Saturday, December 10, 2005

The new tories

Norman Podhoretz uses the words of Tom Paine to launch a blistering essay on the voices of retreat. Zbigniew Brzezinski gets a stunning series of blows that go on and on and start wrapping up with this:

Then for a third time Brzezinski looks over the Middle East, and what does he see? He sees more and more sympathy for terrorism, and more and more hatred of America, being generated throughout the region by our actions in Iraq; and in this context, too, that is all he sees. About the momentous encouragement that our actions have given to the forces of reform that never dared act or even speak up before, he is completely silent—though it is a phenomenon that even so inveterate a hater of America as the Lebanese dissident Walid Jumblatt has found himself compelled to recognize. Thus, only a few months after declaring that “the killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq is legitimate and obligatory,” Jumblatt suddenly woke up to what those U.S. soldiers had actually been doing for the world in which he lived:

"It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting [in January 2005], 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world."

The columnist Michael Barone has listed some of the developments that bear out Jumblatt’s judgment:

"[The] progress toward democracy in Iraq is leading Middle Easterners to concentrate on the question of how to build decent governments and decent societies. We can see the results—the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, the first seriously contested elections in Egypt, Libya’s giving up WMD’s, the Jordanian protests against Abu Musab Zarqawi’s recent suicide attacks, and even a bit of reform in Saudi Arabia."

Even in Syria, reports the Washington Post’s David Ignatius,

"people talk politics . . . with a passion I haven’t heard since the 1980’s in Eastern Europe. They’re writing manifestos, dreaming of new political parties, trying to rehabilitate old ones from the 1950’s."

And not only in Syria. As the democratic activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim who, like Jumblatt, originally opposed the invasion of Iraq, told Ignatius’s colleague Jim Hoagland:

"Those [in the Middle East] who believe in democracy and civil society are finally actors . . . [because the invasion of Iraq] has unfrozen the Middle East, just as Napoleon’s 1798 expedition did. Elections in Iraq force the theocrats and autocrats to put democracy on the agenda, even if only to fight against us. Look, neither Napoleon nor President Bush could impregnate the region with political change. But they were able to be midwives."

Nor are such changes confined to the political sphere alone. According to a report in the Economist, a revulsion against terrorism has begun to spread among Muslim clerics, including some who, like the secular Jumblatt, were only recently applauding its use against Americans:

Moderate Muslim clerics have grown increasingly concerned at the abuse of religion to justify killing. In Saudi Arabia, numerous preachers once famed for their fighting words now advise tolerance and restraint. Even so rigid a defender of suicide attacks against Israel . . . as Yusuf Qaradawi, the star preacher of the popular al-Jazeera satellite channel, denounces bombings elsewhere and calls on the perpetrators to repent.

In the piece Podhoretz mentions the ongoing comparisons to Vietnam. As David Ignatius begins the comparison above, what we are seeing happen in the Middle East is best compared, not to Vietnam at all but to the Reagan change of policy in the 80's that led to the fall of the Soviet Union and the emergence of free states in Eastern Europe. And like then, opponents of the administration refuse to acknowledge and welcome the changes that are happening. How could they when it delegitimizes their Middle East policy positions just as Reagan's success did to those policies encouraging decades of Soviet appeasement.

Finally, 15 years after the fall of the Soviets, we are still only learning now about the full extent of the horrors of that regime. And it is difficult to realize that the world stood by while tens of millions suffered and died. What will be revealed about the Middle East in 10-20 years time?

Add to Technorati Favorites