Friday, May 30, 2008

Secretary Rice on Lebanon and the progress of democracy

US Department of State

Secretary's Remarks: Interview With Michael Winiarski of Dagens Nyheter
Wed, 28 May 2008 23:00:00 -0500

Interview With Michael Winiarski of Dagens Nyheter

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Stockholm, Sweden
May 29, 2008

QUESTION: Okay. Correct me if I'm wrong, I believe a couple of years ago you said that democracy was a piece that was missing from American foreign policy in the Middle East and that you want to turn to this freedom agenda. What's the outcome after – I mean, three, four years ago, it was – looked rather optimistic. In Egypt, Lebanon, even in Palestine there were going to be elections. But now, all this mainstream and moderate forces there are going down, it looks like at least. And at the same time, it looks like it's more about power balance than democracy from the U.S. Administration right now.

SECRETARY RICE: Oh no, not at all. First of all, you can't judge the forward march of democracy in three or four year segments. If you did that, then there are any number of countries that wouldn't have made the hurdle after four or five years as well-established and stable democracies now. I think you could even ask the question as whether the United States four or five years after our terrific Constitution came into being with my relatives as three-fifths of a man, would we have made the hurdle after four or five years? It takes time.

And – but yet, the stirrings of democracy in the Middle East that, frankly, were not there for a long, long time, for a long time, 60 years or more, it was about stability in the Middle East. But if you look – let's take a couple of those situations. Lebanon. Was it more – was there a greater chance for democracy when Syrian forces occupied Lebanon for 30 years? I don't think so. And yes, there is a back-and-forth between Hezbollah and the March 14th forces and the March 8th forces, but it is a democratic process in which people are looking to the elections that will happen next year and in which, frankly, I think Hezbollah has done itself great harm by taking up arms against its own people. This is supposed to be a resistance movement, not a movement against its own people, and I notice that Hassan Nasrallah went to great lengths to try to explain that, actually, Hezbollah was not a movement against its own people. Well, he's got a lot of explaining to do for all of those Lebanese that Hezbollah killed in recent weeks.

So that is a process that has a much better chance at a stable democracy, and it still has a democratic government in place.

QUESTION: But you actually say that it's – the situation from your point of view – is better now than after this Doha accord?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's certainly better than it was when Syrian forces occupied. And I would argue that they have a president now in Michel Suleiman. I think that he will be somebody who will defend their independence and their sovereignty. They apparently are about to have Fuad Siniora again as prime minister, who we know is a fierce defender of Lebanese sovereignty and of democracy. We will help them to build the institutions like their army, which is stronger today than it had been in really decades.

QUESTION: But they didn't use it.

SECRETARY RICE: They didn't use it against their own people. They did use it against terrorists in Nahr al-Bared. And they now have a dialogue internally about the need for all arms to be under the hands of the state.

So again, these things take time. And if you try to judge them in a one-day snapshot or a one-week snapshot or even a one-week – one-year snapshot, it's very difficult to know where they're going.