A new article in Der Spiegel magazine—the German equivalent of Time or Newsweek—applauds George W. Bush for his vision of democracy in the Middle East, and credits him for the fact that authoritarian regimes in the region are being kicked to the curb.
“Painful as it may be to admit, it was the despised former U.S. President George W. Bush who believed in the democratization of the Muslim world and incurred the scorn and mockery of the Left for his conviction,” says the piece by Jan Fleischhauer.
Hear that? That’s the sound of bowls full of Whole Foods organic granola smashing to the ground. Before we get carried away and cause people to dive off bridges as a result of having to think of George W. Bush as a Nobel Peace Prize candidate, let’s consider some reasons presented by various sources so far as to why Bush may not, in fact, be responsible for the tsunami of change we’re currently witnessing in Islamic nations.
1. The wave of change started in Africa, with the people of the Ivory Coast elections in December 2010 refusing to allow permanent fixture President Laurent Gbagbo to stay in power after losing democratic elections to rival Alassane Ouattara. The people rioted until he left, during which the UN reported hundreds of arrests, dozens of murders, and significant torture by Gbagbo’s men. This was arguably the spark that ignited the whole region: Just a democratic election in which someone refused to rightfully vacate his seat. Days later, the people of nearby Tunisia seem to have decided that their guy, Ben Ali, had been in power long enough (23 years) and wasn’t likely to leave of his own volition. So they gave him a bit of a shove.
2. George W. Bush may have said he had a vision of Islamic democracy, but what he really meant was that it was a side-effect of avenging his dad in the wake of the Gulf War. Kind of like when so-called do-gooders volunteer to be candy stripers in hospitals, not because they enjoy giving of themselves to people suffering, but rather because they like that sweet discount they get on the cafeteria food.
3. Bush didn’t “show a man how to fish.” He reached into the swamp, pulled out the shark with his bare hands, and hanged it in a secure facility north of Baghdad. You’re not supposed to do that. You’re supposed to wait until the locals figure it out. But would the other Islamic countries living under authoritarianism have figured it out on their own—or was Iraq an icebreaker?
4. Bush didn’t invade Saudia Arabia. Or Iran. Or strap himself onto the back of a rocket and take care of business himself like in Dr. Strangelove. So he clearly didn’t do enough!
5. War doesn’t create peace. Naive kids in floppy blue hats traipsing around in conflict zones create peace and change. Through joy and smiles, silly.
6. The Internet did it. (LOLZ!) Keyboard warriors making FaceBook pages/groups and Twittering viciously caused real-world dictators with guns, weapons, and armies to capitulate. (LMAO!)
Theories abound, but there was only one man in recent memory who actively leveled the field, in the legitimate opening provided by the September 11 attacks, to give the seed of democracy a chance in both the Islamic nations of Afghanistan and Iraq. And he did it for one very clear reason from Day 1, and which he still repeats: To provide a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, an example for others to follow. Maybe that hope is indeed playing a factor in the collapse of the regimes we’re currently witnessing.
Or maybe it’s just a total coincidence that the interests of the average person in the region are now directly aligned with Bush’s vision and actions, for which he has been—and is still—horribly maligned. If people are willing to credit silly Internet entries of 140 characters each for such massive change, then perhaps we can agree that it would be reasonable to acknowledge the efforts of a President whose entire mandate was focused in part on this phenomenon coming to fruition.
One thing that Bush can no longer be criticized for is “making things worse” in the region—unless one believes that people overthrowing authoritarian regimes on their own is a bad development. What ends up replacing these governments is another issue—but the opportunity is now there for them to not blow. Nor do I care to hear a peep from current or former EU leaders who profited from exclusive trade relationships with these dictatorial regimes (Chirac—good luck in your corruption trial this year), while either sitting on their hands during Bush’s active efforts or criticizing his vision outright.
Then there are those who take it a step further and accept flights and vacations provided by this same type of paper tiger dictator in Egypt (former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon) and Tunisia (French Foreign Affairs Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and her junior government minister husband, Who F. Cares), apparently not noticing or caring that crawling into the dumpster might in fact result in being taken out to the dump along with the trash.
Much like George W. Bush, I suppose I can still dream.