Mar 5, 2004 11:11 pm


"How are you doing? I understand from all you articles, that there are lots of things in the world you are unhappy about. Writing about it, is a good way, and I am happy to get the articles". Thus began a recent email from a former Danish student of mine. Have I forgotten to look at the half full bottle? It would seem so. Actually, there is plenty of good news out there. I do not mean only the growing voices of Middle Easterners who unlike Iranian President Khatami not only admit that"democracy was a human experience, not a Western invention" but also challenge their own governments to act upon it. I mean that America is gaining allies in the promotion of democracy.

First, the vitriol directed at the US for making the world eat spinach i.e., confront its Middle Eastern problem has greatly diminished according to Foreign Policy report from Davos:"In a backhanded sign of the world's grudging tolerance of Uncle Sam as hegemon, President Thierry de Montbrial of the Institut Francais des Relations Internationales brought the house down by saying that"if the French were in your position, that would be terrible for the world." (This did not stop him from telling the US:"Do not conduct foreign policy only according to your ideology." In other words, do not push democracy too hard).

Second, Hosni Mubarak may fear reform but his son and heir apparent calls for an Arab Renaissance. Why? Because the Arab youth are actually according to the Jordanian planning minister Bassem Awadallah"obsessed with jobs" to the exclusion of nearly all else (like happily blowing themselves up for Allah?). In a refreshing self-mockery, he explained that when economic reforms failed to deliver fast enough"in true Arab fashion, we blamed the Israelis." An Arab journalist even dared to annoy Mubarak fils by complaining that the discussion was taking place"in a vacuum," with no mention of excessive military budgets and oppressive state police. And, last, but not least fully 60% of the several hundred Davos movers and shakers who were in the room, pushed the"no" button when asked"whether Arab leaders deserve more credit than they receive for the reforms they have undertaken."

Third, the European Union not only the US announced a program to push for democratic reforms in the Middle East. It may wish to compete rather than cooperate with the US. But it got with the program. Private enterprise is also getting with it by promoting internet technology. And there are even funny things like prince Turki Al-Faisal (who when asked"why doesn't Saudi Arabia allow churches?" shocked the audience by responding that"Christians and Jews ought to be content to worship in mosques.") getting together with a former British Bishop to promote intercultural understanding.

Last but not least, in Beijing it is not the US but China, Russia and South Korea which are offering energy assistance to North Korea if it agrees to a comprehending freeze on the way to finally abolishing its nuclear program.

In other words. Forget the nay sayers. American foreign policy is no the right track and American allies are getting on board.

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