Cheney Calls on Allies to Help Spread Democracy
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2004 Vice President Dick Cheney urged European allies to join with the United States in spreading democracy and the rule of law in the Middle East.
Cheney spoke Jan. 26 at the Pallazo della Minerva in Rome to Italian government leaders. He continued a theme he developed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 24.
He told the Italians that "civilized leaders" must do everything in their power to stop another terrorist attack. He said with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, another attack could dwarf the casualty figures from Sept. 11, 2001.
He called on Europeans and Americans to unite. "Italians and Americans do not forget that the liberty we cherish has come at a cost," Cheney said. "And in the decades since the liberation of Europe, we have been part of a great and enduring alliance of free peoples. Members of this alliance have faced monumental challenges, and we have overcome them together. In this new century, facing new challenges, we must remain united to defend our freedom and to meet the shared duties of free nations."
Cheney said experience shows that democratic institutions give people a sense of empowerment and a way to peacefully chart their own courses. "Democracies do not breed the anger and radicalism that drag down whole societies and export violence," he said. "Terrorists do not find fertile recruiting grounds in societies where young people have the right to guide their own destiny and choose their own leaders."
He said that following World War II, pundits thought Western Europe could not sustain democracies. "We know that this pessimistic view was false," Cheney said. "The defeat of fascism and the spread of democracy after World War II was the precondition for peace and prosperity in Western Europe. Likewise, the defeat of Soviet communism and the spread of democracy in Eastern Europe made possible a continent whole and free and increasingly stable and prosperous."
Pundits today are saying that the Middle East cannot sustain democracy, Cheney said. "These claims are condescending, and they are false," he asserted. "In the years of the Cold War, we learned that we could not safely put a border on freedom. Security was not divisible in Europe; it is not divisible in the world.
"Our choice is not between a unipolar world and a multipolar world," the vice president continued. "Our choice is for a just, free and democratic world. That requires the insights, sacrifices and resources of all democratic nations. And it requires the courage, sacrifice and dedication of those now denied their basic freedoms."
Many in the Muslim world, he said, are speaking out for democratic reforms and the rule of law. "Our forward strategy for freedom leads us to support those who work and sacrifice for reform across the greater Middle East," Cheney said.
"Americans and Italians know the days of looking the other way while despotic regimes trample human rights, rob their nation's wealth, and then excuse their failings by feeding their people a steady diet of anti-Western hatred are over," he continued. "Instead, we must seek a higher standard, one that will apply to our friends in the region no less than to our adversaries."
The vice president said that encouraging the spread of freedom and democracy is the right thing to do, "and it is also very much in our collective interest." Democracies can help the people of the Middle East overcome the "freedom deficit." That is, ultimately, the key to winning the broader war on terror, Cheney said. "It is one of the great tasks of our time, and will require resolve and resources for a generation or more."