An attempt is made to share the truth regarding issues concerning Israel and her right to exist as a Jewish nation. This blog has expanded to present information about radical Islam and its potential impact upon Israel and the West. Yes, I do mix in a bit of opinion from time to time.
And they’ve all liked your looks With great lawyers you have Discussed lepers and crooks…. You’re very well read It’s well known
Yet something is happening here But you don’t know what it is Do you, Mister Jones?
--Bob Dylan, “Ballad of a Thin Man”
By Barry Rubin
entertainment director on the ship of fools that constitutes so much
mainstream analysis of the Middle East—I refer, of course, to Thomas
Friedman—has produced a wonderful paragraph that beautifully
characterizes the problem, exquisitely expressing a Western mentality
that not only makes it impossible to understand the Middle East but even
to set up the question in a way people that could help people even
begin to confront the truth. So perhaps it is worth disassembling. Sound
like fun? Let’s go!
The paragraph is from an article entitled, “Egypt - The next India or the next Pakistan?”
And that’s the first problem. Analogies are no substitute to
understanding the specific reality of a country and culture, its history
and balance of forces that shape the local political culture. You don’t
understand Egypt by comparing it to India or Pakistan—very different
places indeed—but by examining Egypt itself.
Let me first quote the entire paragraph and then deal with it a bit at a time. Here’s the whole thing:
democracy matters. But the ruling Muslim Brotherhood needs to
understand that democracy is so much more than just winning an election.
It is nurturing a culture of inclusion, and of peaceful dialogue, where
respect for leaders is earned by surprising opponents with compromises
rather than dictates….More than anything, Egypt now needs to develop
that kind of culture of dialogue, of peaceful and respectful arguing —
it was totally suppressed under Mubarak — rather than rock-throwing,
boycotting, conspiracy-mongering and waiting for America to denounce one
side or the other, which has characterized too much of the
postrevolutionary political scene. Elections without that culture are
like a computer without software. It just doesn’t work.”
I will now go a sentence at a time.
democracy matters.” It is strangely ironic that suddenly democracy has
become the main issue shaping the American debate over the Middle East.
When President Jimmy Carter in 1978 called for democracy in the shah’s
Iran that call might have played some role in setting off a revolution
that didn’t turn out too well. After a hiatus—due in part to that
debacle—the democracy issue returned under President George W. Bush. The
people who pushed that idea became known as “neoconservatives” and were
absolutely loathed, even demonized, by liberals and the left.
this idea that democracy would solve the region’s problems was indeed a
bad one, having failed in Iran, been (perhaps unfairly) ridiculed in
Iraq, and become a deadly joke in Afghanistan. Yet suddenly the left
adapted the conception of the man they most hated in the world! And
nobody in the mainstream debate even remarked on that rather obvious
point! Thus, we get the Obama policy based on a Bush idea. Except while
Bush’s approach worked acceptably in Iraq because the extremists were
defeated militarily, Obama’s approach helped put the radicals into power
in Egypt and will soon do so in Syria.
would think Friedman would continue by explaining that strategic
interests are more important for U.S. policy than formal democracy.
Nope. Instead, he assumes that democracy is or should be everyone’s
“But the ruling Muslim Brotherhood needs to understand that democracy is so much more than just winning an election.”
an article or editorial contains the words “needs to understand” you
know that's trouble. For one thing this phrase often means that some
Western pipsqueak whose most strenuous activity is hailing a taxi is
lecturing men ready to commit mass murder and crush their opponents
under a hobnailed boot. By the way, the Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely
to heed the advice and will be no worse off for doing so.
this also raises another intriguing issue: Why “must” they do so?
Suppose staying in power, establishing a dictatorship, and chopping off
various body parts of those who don’t live the way they decree is their
goal? Suppose they already know that “democracy is so much more than
just wining an election” but couldn’t care less? And what will the
columnist, op-ed writer, or editorial scribe do to them if the Muslim
Brotherhood doesn't heed his advice? Experience shows these people won't
even use mean words in response. What a joke.
Friedman know that Obama’s hero and guru, Turkish Prime Minister Mehdi
Erdogan, has said that democracy is like a streetcar and you just have
to decide where you want to get off? Hint: You get off as soon as
possible after you’ve won the election.
[democracy] is nurturing a culture of inclusion, and of peaceful
dialogue, where respect for leaders is earned by surprising opponents
with compromises rather than dictates.”
this point I must tell a story I once heard from a former member of a
motorcycle gang, though I cannot attest to whether or not it actually
happened. There was a really dangerous criminal motorcycle gang (it made
Hell’s Angels look like Obama’s Ostriches) and the local police decided
something must be done. They picked a young policeman to infiltrate the
gang and dressed him accordingly.
undercover cop met the gang and tried to join. Suspicious, they asked
him a question: What is the meaning of these ribbons we wear? The
symbolism involved various kinds of murder, rape, and various acts I
won’t describe for a family audience but each one had a very specific
significance. Unfortunately, the policeman hadn’t been briefed on this
and after a long pause he answered, “I thought they were just
decorations.” I won’t describe his fate.
is sort of like Friedman and various others thinking they can teach
revolutionaries willing to commit genocide how to play nice. They don't
understand the significance of what these radicals say and do. Indeed,
they don't understand that what they say--especially in Arabic--is
significant at all.
tough guys aren’t interested in inclusion, political dialogue, or
“surprising” opponents by giving them presents under their tree. No.
They are interested in seizing state power and exercising total power.
They are ready to order others to martyrdom and in some cases to be
martyrs themselves. They are ready to deliberately and coolly order what
happened in that Connecticut elementary school many times over. The
only limitation on that behavior is a consideration of whether or not it
will help their cause.
don't care whether the New York Times or some other American newspaper
they don't read is going to scold them. In fact, if they do know what's
in this mass media they understand that no matter what they do they are
more likely to have it explained away more than criticized.
Shouldn’t we recognize that reality rather than lecture them on playground comportment?
than anything, Egypt now needs to develop that kind of culture of
dialogue, of peaceful and respectful arguing — it was totally suppressed
under Mubarak — rather than rock-throwing, boycotting,
conspiracy-mongering and waiting for America to denounce one side or the
other, which has characterized too much of the post-revolutionary
does Egypt “need” that? One might argue that it needs such a system to
be most effective at being a truly democratic society whose supposed top
priority at home is increasing living standards and abroad is living in
peace with its neighbors. The full answer to that question lies beyond
my space limits but briefly: that might not work in Egypt; the people
who think it would work lose all of the elections; if you try to
implement such a system you are far more likely to be overthrown or face
you have no way to solve your country's social and economic problems.
It then makes more sense to stir up passionate hatred of "the other";
distract attention from your own failings by blaming foreigners for the
problems; and engage in aggression abroad so the masses can blow off
steam and get some loot. Ironically, this is the kind of thing that
Western radicals claim leaders of their own countries have done. It is
amazing that they never seem to notice this is how Arab dictators have
repeatedly felt a "need" to do in the past.
whatever Mubarak’s shortcomings, there was a lot more dialogue and
peaceful arguing under his reign then in any Islamist state or in Syria
and Iraq under radical nationalist regimes. This line of argument that
is all too familiar from the left in assuming that pro-American
dictators are more brutally repressive than anti-American dictators.
Usually, the truth is the opposite.
then at the end, Friedman admits that the post-revolutionary political
scene has not been so great. Should this have been a surprise or wasn’t
it painfully obvious back in January 2011 what was going to happen? It
was obvious to me and a few others but scarcely anyone in the mainstream
media pointed out the consequences. And those who dared to be right are
practically blacklisted from those places despite having been correct.
main Western accomplishment of the last two years has been to move from
step one to step two in the mainstream interpretation of what’s going
on in the Middle East:
Step one: The Islamists will be moderated by gaining power through elections.
Step two: The Islamists should make themselves become moderate after gaining power through elections because they need to do so.
What is needed is an altogether different approach:
revolutionaries whose goal is to set up regimes that are supposedly
implementing the will of Allah—a will no human can question or alter—and
who loathe the West, despise Christians, and want to commit genocide on
Jews are not going to be moderated. Nor are they going to follow
Western instructions on how they should behave. Nor is democracy their
ideal, since they don’t believe at all in governance on the basis of the
majority unless the majority agrees with them.
points are all rather obvious, aren’t they? Yet what we have seen for
the last two years is not an attempt to understand these realities but
rather a series of obfuscations and rationalizations designed to shore
up a mythical world that is increasingly diverging from the situation on
Lewis Carroll wrote the following dialogue for “Alice in Wonderland”:
Alice: “Do you think I've gone round the bend?"
Charles: "I'm afraid so. You're mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
problem nowadays is that an insane interpretation of international
affairs seems to be a quality defining who “the best people are.” A man
has just been appointed secretary of state for exhibiting a particularly
virulent case of this malady.