History on the side of democracy_Stephens_Jan 20 2011

Others suggest that other repressive regimes egypt is

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Others suggest that other repressive regimes – Egypt is most often mentioned – could be toppled much sooner. Either way, it is evident that youth bulges, economic hardship and popular frustration are rekindling the embers of democracy. The US and Europe need to think again. A few years ago a US secretary of state spoke in Cairo of the manifest failure of a decades-old policy of propping up despots in the Middle East. It had planted the seeds of violent extremism and sacrificed long-term stability to expediency. Condoleezza Rice got it right. Unhappily, she worked for Mr Bush. The Tunisian uprising has been a reminder of the power of political ideas; and of the popular pull of democracy. The protesters did not take to the streets in support of US or European values; they did so to demand the freedom and dignity conferred by pluralist systems. One of the striking things about today’s world is that it is full of despots pretending to be democrats. Even regimes that disdain anything that smacks of a western model want to claim the legitimacy conferred by democratic choices. Beijing has a more nuanced view than it often seems. This week saw Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, acknowledge that China had to do better on human rights . In Russia, even Mr Putin feels compelled to pay lip service to the rule of law. None of this argues for a Bush-like crusade. But the west should show much greater confidence in universal values. It is one thing to treat with the world as it is; another to find yourself on the same team as the likes of Mr Ben Ali. History was never going to end. It remains, though, on the side of democracy.
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