Jewish World Review Nov. 10, 2003 / 15 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764
President Bush, like Eisenhower before him, is signaling the beginning of a new epoch
In what will prove to be among the most important speeches of his
administration, President Bush declared Thursday that the Mideast is in the
midst of positive, epochal change-and introduced the world to what could
easily be called a Reverse Domino Theory.
Unlike the current spread of terrorism and tyranny, the prevailing threat in
the 1950's was the spread of nuclear-armed communism arrayed against U.S.
interests around the globe. Referring to the nations at risk of falling
under the Iron Curtain at the time, President Eisenhower explained what is
now referred to as the Domino Theory (which he originally termed "a falling
domino principle"). "You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the
first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it
will go over very quickly," he said at an April 7, 1954 news conference. "So
you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most
profound influences." This was a defining period for America, and the
President Bush signaled another such epoch Thursday, though the complication
for the current administration is that Bush is dealing with the quandary of
nations already under despotic rule-and how to lift the dominos. In his
speech at the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy, he
said, "The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will
be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution" he said. "Iraqi
democracy will succeed, and that success will send the news from Damascus to
Tehran that democracy can be the future of every nation." Rejecting the
Domino Effect justifications of the Cold War that led to containment and
détente policies a half-century ago, the administration plans to implement a
new policy for this new era, and for a different - though no less important
- region of the world.
The recent liberation of Iraq and American commitment to reconstruction is
the birth of stability for the entire region - one domino at a time. "The
progress of liberty is a powerful trend," Bush averred. "And the resolve we
show will shape the next stage of the world democratic movement." This new
doctrine asserts that by removing a dictator from one nation and providing
the means necessary to rebuild, other nations will similarly move toward
freedom and democracy until the other dominoes rise. Rather than destabilize
the region, as Bush's detractors often claim, the result of the regime
change in Iraq will bring just the opposite: stability, freedom, and the
individual prosperity that can only be found in a safe environment.
America has the opportunity to prove it has no imperialist designs on Iraq
or the surrounding regions and that it has the commitment to do whatever it
takes financially, or militarily, or diplomatically to ensure the success of
the fledgling nations emerging-or attempting to emerge-from despotism.
This will not be an easy task. There are no democracies in the vast space of
land between Israel and Turkey, and no examples for the people living under
dictatorial rule to emulate - but freedom is infectious. When the people of
Iran or Syria see a dictator replaced with a successful government of the
Iraqi people's choosing, they will not easily remain supportive of their own
repressive governments. And when they witness the benefits of replacing
repression with freedoms, and terror with economic development, they will
demand the same for their own.
As it was in Iraq, it is oppression, not a lack of resources, that prevents
surrounding nations from realizing their full potential for growth and
prosperity. Until they provide the freedom and security necessary for
development, they will suffer from an unrealized promise of modernity and
universal prosperity. Highlighting the lack of freedom and the widespread
political oppression in the region, as Bush is attempting with the reverse
domino policy, won't change political attitudes overnight. But it may help
provoke oppressive leaders and their allies to begin reforms. "As changes
come to the Middle Eastern region," he said, "those with power should ask
themselves: Will they be remembered for resisting reform, or for leading
The United States and nascent democracies share a significant stake in the
success of the reverse domino effect paradigm. Free nations prosper. They
become trading partners, suppliers and builders of wealth. And more
important, as Bush firmly stated in a February 26 speech to the American
Enterprise Institute, "stable and free nations do not breed the ideologies
of murder. They encourage the peaceful pursuit of a better life." Stable
neighbors, in other words, don't export terror across their common border.
Rather, they promote trade and economic prosperity, benefiting both
As European nations did at the onset of the Cold War, dictators must make an
historic decision: support freedom and economic development, or stay the
course of tyranny and stumble even further into the well of poverty,
hopelessness and despair.
Nations will have a clear example in post-regime change Iraq of what they
can expect of that choice. America's responsibility is to ensure that Iraq
after Hussein provides the foundation - and the funding - to make the nation
an example and a choice worth choosing.
JWR contributor Robert Stewart, a former Army intelligence analyst, is now a writer based in
Washington, D.C. Comment by clicking here.
10/21/03: Is this war being won? You bet, just don't ask the congressman with the embarrassingly bad timing
© 2003, Robert Stewart