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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 16:20, February 04, 2005
Bush's Mideast democracy dream: Commentary
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On February 2, US President George W. Bush delivered his 2005 State of the Union Message to the joint conference of the Senate and House of Representatives, expatiating upon the main tasks for him this year and in his second term as a whole. Although the Union Message is based mainly on domestic work schedule, it nevertheless devotes a fairly big space to expounding US foreign policy and its development trend in the coming four years.

The theme of the part on foreign policy as set in the Union Message and the president's inaugural speech both emphasize US great mission of popularizing so-called democracy and freedom worldwide. The Union Message says: From the long-term point of view, only by cleaning up the ideology that fosters radicalism and agitates murder, is it possible to bring about peace��.whereas the only force that suffices to stop the rise of terror and tyrannical rule is the force for human freedom; therefore, the United States will, together with its allies, supports the democratic movements in the Middle East and other regions, its ultimate objective is to put an end to tyranny of government worldwide.

Unlike the inaugural speech, which is in the form of a carelessly made declaration, the Union Message makes a concrete supplement to and explanation on this, revealing the following points of information.

Firstly, it is clear that the Greater Middle East region is the most important area in the national strategy and foreign policies of the Bush administration in the coming four years. Bush says, the dawn of reform and democracy has appeared on the land of Palestine. Condoleezza Rice is going to visit the Middle East, during which she will discuss with Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas matters on how to end violence and promote democracy. To this end, Bush called on the Congress to approve of US$350 million worth of allocation, so as to help Palestine in carrying out reform in political, economic and security fields. He said optimistically that the goal of establishing two peacefully coexistent democratic countries of Palestine and Israel is already within sight and attainable. He emphasized that the United States had to help the Morocco-Bahrain arc belt to comprehensively promote democracy, freedom and peace and stability. In an encouraging tone, he specially urged Saudi Arabia and Egypt to play an exemplary and leading role in promoting democratic reforms in the Middle East.

Secondly, in the Union Message Bush weakened the unilateralist color and intentionally gave prominence to his wish for multilateral cooperation. Whether in his talks about the Iraq issue, the democratic reform in the Greater Middle East, the defense against proliferation, or on the counter-terror issue, Bush indicated the need for "cooperation" with US allies and governments of relevant countries, or for the "establishment of alliance", so as to jointly meet challenges. Apparently, as disclosed in his inaugural speech, Bush has indeed come to realize that the "US strength is by no means unlimited". Rice's European tour started on February 3 was aimed mainly at ironing out US-European differences and seeking for European support for and coordination with US Mid-east policy.

Thirdly, compared with previous union messages, in this year's Union Message, Bush, while talking about hostile countries, no longer uses terms such as "rogue states", the "axis of evils", and "preemptive strike". Although his tone remains to be firm, his tune is rather mild. For instance, while mentioning the DPRK, he said, "We'll cooperate closely with governments of Asian countries to persuade Pyongyang to discard its nuclear ambition"; while accusing Syria of allowing terrorists to carry out activities in its territory, Bush said, "We hope the Syrian government would call off its support to terror and open the door wide to freedom". "Persuade" and "hope" used here are mild words. Bush's censure of Iran is strongly worded, clearly warning that Iran "must give up" its nuclear plan, but Bush no longer gave the hint of threat of force, such as "not ruling out other choices than diplomatic means".

It seems that the general election held smoothly in Iraq has strengthened Bush's confidence in promoting democracy and freedom. He said: The promise made by people of our generation to promote freedom in the Middle East region has withstood tests and been honored in Iraq; the victory of freedom in Iraq will inspire reformers in the area extending from Damascus to Tehran, and bring hope and progress to this region. But it seems Bush has forgotten two things: First, just as the "Boston Post" has pointed out, the loss suffered in the general election held under US military occupation outweighs its gain, the high prices paid by the United States are US$200 billion and loss of the lives of over 1,420 American soldiers. Second, what has been accomplished in Iraq is only the "casting of votes", disputes among various political parties, religious sects and national power have not really begun; Iraq's economic reconstruction is still beset with difficulties and it is hard to take a step forward; in addition, anti-US militant activities in various parts of Iraq are all the more on the increase and spread across the country. Precisely because of this, Bush has to admit in the Union Message that the United States still cannot artificially set a timetable for troop withdrawal, because that would cause terrorists to act more recklessly. Clearly, it is still far from the fulfillment of US dream of a "model of democracy" in the Middle East region, and Washington will continue to pay a price for this.

Carried on page 3 of People's Daily February 4, 2005, the above commentary was translated by People's Daily Online

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