The spread of freedom and democracy is the antidote to Islamic extremism.
By STEPHEN HADLEYThe following is excerpted from a White House transcript of a speech delivered via satellite on October 31 to the AIPAC National Summit in Los Angeles.
Earlier this month, speaking before the National Endowment for Democracy, President Bush outlined the five principles on which our nation's strategy in the War on Terror is based. First, he said, "we're determined to prevent the attacks of terrorist networks before they occur."
Second, "we're determined to deny weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes, and to their terrorist allies who would use them without hesitation."
Third, "we're determined to deny radical groups the support and sanctuary of outlaw regimes."
Fourth, the president stated that "we're determined to deny the militants control of any nation, which they would use as a home base and a launching pad for terror.
There is little disagreement that America will be more secure if we continue successfully to fulfill these four principles. It is important to note that Israel will also benefit from our achievement of these aims.
The president's fifth principle, however, has drawn criticism from some circles. The president declared that "we're determined to deny the militants future recruits by replacing hatred and resentment with democracy and hope across the broader Middle East." Some deride this "freedom agenda" as idealistic and na ve. Some argue that although well-intentioned, the short-term costs exceed any potential long-term benefits from democratization in the Middle East.
The president respectfully disagrees. He believes the freedom agenda is critical for both the United States and Israel. So, this afternoon I would like to discuss why the effort to spread freedom throughout the Muslim world will leave both the United States, and Israel, safer and more secure.
Although we have sometimes struggled to find the proper label for the enemy we face in the War on Terror - be it Islamic extremists, militant Jihadists, or Islamo-fascists - we have a clear understanding of the nature of the enemy and the ideology that motivates them. Rarely do we get so clear a window into their thinking as the recent letter by Osama Bin Laden's second-in-command, Ayman al Zawahiri, to al-Qaida's top commander in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
In this letter, Zawahiri outlines al-Qaida's strategy in four steps. The first step, in Zawahiri's words, is to expel the Americans from Iraq. Next, to establish an Islamic caliphate and expand it until it achieves control over as much territory as possible in Iraq.
In the third step, al-Qaida would then extend their jihad to the countries neighboring Iraq, including Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The final step of al-Qaida's strategy, Zawahiri says, is "the clash with Israel, because Israel was established to challenge any new Islamic entity."
Calls for violence against "Zionists" are a persistent and pathetic staple of Bin Laden's rhetoric and action. We must not take this strategy lightly.
THE STRONGEST bulwark against the rise of a terrorist regime in Iraq is the establishment of a well-rooted democratic government, embraced by all of Iraq's people. Such a government is best able both to defeat the terrorists in Iraq and to serve as a beacon of hope and possibility for reformers throughout the Middle East.
Already, we have witnessed historic elections in Iraq last January, followed by successful elections in Afghanistan and Lebanon. This year also saw the beginnings of reform in Egypt, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.
Walid Jumblatt, the leader of the Lebanese Druze, and an admitted opponent of Operation Iraqi Freedom, recognized after the January election that Iraq's transformation was having a catalytic effect in the region:
"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."
Although we do not expect these transformations to occur overnight, there is reason to be optimistic for the future of democracy in the Middle East.
The passage of the new Iraqi constitution by popular referendum represents another historic milestone on the road to a free Iraq. More importantly, perhaps, the simple fact that over 9 million Iraqis chose to participate in the referendum, despite death threats from the terrorists, demonstrates their desire for freedom rather than a return to tyranny.
If freedom prevails in Iraq, others in the region - including Syria and Iran - will be under greater pressure to open up their repressive political systems. And that is good news for Israel. For Israel should not be condemned, in the name of stability, to live in a region where despots threaten to "wipe them off the map."
The spread of democracy will make the Middle East a safer neighborhood for Israel. An American retreat from Iraq, on the other hand, would only strengthen the terrorists who seek the enslavement of Iraq and the eventual destruction of Israel.
It is the spread of freedom, democracy, and justice that is the antidote to Islamic extremism. Experience shows that it is not poverty, but rather alienation, that most encourages terrorism. Muhammed Atta and the other 9/11 hijackers were predominantly middle class and well-educated. They and many Islamic terrorists like them are clearly alienated from their societies.
Unable to visualize a meaningful future within their political systems, they were susceptible to radical alternatives to them. When people have been denied their fundamental rights, they have little stake in the existing order. ...
The freedom agenda also is critical to ending terror in the Palestinian territories. That is why President Bush places such great importance on the recent and upcoming elections there. For only when Palestinians are able freely to express themselves through ballots rather than bombs will we be able to get on the road to security for Israel.
As Natan Sharansky wrote in The Case for Democracy, "The only way a Palestinian state will not endanger the Jewish state is if it is a state whose leadership is dependent on the people they govern."
We recognize that freedom and democracy require more than just elections. For while democracy is the long-term foundation for security, in the short run security is also the foundation for the practice of democracy.
Palestinian President Abbas earned the trust of his people when he was elected on a platform of peace this past January. Now the Palestinian Authority must make good on that promise by fighting terrorism.
President Abbas must carry through on his slogan "One Authority, One Law, One Gun" by confronting the threat that armed gangs and terrorist militias pose to a democratic Palestine. We have made it very clear to him - especially in the wake of the vicious attack in Hadera - that he should begin by acting promptly and forcefully against Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Israel has a lot riding on President Abbas' success in this effort. For the groups that threaten to destabilize the nascent Palestinian democracy are largely the same groups as those responsible for the wanton slaughter of innocent Israeli citizens.
We witnessed a positive first step in the active coordination and ground-level cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces prior to and during Israel's courageous disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. It is in Israel's self-interest to carry this effort forward and become an active participant in promoting Palestinian democracy, security reform, and economic prosperity.
Much of the appeal of Hamas and other extremists' in the West Bank and Gaza stems from Yasser Arafat's staggering corruption and denial of vital resources and freedom to the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people saw who drove limousines through the streets - and who built health care centers in the refugee camps - and they shifted their loyalties accordingly.
President Abbas must avoid the mistakes of the past. The Palestinian Authority must earn the confidence of its people by having a transparent, functioning government that delivers economic opportunity and the rule of law rather than institutionalized corruption and the rule of the gun. The Palestinian people are finally beginning to expect this of their leaders.
Prior to the withdrawal from Gaza, Palestinians overwhelmingly named the "end of the occupation" as their top priority. But since the Gaza disengagement, their highest priority is improvement in economic life in the Palestinian areas, 15 percentage points ahead of fighting corruption and "ending the occupation."
A PROSPEROUS, democratic Palestinian society would provide the political basis and the needed resources for the Palestinian Authority to fight the terrorists within Palestinian territory before they can threaten Israeli citizens.
Israel will benefit in the long-run by enacting the steps that Quartet Special Envoy Jim Wolfensohn has identified as most critical for the Palestinian economy. These include: connecting the West Bank and Gaza; improving the ability of Palestinians to travel within the West Bank; and beginning work on the Gaza seaport. Israel has an opportunity to undermine through non-military means those who threaten its security, and has made a good start by agreeing to the opening of the Rafah crossing.
In conclusion, Israel - and the friends of Israel - have a big stake in the future direction of the broader Middle East. For sixty years the United States pursued a policy of stability in that region, often times at the expense of freedom and justice. But pursuit of stability made neither the United States nor Israel safer.
True security in the Middle East can only come from the transformation of the region's politics and the emergence of governments that respect basic human rights, do not threaten their neighbors, join in the fight against terror, and pursue the prosperity of their peoples. It is for this reason that Israel and its friends should seek to advance the cause of freedom in Iraq, in the Palestinian territories, and throughout the region...
As you know, President Bush is a dedicated friend of Israel. He has pledged to Prime Minister Sharon that he will never ask Israel to take risks with its security to suit U.S. purposes or to suit U.S. politics - and he never will. But if we succeed in our broader objectives in the War on Terror and in Iraq, Israel will be more secure as a result.
The speaker is the National Security Adviser of the president of the United States.Send us your comments >>