MideastWeb Middle East Web Log

log  archives  middle east  maps  history   documents   countries   books   encyclopedia   culture   dialogue   links    timeline   donations 

Search:

Some unoriginal observations

10/28/2003

I wouldn't be the first to tell you about the messianic pretensions of George W. Bush, a man who spoke in the heady days after 9/11 as if his personal mission were to wipe evil from the face of the earth. Indeed, if we can believe what's been written in the papers, Bush later told Abu Mazen that Almighty God Himself had instructed him first to invade Iraq and then to make peace in the Holy Land.

Nor would I be the first to tell you that Presidents, like any other people, tend not to like tradeoffs, and prefer to think of their choices as panaceas, decisions without downsides.

And you've heard this before, but change comes slowly to the Middle East. Its problems are not eternal, but they certainly are intractable. No exercise of will and no purity of heart will transform the region overnight. Despite what the Right tells us, the problem was not -- is not -- Saddam. And despite what the Left tells us, the problem is not the Jews.

All of this is a way of saying that the United States and the world might have been better served by a little more patience, a little more wisdom, and a little more humility.

So why is all this stuff so hard? Here is a slightly more original thought. The extraordinary difficulty of building democracy in Iraq and making peace between Arabs and Jews may be related to one another and to the American role as a regional stabilizer. All of these phenomena draw upon the lack of a culture of compromise in the Middle East.

Whether we recognize it or not, Western politics involve an extraordinary amount of flexibility, of give-and-take. Consider the peaceful transfer of power, which involves compromises on both sides: when the other party comes to power, most people on the losing side tend to accept the outcome with some semblance of good grace, so long as the winners are prepared to accept certain limits on their power.

If in the Middle East, there is scarcely such a thing (outside of Israeli domestic politics), it is because no one trusts the other side. Either the Sunnis will be on top, or the Shi'ites will be on top. The two groups have little or no sense of common interest. Similarly, what looked like difficult and protracted peace negotiations during the 1990s now seem like the proverbial dialogue of the deaf, in which each side sought to entice the other into accepting, at long last, its own enduring supremacy over the Land, including ultimate possession of its history and its symbols.

The same problem plays out in relations between neighboring states. There is no love and no trust between one ruler and the next. The region's terrain offers few strong natural defensive barriers, so the strength and security of each side is a menace to all the others. The resulting instability, combined with the importance of the region to the outside world, calls for a strong external policeman to watch over its borders and waterways, to resolve disputes, and to punish too gross offenders of the peace. Once this was Turkey; later it was Britain; now it is the United States.

And let there be no doubt about it; the peoples of the region to a greater or lesser degree resent the role of the United States, which comes bearing a foreign way of life, and represents its own national interests. It usually pursues those interests in a reasonably enlightened fashion, mindful of the needs of others, but tensions are inevitable in such a place, and foreign dominance always grates. It does not help that, to Muslims, America (in this respect just like Israel) is an infidel power, by its very strength and assertiveness subverting the proper, divinely ordained order of human affairs.

There it is again, that question: why do they hate us? The answer: because we are powerful, and because they need us. And this will not change anytime soon. Certainly, the vigorous exercise of American power, military or diplomatic, does little to change that equation.

Analyst

If you like this post - click to Reddit!
add to del.icio.usAdd to digg - digg it

Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000092.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Analyst @ 01:24 AM CST [Link]

NEWS

Middle East e-Zine

Midde East News

Opinion Digest

Late Updates

REFERENCE

Middle East Glossary

Middle East Maps

Middle East Books

Middle East Documents

Israel-Palestine History

Israel-Palestine Timeline

Middle East Countries

Middle East Economy

Middle East Population

Middle East Health

Zionism History

Palestinian Parties

Palestinian Refugees

Peace Plans

Water

Middle East

  

Blog Links

OneVoice - Israeli-Palestinian Peace Blog

Bravo411 -Info Freedom

Israel News

Oceanguy

Michael Brenner

Dutchblog Israel

Dutch - IMO (Israel & Midden-Oosten) Blog (NL)

GulfReporter

Israpundit

Alas, a Blog

Little Green Footballs

Blue Truth

Fresno Zionism

Reut Blog

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Blog

Simply Jews: Judaism and Israel

Jeff Weintraub - Commentaries and Controversies

Vital Perspective

ZioNation

Meretz USA Weblog

normblog

MIDEAST observer

On the Contrary

Blogger News Network- BNN

Google Sex Maps

Demediacratic Nation

Realistic Dove

Tulip - Israeli-Palestinian Trade Union Assoc.

On the Face

Israel Palestjnen (Dutch)

Middle East Analysis

Israel: Like This, As If

Middle East Analysis

Mid_East Journal

Z-Word Blog

Dvar Dea

SEO for Everyone


Web Sites & Pages

Israeli-Palestinian Procon

End Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: One Voice

Democratiya

ATFP- American Task Force on Palestine

Americans For Peace Now

Shalom Achshav

Chicago Peace Now

Nemashim

Peacechild Israel

Bridges of Peace

PEACE Watch

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Z-Word

Zionism

Zionism and Israel

Zionism and Israel on the Web

Israel - Palestina:Midden-Oosten Conflict + Zionisme

IsraŽl in de Media

Euston Manifesto

New Year Peace

Jew

Christian Zionism

Jew Hate

Space Shuttle Blog

Israel News Magazine

SEO


My Ecosystem Details
International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Link 2 us
We link 2 U.
MidEastWeb- Middle East News & Views
MidEastWeb is not responsible for the content of linked Web sites


Replies: 2 comments

Dear Analyiste
"There it is again, that question: why do they hate us? The answer: because we are powerful, and because they need us..."

That is part of the reason.
In Iraq, USA is certainly getting the bad end of the stick right now from people who mean no good in Iraq. But it might've helped if US oil companies had not bilked the
people of Iraq and a few other countries out of petroleum royalties for around 40 years. It might've helped if USA hadn't done things like dropping cluster bombs in crowded places where Saddam wasn't, in order to kill everyone in Iraq who was not Saddam. Of course that is not the only reason. But USA created Saddam and brought him to power in 1968. They also helped to create UBL.

You cannot blame the Iranians for not liking the USA so much, since USA first overthrew Mossadegh
in order to protect US and British oil interests, and then supported the Shah & his police state
apparatus, and then supported Saddam against Iran, even though they knew Saddam was
using poison gas and CW and everyone knew that in fact Iran was right and Iraq was wrong
Saddam started the war. Don't forget that Muslims read what Franklyn Graham says about Islam,
and to them it sounds the same as the Friday sermons sound to us. And they hear what
Gen. Boykin says too.

So there are some real reasons for hating USA.

A.I

Posted by Ami Isseroff @ 10/28/2003 02:07 AM CST

Q: Which areas have, apart from sub-Saharan Africa, the biggest problems modernizing?
A: Muslim areas, and especially arab areas!
Muslim countries like Turkey, Iran and Indonesia do have some sort of working democracy, altough it only works to a certain degree. Arab countries like Egypt, Syria, etc. are completely destitute of democracy (if they have elections at all, these are faked). And on top of this Saudi Arabia is least democratic of all, it doesn't even pretend to be democratic!

Why is this so? Does lack of a culture of compromise and lack of trust in one another prevent the Arabs from modernizing? Does it prevent the Palestinians from reaching peace with Israel? When Arabs don't trust each other (and since they are not stupid they probably have good reasons for this) how should Israel trust the Palestinians in a peace agreement?

There are, I think, various reasons why Muslims/Arabs accept that other Arabs lie to them, why they are not expected to think and reason, not expected to be responsible citizens, why they accept dictators as their leaders.

For over a thousand years the Arabs are used to being ruled by dictators. Islamic thinkers taught that the people should accept even a bad dictator because ejecting him could bring more misery and the next dictator might be as bad. So they also had to accept his lies. They did not have to respect him or tell him the truth. If they could outsmart him, it was okay.
In the West the rulers always had to find a modus vivendi with the church, but in Islam the rulers were the also the leaders of the muslims.
As the most important source of knowledge, truth and law, orthodox sunni Islam favours revelation over reason.

The Prophet Mohammed tried to establish a just, compassionate society. For a long time this has been a relative succes. But a democracy can bring around a more just and compassionate society than a dictatorship. And to reach democracy Muslims and Arabs have to start trusting each other.

Posted by Jaap B @ 10/30/2003 12:55 PM CST


Please do not leave notes for MidEastWeb editors here. Hyperlinks are not displayed. We may delete or abridge comments that are longer than 250 words, or consist entirely of material copied from other sources, and we shall delete comments with obscene or racist content or commercial advertisements. Comments should adhere to Mideastweb Guidelines . IPs of offenders will be banned.

Powered By Greymatter

[Previous entry: "Evolution: From Security Fence to Barrier to Ghetto Wall"] Main Index [Next entry: "Yossi Beilin versus Democracy?"]

ALL PREVIOUS MidEastWeb Middle East LOG ENTRIES

Thank you for visiting MidEastWeb - Middle East.
If you like what you see here, tell others about the MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log - www.mideastweb.org/log/.

Contact Us

Copyright

Editors' contributions are copyright by the authors and MidEastWeb for Coexistence RA.
Please link to main article pages and tell your friends about MidEastWeb. Do not copy MidEastWeb materials to your Web Site. That is a violation of our copyright. Click for copyright policy.
MidEastWeb and the editors are not responsible for content of visitors' comments.
Please report any comments that are offensive or racist.

Editors can log in by clicking here

Technorati Profile

RSS FeedRSS feed Add to Amphetadesk Add to Amphetadesk

USA Credit Card - Donate to MidEastWeb  On-Line - Help us live and grow