Friday, December 02, 2005

Freedom leaps from Pandora's Box

Gerard Baker, in the Times:


Success is less tangible. It is articulated not in the indicative but in the subjunctive: potential threats removed; future wars that don’t have to be fought. It is numbered in the unenumerable: the slow awakening of human freedom; the steady, incremental spread of dignity it brings to people cowed and trampled for decades.
And yet it leaves its mark in tangible ways, even in the turmoil of Iraq. In a couple of weeks, Iraqis will go to the polls in their millions for the third time this year (the exercise of democracy can be habit-forming, can’t it?). This time they will choose a government that will have real power over the direction of the country. It will be a genuine first in the history of a region where medievalist tyranny has enjoyed five centuries of extra time.

Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein, the most powerful living expression of that legacy, the tormentor of his own people and oppressor of others, stands trial for his crimes.
And the success in Iraq, intangible as it is, was never just going to be confined to the country itself. Look at the broader map of the Middle East.

In neighbouring Syria, another unlovely old regime is cornered. The push for freedom that began in Iraq is steadily wresting Lebanon away from its status as a fief of Damascus. The Syrian dictator is feeling the painful consequences of his attempt to halt the spread of liberty by the old fashioned method of assassination.

In Iran, the proximity to a liberated Iraq is alarming the theocratic thugs who run the country and energising their enemies in the rest of the population.

..................

Tony Blair famously said after September 11, 2001, that the kaleidoscope of geopolitics had been shaken. An alternative way to put it might be to say that we have opened a kind of Pandora’s box in the Middle East.

We have, surely, unleashed a violent fury of terrorism and guerrilla war that has a broader reach than Iraq or even the Middle East. But we have also unleashed the great virtue that in time will conquer these vices — not hope this time, though we could use some of that, but freedom. It would be a tragic mistake to cut our losses now, long before we have ensured that the virtue triumphs over the vices.

UPDATE: Charles Krauthammer also writes about progress in the Middle East.

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