Driving home today I heard Elliot Abrams on NPR in an interview. He opened with this:
Mr. ELLIOTT ABRAMS (Senior Fellow, Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations): What the president began to say after 9/11 was that there was no special exception for the Arab world, that we had supported stability in the Middle East at the cost of liberty. And that we weren’t going to get stability either. And, of course, this is at a time when most of these regimes look completely stable. So the point I was making is he had it right in saying that these were not as stable as they appeared to be.
Elliot Abrams is right.
His comments are exactly correct. That was the one thread of Bush’s blunderfooted post-9/11 direction that I always agreed with while I rapidly became dissatisfied with his method. That one part of his legacy is quickly being proven as a real inflection in western policy. It isn’t OK to support tyranny ever, no matter what benefits it has for you.
It was true in Taiwan sixty three years ago this Monday. We should do what we can so that in sixty three years there are only stone markers to the follies of the past.
As we watch and wonder and worry how these freed populations will manage their affairs going forward, we are faced with an opportunity to look over our shoulders and assess our past actions and how they contributed to the present. From a perch perhaps 10-20 years in the future it looks like we will recognize the decades bracketing 9/11 as a crux in the apostrophe in the management of relations with the dictatorships of the middle east.
For whatever reason, the wisdom of the pre-9/11 world view was that tyrannical and corrupt ,dictatorships were somehow tolerable. From the UN to the US and the rest of the civilized world a sea change has occurred that I hope cannot be reversed. All of our cultures had accepted the inevitability of tyranny somewhere in the world. It has never been true.
Individuals today are risking and losing their lives rather than tolerate it another second in their own homes. I look at the world I have to see ahead for my children to soon become adults into and I realize I am willing to risk the much smaller risks I face today to make that world best. Large global impacts that ramifying unpleasantly for a few years? Live with the implications of instability and uncertainty as the outcomes of multiple revolutions ripples through all the international issues for decades?
In ten years and twenty years and thirty years when my children are becoming young men and women and making their lives there can become a world where everyone – at worst virtually anywhere – does not raise their children helplessly under dictators.
Across the street from my hotel in Taipei is a marble stand that notes that the first shot of the 1947 September 29th Incident. An agent of the brutal government struck an elderly woman on the head and the people rose up from suppression. Sixty years later it is a free culture with only the struggles that are part of being human.
In sixty years, my children could bring their grandchildren to appreciate the warm people who live rich and self-determined lives in every part of the world. That should always be worth any risk, if I really believe what I like to claim.