Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Dissident Dissonance

It is an article of faith among those here opposed to American foreign policy that it is impossible for our government to support democratic movements against dictatorial governments. Any sign of support will "taint" the democrats as our stooges and play into the repressive government's hands. Indeed, the people themselves will look at local democrats with suspicion if America helps the democrats.

This makes sense when you are someone who despises America and who sees everything America does as uniquely evil. Why of course the foreigners would hate American support for democracy in their country! Obviously we'd be up to no good and who would want to invite America in to control their resources?

The latest from Syria should have a predictable story line under this thinking:

Beset by U.S. attempts to isolate his country and facing popular expectations of change, Syrian President Bashar Assad will move to begin legalizing political parties, purge the ruling Baath Party, sponsor free municipal elections in 2007 and formally endorse a market economy, according to officials, diplomats and analysts.

Assad's five-year-old government is heralding the reforms as a turning point in a long-promised campaign of liberalizing a state that, while far less dictatorial than Iraq under Saddam Hussein, remains one of the region's most repressive. His officials see the moves, however tentative and drawn out, as the start of a transitional period that will lead to a more liberal, democratic Syria.

So when Syria appears under pressure after pulling its troops from Lebanon and Syrian dissidents are making demands for more freedom, it should be obvious that we should have nothing to do with supporting democracy. We'd only doom the fragile democracy movement in Syria to a quick death as the people turn to the government as the natural voice of the people opposed to American machinations.

Yet as much as this makes sense from the Newsweekian distrust America perspective, it doesn't seem to be so:

Emboldened opposition leaders, many of whom openly support pressure by the United States even if they mistrust its intentions, said the measures were the last gasp of a government staggering after its hasty and embarrassing troop withdrawal last month from neighboring Lebanon.

We shouldn't be shy about supporting opponents of despotic regimes. Ignore the people who dream of seceding with their blue states or plan to move to Canada for principled, clean government (ok, stop laughing).

Perhaps our Left should explain to the foreign oppressed that they need to happily accept the boot smashing their faces forever lest America get any credit. One must have priorities, mustn't one?