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Democracy Talk in The Apolitical Emirates

President Bush supposedly ratcheted up the tough talk against Tehran in his speech in the United Arab Emirates today. However, it’s hard to tease out any substantive change in the mere repetition of charges against Tehran: that “Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere” is an undisputed matter of public record. It was somewhat more heartening to hear the President return to the democracy schema that sat on the back burner throughout the more trying phases of the Iraq War. CBS News reports:

In renewing his “Freedom Agenda” – Mr. Bush’s grand ambition to seed democracy around the globe — he declared that “democracy is the only form of government that treats individuals with the dignity and equality that is their right.”

“We know from experience that democracy is the only system of government that yields lasting peace and stability,” he added.

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal has a surreal companion piece to Bush’s speech in the form of an opinion article by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The former ruler of the Emirate of Dubai and current vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates has penned something that reads more like a corporation’s quarterly letter to stockholders than a statesman’s declaration of policy. The fascinating document includes this gem:

“What are Dubai’s political ambitions?” Well, here’s my answer: We don’t have political ambitions. We don’t want to be a superpower or any other kind of political power. The whole region is over-politicized as it is. We don’t see politics as our thing, we don’t want it, we don’t think this is the right thing to do.

Sheikh Mohammed stresses the importance of capital investment in the path to well being. Someone should point out to him that there’s no such thing as opting out of politics, and that the Middle East doesn’t suffer from a shortage of capital, but from the lack of political institutions that enable the sharing of prosperity.



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