Friday, March 04, 2005

The Fiction of Freedom's March

By Rich Miles

March 4, 2005

Let me tell you a little story:

This past summer, when Ronald Reagan died, I was in Europe, specifically Scotland and Spain, and was able to watch the international reaction to the death of an American elder statesman.

At first, the reaction in the local European media was a mild, respectful sharing of our national grief. But as the days passed, and American media lingered over this, and would not let it rest, and indeed seemed to see Reagan's influence in everything good that's happened in America and the world since about 1776, I began to be a bit embarrassed to be an American in Europe. At least three times, in pubs or restaurants, I was approached by total strangers and asked the moral equivalent of "do you folks really deify Reagan like that?" I had to try to explain that no, we didn't, it was just media hype, etc etc. And when Ronnie was wrapped in glory and included as one of those who earned our respect during the D-Day celebrations all over western Europe, I really just kinda hung my head, and tried not to speak too much in public so I wouldn't be recognized as American. It was unbelievable - literally, as no one believed the praise that was being heaped on a dead B-movie actor and mediocre former president, who spent all of WWII in California making films in which he PLAYED war heroes.

I bring this up because, in a friendly pub in Scotland, one of the folks I talked to just flatly rejected the notion that "Reagan defeated Soviet communism, and brought down the Berlin Wall", and all the rest - he maintains that all of that would have happened about the same way no matter who the president of the United States was. And of course he's right.

And I bring THAT up because I see another such myth in the making, and it burns me up: Bush is going to be given the credit for anything good that happens in the Middle East in the next 80 years or so, and is going to be regarded as the man who brought democracy to that region, and it just infuriates me to see Bush get the personal credit for something that, again, would have happened more or less the same way if you, or I, or Bonzo the Chimp were president of the U.S. And that includes the invasion of Iraq - if we hadn't gone there, eventually the Iraqi people would have risen up on their own, with results that no one could predict any more than we can what's going on there now.

Bear this in mind: people always do what they perceive to be in their own best interests. NO ONE does anything that isn't to their benefit, EVER. It's not cynical to say this, it's simply a fact, and if anyone reading this cares to dispute the contention, I can explain it to you in greater detail.

Therefore, the folks in Lebanon who are rising up against the Syrians, and the folks in Iran who say they want a democratic government, and Hosni Mubarak, who became a democrat after Condi Rice snubbed him, and all of the folks in that region and around the world who are making moves toward democracy are doing so because they see it as in THEIR best interests, NOT because America told them to, or because they believe America will stand by them in their struggle toward freedom, or because they find us such an inspiration (they don't, by and large) - but because they think it's high time, and they see an opening for it based on current conditions in their countries. In Lebanon, the entire uprising is based on a gross miscalculation by the Syrians, not by anything the Americans or the Russians or the Saudis (the SAUDIS, for crying out loud!) have said or done.

So in the not-too-distant future, when Bush is called the great emancipator or some such nonsense - recognize it for what it is, PR and propaganda with barely a shred of truth to it, which is usually laughed at abroad, and should be here as well.