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The Greater Middle East — The Bush Administration’s Perspective

How is the U.S. effort to democratize the Middle East coming along? An update by Dick Cheney.

February 6, 2004

How is the U.S. effort to democratize the Middle East coming along? An update by Dick Cheney.

Following wars with Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States called for a democratization of the Middle East to tackle the region’s many problems. Amidst continuing controversy and setbacks, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney lays out what progress has been made — and what still needs to be accomplished — in this Globalist Document.

What was once said about Europe has been said at various times about Asia, Africa and Latin America — and is often said today about the greater Middle East.

We are told that the culture and the beliefs of the Islamic people are somehow incompatible with the values and the aspirations of freedom and democracy. These claims are condescending — and they are false.

Many of the world’s Muslims today live in democratic societies. Turkey is perhaps the premier example. That is why it has recently been the target of terrorist violence. Turkey deserves our support, including for its European aspirations.

Millions of other Muslims live and flourish as democratic citizens in Europe, Asia and the United States. The desire for freedom is not just America or Western — it is universal.

Whenever ordinary people are given the chance to choose, they choose freedom, democracy and the rule of law — not slavery, tyranny and the heavy tread of the secret police.

In the years of the Cold War, we learned that we could not safely put a border on freedom. Security was not divisible in Europe. And it is not divisible in the world.

Our choice is not between a unipolar world and a multipolar world. Our choice is for a just, free and a democratic world.

That requires the insights, the sacrifices and the resources of all democratic nations. And it requires the courage, sacrifice and the dedication of those now denied their basic freedoms.

It’s clear that reform has many advocates in the Muslim world. Arab intellectuals have spoken of a freedom deficit — and of the imperative of internal reform, greater political participation, the rule of law, economic openness and wider trade.

We have seen movement toward reform in the greater Middle East. In Morocco, King Mohammed recently called for greater protection of women’s rights.

In Jordan, elections have been held and the government is taking steps to reduce state control of the press. In Bahrain, elections were held last year and women were able to run for office for the first time.

In Egypt, the ruling National Democratic Party has called for increased economic reform and expanded political participation.

In Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Abdullah has issued an Arab Charter for reform and called for the holding of municipal elections.

These changes demonstrate what we all know — that true reform and democracy must come from brave and forward-looking people in each country. And those of us who are privileged to live in freedom have a responsibility to support these historic steps.

The rulers of Iran must follow the example being set by others throughout the greater Middle East. In that great nation, there is a growing call for true democracy and human rights.

Europe and America must stand as one in calling for the regime to honor the legitimate demands of the Iranian people. They ask nothing more than to enjoy their God-given right to live their lives as free men and women.

Of course, the most dramatic recent examples of democratic progress are to be seen in the liberated countries of Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Afghanistan — two years after the overthrow of the brutal Taliban regime — the Loya Jirga has approved a constitution that reflects the values of tolerance and equal rights for women.

Under President Karzai’s leadership, and with the help of democratic countries around the world, the Afghan people are building a decent, just and free society — and a nation that will never again be a safe haven for terror.

In Iraq, too, after decades of Baathist rule, democracy is beginning to take hold. Less than a year ago, the people of that country lived under the absolute power of one man and his apparatus of intimidation and torture.

Today the former dictator sits in captivity, while the people of Iraq prepare for full self-government. Saddam Hussein can no longer harbor and support terrorists — and his long efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction are finally at an end.

A new Iraqi police force now protects the people instead of bullying them. Hundreds of Iraqi newspapers are now in circulation — with no Baathist enforcers telling them what to print.

A coalition of nations led by the United States is working with Iraq’s new Governing Council to prepare the way for a transition to full Iraqi sovereignty by the end of June.

Iraqis are preparing a fundamental law, which will guarantee certain basic rights. Month by month, Iraqis are assuming more responsibility for their own security and their own future.

The United States and our coalition partners will stand with them, and continue to sacrifice to ensure their safety until that work is done.

We urge all democratic nations and the United Nations to answer the Iraqi Governing Council’s call for support for the people of Iraq in making the transition to democracy. We urge all nations holding Iraqi debt to be generous in forgiving it.

Our forward strategy for freedom commits us to support those who work and sacrifice for reform across the greater Middle East.

We call upon our democratic friends and allies everywhere — and in Europe in particular — to join us in this effort.

Europeans know that their great experiment in building peace, unity and prosperity cannot survive as a privileged enclave, surrounded on its outskirts by breeding grounds of hatred and fanaticism.

The days of looking the other way while despotic regimes trample human rights, rob their nations’ wealth and then excuse their failings by feeding their people a steady diet of anti-Western hatred are over.

Nations fail their people if they compromise their values in the hope of achieving stability. Instead, we must seek a higher standard, one that will apply to our friends in the region no less than to our adversaries.

Just as democratic reform is the key to the future that the people of the Middle East deserve, so it is also essential to a peaceful resolution of the long-standing Arab-Israeli dispute.

We seek recognition and security for Israel. And we support a viable, independent Palestinian state.

But peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, tolerate and profit from corruption and maintain ties to terrorist groups.

The best hope for a lasting peace depends on true democracy. And a true Palestinian democracy requires leaders who understand that terror has in fact been the worst enemy of the Palestinian people and are prepared to remove it from their midst.

Israel, too, must redouble its efforts by alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian people and by avoiding actions that undermine the long-term viability of a two-state solution.

Encouraging the spread of freedom and democracy is the right thing to do — and it is also very much in our collective self-interest. Helping the people of the greater Middle East overcome the freedom deficit is, ultimately, the key to winning the broader war on terror.

It is one of the great tasks of our time — and it will require resolve and resources for a generation or more. This is work for many hands.

Excerpted from Vice President Cheney's remarks to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 24, 2004

For a full-length version of his remarks, click here.