Thomas Friedman of The New York Times is a great writer and a profound thinker. He sees the world differently than I do, and there are times he drives me nuts. Then there are times when he makes me stop and think. And he's done it again.
Surveying the situation in the Middle East, Friedman asks, "What [is the U.S.] doing spending $110 billion this year supporting corrupt and unpopular regimes in Afghanistan and Pakistan that are almost identical to the governments we're applauding the Arab people for overthrowing?" Friedman makes the case that U.S. foreign policy has seen only two possible alternatives in the Middle East: Bin Laden-and-Taliban style radical Islam on the one hand, or secular dictatorships on the other.
But are these the only possibilities for the Middle East? As I point out on my Two-Minute Warning today, which I urge you to go and watch at ColsonCenter.org, the answer may very well be "No." There may be a third way. And that third way, while it may not be democracy as we know it, could be a system that gives the Arab people some representation in the formation of government. And that would be a boon not just for the people of the Middle East, but for the United States and the West as well.
As Friedman points out, we've won no friends on the Arab street for supporting the likes of Egypt's Mubarak, or for propping up one of the most corrupt regimes on earth in Afghanistan. And our fear that the only alternative to secular dictatorships may be radical, Islamist fascists may have actually helped the Islamist cause.
But the people of Tunisia and Egypt and Yemen and Libya may be saying "No" to both, which is why, Friedman says, "Al Qaeda is tongue-tied" over the recent developments. In other words, it may no longer be a lesser-of-two-evils world in the Middle East. And to carry any moral weight in the Muslim world, the U.S. can no longer support corrupt, two-bit thugs like Karzai in Afghanistan or the leaders of Pakistan.
Again, as I say in today's Two-Minute Warning, we may be seeing a genuine desire for freedom springing up in the hearts of the Arab people. And we as Christians should not be surprised, because we know that all human beings are made in the image of God. And God Himself gave us the desire to live in freedom.
I'm not so naïve as to believe that people who have never experienced democracy can make it work overnight, especially a people under the sway of a religion that values submission over freedom. And there's always the danger that the drive for freedom will be hijacked by Islamo-fascists. So, what we need to do is join in prayer for our leaders as they determine the course of action for the United States. Let's pray it's a course that supports freedom and the right of all people to self-determination.