On Saturday 29, 2011, Elliot Abrams commented in Washington Post that the freedom deficit in the Arab states was the reason for the problems in the Mideast and quoted President George W. Bush, who in November 2003 asked three questions:

Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom and never even to have a choice in the matter?

Comment: What lessons will Arab regimes in North Africa, Syria and Iran learn for the coming decade? Will they undertake the steady reforms that may bring peaceful change? Will the U.S. government learn that dictatorships are never truly stable in any tyranny?

Mubarak took the same tack for three decades. Ruling under an endless emergency law, he has crushed the moderate opposition while the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood has thrived underground and in the mosques. In effect a two-party system was created: the ruling National Democratic Party and the Brotherhood.

For three decades Hosni Mubarak and his cronies have left Egypt with no reliable mechanisms for a transition to democratic rule.

All these developments seem to come as a surprise to the Obama administration, which dismissed Bush’s “freedom agenda” as overly ideological and meant essentially to defend the invasion of Iraq. In reality President Bush foresaw what lack of freedom would mean.

When the Iranian regime stole the June 2009 elections the Obama administration feared that speaking out in their support might jeopardize the nuclear negotiations.

Mr. Abrams recommends looking at the world map to see the forgotten millions of people suffering under and beginning to rebel against those rulers.

One can only agree with Mr. Abrams: now is the time to say that the peoples of the Middle East are not “beyond the reach of liberty” and that the United States will assist any peaceful effort to achieve it – and oppose and condemn efforts to suppress it.

A final question is: can one really negotiate with tyranny?

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