praise of the Bush Vision for Democracy

George Bush gave a superb speech once again outlining his vision for Democracy in the Middle East. I have long praised Bush's vision and his pursuit of Democracy in the Islamic world, even though I've had to criticize and often outright condemn his flawed execution of this vision.

Frankly, had George Bush done a lot more to engage the leaders of the Middle East (exactly as Barack Obama is now proposing), and a whole lot less military posturing, name calling and outright military invasions, we might be a heck of a lot closer to realizing Bush's dream.

Here are the key points and highlights of Bush's speech as reported yesterday in
The New York Times,

    After basking in a showy celebration of America’s close ties with Israel, President Bush criticized other Middle East leaders on Sunday, prodding them to expand their economies, offer equal opportunity to women and embrace democracy if they want peace to become reality.

    President Bush received restrained applause in Sharm el Sheik, in contrast with the strong response by Israelis last week.

    “Too often in the Middle East, politics has consisted of one leader in power and the opposition in jail,” Mr. Bush said in an address to the World Economic Forum here, adding, “The time has come for nations across the Middle East to abandon these practices and treat their people with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

    “In our democracy, we would never punish a person for owning a Koran,”
    Mr. Bush said, taking aim at those who, he said, claim democracy and Islam are incompatible. “And we would never issue a death sentence to someone for converting to Islam. Democracy does not threaten Islam or any other religion. Democracy is the only system of government that guarantees their protection.”

    The president also warned that Middle Eastern economies would not thrive unless opportunities were offered to women. “This is a matter of morality and basic math,” he said.

    Mr. Bush did try to link his speech in Israel and his speech here. In the first speech, timed to coincide with the 60th birthday of Israel, Mr. Bush outlined his vision for what the Middle East would look like on Israel’s 120th birthday.

    He used some of the same language on Sunday, repeating certain passages word for word and telling his audience that his vision “is not a Jewish vision or a Muslim vision, not an American vision or an Arab vision; it is a universal vision.”

    “It breaks my heart to see the vast potential of the Palestinian people really wasted,” Mr. Bush said, with Mr. Abbas by his side. “They’re good, smart, capable people that, when given a chance, will build a thriving homeland.”

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