Does Democracy End Tyranny?

(Los Angeles Times) Natan Sharansky - Recent elections in Iraq, Egypt, and especially Gaza and the West Bank have led many to conclude that the U.S. agenda to promote democracy in the Middle East is terribly misguided, enabling the most dangerous and antidemocratic elements in the region to gain power through democratic means. Is it simply too dangerous to promote freedom in the Arab world? I have argued for many years that peace and security could be achieved only by linking international legitimacy, territorial concessions, and financial assistance for a new Palestinian regime to its commitment to building a free society. Despite my faith in "democracy," I was under no illusion that Palestinian elections should be held immediately. In 2002 I proposed a plan calling for elections to be held no earlier than three years after the implementation of a series of democratic reforms. Over the previous decade, Palestinian society had become one of the most poisoned and fanatical on Earth. A generation of Palestinians had been subjected to the most vicious incitement by their own leaders. The only "right" that seemed to be upheld within Palestinian areas was the right of everyone to bear arms. Rather than push for quick elections, the democratic world must use its considerable moral, political, and economic leverage to help build free societies in the Middle East. We should tie trade privileges to economic freedoms, encourage foreign diplomats to meet openly with dissidents, and link aid to the protection of dissidents. Obviously, any regime that supports terrorism is hostile to the most fundamental principles of a free society and should therefore be treated as an enemy

2006-03-06 00:00:00

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