Tuesday, February 15, 2011

William F. Schulz: Revelations from the Revolution: Tough Lessons for Human Rights

William F. Schulz column here shows revolutions happening in Boston as in the Middle East.

Some quotes and quick AM thoughts:
Other lessons may be more difficult for human-rights advocates to stomach, however. Here are five of them:

George W. Bush was half right. Though Iraq was in no way the inspiration for the Egyptian revolt, Tunisia certainly was. To the extent that Bush theorized that a democratic foothold in the Middle East might spark other countries to follow suit, he was right. He just failed to realize that genuine revolutions are homegrown, not foreign-imposed.
Iraq's democracy is young. Maliki's said he'll not run again. The young Sadr returned and promptly left (again). Sistani's CDs preaching seperation of Mosque and State the most popular Ayatollah playing now in Iran. Democracy is contagious. Iraqi purple fingers had impact in many places. Let's not write their example off.

The military makes the difference. It takes nothing away from the courage and persistence of the protestors to acknowledge that in both Tunisia and Egypt, it was the military's refusal to turn on the people that ultimately guaranteed the success of the revolution. Just the opposite happened in Iran. With the exception of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, most human-rights institutions have tended to keep their distance from militaries, foreign or domestic. (After all, militaries have historically been among the worst human-rights violators.) But that view is shortsighted. We may never know whether the extensive U.S. contact with the Egyptian military played a decisive role in its moderation, but interaction between human-rights defenders and security officials ought to be elevated to a higher place in the human-rights agenda.
Egyptians have gone from Mubarack to a Supreme Military Council. That's a Military Junta. I'm optimistic. But the verdicts out. Egypt's Army a true Military Industrial complex. It runs Egypt's economy and keeps the Generals in Pasha-like plush lifestyle. That verdict's yet to come in.

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