Maybe it is just the mild weather, but I have noticed a change in the atmosphere of Washington. Even the press seems to have recovered from their post-election frenzy and depression. “Red” America, apparently, isn’t going to impose theocracy after all. And hand-ringing doomsday prophets telling us that the war in Iraq was a horrid mistake seem strangely silent.
There is, I believe, a grudging acknowledgement that this administration’s bold post-September 11 foreign policy might just be working.
Take Sudan: After President Bush was elected, Bill Bennett, Carl Anderson, David Saperstein, and I visited Karl Rove and later the president, pleading with him to change the Clinton administration’s policy of benign neglect and to do something about the slavery and genocide — hundreds of thousands of Christians and animists had already been murdered in the South. The administration responded quickly, appointed a special envoy, pressured the Islamic government at Khartoum, and made it a moral issue, as it deserved to be. This week in an extraordinarily hopeful sign, the Sudanese government and the rebels in the South entered into a peace agreement. There is a good prospect for an end to the persecution, slavery, and bloodshed.
Then there’s Palestine: If a few years ago somebody told me that the Palestinians would have a democratic vote for a new leader who would announce that he was seeking peace with Israel, I would have had the person committed. For fifty years we have been deadlocked in the Middle East, trying to temporize and paper over profound differences. This administration simply refused to deal with the PLO, insisting on a democratically elected Palestinian government. And now that is precisely what we have.
In Afghanistan, nine million people voted for the first time, and a democratically elected government is in place. Just four years ago, that government was controlled by the Taliban which was sending terrorists all over the world. And even the naysayers in the press have to acknowledge that there has been a dramatic change in terrorism since Libya threw in the towel a week after the American troops invaded Iraq. These are significant steps in removing the terrorist threat and achieving real progress in the Middle East.
Finally, despite the best efforts of the insurgents, elections are going ahead in Iraq in two weeks — we hope and pray. Sure, it is a grim place, and people are dying — too many people — but polls show upwards of 90 percent of the Iraqi people want to vote, and they want freedom and democracy. Given the tools, I believe the Iraqi people will turn on their own terrorists and will take control of their own destiny.
I have been around Washington for fifty years. I have seen one peace initiative after another. I have seen moments of great promise, but never one that offers the promise that this one does. The Bush doctrine — stressing individual liberty, one of the unique contributions of the Christian worldview to human affairs — is a moralistic foreign policy that just might, despite the long odds, work.
A courageous, visionary president will deserve much credit for this, but even more, we need to thank God. He may be giving us His favor on this moment — with an opportunity to achieve, not just the absence of hostility, but a new way of living in the Middle East, with democratic freedoms and liberty for the people. And that’s worthy of our prayers, for it would be good news indeed.