Let me join the left-wing commentator chorus by saying that recent developments in Lebanon and Egypt make me hopeful, and also redound to the credit of Bush and his foreign policy team. (damn, I never thought I’d be writing that.) In the former case, events have been pretty much autochtonous, and out of Bush’s control. But who can doubt that the sight of Iraqis voting, even in their odd and anonymous election, has had an impact on Lebanese public opinion? (And yes, I concede that Bush jumped on the Iraq election bandwagon only after it lumbered past him, led by Sistani. Still, he jumped on.)
In the case of Egypt, there is every reason to be skeptical that Mubarak is cooking up some Algerian-style charade in the hopes of installing Gamal, and is only making these concessions to please the US. (See Abu Aarvark’s helpful round-up of Arab press responses to the move.) Even so, that means that the US has put enough actual pressure on him that he feels he needs to do some window-dressing, and that in itself is a huge step forward. I was always one who liked the sound of the Bush democracy-promotion speeches, but was convinced he wouldn’t back them up with any real pressure on US-friendly autocrats. I thought, “wow, he’s got a good speechwriter”, not “wow, I guess we’ll be giving that Niyazov guy any amount of trouble now.” So, count me happy to be somewhat wrong.