The LA Times has a fascinating op-ed today on Bush's success in pushing for reform in the Middle East.
Not only has President Bush gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, the region's most brutal dictator, but his relentless promotion of democracy in the Middle East has also turned up the heat on other regional autocrats and jump-started the reform debate. These days, no Arab government can afford to simply quash increasingly persistent and widespread demands for reform.
Ibrahim Eissa, a young Egyptian satirical novelist, was one of the first to have broken what is almost a public taboo in Egypt and the Arab world: He spoke well of Bush at a conference on reform in the Middle East. Eissa is no enthusiast for U.S. policy. He was willing, though, to state a truth that few liberals in the West or in the Arab world will acknowledge: "Every Arab government is hoping for the defeat of George Bush." Authoritarian Arab leaders, he noted, would love to see a return to the pre-9/11 days when the U.S. turned a blind eye to the undemocratic practices of its regional allies.
"Sure, sure," you say, "probably some right-wing neo-con trying to dress up Bush's record." Actually, the op-ed was authored by Neil Hicks, director of international programs for Human Rights First which is the new name of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, hardly a bastion of right-wingers. In fact, the LCHR/Human Rights First has been harshly critical of the Bush administration on many other issues.