Europe makes clear once again that it is a full-throated supporter of democracy — in its neighborhood. Just as it is a forthright opponent of ethnic cleansing in its neighborhood (Yugoslavia) even as it lifts not a finger elsewhere (Rwanda, southern Sudan, now Darfur).
That is why this comity between America and Europe is only temporary. The Europeans essentially believe, to paraphrase Stalin, in democracy on one continent. As for democracy elsewhere, they really could not care less.
They pretend, however, that this opposition to America's odd belief in spreading democracy universally is based not on indifference but on superior wisdom — the world-weary sagacity of a more ancient and experienced civilization that knows that one cannot bring liberty to barbarians. Meaning, Arabs. And Muslims. And Iraqis.
Hence the Bush-Blair doctrine of bringing some modicum of democracy to the Middle East by establishing one country as a beachhead is ridiculed as naive and messianic. And not just by Europeans, but by their "realist" allies here in the United States.
Thus Zbigniew Brzezinski, a fierce opponent of the Bush administration's democracy project in Iraq, writes passionately about the importance of democracy in Ukraine and how, by example, it might have a domino effect, spreading democracy to neighboring Russia. Yet when Bush and Blair make a similar argument about the salutary effect of establishing a democracy in the Middle East — and we might indeed have the first truly free election in the Middle East within two months if we persevere — "realist" critics dismiss it as terminally naive.
Yet if you had said 20 years ago that Ukraine would today be on the threshold of joining a democratic Europe, you too would have been called a hopeless utopian. Yes, Iraq has no democratic tradition and deep ethnic divisions. But Ukrainian democracy is all of 13 years old, much of it dominated by a corrupt authoritarian regime with close ties to an even more corrupt and authoritarian Russia. And with a civilizational split right down the middle, Ukraine has profound, and potentially catastrophic, divisions.
So let us all join hands in praise of the young people braving the cold in the streets of Kiev. But then tell me why there is such silence about the Iraqis, young and old, braving bullets and bombs, organizing electorate lists and negotiating coalitions even as we speak. Where is it written: Only in Ukraine?
(Spasiba to Gregory Schreiber)