Bush: 'Arab Spring' Is ‘Broadest Challenge to Authoritarian Rule Since Collapse of Soviet Communism’

Elizabeth Harrington | May 15, 2012 | 4:36pm EDT
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(CNSNews.com) – Former President George W. Bush said Tuesday that the Arab Spring is “the broadest challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet Communism."

“These are extraordinary times in the history of freedom,” Bush said in a speech in Washington, D.C., sponsored by his presidential foundation, the George W. Bush Institute.

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“In the Arab Spring we have seen the broadest challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism," Bush said. "Great change has come to a region where many thought it impossible.

“The idea that Arab people are somehow content with oppression has been discredited forever," Bush said. "Yet we’ve also seen instability, uncertainty, and the revenge of brutal rulers. The collapse of an old order can unleash resentments and power struggles that a new order is not yet prepared to handle.”

“Freedom is a powerful force,” Bush said, “but it does not advance on wheels of historical inevitability.” The event at which Bush spoke was entitled “Celebration of Human Freedom.”

While praising the Arab Spring, Bush said its critics adhere to a foreign policy that is “not realistic.”

“Some look at the risks inherent in democratic change, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and find the dangers too great,” Bush said.  “America, they argue, should be content with supporting the flawed leaders they know, in the name of stability.”

Former President George W. Bush. (AP Photo)

“But in the long run this foreign policy approach is not realistic,” he said.  “It is not realistic to presume the so-called stability enhances our national security. Nor is it within the power of America to indefinitely preserve the old order, which is inherently unstable.”

Two years after Bush left office, the Arab Spring uprisings swept across the Middle East, leading to major unrest in Syria, Tunisia, Jordan, and Yemen, and the toppling of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

According to a report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the Egyptian parliamentary elections in January resulted in a massive victory for Islamist parties.

“Of the 498 elected seats, Islamists of varying sorts control nearly 70%, with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP)-led Democratic Alliance controlling the most at 47% (235 total),” the Feb. 8 report stated. “The Islamist Alliance-list led by the Salafist Nour Party came second with 25% (125 seats).”

“Salafists,” the report states, “who take a conservative, literalist approach to interpreting the Koran, are expected to focus on infusing Islam into domestic and foreign policies.”

Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader, is also a frontrunner in the upcoming Egyptian presidential election, which will be held on May 23.  Abourl-Fotouh called Israel an “enemy” in a televised presidential debate last week, and has said a 1978 peace agreement with Israel is a threat to national security and should be revised.

The former president’s remarks came a day after a poll found that 61 percent of Egyptians want to abandon the Egypt-Israel peace treaty that has been in place for over 30 years, up from 54 percent a year ago.

President Bush made his remarks while announcing the launch of his foundation’s Freedom Collection, which will highlight the stories of dissidents around the world struggling for liberty and democracy.

“America does not get to choose if a freedom revolution should begin or end in the Middle East or elsewhere,” Bush said.  “It only gets to choose which side it is on.”

“The tactics of promoting freedom will vary case by case, but America’s message should ring clear and strong,” he said, “we stand for freedom and for the institutions and habits that make freedom work for everyone.”

In his second inaugural address on Jan. 20 2005 Bush said, “We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”

“So it is the policy of the United States," he added, "to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

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