Russia’s Garry Kasparov is here, as is Egyptian academic Saad Eddin Ibrahim, former Syrian parliamentarian Mamoun Homsy and others from Iran, Palestine, Belarus, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and China. They mix easily with a half-dozen Israelis led by Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident who, with the Czech Republic’s VÃ¡clav Havel and Spain’s JosÃ© MarÃa Aznar, is chairing the event. The idea is to put together what Mr. Sharansky describes as “a trade union for dissidents,” which can do to the various tyrannies of our day what Poland’s Solidarity movement did to the great tyranny of its time. ~Bret Stephens
This meeting in Prague seems to have been, among other things, an international Who’s Who of past and present Iraq war supporters. Offhand, I’d say that alone is a pretty good reason to be deeply skeptical of any policy recommendations that have the stamp of approval of Aznar, Sharansky, Havel and Kasparov.
Take Sharansky’s “trade union for dissidents” notion for starters. This is a tired rip-off of actual trade unionism that expressed the legitimate grievances of Polish dockworkers against the communist regime in Warsaw and its masters in Moscow. Unlike that actual trade unionism, which had to do with protesting ideologically-imposed injustices for the benefit of Polish labourers, Sharansky is proposing a talking shop where various dissidents, some more real than others, gather to indulge in ideologically-charged rhetorical backslapping. Somehow I just don’t see the similarities.
Update: You’ll also notice that, despite these cliched references to Polish Solidarity, Lech Walesa was nowhere to be found at this “dissidents’ conference.”