Dick Cheney's speech at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on 24 January is of special significance for its vision and timing. It spells out the challenges that are still ahead of the free world in confronting terrorism. It makes clear that the search for global peace is inseparable from combating dictatorships and supporting democratic movements in the Middle East and around the world. It singles out Iran by name as a country whose rulers should "honour the legitimate demands of the people." He said, "There are growing calls for true democracy and human rights in Iran." Cheney's words come at a time when the totalitarian establishment in Iran has again dashed hopes for a free parliamentary election. The Islamic regime in Iran survives by intimidating the country's population and promoting terrorism abroad. Dick Cheney has used the opportunity of appearing in Davos to state that Americans are aware of this fact and harbour no illusions about the identity of their number one enemy.
September 11 has brought home to Americans the reality that the virus of dictatorship cannot be contained within the borders of one country or a continent. The world has turned into a place where the life and safety of the whole human civilization has become interdependent. Saddam Hussein not only was an evil to his own people, but an ongoing international menace. His removal has freed the Iraqi people and at the same time saved countless potential victims around the globe. The unfortunate truth is that a far greater danger than Saddam still threatens the world and the Middle Eastern peace with an ideology that thrives on hatred and xenophobia. The deadly ideology of suicide bombers and hostage takers that is fostered and promoted by the government of the Islamic Republic and is as dangerous as any weapons of mass destruction. Any political analyst worth his salt knows that without a regime change in Iran and the restoration of civil and political rights to the people of that country, peace in the Middle East is bound to remain a piecemeal peace, in constant threat of destruction.
To those Iranians struggling for freedom, Dick Cheney's words are a welcome sign that the Americans are still with them in their fight against the mullahs and have not bought into the policy of appeasement adopted by some European countries towards the Islamic Republic. The American Vice President called on Europe to stand together with America in insisting on democratic changes in Iran. His statement that the "ideologies of violence should be confronted at the source" was clearly directed at the rulers of the Islamic Republic who are incontrovertibly the spiritual and ideological doctrinarians of terrorism in the Islamic world.
Another top American official who gave a clear indication that America will maintain the pressure for bringing about democratic change in countries of the axis of evil was Condoleezza Rice, Bush's National Security Advisor. In an interview she gave from Camp David where she was editing the drafts of the State of the Union speech delivered by George Bush that Tuesday, she emphasized the need for providing moral help to the people of the countries suffering under totalitarian rule. Citing the example of the collapse of the Soviet Empire she noted, "When Ronald Reagan spoke out against the Soviet Union, it stimulated those inside, who saw they had friends around the world, and they were able to speak out."
Codoleezza Rice also underlined the need for truthfulness regarding the nature of undemocratic governments. The truthfulness she referred to is what is ignored by many European countries who encourage and embolden the totalitarian governments by their false bonhomie and moral indecision. This amounts to glossing over their crimes and making them look respectable. Those who are fighting to change those regimes need international solidarity; and it will not aid their search for a cure to call their national disease by any different name than what it really is.
It will not help those Iranians struggling for democracy when the Economist, in keeping with the dominant European relativism of the day, in its January 17, 2004, issue, paints an ameliorating picture of the lives of Iranians under President Khatami and calls it "less appalling" than what it used to be. As if "less appalling" is what any self-respecting nation can settle for. Dick Cheney in his speech spoke against this kind of moral relativism. Calling it a condescending attitude he said the idea that the Islamic World is incapable of accommodating democracy is ridiculous.
As the world can never settle for a piecemeal peace Iranian people also cannot settle for a false democracy or a "less appalling" dictatorship. There are positive and encouraging signs coming from Washington indicating that in their genuine struggle for freedom, the Iranians can count on American support.