Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Arab World:
Never Missing An Opportunity
To Miss An Opportunity

From The Wall Street Journal, via No Pasaran:

Saddam's fall was welcomed by shamefully few Arabs: The "humiliation" of seeing an Arab leader toppled by Western armies far outweighed that of seeing one of the most talented of Arab societies, the Middle East's Germany, subjected to a ferocious despotism responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Nor was there much interest regionally in the discovery of the Baath's mass graves. One reason was the secondary concern that many Arab societies have for Saddam's foremost victims--the Shiites and Kurds; but the main cause of indifference was that Saddam's crimes, if acknowledged, threatened to imply the Arabs' inability to responsibly manage their own emancipation.

In other words, applauding his ouster meant admitting that the Arab world could produce no better, and deserved no better than Western armies in its midst.

This rationale was nonsense, but spawned a cliché that Arab intellectuals routinely peddle: that Arab reform must come "from within"--though the notion would have been laughable in Baathist Iraq. Arab societies must indeed open up from inside, but absent an echo, sometimes a determining one, from outside--including the option of foreign military action--little will change.

… For all these reasons, American achievement in Iraq could have been looked on with greater self-interested approval and imagination by the Arab publics. It never was.

How the U.S. adventure in Iraq ends is anybody's guess. However, its repercussions will be felt, first, by the Arabs themselves. By refusing to profit from the prospective democratic upheaval that Saddam's removal ushered in; by never looking beyond the American messenger in Iraq to the message itself; by lamenting external hegemony while doing nothing to render it pointless, Arabs merely affirmed their impotence.

The self-pitying Arab reaction to the Iraq war showed the terrible sway of the status quo in the Middle East. An inability to marshal change for one's benefit is the stuff of captive minds.