George W. Bush must be smiling. It started with Afghanistan, then Iraq, Tunisia and now Egypt. The Arab youth are defying Joe Biden and the rest of the American foreign policy “establishment” and proving that their demands are legitimate. Egyptian students, doctors, lawyers and the unemployed are showing that democracy is attainable for the Middle East and that Arabs, too, deserve to live in freedom and prosperity. Tunisia’s revolution was quick, Egypt’s was forceful and resolute. All eyes are on Algeria, Palestine, Yemen and Jordan whose youth seem to be simmering in the same way. Like it or not, George Bush was right and Joe Biden was wrong. President George W. Bush’s vision for democracy in the Middle East may be coming true. Bush spoke often about how generations of committed freedom fighters worked together to bring down Communism throughout Eastern Europe. And Bush used it as an example to suggest that the Middle East could also experience the same freedoms. It seems ironic that the same month in which we celebrate President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday and his forceful demands in Berlin to the Communist leader to “Tear down this Wall”, the Obama Administration missed the chance to support the Middle East’s Berlin moment. President Obama’s flowery Cairo speech in June 2009 tried to carry Bush’s vision for the region forward but subsequently failed to deliver any White House support for the democracy seekers in Iran, Tunisia or Egypt when they needed it. One Arab diplomat on Twitter said today, “President of the free world to speak about freedom from tyranny today at 1:30. You’re 17 days late Mr. President.” When the Egypt protests started eighteen days ago, Vice President Biden immediately took to the airwaves to question the legitimacy of the protesters, claim that Mubarack was not a dictator and to de-link the situation in Tunisia from what was beginning to happen in Cairo. JIM LEHRER: Some people are suggesting that we may be seeing the beginning of a kind of domino effect, similar to what happened after the Cold War in Eastern Europe. Poland came first, then Hungary, East Germany. We have got Tunisia, as you say, maybe Egypt, who knows. Do you smell the same thing coming? JOE BIDEN: No, I don’t. I wouldn’t compare the two……I think it’s a stretch to compare it to Eastern Europe. And later in the PBS interview… JIM LEHRER: The word — the word to describe the leadership of Mubarak and Egypt and also in Tunisia before was dictator. Should Mubarak be seen as a dictator? JOE BIDEN: ….I would not refer to him as a dictator. JIM LEHRER: Mr. Vice President, should we be — should the United States be encouraging these protesters, whether they’re in Tunisia or Egypt or wherever? They want their rights. And should we encourage them to seek them, if it means going to the streets or whatever? JOE BIDEN: …We’re encouraging the protesters to, as they assemble, do it peacefully. And we’re encouraging the government to act responsibly and to try to engage in a discussion as to what the legitimate claims being made are, if they are, and try to work them out. Watching the thousands of young people take to the streets throughout the Middle East to demand government reforms and greater freedoms is inspiring. The Vice President must be embarrassed by today’s remarkable change in Egypt since he was the first Administration official to take to the airwaves to try and hold up Egypt’s Berlin Wall. The historic departure of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and the thousands of Arab youth in the streets of the Middle East just isn’t Change Biden can believe in.
When Barack Obama was campaigning to be president of the United States in 2008, he frequently promised Americans that he would lead the world. In fact, he and his team relentlessly pounded President George W. Bush for “going it alone” and alienating our friends and allies around the globe. His then-campaign foreign policy advisor and current U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice even joked about how, if elected, they would repair the damage and lead the UN in a way that the Bush team couldn’t. But after almost 2 years on the job, Rice and Obama haven’t been able to garner support from the UN to implement U.S. foreign policy priorities as they said they would. In fact, on Iran, North Korea, Sudan and UN reform, Obama and Rice haven’t produced the support Bush garnered. While Rice has touted her performance on one Iran sanctions resolution as unique progress at the UN, her final vote count on that one resolution got more NO votes than did Bush’s five Iran resolutions got in total. Unfortunately, Rice has also been painfully quiet when faced with resistance and hostility from the enemies of democracy and freedom. As President Obama goes back to the UN this week, there are 10 things he should do to more forcefully push for progress on U.S. priorities and more aggressively defend the U.S.:
1. Make clear that the Arizona law the UN attacked was written to stop illegal immigration, not prohibit legal immigration.
2. Call out the Human Rights Council for yet another disastrous year of Israel bashing and overlooking rights violators.
3. Nominate a U.S. Ambassador level person to tackle UN reform and UN budget waste, fraud, abuse and duplicity.
4. Ask Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to investigate the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to ascertain how erroneous scientific claims were added to official UN reports.
5. Make clear that the United States will not unilaterally disarm its nuclear weapons and will not support restrictions on private firearm ownership.
6. Call for a total review of every UN peace-keeping operation and end those that aren’t making progress.
7. Ask the African Union to pressure Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to end the violence and intimidation of southern Sudan and allow international observers for January’s referendum.
8. Condemn any global airline tax that the UN is thinking of implementing to pay for climate change initiatives.
9. Make clear that his Administration will not become a signatory of the International Criminal Court until significant changes are made to satisfy Senate concerns and protect American personnel overseas.
10. Correct the record with the UN press corps that First Lady Michelle Obama doesn’t think that being first lady is “hell” but that she is actually very proud to represent the greatest country in the world.
These 10 proposals would go a far way in showing the UN that while the Obama Administration is interested in seeking a kinder, gentler world; it will not allow a further retreat of democracy and human rights just to get along with others.
It’s Been Bloody, Deadly and Yet An Example For the Entire Middle East
The Iraqi people have voted in free and fair elections locally, nationally and provincially since Saddam Hussein was ousted by the American military in 2003. This week, Iraqis will show the Arab world once again that their hard-fought freedom and painful sacrifices are an example for all people struggling under oppressive regimes.
On January 10, 2007, President George W. Bush defied critics and ignored popular opinion and political polls throughout the United States by committing more than 20,000 additional American troops to the war in Iraq. “The Surge,” as it is commonly called, has since been credited with bringing the Iraqi people more security, less violence and greater freedoms. By July 2008, the surge was heralded as a success from Baghdad to Boston.
In originally announcing the highly controversial surge, President Bush made a nationally televised gamble to dramatically change the most important United States foreign policy of his presidency. While Bush confidently said that the surge was for a “unified, democratic federal Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, and is an ally in the War on Terror,” Democrats in Washington, DC, loudly disagreed. Bush went on to make clear that more than 20,000 American men and women would be placed throughout Baghad and the Al Anbar Province “to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security.” The president’s bold gambit was belittled and roundly mocked among liberals in the United States and Europe — as well as by the future leader of the free world.
Moments after the surge was announced, then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama announced, “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” Future President Obama was emphatic that America should not only not add troops but that American men and women should also exit Iraq as soon as possible. In announcing his candidacy for president a month later, Obama said: “It’s time to start bringing our troops home…That’s why I have a plan that will bring our combat troops home by March of 2008.” Within months of entering the race for the White House in 2007, Obama started voting against Congressional funding for the troops and campaigning strongly for bringing the troops home.
It’s fair to say that if Barack Obama would have been president a year earlier than he was, a very different Iraq would have emerged than the one developing today. In June 2006 and September of 2007, Obama voted to bring the American troops home from Iraq. If implemented, Obama’s wish would have left the untrained Iraqi military force to deal with the sectarian violence alone. Iran, Syria and Al-Qaeda would have been left unchallenged in their efforts to destabilize Iraq and surely would have successfully fomented a civil war by moving their secret campaign to arm and entice violent factions out into the open. The more than 4,300 American soldiers who died defending freedom in Iraq and the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis killed by the extremists’ violence would have been in vain.
But thankfully, for Iraqis who believe in democracy and crave freedom, George W. Bush ignored popular opinion and worked closely with military experts to surge Iraq forward and help put it on the path it is today. Although Iraq still sees sectarian violence and terrorist bombings all too much, there is no question that Iraq has made monumental change to its political system and in a relatively short time.
This week’s free and fair elections are yet another example of a young democracy taking hold in a country where just a few years ago real elections and campaigning were unthinkable. No country in the Middle East gives its people more freedoms than Iraq does today. NGO’s are being created weekly, a civil society has emerged to challenge the government’s decisions, demand transparency, represent minorities and bring attention to people and issues that were ignored in the past. Iraq has a free press that is unrivaled in the Arab world, unobstructed access to the Internet and a military that is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the heart of the world’s most unstable territory.
While Iraq’s very young democracy is messy, incomplete and imperfect, it is currently the envy of the Arab world. But the Western media’s impatience to see a perfectly developed democracy in Iraq has made it difficult for people to see the important progress that has been made in the seven years this month that America led a coalition to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Obama’s view that America should have given up on Iraq certainly had many supporters in the U.S. when the surge was announced. Then-Senator Joe Biden said after Bush’s televised appearance, “If he surges another 20, 30 (thousand), or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.” Then-Senator Hillary Clinton proclaimed, “Based on the president’s speech tonight, I cannot support his proposed escalation of the war in Iraq.” And
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would still be working toward her stated goal “Bringing the War to an End is my Highest Priority as Speaker.” Iraqis should be thankful that Obama, Biden, Clinton and Pelosi weren’t in charge of American foreign policy in 2007.
Because this weekend, 19 million eligible Iraqis will be able to participate in the greatest democratic exercise the Arab world has ever seen. Once again, Iraq is holding national parliamentary elections and showing the world just how far it’s come in a short period of time. Unlike in 2005’s national parliamentary election, the 6,529 candidates this time have been feverishly campaigning for months and their names will be on an open ballot. The Iraqi government has enlisted 300,000 elections officials to watch over the process at the 50,000 polling stations throughout the country, including those ballots cast outside Iraq by Iraqis living abroad. Americans are rightly proud to watch millions of Iraqis go to the polls to cast their ballots for anyone they chose. And like Americans, Iraqis will still need to petition their government, organize around issues and demand transparency even after the final ballot has been counted.
While ethnic and religious rivalry continues, the Iraqis will need to denounce sectarianism and embrace nationalism yet again. While political maneuvering, compromise, scandal and political patronage will unfortunately be a part of any democracy, Iraqis must bravely go to the polls and cast their votes to decide whether Nuri Kamal al-Maliki deserves enough seats to return as prime minister. Whoever wins, the Iraqis must also work to quickly form a new and inclusive government with a peaceful transition of its leaders. As Iraqis are learning, democracy is a constant process, not a one-time event.
But this weekend’s election reminds us, too, that Bush’s vision for democracy in the Middle East is beginning to unfold with the consecutive democratic elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. As both these countries continue to mature and fine-tune their systems, the question remains – which Arab country will be next? Who will start the long, expensive and bloody process of bringing freedom and democracy to their people?
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
GRENELL: Not another sore loser
Barack Obama will be the 44th president of the United States. Even though I was one of the 57 million people who voted for John McCain, I am an American first and I will give my support to President-elect Barack Obama. John McCain showed us he isn’t a sore loser and so his supporters shouldn’t be either.
In fact, Hillary Clinton led the way in showing us why America’s political process is the best in the world, as did Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee when they lost their party’s nomination.
After working as the Spokesman for the United States at the United Nations for eight years, I learned that America is not Zimbabwe and when we have hard-fought elections we don’t show our disappointment with the outcome by rioting or starting a war.
I want to give the newly elected Democratic president my support because I know what it is like to win an election and have the other side try and undercut you every step of the way immediately after the oath of office is administered. I know what it is like to feel the pain of friends who say that my guy is “ruining America” or “making the economy tank” or that I “hate black people” because of whom I voted for.
I know what it is like to see sore losers work to ensure defeat. I know what it is like when people complain and gossip instead of work to make our Union better. We are all Americans and regardless of who wins the White House, he is everyone’s president.
Of course we will face challenges ahead, but if only 52 percent of us work on solving those problems then we won’t accomplish much.
One of the reasons I voted for Mr. McCain is that I didn’t recognize Barack Obama’s America. Mr. Obama seems to see an America full of people dying in the streets with no place to go – where no one owns homes and everyone is bankrupt because the government is out to get them. His America is not the one I live in or see today.
I see an America where a black man has every opportunity to be president of the United States on Nov. 3, 2008, not just on Nov. 4, 2008. America did not go from terrible to great in one day of voting. I see an America that is and will always be the greatest place to live and work in the world. I am not just an optimist when I win elections.
Mr. Obama spoke of hope but described nonstop despair; he spoke of Red and Blue States as one, but worked to divide us economically; he says he will be everyone’s president but relentlessly ridiculed the current president.
I won’t act the way the partisan Democrats did toward President Bush. The way the liberals treated the 43rd president of the United States was sickening. The ugly comments, ridiculous innuendos and rumors that President Bush had to deal with during his two terms in office may have scored political points but it tore America apart. The all-accepting “liberal” party showed us they weren’t really all accepting and tolerant after all.
The last eight years were incredibly tough for this country: Sept. 11, 2001, two wars, natural disasters and a stock market crash. But there was President Bush in front of the White House after the election to welcome Barack Obama and promise a smooth transition.
As the current President stood in front of the cameras and committed to do everything he can to prepare Mr. Obama’s team, I wondered if Mr. Obama regretted spending $100 million in television commercials to ridicule and second-guess the current commander in chief. And I wonder how Rahm Emmanuel would react if the current White House staff stole the “o’s” from the computer keyboards the way his team stole the “w’s” from ours in 2000.
As we decide to not be sore losers, I hope the 65 million people who voted for Mr. Obama will not be sore winners.
Richard Grenell has just left the Bush administration after serving eight years as the spokesman for the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.