It’s troubling that so many refuse to recognize, let alone support, the struggle for freedom in Iraq. The groups behind the September 24 anti-war march on Washington, D.C. really do not care if an American withdrawal ushers in a terrorist victory. One of the co-sponsoring groups, International ANSWER, is actually led by members of the Workers World Party, a communist group that has backed Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Kim Jong-Il. But don’t look for the media to mention that fact.
Similarly, our media generally ignore the other countries in the world where freedom, with U.S. support, has taken hold. These are success stories that should remind us of the stakes involved in Iraq and what could happen not only to Iraq but the world if we remain steadfast and achieve a complete victory.
A major anniversary occurred last month and got very little attention in this country. It was marked by 800 dignitaries, and former and current diplomats and world leaders meeting in Gdansk, Poland, to acknowledge, in some cases to celebrate, perhaps in others to just reflect, on the 25th anniversary of the Solidarity movement. It was on August 31st, 1980, that the defiant labor union signed an agreement with the ruling Communist party that marked the start of the revolution that ultimately helped bring down the Soviet Union. It was truly one of the great moments in 20th century history.
There was much appropriate celebration in Russia and the U.S. back on May 9 of this year, marking the 60th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis. But there was little mention of the fact that this event didn’t represent freedom for hundreds of millions of people; rather it began a long period of totalitarian rule for those in Russia, its captive nations and much of Europe. But U.S. perseverance in the face of a determined enemy eventually resulted in the collapse of the Soviet empire. There’s a lesson there for our involvement in Iraq.
Jim Hoagland, a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Group, did write about the gathering last month in Gdansk, and he did so in the context of Labor Day and the state of the labor movement. He pointed out that the current democratically elected leader of today’s Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, was in attendance, and paid tribute to Lech Walesa, the unemployed electrician who was the driving force behind the Solidarity movement. Kwasniewski was, according to Hoagland, in effect, apologizing to Walesa “for not having been by your side 25 years ago.”
As Polish journalist Kamila Pajer wrote in a column for TechCentralStation.com, “that summer when Solidarity was born, Poles had every reason to be afraid of Communist tyranny but bravely united against it.” The context was that the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan the year before, and were bogged down. A new Polish Pope was committed to seeing an end to the Soviet tyranny that had enslaved so many for so long. And Ronald Reagan was soon to be elected president, with a vision of a world without communism.
“Today, 25 years later,” wrote Pajer, “those who created the organization admit they did not dare to dream of changing the system, believing it was then impossible. They even refrained from postulating free parliamentary elections. And yet, it was Solidarity that laid the foundation for the avalanche of changes in Europe.”
But the results are different depending on the actions of the various countries. We have had the Rose Revolution in Georgia, and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, where people took to the streets demanding a say in how they are governed, and demanding good government.
A column in the Washington Times by Richard Rahn of the Center for Global Economic Growth noted that the Mont Pelerin Society recently met in Iceland. In attendance was Mart Laar, the former prime minister of Estonia, one of the former Captive Nations inside the old Soviet Union. Upon gaining their freedom, Mr. Laar told the audience, that Estonia succeeded by heeding the advice of Nobel Prize-winning free-market economists Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek, two icons among economic conservatives.
Rahn describes what happened: “After obtaining freedom 15 years ago, Estonia rapidly moved to establish a rule of law, protect private property and create a sound currency. Estonia removed most price controls, discarded useless regulations, privatized most state-owned enterprises and established a free-trade regime. The result has been the largest percentage increase in real per capita incomes of any of the former communist states.”
And they have built on that, creating the world’s first “e-government.” Most of their activities are on the Internet. The rest of the free world could stand to benefit by doing what Estonia is doing. “By moving away from bureaucrat paper,” Rahn wrote, “Estonia reduced corruption and cost and created much more transparency and accountability. All proposed laws are placed on the Internet before passage so any citizen can review and comment before they are voted upon.”
Iceland is another example. It went from a stagnant Scandinavian welfare state to a dynamic “economic tiger by privatizing state industries, freeing labor markets, and reforming the financial structure. Iceland has been engaged in a massive tax reduction (for instance, the corporate tax rate has been cut from 50 to only 18 percent, and the inheritance tax to a maximum 5 percent). Yet government revenues have steadily increased because of the resulting economic dynamism, and the national debt has fallen from 50 percent of gross domestic product to only 15 percent.”
What all of this shows is that the choices made by countries, and individuals, have a clear and demonstrable cause and effect. By choosing the right policies, nations can prosper, with economic and political freedom. The media should be reporting on these success stories. They provide a lesson about the stakes in the war in Iraq.