If George W. Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his critics would denounce him for having done it unilaterally, without adequate consultation, with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others. He pursued his goal obstinately, they would say, without filtering his thoughts through the medical research establishment. And he didn't share his research with competing labs and thus caused resentment among other scientists who didn't have the resources or the bold--perhaps even somewhat reckless--instincts to pursue the task as he did. And he completely ignored the World Health Organization, showing his contempt for international institutions. Anyway, a cure for cancer is all fine and nice, but what about aids?
No, the president has not discovered a cure for cancer. But there is a pathology, a historical pathology, that he has attacked with unprecedented vigor and with unprecedented success. I refer, of course, to the political culture of the Middle East, which the president may actually have changed. And he has accomplished this genuinely momentous transformation in ways that virtually the entire foreign affairs clerisy--the cold-blooded Brent Scowcroft realist Republicans and almost all the Democrats--never thought possible. Or, perhaps, in ways some of them thought positively undesirable. Bush, it now seems safe to say, is one of the great surprises in modern U.S. history. Nothing about his past suggested that he harbored these ideals nor the qualities of character required for their realization. Right up to the moment Bush became president, I was convinced that his mind, at least on matters Levantine, belonged to his father and to James Baker III, whose worldview seemed to be defined by the pecuniary prejudice of oil and Texas: Keep the ruling Arabs happy. But I was wrong, and, in light of what has already been achieved in the Middle East, I am glad to say so. Most American liberals, alas, enjoy no similar gladness. They are not exactly pleased by the positive results of Bush's campaign in the Middle East. They deny and resent and begrudge and snipe. They are trapped in the politics of churlishness.
It's a deeply perceptive essay, in which Peretz gives Bush full credit for the unprecedented changes now overtaking the Middle East, and chides his fellow Democrats for not standing up for democracy:
So the situation is certainly complex. But complexity is not a warrant for despair. The significant fact is that Bush's obsession with the democratization of the region is working. Have Democrats begun to wonder how it came to pass that this noble cause became the work of Republicans? They should wonder if they care to regain power. They should recall that Clinton (and the sanctimonious Jimmy Carter even more so) had absolutely no interest in trying to modify the harsh political character of the Arab world. What they aspired to do was to mollify the dictators--to prefer the furthering of the peace process to the furthering of the conditions that make peace possible. The Democrats were the ones who were always elevating Arafat. He was at the very center of their road map. After he stalked out of a meeting room in Paris during cease-fire talks in late 2000, Albright actually ran in breathless pursuit to lure him back. It was the Democrats who perpetuated Arafat's demonic sway over the Palestinians, and it was the Democrats who sustained him among the other Arabs. And so the cause of Arab democracy was left for the Republicans to pursue. After September 11, the cause became a matter also of U.S. national security.
Read it all.