Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Only Idea Left Standing

VDH has (as usual) a thoughtful look at why Western Liberalism--democracy, open markets, personal freedom, individual rights, pride in national traditions, worry about big government--is about the only idea left standing:

In fact, 2005 is a culmination of dying ideas. Despite the boasts and threats, almost every political alternative to Western liberalism over the last quarter-century is crashing or already in flames.

China's red-hot economy—something like America's of 1870, before unionization, environmentalism and federal regulation— shows just how dead communism is. Will Vietnam, North Korea and Cuba go out with a bang or a whimper? If North Korea's nutty communiques, Hugo Chavez's shouting about oil boycotts and Fidel Castro's harangues sound desperate, it's because they all are.

Fascism has long vacated its birthplace in Europe. The fragments of the former Soviet autocracy are democratizing. The caudillos are gone from Latin America. The last enclave of dictators is the Middle East. Yet after Saddam Hussein's capture in a cesspool, their hold is slipping too. There will probably not be an Assad III or a second Mubarak.

The real suspense is whether the Gulf royals can make good on their promises of reform and elections. Will they end up like pampered Windsors or go the ignominious way of the Shah of Iran? In desperation, the apparatchik journalists in the state-controlled Arab press are damning the United States, the avatar of change. Then there is bankrupt Islamic fundamentalism. The zealots can always tape a beheading or turn out a few thousand to burn an American flag. But the Taliban are gone from power. Iran is facing popular disgust at home, while its desperate nuclear plots are waking up even a comatose Europe. And the promise of a return to the 8th Century has always had an appeal limited to a few thousand pampered elites, like Osama bin Laden, Dr. Zawahiri or Zarqawi. These losers figured they might become Saladins if they convinced an Arab populace that the Jews and America, not their own corrupt regimes, kept them poor. Now they are reduced to ranting about the evils of democracy.

There is much more and it is worth reading. Freedom is the idea whose time has come, and I don't think there is any force on heaven or earth that can stop it from eventually taking over the world.

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