As Violence Ignites In The Middle East, Bush Falls Back On Standard Talking Points

Reacting to a new conflict igniting on Israel’s northern border, President Bush stuck to his standard talking points about freedom and democracy during today’s press conference with German Chancellor Merkel:

We’re concerned about the fragile democracy in Lebanon. We’ve been working very hard through the United Nations and with partners to strengthen the democracy in Lebanon. The Lebanese people have democratic aspirations, which is being undermined by the actions and activities of Hizbollah.

Indeed, the United States must support the advance of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. But simply holding elections – the focus of the Bush administration – will not create stability in the region. Consider:

– In Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, elections have empowered, not defeated, Islamist extremists like Hizbollah and Hamas who espouse violence.

– In Iraq, two elections and a constitutional referendum still has not brought freedom or stability to the country, which slips further into violence each day.

Democracy is not simply about going to the polls. It also means having institutions operating within the rule of law, a system of checking the power of strong executive bodies, and political actors that respect the rights of women and religious minorities.

We need to think beyond elections and take serious diplomatic steps to promote stability in the Middle East.

Brian Katulis