In his book, Decision Points, President George W. Bush mentioned the impact of a book authored by a former Soviet dissident. Natan Sharansky spent years in Soviet prisons simple because he was Jewish, wanted to leave the USSR, and was vocal about it. Sharansky shares his experiences first as a political prisoner in the Soviet Union then as an Israeli official. The Case For Democracy is his story and history as it relates to his experiences in perhaps the two most threatening periods of our time; The Cold War, and The Global War On Terror. Sharansky provides a compelling case showing “the power of freedom to overcome tyranny & terror.”
Simply put, free societies tend to want to be peaceful while totalitarian societies (or “fear” societies as he calls them) tend to need to be bellicose in order to retain control over thier subjects. People have a basic, ingrained desire to be free and there is a critical link between human freedom and human development. The evidence is there for us to see in the world. Where is the most free country? Where has the majority of progress been made in the last 250 years? What country has been almost universally despised by despotic regimes? Contrast that with the “cradle” of the human race, the Middle East and Africa. There is no freedom for citizens and there is very little human development.
The Case For Democracy provides a startling peek into communist controlled eastern Europe. Contrary to what new-world historians might have written, Ronald Reagan’s actions against the “Evil Empire” precipitated its fall. Gorbachev, while not as brutal as his predecessors, had little choice but to preserve as much of Russia as possible as Soviet communism failed.
“Jackson [Senator Henry Jackson], Reagan and those who supported them found the Achilles heal of their enemies…pressed on the outside by leader willing to link their diplomacy to Soviet changes, Soviet leaders were forced to lower their arms. The spark of freedom that was unleashed spread like a brushfire to burn down an empire. As a dumbfounded West watched in awe, the people of the East taught them a lesson in the power of freedom…more than fifteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the free world continues to underestimate the universal appeal of its own ideas. Rather than place its faith in the power of freedom to rapidly transform authoritarian states, it is eager once again to achieve ‘peaceful coexistence’ and ‘détente’ with dictatorial regimes.”
As a Soviet Jew, Sharansky was finally able to emmigrate to Israel where he became a member of their government. He had a front row seat in the Middle East “peace” process and provided details of many of the obstacles thrown up by the Palestinians. Some might say that as a Jew, Sharansky is biased, but his facts match commonly known events and explain why things happened the way they did. I thought that I disliked Arafat until I read this book, but I now loathe him and what he did to his people. Awarding this thug a Nobel Peace Prize was perhaps the moment when the Nobel Committee first “jumped the shark” as it as many times since.
Don’t read this book unless you want see examples of the ineptitude of our diplomats,
“Arafat’s PA [Palestinian Authority] hid its true face by talking peace in Western capitals while at the same time inciting Palestinians back in the territories. As Arafat was signing agreements and accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, his PA-controlled media was inculcating a generation of Palestinians to hate the Jewish state, and his PA-run schools were education Palestinian children from textbooks that had literally wiped Israel off the map.”
Or how the “press” just doesn’t understand true freedom;
“In one memorable CNN broadcast devoted to finding out what the people of Afghanistan thought…the journalist did not seem to realize that in a fear society, finding out what people truly believe is not a funtion of whether the press is given the freedom to ask questions, but rather whether the people fell free to answer them.”
What is perhaps the most frightening is that we are insanely doing the same thing hoping for a better result. Our leaders and diplomats need to ask the following questions From Mr. Sharansky before signing treaties with tyrants;
Can people in that country speak their minds?
Can they publish their opinions?
Can they practice their faith?
Can they learn the history and culture of their people?