Middle East Peace Should Not Surprise

So argues Pejman Yousefzadeh in an interesting piece at Tech Central Station. He recalls an interview by Sam Donaldson of Ronald Reagan during the tumultuous collapse of communism in Eastern Europe:

The former President freely admitted that the events going on in Eastern Europe were momentous. But he asked why it was that anyone should be surprised that a people enslaved for over four decades should want to agitate for their freedom. The surprising thing was not that people wanted to be free. Rather, it was that they were enslaved in the first place.

Pejman says the same is true in the Middle East:

Sectarian dictators in the Middle East try to get their people to buy into the belief that existence is merely the gateway to all kinds of burdens and oppression, and that such oppression can be avoided if only the populace will sacrifice its inherent interest in freedom and liberty for safety and security from the forces of oppression — forces that respond to the commands of those very sectarian dictators. Meanwhile, the region’s religious totalitarians try to convince their people that life on earth is not worth living at all. Rather, people should focus on making their lives as short as possible, and using those lives to commit terrorist acts that supposedly will earn them God’s favor.

But the agitation for democracy that is currently going on in the Middle East is upsetting these authoritarian and totalitarian attempts to brainwash and intimidate their people. These Middle Eastern democrats belief that the quality of their present lives matter, that they — and not a gang of ruthless dictators — should be the ones who determine the shape and direction of their lives. Whether they are seeking the institution of liberty and freedom in the first instance, or demonstrating against the terrorists determined to combat any efforts to bring freedom to the Middle East, the quality of present day existence matters to these Middle Eastern democrats and their emboldening is shaking the very foundations of the dictatorships that for decades have worked to crush their hopes. [supporting hyperlinks omitted]

I can’t disagree with this assessment of the human desire for freedom. Still, I’d note that liberty is an incredibly modern achievement and one that has eluded large segments of humanity. The desire to be free is nearly universal. The confluence of events needed to get men to band together and fight for it, given the incredible risks, is rare.

So, while I’m not at all surprised that the citizenry of these societies yearn for freedom, I am surprised that the actual attainment of that freedom now seems, quite suddenly, a real possibility.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.