Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Spring frost in the Middle East

There have been signs of frustration with the Islamists in the Middle East, including attacks on them in Benghazi. That is encouraging. But is it durable? Tom Friedman writes in the NYT:

It is not clear whether this trend can spread or be sustained. But having decried the voices of intolerance that so often intimidate everyone in that region, I find it heartening to see Libyans carrying signs like “We want justice for Chris” and “No more Al Qaeda” — and demanding that armed militias disband. This coincides with some brutally honest articles in the Arab/Muslim press — in response to rioting triggered by the idiotic YouTube video insulting the Prophet Muhammad — that are not the usual “What is wrong with America?” but, rather, “What is wrong with us, and how do we fix it?”
It isn't as if there are not some more sensible voices in the Middle East or writing in Arabic. The trouble is some Westerners persist in seeing them as the "vast majority". So we got lots of stories about the twitter revolution in Tahrir Square, but we ended up with the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egypt and assaults on US embassies.

Yes, there are occasional voices of internal self-criticism in the Middle East. The Arab Human Development report pointing out the stagnation in Arab societies created a huge stir, too, but it was ten years ago. Nothing has fundamentally changed since, despite the Arab Spring. Indeed, the feverish hatred surrounding "blasphemy" shows if anything intellectual life is shutting down.

The fact is that in most Arab countries the extremists are the vast majority, despite the equally extreme efforts by Western liberals to avoid noticing the fact. Democracy entails Islamism, which has been the heart of the problem for decades.

Indeed, the whole rhetoric of "extremist" and "moderate" is suspect, as "moderates" are often repugnant as well. We get manipulated into supporting one faction against another local faction. Mubarak argued he would hold back the Islamists. So we put American money behind kleptocratic narcissism. The "moderates" are often just nasserites with different Swiss bank accounts.

Our patience with the Middle East needs to run out. Change will come. But we cannot bring it, and it could take centuries.

We need to contain Islam in the meantime. Engagement has led nowhere. So treat it like we treated communism. And treat those who scream "islamophobia" with contempt. It's like screaming "stalinophobia" in the 1950s. It's brainless and bigoted and stupid. The screamers need to be excluded.

For Arab Spring, read Prague Spring in 1968.

For the "islamophobia" screamers, read the communist stooges and Red Brigades and Maoists and fellow travelers of the 1950s and 1960s. And remember the fashionable leftist intellectuals who have never been held accountable for their collaboration with genocide and prison camps and sympathy for "struggle".

For the doomed Soviet economy in the 1960s, read the lazy Salafist regimes of the Gulf, living on borrowed time on oil reserves.

There are differences, of course. The Soviets had some technological ability. The Islamic states don't.

Sometimes the only way to deal with bad ideas is to let them fail. And let them know the only way they will get respect is if they earn it.


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