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Dissident President: George W. Bush has the courage to speak out for freedom

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Dissident President: George W. Bush has the courage to speak out for freedom

Old 04-24-06, 10:58 AM
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Dissident President: George W. Bush has the courage to speak out for freedom

http://www.opinionjournal.com/editor...l?id=110008281

BY NATAN SHARANSKY
Monday, April 24, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

There are two distinct marks of a dissident. First, dissidents are fired by ideas and stay true to them no matter the consequences. Second, they generally believe that betraying those ideas would constitute the greatest of moral failures. Give up, they say to themselves, and evil will triumph. Stand firm, and they can give hope to others and help change the world.

Political leaders make the rarest of dissidents. In a democracy, a leader's lifeline is the electorate's pulse. Failure to be in tune with public sentiment can cripple any administration and undermine any political agenda. Moreover, democratic leaders, for whom compromise is critical to effective governance, hardly ever see any issue in Manichaean terms. In their world, nearly everything is colored in shades of gray.

That is why President George W. Bush is such an exception. He is a man fired by a deep belief in the universal appeal of freedom, its transformative power, and its critical connection to international peace and stability. Even the fiercest critics of these ideas would surely admit that Mr. Bush has championed them both before and after his re-election, both when he was riding high in the polls and now that his popularity has plummeted, when criticism has come from longstanding opponents and from erstwhile supporters.

With a dogged determination that any dissident can appreciate, Mr. Bush, faced with overwhelming opposition, stands his ideological ground, motivated in large measure by what appears to be a refusal to countenance moral failure.

I myself have not been uncritical of Mr. Bush. Like my teacher, Andrei Sakharov, I agree with the president that promoting democracy is critical for international security. But I believe that too much focus has been placed on holding quick elections, while too little attention has been paid to help build free societies by protecting those freedoms--of conscience, speech, press, religion, etc.--that lie at democracy's core.

I believe that such a mistaken approach is one of the reasons why a terrorist organization such as Hamas could come to power through ostensibly democratic means in a Palestinian society long ruled by fear and intimidation.

I also believe that not enough effort has been made to turn the policy of promoting democracy into a bipartisan effort. The enemies of freedom must know that the commitment of the world's lone superpower to help expand freedom beyond its borders will not depend on the results of the next election.





Just as success in winning past global conflicts depended on forging a broad coalition that stretched across party and ideological lines, success in using the advance of democracy to win the war on terror will depend on building and maintaining a wide consensus of support.
Yet despite these criticisms, I recognize that I have the luxury of criticizing Mr. Bush's democracy agenda only because there is a democracy agenda in the first place. A policy that for years had been nothing more than the esoteric subject of occasional academic debate is now the focal point of American statecraft.

For decades, a "realism" based on a myopic perception of international stability prevailed in the policy-making debate. For a brief period during the Cold War, the realist policy of accommodating Soviet tyranny was replaced with a policy that confronted that tyranny and made democracy and human rights inside the Soviet Union a litmus test for superpower relations.

The enormous success of such a policy in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful end did not stop most policy makers from continuing to advocate an approach to international stability that was based on coddling "friendly" dictators and refusing to support the aspirations of oppressed peoples to be free.

Then came Sept. 11, 2001. It seemed as though that horrific day had made it clear that the price for supporting "friendly" dictators throughout the Middle East was the creation of the world's largest breeding ground of terrorism. A new political course had to be charted.

Today, we are in the midst of a great struggle between the forces of terror and the forces of freedom. The greatest weapon that the free world possesses in this struggle is the awesome power of its ideas.

The Bush Doctrine, based on a recognition of the dangers posed by non-democratic regimes and on committing the United States to support the advance of democracy, offers hope to many dissident voices struggling to bring democracy to their own countries. The democratic earthquake it has helped unleash, even with all the dangers its tremors entail, offers the promise of a more peaceful world.

Yet with each passing day, new voices are added to the chorus of that doctrine's opponents, and the circle of its supporters grows ever smaller.
Critics rail against every step on the new and difficult road on which the United States has embarked. Yet in pointing out the many pitfalls which have not been avoided and those which still can be, those critics would be wise to remember that the alternative road leads to the continued oppression of hundreds of millions of people and the continued festering of the pathologies that led to 9/11.

Now that President Bush is increasingly alone in pushing for freedom, I can only hope that his dissident spirit will continue to persevere. For should that spirit break, evil will indeed triumph, and the consequences for our world would be disastrous.


Mr. Sharansky spent nine years as a political prisoner in the Soviet Gulag. A former deputy prime minister of Israel and currently a member of the Knesset, he is co-author, with Ron Dermer, of "The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror" (PublicAffairs, 2004). You can buy "The Case For Democracy" at the OpinionJournal bookstore here.
Most important sentance:
"The enemies of freedom must know that the commitment of the world's lone superpower to help expand freedom beyond its borders will not depend on the results of the next election."
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Old 04-24-06, 11:14 AM
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Just how much courage does a lame-duck president need to say what he thinks?
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Old 04-24-06, 12:05 PM
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Today, we are in the midst of a great struggle between the forces of terror and the forces of freedom. The greatest weapon that the free world possesses in this struggle is the awesome power of its ideas.
As long as the rest of the free world goes along with the US's ideas without expressing criticism and doubt...
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Old 04-24-06, 12:20 PM
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sigh... some people are never going to get it.

Again: there are terrorists out there. They want to KILL YOU because they think you are "infidels". This is bad.
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Old 04-24-06, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by bhk
Most important sentance:
"The enemies of freedom must know that the commitment of the world's lone superpower to help expand freedom beyond its borders will not depend on the results of the next election."
Ooh, so close. Actually, the most important sentence was right before it:

"I also believe that not enough effort has been made to turn the policy of promoting democracy into a bipartisan effort."

And actually, the author of this article is again falling into the fallacy of believing that the Bush Administration has a real and sincere interest in promoting democracy around the world. We did not invade Iraq and Afghanistan to promote democracy -- as evidenced by our President's cozy relationships with oppresive regimes like China and Saudi Arabia. This Administration is nothing but pragmatic, hopping back and forth between rationalizations as it suits the needs of the day.

President Bush stays true to his ideas, no matter what the consequences? You must be joking.
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Old 04-24-06, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by NCMojo
as evidenced by our President's cozy relationships with oppresive regimes like China and Saudi Arabia.
It'll be nice if you didn't support the last administration huh?
Q: Which administration allows the Chinese to influence this country's presidential elections?
Here you go again, the champion of serious discussion. Yet, at the very first opportunity, Bush bashing that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic is the first thing that comes from you.
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Old 04-24-06, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Myster X
It'll be nice if you didn't support the last administration huh?
Q: Which administration allows the Chinese to influence this country's presidential elections?
Here you go again, the champion of serious discussion. Yet, at the very first opportunity, Bush bashing that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic is the first thing that comes from you.
Q: What does this have to do with the topic at hand?

A: Nothing, it's just your convenient way of deflecting the question so you don't have to answer. Or think.
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Old 04-24-06, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
Q: What does this have to do with the topic at hand?

A: Nothing, it's just your convenient way of deflecting the question so you don't have to answer. Or think.


The same could be asked about the other post though, which I think was his point. What does the promotion of liberties, freedoms, and economic opportunities in a part of the world where many have to do with China? Or, is there only one way to promote these ideas? Is it not possible to free the shackles of repression in one nation with the use of force but with using economics or other pressures in another? I am not asking you this specifically, but I found the first question a loaded and framed one not really deserving of an answer. Maybe its me though?
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Old 04-24-06, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Pharoh
The same could be asked about the other post though, which I think was his point. What does the promotion of liberties, freedoms, and economic opportunities in a part of the world where many have to do with China? Or, is there only one way to promote these ideas? Is it not possible to free the shackles of repression in one nation with the use of force but with using economics or other pressures in another? I am not asking you this specifically, but I found the first question a loaded and framed one not really deserving of an answer. Maybe its me though?
It seems to me that the poster who questioned the article was complaining about the glib association of President Bush and the desire to spread freedom around the world. This is obviously one of his stated goals, but his actions have so far shown a less than consistent application. Now, you and I know there are some genuine, and complex reasons for that, but instead of discussing those, we've resorted to the Bush = good, Clinton = bad vs. the Clinton = good, Bush = bad type of pissing match. What I was objecting to was not the original article, but instead the trite idea that any questioning of the current president can easily and effectively be deflected by a comparison with his predecessor, even when such a comparison isn't warranted. IF President Clinton had made it one of his stated goals, indeed, a main pillar of his foreign policy, to spread democracy from the barrel of a gun, then the comparison would be apt. Instead it's just inane.

Last edited by wendersfan; 04-24-06 at 02:03 PM.
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Old 04-24-06, 02:01 PM
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Natan is desparately trying to connect two different ideologies. And fails miserably.

But hey, he spent time in the Gulag, and I'm sure he feels more affectionate towards Bush than most. Ahem. Anyway.
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Old 04-24-06, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
It seems to me that the poster who questioned the article was complaining about the glib association of President Bush and the desire to spread freedom around the world. This is obviously one of his stated goals, but his actions have so far shown a less than consistent application. Now, you and I know there are some genuine, and complex reasons for that, but instead of discussing those, we've resorted to the Bush = bad, Clinton = good vs. the Clinton = good, Bush = bad type of pissing match. What I was objecting to was not the original article, but instead the trite idea that any questioning of the current president can easily and effectively be deflected by a comparison with his predecessor, even when such a comparison isn't warranted. IF President Clinton had made it one of his stated goals, indeed, a main pillar of his foreign policy, to spread democracy from the barrel of a gun, then the comparison would be apt. Instead it's just inane.

I know. I find it just as inane though to discuss the merits of the Bush doctrine, particularly in regards to global extremist terrorism, as Mr. Sharansky was, by bringing up China or by failing to mention other forms of pressure being exerted upon nations like Saudi Arabia.

Personally, I thought the response was warranted, especially considering the unnecessary inclusion of China into the discussion about what Mr. Sharansky had written.
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Old 04-24-06, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
Q: What does this have to do with the topic at hand?

A: Nothing, it's just your convenient way of deflecting the question so you don't have to answer. Or think.
Do you read before you post? Me think not.
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Old 04-24-06, 02:09 PM
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"I also believe that not enough effort has been made to turn the policy of promoting democracy into a bipartisan effort."
And who exactly is not cooperating and making it a bipartisan effort in order to win back power?
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Old 04-24-06, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
But hey, he spent time in the Gulag, and I'm sure he feels more affectionate towards Bush than most. Ahem. Anyway.
You can joke about it. But most people from SE Asia under communist regime feels the same way.
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Old 04-24-06, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Pharoh
I know. I find it just as inane though to discuss the merits of the Bush doctrine, particularly in regards to global extremist terrorism, as Mr. Sharansky was, by bringing up China or by failing to mention other forms of pressure being exerted upon nations like Saudi Arabia.

Personally, I thought the response was warranted, especially considering the unnecessary inclusion of China into the discussion about what Mr. Sharansky had written.
The problem here is that were are simultaneously discussing two different things - first the "Bush doctrine", and second, the defense of same by individuals such as Mr. Sharansky (not to mention posters on this forum). I have no problem with the Bush doctrine, as a doctrine. I have some problems with its application, but that's irrelevant to our current topic. My problems instead lie with the ideas that:

1. General support for the doctrine precludes criticism of its application. It's that type of mentality that leads to disastrous results from the most noble of beginnings. It's also the sort of mentality that leads itself to messianic, blind fervor on the part of its adherents, leading to the demonization of anyone who dare speak against it.

2. The idea that the president somehow has this storehouse of courage that allows him to stand singlehandedly against the forces of tyranny, oppression, etc. Creating this sort of cult of personality is personally galling to me, especially at this late date in his tenure. Like I stated before, and will expound on more fully now, it takes no special courage for a lame duck president whose party controls both houses of congress to continue on a policy which was voted for by an overwhelming majority in both chambers.
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Old 04-24-06, 02:18 PM
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I'm sure they do but Natan doesn't know much about US politics and Bush's "Selective War On Terror When It Suits My Purpose Not Yours, Global Citizen".

Also, Communism isn't the only form of government were people suffer under peculiar regimes.
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Old 04-24-06, 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Myster X
Do you read before you post? Me think not.
I think it's quite clear to even the most casual observer which of us does, and which doesn't, take the time to read and comprehend issues before posting.
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Old 04-24-06, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Pharoh
I know. I find it just as inane though to discuss the merits of the Bush doctrine, particularly in regards to global extremist terrorism, as Mr. Sharansky was, by bringing up China or by failing to mention other forms of pressure being exerted upon nations like Saudi Arabia.

Personally, I thought the response was warranted, especially considering the unnecessary inclusion of China into the discussion about what Mr. Sharansky had written.
That is interesting considering how often the "FDR did it too" defense is brought up when there are serious criticisms of the policies behind Gitmo.
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Old 04-24-06, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
The problem here is that were are simultaneously discussing two different things - first the "Bush doctrine", and second, the defense of same by individuals such as Mr. Sharansky (not to mention posters on this forum). I have no problem with the Bush doctrine, as a doctrine. I have some problems with its application, but that's irrelevant to our current topic. My problems instead lie with the ideas that:

1. General support for the doctrine precludes criticism of its application. It's that type of mentality that leads to disastrous results from the most noble of beginnings. It's also the sort of mentality that leads itself to messianic, blind fervor on the part of its adherents, leading to the demonization of anyone who dare speak against it.
No disagreement from me. Hell, I find some aspects of the application woeful, even disastrous. I simply want the criticisms to be relevant.


Originally Posted by wendersfan
2. The idea that the president somehow has this storehouse of courage that allows him to stand singlehandedly against the forces of tyranny, oppression, etc. Creating this sort of cult of personality is personally galling to me, especially at this late date in his tenure. Like I stated before, and will expound on more fully now, it takes no special courage for a lame duck president whose party controls both houses of congress to continue on a policy which was voted for by an overwhelming majority in both chambers.
I was not commenting on that portion of the editorial. Frankly, I glossed right over it. After now looking at it, I am not certain I agree with you. Perhaps it it were far later in his term I might, but not at this moment.
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Old 04-24-06, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Ranger
That is interesting considering how often the "FDR did it too" defense is brought up when there are serious criticisms of the policies behind Gitmo.


By me? Are those people who have been called on it?
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Old 04-24-06, 02:24 PM
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wendersfan made some very good points today.
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Old 04-24-06, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
I think it's quite clear to even the most casual observer which of us does, and which doesn't, take the time to read and comprehend issues before posting.

You're right.

Just how much courage does a lame-duck president need to say what he thinks?
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Old 04-24-06, 02:27 PM
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That is interesting considering how often the "FDR did it too" defense is brought up when there are serious criticisms of the policies behind Gitmo.
No, the "FDR did worse" isn't a defense of the Gitmo. That doesn't need any defending. It is only to highlight the hypocrisy of certain people.
I agree with his point that it is the duty of free people in general to help those that aren't. Of course that doesn't mean invading every country because each situation has its own solution but people around the world who look up to the US in their struggle for freedom shouldn't feel that the basic duty of the US to help them depends on election results.
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Old 04-24-06, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Pharoh
By me? Are those people who have been called on it?
I am not going to assign names, but yes, they were called on it the same way wnders called Myster X's response here.
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Old 04-24-06, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Pharoh
I know. I find it just as inane though to discuss the merits of the Bush doctrine, particularly in regards to global extremist terrorism, as Mr. Sharansky was, by bringing up China or by failing to mention other forms of pressure being exerted upon nations like Saudi Arabia.

Personally, I thought the response was warranted, especially considering the unnecessary inclusion of China into the discussion about what Mr. Sharansky had written.
Sharansky wrote that Bush is a champion of freedom and democracy; I would contend that these values rank a distant second in the Administration to promoting their own corporate and neoconservative agenda. While we may espouse the virtues of freedom and democracy, we don't press the point on China, or Saudi Arabia, or Uzbekistan, or any of the other oppresive regimes we support -- that seems to be germaine to the conversation (such at it is) in that it goes against the core contention that Mr. Bush is primarily a man of ideals, immune to pragmatism and compromise.
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