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The Case for Meddling

5:53 PM, Jun 20, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Dan Senor and Christian Whiton write for Time:

As for the notion that American silence is unhelpful to reformers, this simply contradicts historical experience. Successful movements to alter authoritarian and totalitarian regimes almost always depend on internal dissent backed by strong international support. Those key factors are often required to get a regime's enablers - including domestic security forces - to lose confidence and eventually succumb.

Time and again and around the world - from as recently as Tibet in 2008, to Egypt in 2005, to Tiananmen in 1989 - the prospects of reform dim considerably without international support. In fact, we know of no modern democratic evolution or revolution that has succeeded without some support and pressure from the west.

Senor and Whiton say that "even if we cannot know or control the outcome, we have a responsibility, through our actions as a nation, to answer clearly the question: whose side are we on?" It's the same point that Hayes and Kristol make with a 200-year-old quote from Daniel Webster in this week's editorial:

In 1823, first-term congressman Daniel Webster spoke up in support of the Greek revolution. Responding to critics who said that mere rhetorical support would do the revolutionaries no good, Webster said: "I hope it may. It may give them courage and spirit. It may assure them of public regard, teach them that they are not wholly forgotten by the civilized world, and inspire them with constancy in the pursuit of their great end."

And in any case, Webster continued, support for those fighting for freedom abroad was "due to our own character, and called for by our own duty."