Friday, July 05, 2013

The rise and fall of the Arab Bobo

David Brooks New York Times column in March 2011, working off Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations at the onset of the Arab Spring --

In retrospect, I’d say that Huntington committed the Fundamental Attribution Error. That is, he ascribed to traits qualities that are actually determined by context. He argued that people in Arab lands are intrinsically not nationalistic. He argued that they do not hunger for pluralism and democracy in the way these things are understood in the West. But it now appears as though they were simply living in circumstances that did not allow that patriotism or those spiritual hungers to come to the surface. ... Over the past weeks, we’ve seen Arab people ferociously attached to their national identities. We’ve seen them willing to risk their lives for pluralism, openness and democracy. I’d say Huntington was also wrong in the way he defined culture ... But it seems clear that many people in Arab nations do share a universal hunger for liberty. They feel the presence of universal human rights and feel insulted when they are not accorded them. Culture is important, but underneath cultural differences there are these universal aspirations for dignity, for political systems that listen to, respond to and respect the will of the people.

David Brooks, New York Times column today, in the wake of the Egyptian military coup --

It’s not that Egypt doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seems to lack even the basic mental ingredients.

Incidentally, in another segment of the same column, he says

It’s no use lamenting Morsi’s bungling because incompetence is built into the intellectual DNA of radical Islam. We’ve seen that in Algeria, Iran, Palestine and Egypt: real-world, practical ineptitude that leads to the implosion of the governing apparatus.

He should go across the page to read Shadi Hamid on what actually happened in Algeria. "Radical Islam" never got a chance to govern because the generals blocked them from doing so after an election they'd won. The rest is a brutal civil war and a terrorist group that had developed the idea of hijacking a plane and flying it into the Eiffel tower. Well before 9/11. Aren't smart conservatives supposed to have "unintended consequences" as a reflex?

UPDATE: The list of other countries that Brooks gives is pretty shaky in terms of his narrative too. And a lengthier window on his columns shows that the anti-Huntington column was the outlier.