At a recent conference in Alexandria, Egypt, civic leaders from several Arab countries concluded that, “Reform is necessary and urgently needed.” The “Alexandria Declaration” says that every Arab country should establish an “elected legislative body, an independent judiciary, and constitutional oversight, in addition to political parties with their different ideologies.” President George W. Bush says democratic voices in the region are now being heard:
“I'm encouraged by the ongoing debate on reform in Egypt, including the excellent discussions involving civil society representatives from the Arab world who met at the Alexandria Library in March.”
The U.S. has launched what it calls a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. It is mistaken and condescending to assume, as some argue, that Arab culture and Islam are incompatible with liberty and self-government. “There should be no doubt,” says Mr. Bush, “that democracy is a realistic goal for the greater Middle East.” But as President Bush said at his April 12th meeting in Texas with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the starting point for a prosperous and peaceful Middle East is the rejection of terrorism:
“Egypt has taken a firm stand against terror by working to disrupt the activities and capabilities of the region's terrorist organizations. These are the policies of a nation and a statesman that understand the threat that terrorism poses to all of us -- to my nation, to his, to all the Arab states, to Israel, and to the future of any Palestinian state.”
The greatest enemy of democracy is terrorism. And in the Middle East and elsewhere, the stakes could not be higher. As long as the Middle East is a place of tyranny and despair and anger, it will produce men and movements that threaten freedom. The U.S. seeks the advance of democracy for the most practical of reasons: because democracies do not support terrorists, or threaten the world with weapons of mass murder.