Friday, November 19, 2004

Natan Sharansky at The White House

Joel Rosenberg reports on Natan Sharansky's meeting with the President yesterday:
"I [Natan Sharansky] told the president, 'There is a great difference between politicians and dissidents. Politicians are focused on polls and the press. They are constantly making compromises. But dissidents focus on ideas. They have a message burning inside of them. They would stand up for their convictions no matter what the consequences.'

"I told the president, 'In spite of all the polls warning you that talking about spreading democracy in the Middle East might be a losing issue — despite all the critics and the resistance you faced — you kept talking about the importance of free societies and free elections. You kept explaining that democracy is for everybody. You kept saying that only democracy will truly pave the way to peace and security. You, Mr. President, are a dissident among the leaders of the free world.'"


He is convinced that democratic institutions can take hold throughout the Middle East. He concedes it will not be easy, but argues the key is bold moral leadership from the West of the kind that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher demonstrated in the 1980s.

"Everybody knows that weapons of mass destruction are very dangerous in the hands of terrorists," says Sharansky, his passion as strong as his accent. "But very few people understand how powerful weapons of mass construction can be in the hands the free world. There are so many skeptics, so many people who doubt whether Iraqis and Palestinians really want to live in freedom, or whether democracy in the Middle East is really such a good idea. But I lived under a totalitarian regime. I know the horrors of these regimes from the inside. I know they can be transformed. They won't be perfect, and they won't agree with us on every issue. But it is better to have a democracy that hates you than a dictatorship that loves you."

Sharansky cites the example of post-World War II Germany. Many doubted a true democracy could ever take root amidst the ashes of the Third Reich. But it has. True, most Germans opposed the recent war in Iraq and increasingly side against the U.S. in international policy debates. But so what? Sharansky asks. At least they are not carpet-bombing the whole of Europe.

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