Au bout du compte, idéologies de l’individu comme idéologies collectivistes se sont soldées par l’échec. C’est maintenant à l’islam, à l’Umma de jouer leur rôle, en la plus critique des heures, quand règnent le trouble et la confusion (…). Le temps de l’islam est venu, lui qui ne renie pas les inventions matérielles en ce monde, car il les considère comme la première fonction de l’homme depuis que Dieu a accordé à celui-ci sa lieutenance sur la terre comme un moyen – sous certaines conditions – d’adorer Dieu et de réaliser les buts de l’existence humaine. Or, l’islam ne peut jouer son rôle que s’il s’incarne dans une société, dans une Umma (…). L’humanité ne prête pas l’oreille, ces temps-ci en particulier, à une croyance abstraite dont elle ne puisse constater la corroboration par des faits tangibles : or l’Umma, croit-on, a vu son existence s’éteindre depuis de nombreux siècles. Mais l’Umma n’est pas une terre sur laquelle vit l’islam, pas plus qu’une patrie dont les aïeux auraient vécu à telle époque selon un mode islamique (…). L’Umma musulmane est une collectivité (jama’a) de gens dont la vie tout entière, dans ses aspects intellectuels, sociaux, existentiels, politiques, moraux et pratiques, procède de l’éthique (…) islamique. Cette Umma, ainsi caractérisée, a cessé d’exister depuis que l’on ne gouverne plus nulle part sur terre selon la loi de Dieu. Sayyid Qutb
Aussi le mouvement de la lutte musulmane est-il une guerre défensive : défense de l’homme contre tous ceux qui aliènent sa liberté et bloquent sa libération, jusqu’à que soit instauré sur le genre humain le royaume de la Loi sacrée. Sayyid Qutb
If this is the West’s version of freedom, and their peace policy, we have our own policies in freedom and it is war until … the infidels leave defeated. Aldawsari (08.04.10)
Nous n’avons absolument rien à faire en Afghanistan, le plus tôt nous sortirons de là-bas, le mieux ce sera. Laurent Fabius (27.02.11, FR2)
Sayyid Qutb came to the United States from Egypt in 1948 to study English and went home appalled by the materialism and gross sensuality of American culture; he became a key ideologist in the development of Islamism.Gary Rosen
We generally understand « radical Islam » as a purely Islamic phenomenon, but Buruma and Margalit show that while the Islamic part of radical Islam certainly is, the radical part owes a primary debt of inheritance to the West. Whatever else they are, al Qaeda and its ilk are revolutionary anti-Western political movements, and Buruma and Margalit show us that the bogeyman of the West who stalks their thinking is the same one who has haunted the thoughts of many other revolutionary groups, going back to the early nineteenth century. In this genealogy of the components of the anti-Western worldview, the same oppositions appear again and again: the heroic revolutionary versus the timid, soft bourgeois; the rootless, deracinated cosmopolitan living in the Western city, cut off from the roots of a spiritually healthy society; the sterile Western mind, all reason and no soul; the machine society, controlled from the center by a cabal of insiders, often jews, pulling the hidden levers of power versus an organically knit-together one, a society of « blood and soil. » The anti-Western virus has found a ready host in the Islamic world for a number of legitimate reasons, they argue, but in no way does that make it an exclusively Islamic matter. The Economist
It’s not enough to be against, or to bring down, a hated regime. It’s not even enough to be for something, at least in the sense in which the Arab world now seeks a freer and more representative political dispensation. What’s required is the statesmanship that can give concrete form to a hazy political dream. It would be nice to believe that this kind of statesmanship will emerge unbidden from decent quarters, which probably explains the fascination with Egyptian Google exec Wael Ghonim. But the perennial political problem is that good people usually lack political ambition. They cede the field to charlatans, romantics and jackals. Bret Stephens
Will Egypt see that its real enemies since the deposition of King Farouk in 1952 have always been poverty, ignorance, repression, failing prospects for its youth, and a shameful record in human rights? Or will it slip back into fervent nationalism, religious zealotry, and anti-Semitism and in the process find itself saddled with an army man eager to re-energize his country by demonizing the usual Israeli suspect? The opening of the Suez Canal to two Iranian warships does not bode well. Neither does radical Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s ability to draw over a million Egyptians to hear him preach in Tahrir Square. Nor does last week’s attack by the army on a Coptic monastery, or the brutal sexual assault on CBS News correspondent Lara Logan during the massive celebration of Mr. Mubarak’s ouster. As a crowd of 200 men attacked her, it was widely reported that they screamed « Jew,Jew, Jew. » (Ms. Logan is not Jewish.) Andre Aciman
Paradoxically, a more democratic Iraq may also be a more repressive one; it may well be that a majority of Iraqis favor more curbs on professional women and on religious minorities. . . . Women did relatively well under Saddam Hussein. . . . Iraq won’t follow the theocratic model of Iran, but it could end up as Iran Lite: an Islamic state, but ruled by politicians rather than ayatollahs. I get the sense that’s the system many Iraqis seek. . . . We may just have to get used to the idea that we have been midwives to growing Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq. Nicholas Kristof (The New York Times, June 24, 2003)
If American Muslims, who enjoy Western benefits — including democracy, liberty, prosperity, and freedom of expression — are still being radicalized, why then do we insist that the importation of those same Western benefits to the Muslim world will eliminate its even more indigenous or authentic form of « radicalization »? (…) here are American Muslims, immersed in the bounties of the West — and still do they turn to violent jihad. Why think their counterparts, who are born and raised in the Muslim world, where Islam permeates every aspect of life, will respond differently?
In fact, far from eliminating radicalization, there is reason to believe that Western values can actually exacerbate Islamist tendencies. It is already known that Western concessions to Islam — in the guise of multiculturalism, « cultural sensitivity, » political correctness, and self-censorship — only bring out the worst in Islamists. Yet even some of the most prized aspects of Western civilization — personal freedom, rule of law, human dignity — when articulated through an Islamist framework, have the capacity to « radicalize » Muslims. (…) Western notions of autonomy and personal freedom have even helped « Westernize » the notion of jihad into an individual duty, though it has traditionally been held by sharia as a communal duty. Nor should any of this be surprising: a set of noble principles articulated through a fascistic paradigm can produce abominations. ‘…) just as a stress on human freedom, human dignity, and universal justice produces good humans, rearticulating these same concepts through an Islamist framework that qualifies them with the word « Muslim » — Muslim freedom, Muslim dignity, and Muslim justice — leads to what is being called « radicalization. » Raymond Ibrahim
America needs to stop praising democracy — a means — and start supporting freedom and universal rights — the desired end. If that end can best be achieved by, say, a « philosopher-king, » as opposed to popular support, so be it; if that end can be achieved by supporting secularists while « undemocratically » suppressing Islamists, so be it. Rather than offer lip service to any specific mode of governance, the US should support whoever and whatever form of government is best positioned to provide the boons regularly conflated with democracy. Raymond Ibrahim
A l’heure où la menace terroriste n’a jamais été aussi élevée au sein même de nos sociétés occidentales …
Et où, au nom de la liberté d’expression, la plus haute institution éducative française se voit condamnée pour avoir refusé de cautionner l’appel au boycott de la première démocratie du Moyen-Orient …
Pendant que le prétendu chef de file du Monde libre navigue à vue et que, sous prétexte de printemps arabe et sans compter l’annonce de sa capitulation préventive sur le front afghan par la probable future équipe à la tête du pays autoproclamé des droits de l’homme, s’enflamment brusquement ceux qui n’avaient pas eu de mots assez durs pour dénoncer il y a sept ans la mise hors d’état de nuire d’un des pires despotes de l’histoire …
Telle est la tout à fait pertinente question que pose l’islamologue Raymond Ibrahim.
Pointant, exemples à l’appui, la prétendument nécessaire équivalence, faite couramment en Occident, entre démocratie et régime pluraliste et laïc.
Et montrant au contraire que les valeurs occidentales peuvent même, ici comme là-bas, exacerber et radicaliser les tendances islamistes …
D’où son appel, pour l’Amérique, à arrêter de se focaliser sur la forme de gouvernement (la démocratie qui n’est qu’un moyen) pour se concentrer sur le contenu (la défense des véritables buts que sont la liberté et les droits universels).
Et ce y compris contre la volonté populaire si celle-ci s’avérait soutenir, comme en Iran ou à Gaza, des islamistes liberticides ..
February 26, 2011
That democracy equates freedom is axiomatic in the West. Say the word « democracy » and images of a free, pluralistic, and secular society come to mind. Recently commenting on the turmoil in Egypt, President Obama made this association when he said that « the United States will continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human beings deserve »—as if the two are inseparable.
But are they? Does « democracy » always lead to « universal rights » — and all of the other boons associated with that form of governance?
The fact is, there is nothing inherently liberal, humanitarian, or secular about democracies. Consider ancient Athens, regularly touted as history’s first democracy. It held principles, such as slavery, that would today be deemed antithetical to a democratic society. Indeed, whereas the status of women in « democratic » Athens would have made the Taliban proud, women in « authoritarian » Sparta reportedly enjoyed a much higher level of equality. Thus the Athenian Plato, one of history’s greatest minds, eschewed democracy, opting for a so-called « philosopher king » to provide for the good of the people.
In short, as with all forms of governance, democracy is a means to an end: based on whether that end is good (freedom) or bad (tyranny) should be the ultimate measure of its worth.
Recent examples of « people-power » — literally, demos-kratia — giving rise to fascistic governments are many: the Palestinians elected the terrorist organization Hamas to lead their government in 2006; Islamists were poised to take over in Algeria thanks to free elections in1991. Most famously, the Shah of Iran, whose monarchy was culturally and socially liberal, was overthrown by the people, who brought the Khomeini and tyranny to power in 1979.
Enter Egypt. For starters, what we are witnessing is a popular revolt. But now that the people have gotten what they want — the overthrow of Mubarak — will « people-power » also lead to a more liberal, secular, and pluralistic society? Theoretically, it is possible: many Egyptians, Christians and Muslims, would welcome a freer society. Despite al-Jazeera’s and the Iranian media’s propaganda — which some in the West follow hook-line-and-sinker — the majority of Egyptians protesting are not doing so to see sharia law implemented, but rather for mundane reasons: food and jobs.
That said, the Muslim Brotherhood does pose a very real threat; moreover, it does want strict sharia implemented. If the people help see it to power, Egypt will become considerably more fascistic. Yet this does not mean that most Egyptians are Islamists. While some are, others go along with the Brotherhood for the ostensible benefits, while being indifferent to the group’s ideological agenda. After all, Hamas’ famous strategy of endearing the Palestinians to it by providing for their needs was learned directly from its parent organization: Egypt’s Brotherhood.
In a way, this is not unlike Western democracies: people can vote based on their immediate needs, emotions, misinformation, or even sheer propaganda — and get more than they bargained for. Yet Western democracies have built-in safeguards, for example, a constitution, rule of law, and a separate judiciary. But what if all of these are built on Islamist principles, agreed to by the majority? The constitution, law, and judiciary of a government can all be built atop sharia (the word sharia simply means « the way » of Muslim society). After all, part of the Brotherhood’s by now infamous slogan is that « the Koran is our Constitution »; likewise, Iran has a « constitutional government » — based on sharia jurisprudence.
In short, America needs to stop praising democracy — a means — and start supporting freedom and universal rights — the desired end. If that end can best be achieved by, say, a « philosopher-king, » as opposed to popular support, so be it; if that end can be achieved by supporting secularists while « undemocratically » suppressing Islamists, so be it. Rather than offer lip service to any specific mode of governance, the US should support whoever and whatever form of government is best positioned to provide the boons regularly conflated with democracy.
Such an approach would have an added bonus: it would fend off the ubiquitous charge — emanating from the ivory towers of academia to the Arab street — that America is hypocritical for befriending and supporting dictators even as it constantly sings paeans to democracy.
Can American Values Radicalize Muslims?
February 21, 2011
Recent comments by US officials on the threat posed by « radicalized » American Muslims are troubling, both for their domestic and international implications. Attorney General Eric Holder states that « the threat has changed … to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens — raised here, born here, and who for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born. » The situation is critical enough to compel incoming head of the House Committee on Homeland Security Peter King to do all he can « to break down the wall of political correctness and drive the public debate on Islamic radicalization. »
To be sure, radicalized American Muslims pose a far greater risk than foreign radicals. For example, it is much easier for the former to get a job in the food industry and poison food — a recently revealed al-Qaeda strategy. American terrorists are also better positioned to exploit the Western mindset. After describing Anwar al-Awlaki as one of the most dangerous terrorists alive, Holder added that he « is a person who — as an American citizen — is familiar with this country and he brings a dimension, because of that American familiarity, that others do not. » (Likewise, American Adam Gadahn is al Qaeda’s chief propagandist in English no doubt due to his « American familiarity. »)
Sue Myrick, a member of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote a particularly candid letter on « radicalization » to President Obama:
For many years we lulled ourselves with the idea that radicalization was not happening inside the United Sates. We believed American Muslims were immune to radicalization because, unlike the European counterparts, they are socially and economically well-integrated into society. There had been warnings that these assumptions were false but we paid them no mind. Today there is no doubt that radicalization is taking place inside America. The strikingly accelerated rate of American Muslims arrested for involvement in terrorist activities since May 2009 makes this fact self-evident.
Myrick named several American Muslims as examples of those who, while « embodying the American dream, at least socio-economically, » still turned to radical Islam, astutely adding, « The truth is that if grievances were the sole cause of terrorism, we would see daily acts by Americans who have lost their jobs and homes in this economic downturn. »
Quite so. Yet, though Myrick’s observations are limited to the domestic scene, they beg the following, even more « cosmic, » question: If American Muslims, who enjoy Western benefits — including democracy, liberty, prosperity, and freedom of expression — are still being radicalized, why then do we insist that the importation of those same Western benefits to the Muslim world will eliminate its even more indigenous or authentic form of « radicalization »?
After all, the mainstream position, the only one evoked by politicians, maintains that all American sacrifices in the Muslim world (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.) will pay off once Muslims discover how wonderful Western ways are, and happily slough off their Islamist veneer, which, as the theory goes, is a product of — you guessed it — a lack of democracy, liberty, prosperity, and freedom of expression. Yet here are American Muslims, immersed in the bounties of the West — and still do they turn to violent jihad. Why think their counterparts, who are born and raised in the Muslim world, where Islam permeates every aspect of life, will respond differently?
In fact, far from eliminating radicalization, there is reason to believe that Western values can actually exacerbate Islamist tendencies. It is already known that Western concessions to Islam — in the guise of multiculturalism, « cultural sensitivity, » political correctness, and self-censorship — only bring out the worst in Islamists. Yet even some of the most prized aspects of Western civilization — personal freedom, rule of law, human dignity — when articulated through an Islamist framework, have the capacity to « radicalize » Muslims.
Consider: the West’s unique stress on the law as supreme arbitrator, translates into a stress to establish sharia law, Islam’s supreme arbitrator of human affairs; the West’s unwavering commitment to democracy, translates into an unwavering commitment to theocracy, including an anxious impulse to resurrect the caliphate; Western notions of human dignity and pride, when articulated through an Islamist mindset (which sees fellow Muslims as the ultimate, if not only, representatives of humanity) induces rage when fellow Muslims — Palestinians, Afghanis, Iraqis, etc. — are seen under Western, infidel dominion; Western notions of autonomy and personal freedom have even helped « Westernize » the notion of jihad into an individual duty, though it has traditionally been held by sharia as a communal duty.
Nor should any of this be surprising: a set of noble principles articulated through a fascistic paradigm can produce abominations. In this case, the better principles of Western civilization are being devoured, absorbed, and regurgitated into something equally potent, though from the other end of the spectrum. Put differently, just as a stress on human freedom, human dignity, and universal justice produces good humans, rearticulating these same concepts through an Islamist framework that qualifies them with the word « Muslim » — Muslim freedom, Muslim dignity, and Muslim justice — leads to what is being called « radicalization. »
Une décision qui avait suscité la colère de plusieurs chercheurs anciens élèves de l’école, qui avaient dénoncé dans une lettre publiée dans Libération une atteinte à la liberté d’expression. Ils estimaient que la directrice de l’ENS avait « déshonoré sa fonction ». Cette dernière avait déploré dans une tribune au Monde un « vacarme d’indignation sincère et de mauvaise foi mêlées ». Et avait expliqué avoir décidé « seule » de cette annulation, estimant qu’il s’agissait d’un « meeting sans débat ». Elle ajoutait : « Si une situation analogue se présentait de nouveau, j’agirais de la même façon ».
On learning that George Washington intended to follow up his victory at Yorktown by retiring to his farm at Mount Vernon, George III told the painter Benjamin West: « If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world. » The British monarch may have wound up stark raving mad, but he knew a thing or two about the seductions of power.
We celebrate Washington today as the greatest of the founding fathers. But the fame he gained during his lifetime owed mainly to his willingness to relinquish the vast powers he had repeatedly been granted, and which were his for the keeping. That’s a rarity in the history of revolutions, in which the distance from liberation to despotism—from euphoria to terror—is usually short. The French Revolution began with a Declaration of the Rights of Man. It very nearly ended in an extinction of those rights.
The uprisings now sweeping the Arab world threaten to retrace that familiar arc. Consider the irony of last month’s massive protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Until Egypt’s corrupt but tolerant monarchy was overthrown in 1952, the square was known as Midan El-Ismailiya after Ismail Pasha, the great 19th-century Egyptian Westernizer. It became Liberation Square only after Gamal Abdel Nasser’s 1952 coup, yet another calamitous revolution that began brightly with promises of democracy.
Now we’re being told that this time it’s different. A day after the demonstrators began to gather on Tahrir Square last month, an Egyptian friend of mine—a former independent member of parliament with close ties to the secular opposition—explained that difference: « It’s a revolution without papas, » he told me. No Nasser, no Ben Bella, no Arafat, just ordinary people in their millions demanding their long-denied civil and political rights.
I’d love to think that my friend is right. And there’s no shortage of pop-political philosophy explaining how in our networked, horizontal, spontaneously organizing era of Facebook and Twitter, there’s no longer a need for credible leaders or effective political parties. Just click the install button on People Power 3.0 and the program will run itself.
Yet until technology recasts human nature, human nature will be what it always has been. And human nature abhors a leadership vacuum. When revolutions are successful, it’s not that they have no « papas »; it’s that they have good papas. So it was with Washington, or with Mandela—men of hard-earned and unmatched moral authority, steeped in the right values, who not only could defeat their adversaries but rein in the tempers of their own followers.
What happens when revolutions don’t have such leaders? The French Revolution is Exhibit A. Exhibit B might be Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution of 2005, which took place following the assassination of the charismatic former premier Rafik Hariri. Millions of Lebanese poured into Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square on March 14 to demand the end of Syrian occupation.
The Syrians obliged. Elections gave pro-Western groups clear majorities in parliament. The country seemed settled on a better course. In May of that year I went to Lebanon to see things for myself. « Wherever
I go here, the impression is of a people intent on making up for lost time, and determined never again to be dragged down by extremism, » I wrote. « It is these Lebanese, one senses, and not Hezbollah, who are making the country anew, and who are doing so, at long last, in the absence of fear. »
Re-reading those lines today, with Hezbollah in firm control of a puppet government and the various leaders of the March 14 movement murdered, dismembered or politically neutered, is enough to make me cringe.
But it’s also a useful lesson in the limits of the very kind of people power now being celebrated in Egypt. It’s not enough to be against, or to bring down, a hated regime. It’s not even enough to be for something, at least in the sense in which the Arab world now seeks a freer and more representative political dispensation. What’s required is the statesmanship that can give concrete form to a hazy political dream.
It would be nice to believe that this kind of statesmanship will emerge unbidden from decent quarters, which probably explains the fascination with Egyptian Google exec Wael Ghonim. But the perennial political problem is that good people usually lack political ambition. They cede the field to charlatans, romantics and jackals.
As Americans look at what is happening in the Middle East, it’s natural that their sympathies should lie with the demonstrators. Natural, too, is the belief that movements consisting mainly of oppressed people in search of a better life will lead to decent regimes that care for those people. And maybe that will turn out to be true.
But also true is that America’s revolutionary history was exceptional because we had a Washington while the French had a Robespierre and the Egyptians had a Nasser. We owe today’s Arabs our optimism, and the benefit of the doubt. They owe themselves the real lessons of our example.
In the past few weeks, we’ve seen revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, a brutal and continuing attempt to put down a rebellion in Libya, and varying degrees of unrest, sometimes violent, in Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Sudan and Yemen.
If only Israel would recognize a Palestinian state, we would have peace in the Middle East!
Ha ha. Hardly anybody is saying that now, but it’s worth remembering that it has been the accepted view among Mideast « experts » for decades. Israeli cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen, who draws the syndicated Dry Bones strip, had a terrific one a few weeks ago. It showed a pair of such experts yammering, « Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Israel, Palestine, Gaza, » ad nauseam. In the second panel, the experts are shaken as a voice yells « EGYPT! » In the third panel, they stand silently, trying to make sense of it all.
Nick Cohen of London’s Observer, a rare British leftist who does not loathe Israel, confronts his ideological brethren in an excellent column:
To a generation of politically active if not morally consistent campaigners, the Middle East has meant Israel and only Israel. In theory, they should have been able to stick by universal principles and support a just settlement for the Palestinians while opposing the dictators who kept Arabs subjugated. Few, however, have been able to oppose oppression in all its forms consistently. . . .
Far from being a cause of the revolution, antagonism to Israel everywhere served the interests of oppressors. Europeans have no right to be surprised. Of all people, we ought to know from our experience of Nazism that antisemitism is a conspiracy theory about power, rather than a standard racist hatred of poor immigrants. Fascistic regimes reached for it when they sought to deny their own people liberty. . . .
Syrian Ba’athists, Hamas, the Saudi monarchy and Gaddafi eagerly promoted the Protocols [of the Elders of Zion], for why wouldn’t vicious elites welcome a fantasy that dismissed democracy as a fraud and justified their domination? Just before the Libyan revolt, [Muammar] Gaddafi tried a desperate move his European predecessors would have understood. He tried to deflect Libyan anger by calling for a popular Palestinian revolution against Israel. That may or may not have been justified, but it assuredly would have done nothing to help the wretched Libyans.
Cohen also claims that « the right has been no better than the liberal-left in its Jew obsessions. The briefest reading of Conservative newspapers shows that at all times their first concern about political changes in the Middle East is how they affect Israel. »
Maybe he’s right–we haven’t been following British coverage closely enough to say–but here in America, the anti-Semitic canard that neoconservatives are loyal to Israel first has been disproved. Politico reported Feb. 3:
As Israeli leaders worriedly eye the protests and street battles in neighboring Egypt, they’ve been dismayed to find that the neoconservatives and hawkish Democrats who are usually their most reliable American advocates are cheering for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s fall. . . .
In particular, neoconservatives such as Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, Bush National Security Council official Elliott Abrams, and scholar Robert Kagan are essentially saying good riddance to Mubarak and chiding Obama mainly for not making the same sporadic push for democracy as President George W. Bush.
« If [the Israelis] were to say, ‘This is very worrying because we don’t know what the future will bring and none of us trust the [Muslim] Brotherhood’–we would all agree with that. But then they then go further and start mourning the departure of Mubarak and telling you that he is the greatest thing that ever happened, » said Abrams, who battled inside the Bush administration for more public pressure on Arab allies to reform.
« They don’t seem to realize that the crisis that now exists is the creation of Mubarak, » he said. « We were calling on him to stop crushing the moderate and centrist parties–and the Israelis had no sympathy for that whatsoever. »
One can see why Israelis would be especially anxious about the outcome of the revolution in Egypt, the most populous Arab state and one that has waged war against Israel several times. On « The Journal Editorial Report » a couple of weeks ago, Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary and a pro-democracy neoconservative, raised an analogy that seems to us pertinent:
There’s really been too much hand-wringing. Yes, there are a lot of ways this can go wrong. But, you know, I’m reminded that when the Berlin Wall came down, someone I admire, Margaret Thatcher, and her counterpart in France, Francois Mitterrand, were wringing their hands with the specter of a revived German threat in Europe. And President [George H.W.] Bush said: Look, let’s celebrate what the Germans have done, let’s embrace unity, and then we’ll have a chance to steer this in the right direction. . . .
Look, when the tide of freedom is sweeping, we should love it. And when it’s headed in the wrong direction, then we’ll have a lot more credibility to say, « Whoa, this isn’t freedom anymore. »
We agree with Wolfowitz, but there’s a more sympathetic way of looking at Thatcher’s and Mitterand’s unease over German unification–one that ought to inspire some empathy for Israel’s anxiety. Germany was in their backyard and had waged a vicious war on both England and France just a few decades earlier. The same is true of Egypt today vis-à-vis Israel. And Egypt’s future is harder to predict than Germany’s in 1989, when most of the country was already stable, democratic and allied with the West. Regime change in Egypt produces uncertainty about the 1978 peace treaty, an agreement that is essential to Israel’s security.
On the other hand, we’ve long argued that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is largely a product of Arab dictators, a point even Thomas Friedman acknowledges in a recent column: « The Arab tyrants, precisely because they were illegitimate, were the ones who fed their people hatred of Israel as a diversion. » But Friedman still manages to get it backward:
If Israel could finalize a deal with the Palestinians, it will find that a more democratic Arab world is a more stable partner. Not because everyone will suddenly love Israel (they won’t). But because the voices that would continue calling for conflict would have legitimate competition, and democratically elected leaders will have to be much more responsive to their people’s priorities, which are for more schools not wars.
In truth, a more democratic Arab world–which is now a real possibility, though by no means a certainty–is a necessary precondition for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. On this point Friedman has long been obtuse. Nine years ago, he suggested the Arab states offer « a simple, clear-cut proposal to Israel to break the Israeli-Palestinian impasse: In return for a total withdrawal by Israel to the June 4, 1967, lines, and the establishment of a Palestinian state, the 22 members of the Arab League would offer Israel full diplomatic relations, normalized trade and security guarantees. »
Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, in a 2002 interview with Friedman, enthusiastically endorsed the idea, which Friedman started calling « the Abdullah plan. » But as Friedman acknowledged in a 2009 column, Abdullah, who became king in 2005, « always stopped short of presenting his ideas directly to the Israeli people. » That 2009 column included the latest Friedman brainstorm, « what I would call a five-state solution, » involving the creation of a Palestinian state and promises by Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia aimed at guaranteeing Israel’s security.
It was fanciful of Friedman to think that Arab dictators–whom he now acknowledges have depended on scapegoating Israel to maintain their hold on power–would have agreed to such plans. But what if they had?
A little history is perhaps apposite here. From Israel’s creation in 1948 until the 1979 Iranian revolution, Jerusalem had close relations with the authoritarian government of the shah. The current regime in Iran is dedicated to Israel’s destruction. It’s hard to see how Israel would be better off today if it had entrusted its security to the Arab dictators whose own people have suddenly made them an endangered species.
Two Columnists in One!
■ »Paradoxically, a more democratic Iraq may also be a more repressive one; it may well be that a majority of Iraqis favor more curbs on professional women and on religious minorities. . . . Women did relatively well under Saddam Hussein. . . . Iraq won’t follow the theocratic model of Iran, but it could end up as Iran Lite: an Islamic state, but ruled by politicians rather than ayatollahs. I get the sense that’s the system many Iraqis seek. . . . We may just have to get used to the idea that we have been midwives to growing Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq. »–Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, June 24, 2003
■ »Is the Arab world unready for freedom? A crude stereotype lingers that some people–Arabs, Chinese and Africans–are incompatible with democracy. . . . This line of thinking seems to me insulting to the unfree world. . . . It’s condescending and foolish to suggest that people dying for democracy aren’t ready for it. »–Kristof, Times, Feb. 27, 2011