Saturday, February 19, 2005

Freedom and development

Tyranny is a very great evil, and freedom a very precious good; but there are other evils, and other goods. The week after the president's address, Europe's three major leaders -- Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroder -- addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Blair, as ever, defended President Bush's self-assigned mission of democracy promotion. But he went on to say that ''if America wants the rest of the world to be part of the agenda it has set, it must be part of their agenda, too.'' And Blair, like Chirac and Schroder, defined the core of that agenda very differently from President Bush. For all three, strikingly, the great good worth striving for was the elimination of global poverty, and the paramount means was an increase in aid.
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The administration has said it will spend $5 billion a year on Millennium Challenge. Unfortunately, after two years the fund has yet to dispense a penny on actual poverty reduction; and it is this program that the administration is now proposing to cut. Restoring that $2 billion might not be a bad way of demonstrating to our steadfast friend Tony Blair that we take his agenda as seriously as he takes ours.
Freedom, From Want, James Traub, NYT Magazine, February 13, 2005.
''When I arrived at the airport,'' Abdulhamid says, ''I was told I had to go to political security. It took me some time to find out exactly which security apparatus wanted to speak to me, but then I met with them for two days in a row. I was very up front about my activities and even talked about things they didn't know yet, like an article I had co-written with an Israeli. One of my interrogators told me that what I was doing would have been unthinkable a few years ago, and he's right. I got the sense from even some of the security police that they see there has to be a new way of doing things in Syria.''
A Liberal in Damascus, Lee Smith, NYT Magazine, February 13, 2005, on Ammar Abdulhamid, the 38-year-old Syrian novelist, poet and liberal dissident . The contradictory signals coming out of Syria seem to indicate that Bashar is not fully in control. Roula Khalaf, writing of the 'Man in the News' (FT, 19 Feb), says
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Long before the assasination, the actions of the new, inexperienced Syrian regime had confounded western diplomats and raised doubts about Mr Assad's control over an opaque administration that relies on an array of intelligence services.

"When Hafez was alive he ran Syria with the help of the intelligence and the military. Now the intelligence and the military seem to be running Syria with the help of Bashar," says a Lebanese political analyst. 

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