I was reading the book of Daniel yesterday, and it occurred to me that the book was in large part about seals. The entire book was about end times, and even within the book, there were things which confused Daniel – he reported them faithfully, even though he was perplexed by them. One of the lessons then, is that some things won’t happen until it’s their time. And that applies to the world as well.
There have been some comparisons between George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, and well there should be. But it occurs to me, that as President Bush is finally beginning to receive credit long-overdue for his efforts to spread Democracy through the world, that it didn’t hurt for the timing to work out as it has.
It took courage, make no mistake of that, for President Bush to go into Iraq when he did. Bush risked losing the 2004 election on that decision, and what’s more, was seriously concerned about the potential cost in lives, and the permanent effect on the region. But unlike his predecessor, George W. Bush made his decision based on the right moral course, not only for America, but for Democracy in general, and he is now seeing results that simply would not have happened without his conviction and stamina. It also helps that Bush saw the time was right for this action.
The Middle East, as we know it today, emerged from the control of the Ottoman Empire after World War One. Essentially, there were three initial factions – the British controlled Egypt, the coastlands which became Israel, Jordan, and present-day Iraq, the French controlled what became Syria, Libya, and Lebanon, and Ibn Saud made a deal for his family to control Arabia, at the time believed to be largely worthless sand, with a bit of oil under it. The boundary lines were artificial, cutting off cultures, races, and historical routes. After World War Two, a number of these countries had tried to accomplish independence through ill-made treaties with the Nazis, and so they found themselves subjected yet again, this time to either the Soviets or the Europeans. The Americans offered the semblance of independence, but usually only on terms favorable to U.S. businesses or the military. The region also gained strategic value, due to its geographical position joining three continents.
I mentioned that brief history, to give a rough idea to the reader, of just how alien the concept of true independence and representative government is, to the peoples in these nations. This does not mean, at all, that they are not ready for it, but that the forces wishing to establish a responsive government truly representative to their people, have had much to overcome. During the Cold War, the United States was opposed by the Soviet Union in many places, and even after that, the nations of continental Europe resisted giving up their lucrative arrangements, even to the extent of selling arms to dictators. I have always found it amusing to count the cries against the U.S. for long-ago mistakes, while those same speakers ignored current and increasing complicity by France, Germany, and Russia in the arming of terrorists. Or did you think Hezbollah made its guns by wishing for them, its bombs by a clever trick with dirt?
When Saddam Hussein sent Iraqi tanks across the border into Kuwait in 1990, he set off the first stroke in a set of events that has gained momentum to the present moment. The first Gulf War proved, absolutely, that the military force of the United States was unparalleled in power and capability. No one even comes close. This set the stage for discussions between many Arab nations, and although those initial talks failed, they were not completely forgotten. In fact, it may reasonably be speculated that terrorists like bin Laden decided to attack the United States directly, because they realized that America would eventually be able to eradicate their networks, and might do so soon. The reluctance of Bill Clinton to take action spurred these groups into planning direct attacks, and also caused the continental Europeans to show their true colors towards the issue of defending Democracy and Liberty, as the Bosnia debacle showed. The absolute corruption of the United Nations was also made evident in that decade of abysmal negligence, from allowing the genocide in Rwanda, to half-hearted measures in Bosnia, to graft and extortion in the Iraq Oil-for-Food program, to outright rape of children and oppression of millions by UN “peacekeepers” in the Congo and other African countries. By 2001, it was clear that the United States, for good or ill, stood almost alone. When we were struck on September 11, it was not only the brazen assault on thousands of innocents by terrorists, it was also a desperate attempt by the forces of evil to bluff the U.S. out of a clear mission. President Bush called that bluff, and has not minced words or proposed half-measures in answering the call.
Do I think the Middle East is now suddenly a happy place of free peoples and true independence? Of course not. We have a lot of work to do, but the ball is rolling. Afghanistan and Iraq have had free elections, and nothing said by the Left can change those facts. We have scared Libya into promising to give up its WMDs, and the people of Lebanon have risen up to throw off a generation of Syrian occupation. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, even Iran have also seen stirrings of a demand for free elections and a responsive government, not by American diplomats, but by their own people. The sparks in a few places are catching on, and frankly, the movement underway now is the most promising thing I have seen in that region in my lifetime. Count the tasks ahead, but count the victories, also.
What about North Korea, some ask? What about China? What, indeed. North Korea has begun to show signs of discontent among its people for their “Dear Leader” and his plans to keep them poor and cold and starving. Nuclear weapons are useless against your own people. And as for China? In 1989, more than a million people tested the notion that China could be free. Then, the PRA killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, and imprisoned thousands more to silence them. Now, the stirrings are beginning again, and this time, there is no guarantee that the government can put it down. The leaders of China may not be wise, but they are not yet complete fools. They may be counted on to make the best deal possible, and while they will tell themselves they are destined for victory, the fact is that more than half of their army spends time working in factories and guarding prisons, to bolster the PRC GDP and guard against the mendacious plots of the Falun Gong, who somehow threaten the regime by exercise and meditation. They find it necessary to occupy Nepal with more troops than the Soviets used in Poland, in order to quell Buddhist monks. The PRC is known to have stolen important plans from the United States, yet has as yet been unable to develop a true ICBM, or a long-range bomber, or a functioning aircraft carrier. China is often described as a rising power in International Trade, yet no independent authority exists to audit their books. If we have learned anything from the Enron debacle, it is that corrupt executives in large organizations will lie to the auditors, and if we have learned anything from the Soviet Union, it is that any nation run by a ‘Politburo’ or ‘Central Committee’ is filled with corrupt executives.
It may well depend on the character of the President who succeeds George W. Bush, but at this moment I would submit that the powers in China, like the old regimes in the Middle East, are discovering that there is a clock on their dominion.
And that clock is counting down.