Friday, January 28, 2011

Helping themselves

Middle East expert Fouad "Bush of Arabia" Ajami, who has ceaselessly bashed Barack Obama since he came into office, writing in December 2010 --

At the remove of a brief interlude, we can now unequivocally admit that the forces of Arab autocracy have turned back the challenge to their dominion. True, they had been unable to overthrow this chaotic new democracy in Iraq. The Arab brigades had not converged on Baghdad, from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and Syria. American power had provided a shield for this new Iraqi order. And the Iraqis were to develop a surprising attachment to this new experiment with liberty.

There was blood in the streets, and there was chaos, but the Iraqis were to discover deep within them a taste for elections, and for a political life beyond despotic rule. For their part, the Arab autocrats nearby had waited out the appeal of Iraq’s liberty. They had proven effective, it has to be granted them, at frightening their own populations with the violence that was playing out in Iraq.

What issued in the Arab world was a standoff: Iraq had not provided the subversive democratic example that the established regimes had feared. The rulers in Damascus, Amman, Cairo, Riyadh, and far-off Tunis, Tripoli, and Algiers had ridden out the storm. No ruling regime had fallen, or had bent to the will of the opposition. ... 
In the oddest of twists, the triumph of the Democratic Party, and its standard-bearer Barack Obama, was a boon for the Arab autocracies. No sooner had he come to power had President Obama sent forth the word that his predecessor’s diplomacy of freedom would be abandoned.
Can we say safely at this point that promoting freedom in the Arab world might be less to do with invasions and Churchillian appeals to freedom, and more about shutting the f*** up while actual Arab people come up with their own mode of unlocking their sclerotic countries?  
Incidentally, Ajami's article displays a syndrome common to conservative critiques of Obama's Lebanon policy, namely that it ignores the debilitating effects on the country's politics of the Israeli invasion of 2006.

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