Monday, January 31, 2011
Bonfires of Liberty
The map above depicts countries that have successfully--or in the case of Iran, unsuccessfully--rejected dictators and instead adopted democratic forms of government. To borrow from Samuel Adams, the protests we are witnessing today are bonfires of liberty in the midst of a desert; not of sand, but of human dignity and freedom.
In his Second Inaugural, George W. Bush spoke about the need for America to promote freedom and democracy in the world as the most powerful antidote to the extremist ideology of hatred responsible for the atrocity of September 11. Ten years on, we are witnessing a wave of protests throughout the Muslim world in opposition to the forces of tyranny.
Perhaps the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq and the success of democracy there has been an inspiration for others in the region who seek freedom. Certainly, nobody can deny the power of American inventions like Facebook and Twitter which have allowed people to circumvent the censorship and oppression of their governments and to rise up together.
The question now is, "What will Obama do?" Will he rise to this moment and stand with those who seek their freedom, or will he remain silent as he did when protests erupted in Iran? It will be the greatest failure of his presidency if these nascent revolutions are allowed to be crushed--or worse, give rise to fundamentalist regimes like the Taliban--because of his indifference.