Friday, January 07, 2005

A Case for Sharansky

Click here for AmazonNatan Sharansky was born in the Ukraine and became a mathematician. His early involvement with the human rights movement led to his emergence as a spokesman and dissident for freedom. In 1973, he applied for an exit visa to Israel, and was refused. He was subsequently convicted of treason and spying on behalf of the U.S., and spent 16 months on Moscow's infamous Lefortovo prison.

After frequent isolation in solitary confinement -- and a special "torture cell" -- he was then transferred to a Siberian gulag prison camp.

During his years of imprisonment, he became a symbol for repressed human rights. Freed in 1986, he became the Minister of Industry and Trade in Israel. He is the author of Fear No Evil and, more recently, The Case for Democracy.

Unlike those that mouth platitudes about freedom, but have never experienced a day without Starbucks and their daily newspaper, Sharansky has lived in a society of utter fear and repression, torture and lost opportunities.

I heard Sharansky give a talk about his [latest] book at the American Enterprise Institute, and I was very moved... Sharansky made three points.

One, democracy is good for everybody in all countries. All people of all races and cultures desire freedom.

Two, democratic countries make the world safer:

[I]t's much better for any country to deal with democracy which hates this country than with dictator who loves this country, because democracy which hates you, there is very little chance that it will start a war against you, but dictatorship which loves you, tomorrow can lead the campaign against you for its own soil.

Three, we have the power to spread democracy around the world, and it is our role to do so:

[T]he free world has the great power, the great weapon, as I said, the only nonconventional weapon which nobody else has except the free world. That's the weapon of freedom and democracy....Security and human rights and democracy are inseparable, and we have to unite our efforts.

Having experienced life under the cruelly repressive Soviet regime, including spending 9 years in the gulag, Sharansky spoke passionately and powerfully from personal experience. He had a wonderful turn of phrase too--"free societies and fear societies" and "weapons of mass construction" stick in my mind. It was a fantastic speech, and I'm looking forward to reading the book.

The Bush Doctrine sounds very much like this Sharansky Doctrine, and while I don't know if Bush was aware of Sharansky's case for democracy (which he has been making for years) when he formulated his post-9/11 foreign policy, he certainly is now--both Bush and Condi Rice met with Sharansky in the White House last month to discuss his book. Sharansky told Bush:

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.

What a breathtaking compliment. It makes me proud to have Bush as my president.

A Case for Sharansky

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