LAST TUESDAY'S OVAL OFFICE INTERVIEW appeared to be over. Washington Times editor in chief Wesley Pruden had thanked the president. But President Bush had something to add:
"If you want a glimpse of how I think about foreign policy read Natan Sharansky's book, The Case for Democracy. . . . For government, particularly--for opinion makers, I would put it on your recommended reading list. It's short and it's good. This guy is a heroic figure, as you know. It's a great book."
What a plug! But the praise is deserved. And it's good news that the president is so enthusiastic about Sharansky's work. It suggests that, despite all the criticism, and all the difficulties, the president remains determined to continue to lead the nation along the basic foreign policy lines he laid down in his first term. As with any foreign policy, there have been deviations--some reasonable, some unfortunate--from the basic course. As with any administration, there have been errors of judgment and failures of execution--some defensible, some indefensible. But the Bush/Sharansky path is both right and necessary. And with the Afghan and Palestinian elections just behind us, and the Iraqi election coming up, our progress along that path should become more visible.
The following is from a July 2000 article by Sharansky--once
a political prisoner in the Soviet Union, now a politician in Israel--quoted in The Case for Democracy:
The same human rights principles that once guided me in the Soviet Union remain the cornerstone of my approach to the peace process. I am willing to transfer territory not because I think the Jewish people have less of a claim to Judea and Samaria than do the Palestinians, but because the principle of individual autonomy remains sacred to me--I do not want to rule another people. At the same time, I refuse to ignore the Palestinian Authority's violations of human rights because I remain convinced that a neighbor who tramples on the rights of its own people will eventually threaten the security of my people. . . . A genuinely "new" Middle East need not be a fantasy. But it will not be brought about by merely ceding lands to Arab dictators and by subsidizing regimes that undermine the rights of their own people. The only way to create real Arab-Israeli reconciliation is to press the Arab world to respect human rights. Israel must link its concessions to the degree of openness, transparency, and liberalization of its neighbors. For their part, Western leaders must not think the Arabs any less deserving of the freedom and rights that their own citizens enjoy--both for their sake and for ours.