Natan Sharansky was a political prisoner for nine years in the Soviet Union. He is articulate and passionate. But I am not so sure he is right in almost equating freedom and democracy.
While I was an undergraduate at Wabash College, Ben Rogge arranged for Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn to visit campus for a week. Kuehnelt-Leddihn was an improbable walras of a man. On my first encounter with him, I was stunned to hear him arguing that a monarchy embued with noblese oblige would be more likely to defend freedom, than would a democracy. At first I thought the conclusion was patently absurd. But over time, I gradually came to believe that although it was probably a false conclusion, it was not an absurd one.
History, and modern experience, provide us many examples of democracies that severely restrict the freedom of their citizens. And perhaps, for a time, freedom can thrive under enlightened monarchs, or dictators?
I hope, and still believe, that democracy is the system of government most likely, most of the time, to promote freedom. If so, then what Bush is trying to do, may eventually leave the world safer, and more free:
Critics rail against every step on the new and difficult road on which the United States has embarked. Yet in pointing out the many pitfalls which have not been avoided and those which still can be, those critics would be wise to remember that the alternative road leads to the continued oppression of hundreds of millions of people and the continued festering of the pathologies that led to 9/11.
Now that President Bush is increasingly alone in pushing for freedom, I can only hope that his dissident spirit will continue to persevere. For should that spirit break, evil will indeed triumph, and the consequences for our world would be disastrous.
For the full commentary, see:
Sharansky, Natan. "Dissident President." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., April 24, 2006): A15.