by Austin Bay
December 14, 2005
With Iraq's latest trip to the polls, the great revolt continues.
It's not a revolt led by generals with tanks or by millenarian terrorists, but a democratic revolution led by Iraqi men and women braving terrorist threats and bombs to vote.
Democratic politics, emerging in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, are providing an alternative to the afflictions of war, terror and tyranny. That evil trio has dominated Central Asia and the Middle East, spilling blood, sapping economic progress and destroying hope.
Afghanistan, with its October 2004 presidential election, can lay claim to the War on Terror's first democratic electoral success. The nation, wracked by three decades of war, a Russian invasion and Taliban theo-fascism, has made astounding progress.
Last week, an ABC News survey of Afghanistan touched on several of that nation's extensive developmental problems. Six out of 10 households lack electricity. Fifty percent of Afghan households make less than 500 dollars a year. Afghanis think cultivating opium poppies is justifiable if farmers lack economic alternatives.
The political opinion half of the poll suggests Afghanis foresee brighter prospects, however. ABC reported "77 percent of Afghans say their country is headed in the right direction -- compared with 30 percent in the vastly better-off United States. Ninety-one percent prefer the current Afghan government to the Taliban regime, and 87 percent call the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban good for their country. Osama bin Laden, for his part, is as unpopular as the Taliban; nine in 10 view him unfavorably."
Remember the voices of defeatism and pessimism in the fall of 2001? They swore that Afghanistan would be a "quagmire," a "Himalayan Vietnam." Bin Laden was a hero offering jihadist utopia, and his anti-Western message would sweep the Muslim world. Utter blarney and balderdash. Military victory in Afghanistan paved the way for political and economic reformation.
However, the dark source of the War on Terror lies in the dysfunctional political systems of the Arab Muslim world.
For decades, the Arab street (a violent drag controlled by tyrants, their power enforced by terror) kept Arab reformers in the Arab alley or the Arab jail. The Arab street also has served as a theater for choreographed displays of anger. Addressing the real sources of Arab deprivation and degradation -- autocratic oppression and systemic corruption -- was forbidden. Arab reformers either shut up, went into exile or were assassinated
That's no longer the case. The successful, history-shaping, liberating war in Iraq has begun to "free the street." It isn't free yet. Theo-fascist and Saddamite bombs strike Baghdad every day. Syrian assassins, trying to stop Lebanon's democratic movements, are murdering Lebanese democrats. Reformers know these acts of terror are attempts to "turn back the clock" and return control of "the street" to the dictators.
Despite the violence, Iraqis and Palestinians are creating democratic alternatives. The world's free people need to encourage the Iraqis and Palestinians, not disparage them with defeatist rhetoric and myopic pessimism.
Iraq's and Palestine's victories, now matter how incremental, must be recognized and rewarded.
That's because the democratic revolt's biggest payoffs are at least 10 to 15 years away.
A long haul? Indeed, 15 years is a large chunk of an individual's lifetime. However, in terms of fundamental political and economic reformation, it's no eon.
Peace, the rule of law and steady, honest leadership will make Iraq one of the wealthiest countries in the region. It has water, agriculture, a source of capital (oil) and a population willing to work. Palestine lacks Iraq's natural resources, but Palestinians are aggressive entrepreneurs. Babylon and Bethlehem make Iraq and Palestine prime tourist destinations.
What's in it for the United States? Democratic nations police terror -- they don't promote it. And that amounts to victory in the War on Terror.