Claudia Rosett warns that after a promising start to the new millenium, democracy has gone on the retreat in the last couple of years. With lunatics like Moammar Qaddafi given media platforms at the New York Times and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad succeeding in convincing the West that his proxy terrorists are somehow morally equivalent to liberal democracies, small wonder that Freedom House confirms Rosett’s diagnosis:
Dictators are making a comeback.
Just four or five years ago, the headlines were full of democratic movements, notably the yellow, rose and cedar “revolutions” in the Ukraine, Georgia and Lebanon. The Taliban had been toppled, Saddam Hussein overthrown. Democratic stirrings were heralded from the streets of Iran and China to promises of reform in Saudi Arabia and Libya. Freedom was continuing a roll begun way back in the Reagan era. Tyrants were on the outs with polite society.
These days, dictators are on a roll. Among the many signs was last week’s op-ed in TheNew York Times by none other than Muammar Qaddafi, unrepentant and brutal tyrant in Tripoli for the past 40 years–though, for the purposes of this piece, the Times identifies him politely as “the leader of Libya.” I am still pondering that article, and not solely because this is the same New York Times that last fall rejected an op-ed by John McCain when he was running for president. Qaddafi used his patch of American editorial space to float a plan that would demographically blitz democratic Israel out of existence by setting up a single combined Palestinian-Israeli state, which he suggests we call “Isratine.”
It’s tempting simply to dismiss such stuff as unintended self-parody–whether on the part of Qaddafi, the Times or both. But it is also a token that tyrants are back in style, not only feeling safe to venture out of their spider holes but preening as elder statesmen and increasingly welcomed back to the parlors, editorial pages and negotiating tables of democratic high society.
The impulse Rosett notes amounts to suicide for the liberal democracies of the West. It directly descends from the Left’s insistence on moral equivalency between cultures, which sees dictatorship as a choice rather than an affront to democracy. We have heard for decades injunctions against being “judgmental”, and claims that peaceful coexistence is possible between totalitarian systems and democracies.
Rosett latches onto the best example of this with Qaddafi’s op-ed and the Times’ decision to run it. In what universe does Qaddafi need the Times to make himself heard? What possible justification does the Times have in running an article from an oppressive dictator, giving advice to a liberal democracy in how to run their country? That decision can only be possible in a universe in which editors have not just suspended editorial judgment, but all value for freedom and liberty. The proper response for the Times to have made to Qaddafi’s column would be to fix his own country before asking to publish advice to Israel.
Unfortunately, this sickness isn’t limited to the Times. Europe has a fetish for the Palestinian side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only barely holding back from dealing with Hamas because of the intercession of the Bush administration. As Michael Yon noted today, European governments seem intent on treating Hamas as equals to Israel despite their terrorist activity, brutal oppression, and sponsorship by Iran’s own hegemonic theocracy.
The democracies of the world should shun oppression and dictatorship if they value freedom at all. Would they themselves choose to live in a dictatorship, even one that didn’t rely on terror to maintain its power? Of course not, nor should they — but that should make them even more insistent on marginalizing those who do rule by oppression and terror. Their acceptance of these voices make dictatorship and totalitarian rule easier to maintain and drain hope from those who hope to change their lot through true representative government. It’s a betrayal of the very values the West champions, and the longer that occurs, the less safe those values will be anywhere in the world.