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Patrick J. Buchanan Debates Israeli Cabinet Member Natan Sharansky

NBC - Meet the Press With Tim Russert
Transcript for Sunday, February 13, 2005

Coming next, the author of "The Case for Democracy," Natan Sharansky, who has talked for the president of the United States, squares off with writer and commentator Pat Buchanan. They'll debate President Bush's policies on the Middle East, pre-emptive war and more coming up right here on MEET THE PRESS.


MR. RUSSERT: President Bush's view of the world with Natan Sharansky and Pat Buchanan, after this brief station break.


MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.

Mr. Sharansky, Mr. Buchanan, welcome both. This book has created quite a stir here in Washington, "The Case for Democracy." The president of the United States said this: "If you want a glimpse of how I think about foreign policy read Natan Sharansky's book `The Case for Democracy.' ...It's a great book." "I think it will...explain a lot of the decisions've seen made and will continue to see made."

The president went on that the book was part of his "presidential DNA. ...It's It's what I think; it's"-- "part of all policy. ...It is part of my philosophy."

And, in fact, we saw that in the State of the Union address, the inaugural address. Let's watch.

(Videotape, January 20, 2005):

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: And if we go to page 278 in the book, we see "Just as the institution of slavery has been all but wiped off the face of the earth, so too can government tyranny become a thing of the past."

You met with the president. What did he tell you about the thoughts that are in this book?

MR. NATAN SHARANSKY: The president said that he always felt that freedom is not kind of American invention, but it's the gift of God to all the mankind. And he is right. In the book, which summarizes his views of this issue in such a good way.

MR. RUSSERT: Pat Buchanan, you have analyzed this book in the latest issue of The American Conservative. You write: "Only democracy can pave the way to true peace and security. This is the message of Sharansky's `Case for Democracy,' which the president has embraced and encouraged all to read. ut what is often true is not always true, and U.S. foreign policy, which is to protect U.S. vital interests and the peace and freedom of Americans, cannot be rooted in the idealism of an ex-Soviet dissident. ...Sharansky notwithstanding, democracy is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition of America's peace and security, nor even of Israel's."


MR. PAT BUCHANAN: All right. Well, let's take Israel's situation. Mr. Begin signed an agreement to give back the Sinai to Egypt with Anwar Sadat, who is the successor of a military dictator, Nasser. He was not a Democrat. The Israeli government signed an agreement with Hafez al-Assad, a dictator of the worst kind, for a truce on the Golan Heights, which has held. What I am saying is this, Tim. You do not need a democratic government in order to achieve a success.

In Mr. Bush's first term, he cut a deal with Qaddafi, state sponsor of terror whereby Qaddafi would give up his weapons of mass destruction, his support for terror in return for the United States letting him out of the penalty box of sanctions. Qaddafi remains a state sponsor of terror. He was. But we cut a deal with him, and it was a successful deal on the part of the president of the United States. He is to be commended for it. That is realism in foreign policy. It is not idealism, but it is realism.

MR. RUSSERT: The Russian defense minister this morning said that he was tired of being lectured about the United States, about democracy. In fact, he suggested a summit between Russian President Putin and American President Bush. And he went on to say, "Democracy is not a potato that you can transplant from one kitchen garden to another."

MR. SHARANSKY: It's true that you cannot impose democracy. You can't impose freedom. If people don't want, they will not be free. But you can impose dictatorship. And unfortunately, very often, free world, including United States of America, are imposing dictatorship on other people simply by supporting these dictators.

And as to lecturing, you know you don't need to lecture. You simply need to link your policy with these countries with the policy of human rights. Pat Buchanan was standing near President Reagan when President Reagan made his evil empire speech. It was the biggest encouragement for us, for dissidents of Soviet prison, but it was also the defeat of the Soviet Union. Not only we are free, America is much more secure. So the security of the United States of America, people in the United States of America, depends on the level of freedom of people in the other countries because democracies are peaceful, because the leaders of democratic countries depend on the will of their people. And dictatorships are always belligerent because in order dictators will control their own people, they need external enemy.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, let me talk about the realism that Mr. Buchanan brought up, read something that he wrote, and then give both of you a chance to respond. This is Pat Buchanan.

"The president now plans to hector and badger foreign leaders on the progress each is making toward attaining U.S. standards of democracy. ... This is a formula for `Bring-it-on!' collisions with every autocratic regime on earth, including virtually every African and Arab ruler, all the `outposts of tyranny' named by Secretary [of State] Rice, most of the nations of Central Asia, China and Russia. This is a prescription for endless war."

Do you agree?

MR. SHARANSKY: No. First of all, I believe that all the people, when given opportunity to choose between living in fear or living in freedom, choose to live in freedom. And when I was a dissident, I heard from some of our American friends that Russians don't want to live in freedom. We can give examples how advisers of Truman were saying in '45 the Japanese people don't want to live in freedom and so on and so on. The moment of the test when the people can choose between living--to continue to live in fear or to live in freedom, if they have an opportunity, they always choose to live in freedom.

MR. RUSSERT: Prescription for endless war?

MR. BUCHANAN: Certainly it is. Look, the United States of America--I dissent strongly from my friend. The United States of America has always been free and always been secure. There have been despotisms from time in memorial. There are 22 Arab states, not one of which is democratic, and the United States has not been threatened by any of them since the Barbary pirates.

In my judgment, what happened on 9/11 was a result of interventionism. Interventionism is the cause of terror. It is not a cure for terror. The idea that the president of the United States, as he said in his inaugural, is going to help democratic institutions in every region in every nation on earth is a formula for permanent war, Tim. And look, the president of the United States has no constitutional authority to do this. Where in the Constitution do we get the right to intervene in the internal affairs of countries that do not threaten us and do not attack us? If they don't, their internal politics are their own business. As Quincy Adams says, "America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the champion of freedom everywhere, but the vindicator only of her own."

MR. RUSSERT: The president said that on September 11th, "Freedom came under attack."

MR. BUCHANAN: The president of the United States was profoundly mistaken. He has misdiagnosed the malady. He has misdiagnosed the reason for the attack, Tim. The United States was not attacked because we are free. Bin Laden was not attacking the Bill of Rights. We were attacked because the United--over here because the United States' military and political presence is massive over there. Bin Laden in his fatwah, his statement of declaration of war on the United States, said the infidels were standing on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia. They want us out of the Middle East. They don't care whether we have a separation of church and state.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you agree with that? Were we attacked for our ideals, our freedom...


MR. RUSSERT: ...or were we attacked because of our Mideast policies?

MR. SHARANSKY: America was attacked because it is the leader of the free world and the world of terror where the values are very different. So it is a danger. But just now we heard that no Arab country has ever threatened the United States of America. What do you say--Saudi Arabia, I remember how in '91 after the Gulf War when America saved Saudi Arabia, I was raising the question with American leaders, why don't you link, like you did with the Soviet Union, with some minimal demand about freedom of immigration and the rights of women, and I always was told what Saudi Arabia is the stability of the West. What really happened--it's a typical example. Tribal dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, in order to survive, they need external enemy and that's why they need to support Wahhabism, inside the country and outside the country. As a result, stability of Saudi Arabia means destabilization and terror all over the world.

MR. BUCHANAN: We brought down the shah and we got the ayatollah. You bring down that Saudi monarchy, you destabilize that regime and Howard Dean, an Arab Howard Dean, is not going to rise out of the wreckage. That country is a nation whose people now admire and respect bin Laden, not George Bush. We cannot make the enemy the best of the good. Tim, look, we have had occasions, the last great crusade for democracy was Woodrow Wilson going across the sea with an army to make the world safer. We brought down all the monarchs and we got instead Lenin and Stalin and Mussolini and Hitler.

MR. SHARANSKY: The last crusade was Ronald Reagan, and he brought Soviet Union down without one shot. Why? Because you don't need to fight with dictatorships. You simply have to stop supporting them. Dictatorships are very dangerous but they are very weak from inside. The moment the Free World stops supporting them, they fall apart. When you have...

MR. BUCHANAN: You got out...

MR. SHARANSKY: When you have to fight dictatorship...

MR. BUCHANAN: Natan...

MR. SHARANSKY: When you are appeasing dictatorship for a long time...

MR. BUCHANAN: You got out...

MR. SHARANSKY: ...they become very strong.

MR. BUCHANAN: You got out of prison because Ronald Reagan and we were in Geneva negotiating with Gorbachev and the president of the United States said, "We will deal with you. We will engage with you, but you need to give us something," and one of those somethings was the release of Natan Sharansky.

MR. SHARANSKY: But that something continued with other hundreds of other prisoners, with many refuseniks, and with many democratic reforms. Why? Because President Reagan stopped doing what previous administrations were doing...

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, we disagree...

MR. SHARANSKY: ...stopped the trade, stopped...

MR. BUCHANAN: Perhaps we agree because my argument is we do not go around the world militarily intervening in countries to change their internal policies the way we did, or claim to have done, in Iraq.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, let me ask you about the application of this doctrine. Do you believe that Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship?

MR. SHARANSKY: Yes, for sure.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe Egypt's a dictatorship?


MR. RUSSERT: Pakistan's a dictatorship?


MR. RUSSERT: So Pakistan works with us on the war on terror.


MR. RUSSERT: Saudi Arabia provides oil. Egypt provides help...


MR. RUSSERT: terms of brokering Middle East peace.


MR. RUSSERT: Should we, in effect, try to bring down those governments?

MR. SHARANSKY: I repeat again, dictatorships--and that's explained in the book very well. That's why I think what maybe the president liked this book, it's not about idealism. It's about practical interests. Dictatorships are very weak from inside. They need all the time Free World to support them. When--you don't have to fight them. You have only to find possible linkage, but when you appease dictatorship for a long time, it becomes so strong, it becomes so dangerous that you have to fight.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mister--all right.

MR. SHARANSKY: You appeased--we appeased Hitler. We appeased Stalin. We appeased Saddam Hussein.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mr. Sharansky...

MR. SHARANSKY: We appeased Yasser Arafat.

MR. BUCHANAN: If you...

MR. SHARANSKY: And then we are paying price for this.

MR. BUCHANAN: If you believe in democracy...


MR. BUCHANAN: ...that much, would you allow the fate of the settlers in Gaza...


MR. BUCHANAN: be decided by all the people of Gaza? Let them vote on whether the settlers should stay or go. You think they should stay. I want to make one more point. The Israelis, when they invaded Lebanon to chase out the PLO, there was no Shia uprising against them. They called into existence that invasion and occupation did, Hezbollah, which eventually drove the Israelis out of Lebanon. Interventionism is not the cure for terror. It is the cause of terror.

MR. SHARANSKY: I have to say that we have occupied Gaza and all the other territories which were under the control of Egypt and Jordan because we were threatened to be destroyed, to be thrown into the sea and until this day, every day there are forces which want to destroy us. And they were saying...

MR. BUCHANAN: Why do you not get out of there?

MR. SHARANSKY: I tell you: Because we don't want a terrorist state to emerge which will destroy us. That's why I'm saying all the time, I want the state which will emerge will be democratic. And that's why...

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, how do you...

MR. SHARANSKY: That's why the depth of my concessions...

MR. BUCHANAN: All right.

MR. SHARANSKY: That's what's written my party's platform.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me ask...

MR. SHARANSKY: The depth of my concessions, as the depth democratic reforms...

MR. BUCHANAN: No one objects...

MR. SHARANSKY: ...of the other side.

MR. BUCHANAN: No one objects to the Israeli army...


MR. BUCHANAN: ...defending the frontier of Gaza. The question is: What are 8,000 Israeli settlers doing on that Palestinian land? They are the cause why Hamas won a 70 percent vote. You have got to stop occupying countries. That is the cause of terrorism.

MR. SHARANSKY: I have to say this.

MR. BUCHANAN: Imperial interventionism. You want to end terror...


MR. BUCHANAN: ...stop it the way the British stopped it in Palestine. They got out. The French got out of Algiers. It ended. The Russians got out of Afghanistan. It ended. They got out of Lebanon. That ended it.

MR. SHARANSKY: I say you one difference. One difference that we cannot get out from Tel Aviv and we can't get out from Jerusalem and from Haifa because we want to have one Jewish state. And they want us to get out of Tel Aviv, of Haifa and Jerusalem. That's why I'm saying again and again it is...

MR. BUCHANAN: How about Nablus, Bethlehem and Arab East Jerusalem?

MR. SHARANSKY: OK. The moment there is challenge, it is in the hands of democratic Palestinian state, we can survive and live together. That's why I believe our concessions should be connected only to one thing, to real democratic reforms on Palestinian side. And thank God the leaders of Free World finally understands it and says it.

MR. BUCHANAN: And then you will get out of all of the West Bank that's been occupied since 19...

MR. SHARANSKY: You know, the moments to democracy always will find a compromise, and I think- -as a matter of fact, today you will saying something, it goes without say, that every piece of territory which is under Palestinian control should be free from Jews. Well, it is clear that every piece of territory which is under control of Israel should not be and I think should not be free from Arabs. Let's prove that you have different types of societies and let...

MR. BUCHANAN: Would you let the Palestinians who lived in Israel before 1948 in a peace agreement return to their homes in what is now Israel?

MR. SHARANSKY: No. Look, exactly as modern--millions and millions of Jews came from different countries...


MR. SHARANSKY: ...and live there and they're not returning to those countries and...


MR. SHARANSKY: ...even to absorb all those millions and millions grandchildren of those people who live over there, there would be no Jewish state anymore. Not one Jewish state. There's so many Arab states and you don't want to tell me one Jewish state...


MR. SHARANSKY: the world.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, what I'm saying is you're saying--and I agree--in a peaceful agreement in Palestine...


MR. BUCHANAN: ...that Jews ought to have a right to live...


MR. BUCHANAN: ...on the West Bank. But if that is true, why cannot Palestinians, whose families have lived in that--where you live now for a thousand years, why cannot they in peace come home?

MR. SHARANSKY: And so there are more than a million Arabs who are full citizens of...

MR. BUCHANAN: Who want to come to Israel?

MR. SHARANSKY: ...Israel, who live in Israel, who--I think that we are the only country where Arab members of the parliament can freely criticize their government and enjoy all the freedoms and it is very important for us that not a one Arab citizen of Israel will leave it. But again, the problem in the Middle East was not created because of the lack of democracy...

MR. BUCHANAN: All right.

MR. SHARANSKY: ...but it cannot be solved if it will be not--if we will be the only democratic society there.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you're a democracy, but look...


MR. BUCHANAN: ...and you say democracies are peaceful. Israel has fought five major wars since it was established. In three of them, 1956, 1967 and 1982, Israel launched pre-emptive strikes. It has been one of the most warlike countries in the Middle East. You have the king of Morocco, king of Jordan, king of Saudi Arabia and Ariel Sharon. Which of those four has been more warlike?

MR. SHARANSKY: Israel is the only member of the United Nations who's under constant threat of total annihilation--total annihilation. We have to fight for our rights to exist on this world...

MR. BUCHANAN: That's right.

MR. SHARANSKY: ...from the day we were born and I have to say unfortunately one of the modern problems of anti-Semitism is the denial of the right of Israel to exist.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right.

MR. SHARANSKY: They say all the Palestinians have to go back to Tel Aviv and all the Jews who came there, it's a colony. They have to leave it. That's what they hear now more and more in...

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, every American supports the right of Israel to exist and...


MR. BUCHANAN: ...almost every American supports American weapons to Israel to defend its national security and national existence...


MR. BUCHANAN: ...however, we do believe that Israel has got to give up the occupied territories in Gaza and the West Bank because this problem in the Middle East, which is caused there, is causing acts of terror, not only against you, but against us. It is making us hated in a part of the world where the United States was never before hated, was admired, if you will.

MR. SHARANSKY: Let me make final statement, please, final phrase on this.

MR. RUSSERT: Let him talk.

MR. SHARANSKY: I am willing, I wish, I want, I insist to give the Palestinians all the rights in the world except the right to destroy me. And the only way to do it is to encourage democratic reforms and a merging of a Democratic Palestinian state.

MR. BUCHANAN: Justice can't wait upon democracy.

MR. RUSSERT: To be continued.

MR. SHARANSKY: There will be no justice without democracy.

MR. RUSSERT: To be continued. Mr. Sharansky, this is your second appearance on MEET THE PRESS.


MR. RUSSERT: Ironically, 19 years ago...


MR. RUSSERT: ...shortly after your release from a Soviet prison, this is what American viewers saw.


(Videotape, February 16, 1986):

Unidentified Man: Our guest today on MEET THE PRESS, Sunday, February 16, 1986, live from Tel Aviv, Israel, Anatoly Sharansky, a leader of the Soviet human rights movement, just released from eight years of Communist captivity, and Avital Sharansky, the wife who wouldn't let the world forget.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: And shortly after that you journeyed to the United States, met with President Reagan, and one Pat Buchanan in the White House. And you can...

MR. SHARANSKY: Yeah. Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: ...still have a robust disagreement this morning.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was a pleasure.

MR. SHARANSKY: It's been a pleasure.

MR. RUSSERT: That's what democracy's all about. Thank you very much. We'll be right back.

Meet the Press With Tim Russert - Full Transcript

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