Thursday, March 10, 2005
In almost every case we are witnessing a new kind of citizens' movement, an Arab version of people power in action. But the most important feature of these demonstrations is that they are concerned not with imagined external enemies, be it Israel or the United States, but with the real deficiencies of contemporary Arab societies. In almost every case the key demand is for a greater say for the people in deciding the affairs of the nation.Every point of opposition used by opponents of the War in Iraq focused on not "forcing" our will on other states, however autocratic or dictatorial or brutal they might be. They decried the use of force, they pointed to each act of violence against the coalition as evidence of Iraqi will against Coalition oppression of iraqi sovereignity. Now, as citizens of non-democratic, oppressed and dysfunctional states start awakening in peaceful protest, these western voices are silent. They have nothing to say, or they repeat anit-war slogans like so much hollow cant. Are they still so sure who the enemy should be? What are they motivated by?
It is, of course, far too early to speak of an "Arab spring."
It is not at all certain that the ruling elites will have the intelligence to manage the difficult transition from autocracy to pluralism. Nor is it certain that the budding democratic movement would produce a leadership capable of mixing resolve with moderation. The deep-rooted Arab tradition of political extremism may prove harder to dissipate than one imagines.
What is interesting is that there are, as yet, no signs, that the "Western street" may, at some point, come out in support of the new "Arab street."
Taheri has an answer:
Why are so many Westerners, living in mature democracies, ready to march against the toppling of a despot in Iraq but unwilling to take to the streets in support of the democratic movement in the Middle East?
Is it because many of those who will be marching in support of Saddam Hussein this month are the remnants of totalitarian groups in the West plus a variety of misinformed idealists and others blinded by anti-Americanism?
Or is it because they secretly believe that the Arabs do not deserve anything better than Saddam Hussein?
Those interested in the health of Western democracies would do well to ponder those questions.
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