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North Africa has seen a tumultuous, if also hopeful, eight months. Consider the events that occurred on three dates: •January 14: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali departs Tunisia. •February 14: Hosni Mubarak resigns in Egypt. •August 23: Muammar Qaddafi flees his compound in Tripoli, the capital of Libya. For all its complexities—and there are many—the departure this week of another Middle East autocrat reminds us that the desire for human freedom is universal and when individuals break through fear, dictators will fall. The events in Libya also remind us that building democracy is messy, difficult and requires strategic support; the challenges are enormous and success is not guaranteed. Two recent articles amplify these facts in the context of this week’s events in Libya: In his August 22 blog post for ForeignPolicy.com, Marc Lynch of George Washington University writes: “The Arab public embraced the Libyan uprising in February, which began less than a week after Mubarak's fall. They saw the Libyan revolution as part of their own common story of peaceful, popular challenges to entrenched authoritarian rule.… Arab activists across the region will now likely try to jump-start protest movements which had lost momentum.” And in his August 24 column for the Los Angeles Times, Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations warns: “Even under the best of circumstances, Libya would have a difficult time making a transition to anything approaching democratic rule. Kadafi has so dominated Libyan life with his cult of personality…that few if any independent institutions remain. Entire generations know nothing but his despotism….[T]here remains a real danger of catastrophe.” At a recent conference for the Bush Center’s Human Freedom Initiative, President Bush captured the sentiment this way: “Sometimes the seed [of freedom] is planted on rocky soil and it takes time.” It also takes steadfast support. And if the advocates of freedom in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East are to have any chance of success, steadfast support is what they will need—and more.
Amanda Schnetzer is Director of Global Initiatives at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, Texas. In this role, she is responsible for developing innovative research, programmatic, and policy efforts to advance societies rooted in political and economic freedom and to empower women to lead in their communities and countries. Previously she served as the Bush Institute’s founding director of the Human Freedom Initiative.
Amanda has twenty years of experience in the international arena and a background in public policy research and analysis, public affairs, and management of diverse, high-level stakeholders. As senior fellow and director of studies at Freedom House in New York, Amanda guided research for the organization’s definitive studies of freedom. She began her career at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, supporting research on U.S. foreign policy and international politics. Amanda is a published writer and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds degrees from Georgetown University and Southern Methodist University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
Chinese Prisoner’s Death Holds a Message for Americans and China
Liu Xiaobo, China’s most prominent dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner died this week. His death holds a message for Americans and for China.
Release of Chinese Political Prisoner a Timely Reminder to Support Freedom Advocates Abroad
More than half the world’s population still lives in countries where basic political rights and civil liberties are only partly respected, if at all.
Bringing Freedom to the Forefront of 21st Century Politics
Is the global liberal democratic order in danger? Purposefully constructed in the aftermath of World War II, this order -- and the American leadership that is central to its success --has contributed to securing peace and expanding prosperity in the United States and around the world. Today, that order appears to be dissolving. This crisis is not new or sudden; it has been mounting for several years. Global challenges like authoritarian capitalism, violent extremism, demographic pressures, and displaced populations have placed global freedom in decline. Fraying traditional alliances united by core values of freedom are increasingly weak to respond. It is alarming that the downdraft in democratic resilience over the past decade or more includes countries that have long been part of the consolidated democratic West. This is democratic deconsolidation. In much of the Western world, we see a rise in demagogic populism, illiberalism, nationalism, protectionism, and waning conf
The Importance of Speaking Truth to Tyrants
What the president of the United States says matters. Even during the realpolitik policies of détente under Richard Nixon, it was still clear that American policy was based on a set of core values. Nixon’s practical goals of reaching deals with America’s adversaries was never based on the “great chemistry” with himself or praising the Soviet or Communist Chinese leadership doing a “fantastic job.” When the president aligns himself with the autocrats and dictators, he aligns America with their oppression. He sends a message that corruption and brutality are not our concern. Contrast that with how Ronald Reagan defied much of world opinion in calling out the brutality of the Soviet system. Natan Sharansky, then a refusenik imprisoned in a Soviet gulag, later wrote for the Weekly Standard of his thoughts on Reagan’s pronouncement that the USSR was an evil empire: “It was the great, brilliant moment whe