Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Secretary of State Speaking "Soft and Stark"

OpinionJournal - Featured Article: "'The Egyptian Government must fulfill the promise it has made to its people--and to the entire world--by giving its citizens the freedom to choose. Egypt's elections, including the Parliamentary elections, must meet objective standards that define every free election.'--Condoleezza Rice, speaking Monday at the American University, Cairo"

On Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to Cairo and then Riyadh and, in soft tones, delivered a stark message: America would no longer pursue "stability at the expense of democracy." The U.S. will now notice when peaceful Egyptian protestors are brutalized by government security goons, or when Saudi citizens are imprisoned for "peacefully petitioning the government"; and the future of both countries as American allies rests on the seriousness of their commitment to democratic reform.

"It is time to abandon the excuses that are made to avoid the hard work of democracy," said Ms. Rice.

Ms. Rice's speech strikes us as among the most important delivered by any recent Secretary of State, and for proof look no further than the reaction from the countries she was visiting. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who shared the stage with her, dismissed her call for free and transparent elections as if it were a non-issue, as did Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal at a press conference in Riyadh later that day. "The row [over political reform] is really meaningless," he said.

It's hard to tell whether the nonchalance of Messrs. Gheit and Faisal is contrived, or whether they just don't get it. Whatever the case, both would do well to understand the Bush Administration's seriousness."

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