Monday, November 8, 2004

As a Frenchman, I welcome President Bush’s reelection as the best chance for the promotion of free and open societies worldwide, and the best choice to weaken international terrorism. Even if most of my fellow countrymen do not or do not want to understand it, it is clear that Mr. Bush’s leadership is crucial to deal with the three main international issues that challenge the democratic world.

First challenge: Building a democratic Iraq. Whatever the diplomatic postures of the Western democracies were before the intervention in Iraq, there is no other choice today than supporting the creation of a free and open society there. It means helping Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s government and support as much as possible the organization of free elections next January.

The majority of Iraqis are waiting for those elections, and they believe more in the establishment of a democracy in their country than most Western public opinion. If Iraqis were rejecting the democratic process, the streets of Baghdad would be occupied by huge demonstrations, and the whole country would unite against the coalition forces. But that is far from the case. This is why terrorists are frightened by the coming elections since the voices of the silent Iraqi majority will roar against them and promote democracy as in Afghanistan.

Second challenge: The Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It is an important key, maybe “the” key, to settle democracy in the Middle East. The partisans of change who want to rebuild the Middle East on the core values of freedom, democracy and modernity need the peace process to succeed to give them a vision and a path to go through. But despotic elements who prefer chaos to peace are financing Palestinian terrorism.

Yes, Saddam’s toppling should have been preceded by the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. But this has not been possible, since there were no Palestinian leaders who wanted to stop terrorist groups and were willing to bring peace in the Promised Land. Yassir Arafat, symbol “par excellence” of the Palestinian struggle, never wanted peace and sabotaged every peace overture and trained his sights on the destruction of Israel. He fundamentally was a terrorist.

Mr. Arafat’s exit from politics will allow the head of the Palestinian Authority to be renewed and maybe even create a much-needed opportunity to implement a peace process that works. In this matter, let’s hope the United States and the European Union will unite their strength to seize the coming new deal and work together to find a solution.

Third challenge: Building a democratic covenant to face the world’s new threats. Those threats are quite clearly defined: International terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons proliferation. This makes our world dangerous, and that’s why Mr. Bush’s re election is so important: It is sending a signal that terrorists and rogue states will not be let loose.

Yet, the reality of the danger is still controversial among the countries of the European Union, if we consider that France, through the voice of its former minister of foreign affairs, Dominique de Villepin, does not acknowledge that fighting terrorism means war.

If some European countries vividly criticized American unilateralism, then a trans-Atlantic dialog must start aiming at creating a strong democratic multilateralism. No doubt that Mr. Bush’s reelection will give the American diplomacy a new impetus to rebuild a new Western covenant.

In the light of those challenges, the four coming years will be crucial for the free world. We needed a strong and committed America: Let’s hope that Mr. Bush’s leadership will create the necessary conditions to meet those challenges.

Sylvain Charat is director of policy studies in the French think-tank Eurolibnetwork.

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