Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Before a new iron curtain falls
IN WINSTON Churchill’s famous “Sinews of Peace” address at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., on March 5, 1946, he warned of “two gaunt marauders” stalking the world, “war and tyranny.” He declared that “an iron curtain” had descended upon Europe and insisted that “we must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man. . . .” He described free speech, democracy and rule of law as the “title deeds of freedom” and implored, “Let us preach what we practice — let us practice what we preach.”
These words, spoken in a different age, are worth recalling today as autocrats and tyrants are on the march. A different kind of curtain is descending, denying billions of people those basic “title deeds” of freedom. No longer is it about communism, but rather the rise of despots who rule by force and coercion, from Russia to China, across the Middle East and Central Asia, to Latin America and Africa. In the past decade, these leaders have become more adept — and daring — at building a parallel universe to the liberal democratic order. In their construct, state power reigns supreme, political competition is extinguished, civil society elbowed out, and freedoms of expression, association and belief suppressed.